May is bike month in California, and Davis, the oft-called bicycle capital of the world, is holding true to its title.
The city of Davis started the month with the dedication of the new Covell Boulevard bicycle under-crossing at Mace Ranch District Park, the first of an assortment of bicycle-themed events in May.
This week is California Bike Commute Week, a statewide effort to increase the number of people who bike to work. Bike Commute Week is sponsored by the California Department of Transportation, and has local support from UC Davis TAPS.
The reasons for biking are manifold, said David Takemoto-Weerts, bicycle coordinator for TAPS. He cited the high price of gas, reduced traffic and parking constraints and a minimized carbon footprint.
“It’s a great way to start the day and end the day,” he said.
People who would like to participate in bike month can log their miles at the official site, mayisbikemonth.com. Over one million miles have been pledged in the Sacramento region, and nearly a quarter-million miles have been completed.
According to the official website, the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District estimates the cycling so far this month has saved around 3,500 gallons of gas, preventing over 66,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.
If a reduced carbon footprint isn’t enough of an incentive, Wednesday will be Bike to Work Day, with a free breakfast for cyclists served under the pavilion in Central Park.
If it’s been awhile since you’ve been on a bicycle, you should probably check on your bike before deciding to participate, Takemoto-Weerts said.
“If you’re doing this for the first time with a bicycle that’s been sitting in the garage for a while, make sure the bike is tuned up,” Takemoto-Weerts said. “Also, know your bike routes. If it’s been a while, you might not want to take some of the major streets where the traffic is heavier. If you know how to drive a car, then you’re about three-quarters of the way to knowing how to ride a bicycle. All the same traffic safety rules apply to bikes that apply for cars.”
While the event might stimulate greater numbers of bike commuters elsewhere in the state, in Davis, where bikes outnumber people, it is difficult to know how Bike Commute Week affects the community.
“I think, statewide, events like this are very effective,” Takemoto-Weerts said. “In Davis, it’s hard to say. Davis has such a strong bicycle culture that we already have a lot of people riding their bikes.”
Mont Hubbard, a professor of mechanical engineering who rides his bike to campus every day, said in an e-mail interview that he thought the benefit was in increasing people’s knowledge about transportation issues.
“It certainly raises peoples’ awareness about bikes being a good, flexible, low-energy-use, low-carbon-footprint, healthy transportation alternative. I would hope it gets a few folks started [riding] each year,” Hubbard said.
The bike-related events will continue all month. The annual Celebrate Davis! Event on Thursday will have free valet parking for bicycles, and May 19 through 23 will be UC Davis Sustainable Transportation Week.
J. DANA STUSTER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.