Santa Cruz County Bike Month 2022 Reaches New Heights

It’s been 35 years since the first Bike to Work Day in Santa Cruz County in 1987, and with the return of Bike Month this May, our community is still reaching new heights for bike ridership. There is a lot behind that statement, and many contributing factors that resulted in an overall increase in bike ridership, especially for community events like Bike Month.  

Consider that we have new and improved bike infrastructure across Santa Cruz County like segments of the rail trail, protected bike lanes, and multi-use paths like Arana Gulch. Consider that we’ve seen more recent investment in bike programs like the Go Santa Cruz, bike share, and e-bike rebate programs in the region. Consider that climate change has now entered a front and center position in our daily lives and the urgency of equitable and swift decarbonization of our world is paramount. Consider that a by-product of COVID-19 was a bike boom that brought historic numbers of people into the bike community, even though the boom appears to be tapering off. Finally, we are now faced with inflation and gas prices in excess of $6/gallon, so people are actively reconsidering their transportation options. 

From that backdrop, we look at Bike Month, a month full of biking in Santa Cruz County with community events, rides, and the bike challenge. Today I’d like to focus on the bike challenge and see what we accomplished as a community this past May. Going into Bike Month 2022, our previous best bike challenge was Biketober 2021, where we saw more individuals and companies take part than ever before and we collectively rode further, logged more transportation trips, and saved more CO2 emissions than any previous challenge since we started in 2018. And then, in this year’s Bike Month, we did even better… 

 This many people and companies… 

  • 1260 people participated and logged bike rides (6% increase from Biketober 2021) 
  • 137 workplaces participated and logged bike rides (19% increase from Biketober 2021) 

Biked their way to this kind of positive impact… 

  • 169,027 miles ridden (nearly seven times around planet earth!) – (21% increase from Biketober 2021) 
  • 42,130 miles for transport – (22% increase from Biketober 2021) 
  • 15,988 bike trips made – (19% increase from Biketober 2021)  
  • 8,093 trips for transport – (22% increase from Biketober 2021) 
  • 37,972 lbs. Of CO2 savings – (22% increase from Biketober 2021) 

Of course, behind these numbers are the people who are creating them. Those individuals and companies who participate, wake up and swing a leg over a bicycle and pedal off, encourage their friends and family, host lunch rides for their coworkers, sponsor Bike Month to help bring it life, make trips to work or the grocery store, or take a sunset ride with their person. 

Dale Hendsbee, Principal of MME Engineering

Dale originally got involved in Bike to Work Day many years ago when the event site was just down the street from his office. Those early events inspired him to dust off his bike and try commuting to work and from that point on has tried to cycle more and more. Bike Month just extended the motivation from a day to a month. 

My appreciation for the work you guys do to organize activities for this event and amount of participation it creates encouraged me to be a sponsor. I wanted to help in some small way to promote the cause.

It also turns out that the competition embedded in Love to Ride made for a fun showdown between MME and RI Engineering, another local engineering firm who rallied their team to ride for Bike Month. RI Engineering ended up in 3rd place, and MME in 4th, and RI sent a cake and a card to MME lightheartedly saying better luck next time 😉.  

Chloe Tushar of productOps

Chloe nearly single-handedly encouraged her team to participate, taking productOps from a high of 7 people participating in Biketober (25% of the company) to 23 people participating in Bike Month (82% of the company)! According to Chloe, she’s not one to back down from competition. When she saw productOps was in the top five on the leaderboard, she got into gear. Beyond talking about it at the office and on Slack, she organized several lunch rides for her team, attracting as many as 12 team members to participate. 

The bike month competition created a fun buzz and constant chatter in the office the last few weeks about where we stood against other companies. It was a welcome source of work distraction, bonding, allowed some [friendly] heckling and encouraging of employees who hadn’t ridden a bike yet in May, and it became a frequent topic of conversation.

I’m happy to report Chloe’s efforts paid off, and she led her team into a solid 1st place finish, way to go productOps!  

Colleen Young of U.S. Fish and Wildlife

Colleen, a weekly prize winner this May, Bike Month means a lot of different things. Knowing her team was counting on her to rack up lots of miles and rides motivated her to do as many trips by bike as she could. In her words, “Biking is such an important part of my life. I use my bike to get to work, run errands, and exercise. I love speeding past idling cars during rush hour…I love not worrying about finding parking or sitting in traffic when I’m on my bike, and the benefits to my health and the planet are added bonuses.” Colleen is optimistic about the increasing and improving bike infrastructure and hopes that it will motivate more people to ride bikes to get around. Like many of us, Bike Month gets Colleen back in the habit of riding regularly, and she looks forward to keeping that up the rest of summer. We’re with you there, Colleen! 

So where do we go from here? We have some great insight from our Bike Month grand prize winners about their vision for the future to make biking more accessible, safer, and practical for everyone.

David McCurdy, UCSC Student and REI Employee

David’s vision is for better infrastructure for bikes, even separated paths or roads or something modeled like the Netherlands. “Investments like that will make biking easier, I think we have made it too easy to drive and too difficult to bike and we need to challenge [and change] that paradigm. We need to get more people out on bikes and lower carbon emissions, after all…his bike is powered by food and muscles not [gasoline].”

Matt DeYoung, Executive Director of Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Stewardship (SCMTS)

Their vision for the future for transportation, climate change, and land use includes interconnected networks of trails through our public lands with where we live, with seamless transportation from our homes to our natural areas without having to get into a car. A big goal of SCMTS is to realize this vision for trail/active transportation network interconnectivity to help reduce emissions, slow climate change, and support a healthier and more active community as a result. For Matt, he feels better when he gets out on his bike rather than his car.

We’d like to thank our participants and companies for riding. A special thanks to our business sponsors who believe in this work and support it each year to make biking a more central part of Santa Cruz County:

City of Santa Cruz, REI, City of Watsonville, Kaiser Health, New Leaf Market, Blackburn Design, Fox Trail Trust, Riverstyx Foundation, Scotts Valley Cycle Sport, Santa Cruz Cycle Sport, Google, Current eBikes, Bicycle Trip, Christie Family Dentistry, Gazelle, MME, Specialized Experience Center, Bright Green Strategies, Dominican Hospital, Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission

We have a lot of work to do to make biking a primary transportation mode for the community, but we are making progress as a community and it’s only going to get better.