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Bike-to-work day is every day for some

By Judith Scherr Daily Planet staff
Thursday May 17, 2001

Today’s the annual bike-to-work day and a number of city officials will bolt their cars in their garages and teeter tentatively from Channing Way and Milvia Street, three blocks north to city hall. 

There are a number of city workers, however, who bike to work regularly. One’s Detective Ed Spiller. “I try to (bike) as much as I can,” says the officer who rides five miles from home to the downtown Public Safety Building. 

Why does he bike? “I can use all the exercise I can get,” he said. “Health-wise, it’s the best thing.” 

It also beats walking 10 blocks. When he drives, he has to park his car outside the residential two-hour zone, then hustle to  

the office.  

And biking beats paying for gas. 

Spiller says his trek, much of it under the BART tracks in Albany, is fairly safe, which is why he admits to not wearing a helmet (though his wife says he should.) He’s had only one bad experience: A car pulled out of its parking space and knocked him over. But he wasn’t hurt, he said.  

“You’ve always got to watch for (car) doors opening,” he said. 

The officer owns a couple of bikes, one with a headlight and one without. Sometimes Spiller rides home in the dark without a light and says it’s dangerous because he can’t be seen. 

The Public Safety Building has no official bike parking, but the bike patrol officers share their locker space with the cops who ride their bikes to work, he said. 

Spiller said he’d like the city to provide an incentive program for its employees who bike to work, such as they have in the city of Alameda. 

In Alameda, they “do encourage workers to bike or take public transit,” said Kadeane Rowan, a clerk-typist who answered the phone in the Alameda city manager’s office. “They give them $2.50 per day” if the workers take transit or bike round trip.  

In Palo Alto, the city also offers its employees incentives to bike, said Joe Kott, who’s been transportation manager for about a month, but who’s returning to his old job in Palo Alto. (The traffic manager before Kott served about six months.)  

Palo Alto gives coupons redeemable in bike shops to city employees who are regular bike commuters, he said. With the coupons they can purchase items such as helmets or bike tools. “It worked there very well,” Kott said, noting that Berkeley is considering doing something similar. 

“Every bike means one less car (on the road),” said Kott, who, while working in Berkeley, rode his bike to work, essentially along the same route that Officer Spiller follows. He points out that when he turns east to ride up Hearst Avenue, he’s going uphill, but when he gets to Milvia, the ride is downhill. “It’s exhilarating to reach work on the downhill,” Kott said. “I’m oxygenated.”  

He said he was happy not to have to deal with traffic congestion, parking and that he could make a “little contribution” to a more healthy environment. When he returns to his old job in Palo Alto, he’ll continue to live in Albany, where his daughter attends school, he said and he’ll continue to avoid automobile use. He’ll bike to the North Berkeley BART station, BART to San Francisco, then take CalTrain to work. 

Over in economic development, Dave Fogarty, project manager, and his boss Bill Lambert both ride bikes. Fogarty doesn’t own a car and can be seen on his bike rain or shine.  

“When the sun shines, I ride three days a week,” said Lambert, a 15-year city employee. 

“It’s fun, good exercise and just as fast as taking my car,” he said. “It’s cheap. It’s free.” 

Lambert parks his bike in the free Center Street Garage bike racks. Soon there will be a secure place for employee bikes at the newly remodeled Civic Center Building, said Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who bikes to work daily. 

While there are no programs encouraging city staff to ride bikes, Lambert said they do get occasional e-mails, aimed at motivating them in that direction.  

Bike-to-work day may be symbolic for some, but it can be the beginning of a regular bike ride to work, say member of Berkeley Friendly Bicycle Coalition, organizers of today’s bike-to-work day. 

In a press statement, Mayor Shirley Dean said as much: “The City of Berkeley is committed to making Berkeley a better place to live by ensuring that bicycling is a safe, simple and healthy alternative to driving. I hope that bike to work day will inspire more people in Berkeley to choose cycling.” 

BFBC is providing six “energizer” stations in honor of bike-to-work day, where there with be free bike-to-work shoulder bags, food, drinks, sun screen and other treats. The bike stations are located at Milvia and Channing, at the downtown BART station’s valet bike-parking area, at the Missing Link Bicycle Cooperative on Shattuck Avenue near University Avenue, at Hearst and Euclid avenues, Bowditch Street and Dwight Way and Telegraph Avenue and Russell Street. For information call 549-RIDE (7433).