Becoming a Bike Commuter During Shelter In Place

I’ve worked at Ecology Action for just over a year and have been surrounded by bike enthusiasts who have routinely encouraged me to commute to work by bike. Offers of meeting me at the Silver Spur to be a riding buddy were kind and generous, but I politely declined. You see, I consider myself a very recreational rider, which translates into, I haven’t been on my bike in over 10 years! You should also know my bike is a 1997 Specialized Rock Hopper. So, I just wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to make the trek from mid-county to the office in downtown Santa Cruz on my 23-year-old mountain bike.

Fast-forward to shelter in place and the upheaval of daily routines. I am an active person and was determined to keep myself engaged every day, but I didn’t want to walk, run, or do a CrossFit workout every day. The time was right for getting the bike out of the rafters, asking hubby to dust it off and tune it up, and incorporating bike riding into my new routine! I picked up some new pedals, a seat, and safety lights and started riding to Blue Ball Park, venturing out to Capitola and then making the big ride to Pleasure Point. It’s been fun to ride again and, of course, I had to share the excitement and joy of reconnecting with my bike with my workmates. Hence, the challenge of riding to the office and sharing a commuting experience from a beginner’s perspective was born! Here’s the reveal:

My route started in Soquel on Old San Jose Road/Hilltop and Soquel Drive and went all the way down to Center Street/Cedar Street in downtown Santa Cruz (a 14-mile round trip). Here are my takeaways from that journey!

  1. It felt invigorating to start my day with a great workout.
  2. It was empowering to overcome a fear of riding on a busy street with traffic and sharing the road with drivers, many of whom drive too fast!
  3. There were many polite drivers who made a point to acknowledge that they saw me by making eye contact and smiling at me. This made me feel safer and happy about seeing kind people in our community.
  4. I felt good about not relying on my car for transportation.
  5. Some bike lanes on my route were clearly marked with bright green paint and white posts, and those sections were great. It’s a bit nerve-wracking when there’s not much of a bike lane and the road condition is poor.
  6. Crossing over from the right side of the street (in heavy traffic) to the left turning lane is a challenge, and I wasn’t comfortable maneuvering, so I just used the pedestrian crosswalk. Maybe with more experience I will navigate using the car lane in the future.
  7. I was nervous about cars parked in the bike lane on the right side of the street pulling out in front of me as they merged back into the driving lane. But this is just something I need to be careful about, looking for brake lights.
  8. My blinking safety lights gave me a sense of security.
  9. I carried all my things in my backpack. I would recommend adding a cargo carrier like a rack and pannier.
  10. Does the derriere ever get used to the bike seat? I guess I’ll find out, because I’m not going to stop riding my bike!

Overall, I’m so glad to be back on my bike again and to seriously consider it as another means of transportation. Tomorrow I’m getting my hair done in Capitola and planning on riding my bike—yay!