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There’s Nothing Like Riding a Bike

by Susan Ragsdale-Cronin

© 2011, 2019 Susan Ragsdale-Cronin

Previously published in the Monterey County Herald 

All linked text in the post below leads to related info on the Bicycling Monterey website.
When my mom or any other concerned adult expresses fear for our safety when my children and I commute by bike — a tandem and trailer with electric assist to help with those hills and 50-pound backpacks, a bike with a granny gear for me, and a trail-a-bike for my 5 year old — my mind freeze frames on distant memories. A teenage version of me riding on the hood of the car while my mom drives, a much younger version of me bouncing happily on my grandpa’s knee while he drives to the state liquor store, or one of the carefree summer adventures happily sprawled in the back of a pickup.
Sorry, Mom, for ratting you out! I ask the greater collective community that share these memories, when did the paradigm shift? I’m guessing the answer is in the ’80s, with increased awareness and an abundance of newly graduated lawyers.
At this point you might be happy to know that our family does not participate in any of these nostalgic activities. We take safety seriously, dutifully wearing our high-visibility vests and helmets. We allow extra time for mechanical difficulties and traffic delays, use hand signals, add an Airzound horn for road use and a bell for the bike path. For clarification on legality of horns and further explanation of safe intersection completion, see “bicycling monterey” on the web [click here]. Most importantly, make eye contact with drivers when crossing through or turning at an intersection.
I spoke with the city of Monterey’s traffic engineer, Rich Deal [now principal engineer on staff with the Transportation Agency for Monterey County]. The deal with Deal is that he actually worked on a bike commuter’s fantasy. He wanted to make the Rec Trail connect to places people want to go. My hero!

[Under Deal’s leadership, a Bicycle Transportation Plan was adopted by the Monterey City Council on Nov 17, 2009. It was later expanded to a Multi-Modal Mobility Plan, adopted by the council on March 19, 2013.]

The perceived risk of biking persists, but the facts stack up in favor of the bike.
Consider these findings in a study of more than 30,000 people, as cited by Bikes Belong [now People for Bikes, http://peopleforbikes.org/about-us/who-we-are/]:
  • Those who bicycled to work were 40 percent less likely to die, regardless of how much physical activity they got outside of commuting.
  • Girls who walk or bike to school perform better on tests.
  • Longer walking and biking commutes are associated with higher test scores, regardless of how much exercise students get outside of school.
If health and well-being weren’t reason enough, consider the bonuses of less traffic congestion, a greater sense of community (I love the fact that I get to interact with an older gentleman on his electric wheelchair daily), real dollars saved, and ease of stopping to chat, visit the park, beach, etc.
Four-year-old Siara found feeling the weather to be a big asset, with the only CO2 spewing forth coming from you and your kids as you get those lungs pumping.
Every day brings transportation choices. Walk, bike, drive, bus, train? A combo approach where we consider weather, daylight, items to be transported (I drive to the landfill to get a truckload of compost every month or so) and route safety brings our family the most fun and adventure. I always look forward to bike days the most.
We look forward to seeing you on the road. Put on some sunscreen, a helmet, vest, talk to experienced riders about routes, take a class at a local bike shop or rec department, get your bike tuned, get pedaling and plug into a welcoming, sometimes spandex-wearing, community.

Google “Bicycling Monterey” for local commuting tips and resources. There you’ll find our dear, incomparable Mari Lynch advocating passionately for us bikers. Your body, mood, the environment and maybe even your kid’s test scores will all improve.
The icing is the spiritual experience of riding along the beautiful creation called the Monterey Bay. Contemplate the wisdom of my daughter when she was asked, at age 8, why she doesn’t play video games: “You need fresh air!”
Susan Ragsdale-Cronin is a mother, bicyclist, gardener, composter, rainwater collector and peach pie baker. She lives in Del Rey Oaks with several other Ragsdale-Cronins.
  • The above essay was previously published August 29, 2011 in the Monterey County Herald: http://www.montereyherald.com/2011/08/29/susan-ragsdale-cronin-theres-nothing-like-riding-a-bike/
  • For many years Susan volunteered as a committee member representing the City of Del Rey Oaks on the Transportation Agency for Monterey County’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities Advisory Committee, as well as volunteering on the City of Monterey’s Multi-Modal Advisory Committee, and in other bike advocacy volunteer roles.
  • If you might like to volunteer to fill one of the vacancies on TAMC’s Bike-Ped Committee (http://www.tamcmonterey.org/board-committees/bicycle-pedestrian-committee/committee-members/), or simply want to attend a meeting to see what the committee does, click here to learn more.
  • To volunteer with Bicycling Monterey, click here.
  • This post’s photos and video are by Bicycling Monterey.

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