curtis corlew with bike at Los Medanos College by ccorlew, on Flickr
Congrats: You are our Bike Commuter of the Year for 2012 Contra Costa County
Did you get my email last week about your winning this award? If not, congrats! Our committee was impressed with your nomination and all you do for cycling. Can I call to talk with you about this? We are announcing this today and send out a press release this week. Thanks and talk soon.
EBBC director Renee Rivera
That's how I found out. It's all officially announced on the East Bay Bicycle Coalition site now and everything, and I'm thrilled. I've been an East Bay Bicycle Coalition member, and a supporter for work the organization does on behalf of cyclists, for years. And after all, Tricia won the award way back in 2008, so it's good that I'm almost keeping up with her on the bike, again.
They held a "Bike Happy Hour" street fair in Oakland to celebrate Bike to Work day and gave me a suitable-for-framing certificate, and a bag with a bottle of wine, a book, and for inexplicable reasons, a package of condoms at the event. Being from teh burbs, I saw more cyclists there in an hour than I usually do in several months where I live.
curtis gets an award by ccorlew, on Flickr
A month or so before all this I'd received an email saying I'd been nominated, and asking me to write up my bike commuting story. Here's what I wrote.
I was a bike rider in the 70s and then the 80s, but by 2006, like so many, I got a new job, married, a house and a collection of stress and a lack of time. I got huge. And I didn't ride anywhere.
My wife had started riding her bike to her job five miles away. One day as a lark I rode in with her, she on her old, heavy mountain bike with huge tires, me on my 80s Cannondale racing bike. I couldn't come close to keeping up and she wasn't even trying to go fast.
I knew something had to change. With her encouragement I started riding to work at Los Medanos College where I teach. At first my plan was to ride when the weather was nice. I liked it. As the weather got colder I just put on more clothes. I realized that if I could ski in twenty-degree weather then riding a bike in East Contra Costa's mild winter was no big deal.
Then it rained. But I was so used to riding I didn't want to give it up. It turns out that with a rain jacket I just didn't get very wet in eight miles. Even though I bought rain pants and shoe covers, it turned out I only need them once or twice a year.
Cycling has become my default commute mode. It's not a decision I make every morning, it's just how I get to work. Surprisingly, it doesn't take much longer than driving, and I can roll right into the campus instead of searching for car parking. On the very rare days I need to bring in something so huge I can't carry it on my bike and need to use a car, I'm thrown off and usually forget something.
Over the years my bike has changed some. I took off the heavy-treaded tires and put on puncture resistant smooth ties, which roll a lot easier.
I acquired a rack and panniers to carry papers, clothes and my lunch, plus a bike light and rear blinkie for my evening commutes. My bike is nothing special, but it now has over 10,000 commute miles on it.
My students and colleagues all know I ride. They check if I'm on campus by seeing if my bike is in my office. Often, on a cold or wet day, I'm asked "Did you ride today?" When I answer "Yes" I think they're happy that there's something constant in this world.
I admit my bike love spills over into the job. Yesterday I had a student ask me about getting a bike for commuting. I have students and faculty tell me about their cycling achievements and plans. In my graphic design class I have students design "Bike to Work Day" posters (here are their 2012 efforts) to promote the event, and remind the LMC community that we'll have an energizer station on campus that day.
My bike commute has helped me discover what it's like to be a kid again, riding to school, in touch with the light, the aroma and the weather of the day. It's helped me lose a lot of weight. It's helped me get in shape. All this commuting has morphed to include weekend rides and vacations. My wife and I rode our bikes in Oregon, Washington, Canada, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming last summer. We saw Yellowstone in a way we'd never have been able to from a car.
My life has changed for the better, just because I started riding my bike to work.
EBBC director Renee Rivera by ccorlew, on Flickr