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Monday, December 19, 2011

Biking Oakland: How Far do you Ride that Thing to Get Here?

Today on my way into the office I passed a co-worker who asked, “How far do you ride that thing to get here?” The answer is that it’s about a half hour total trip to and home from work: 5 minutes from PCL to West Oakland BART station, about 10 minutes to Embarcadero on BART, and 10-15 minutes in San Francisco, so a range between 25 and 30 minutes. He was impressed – as if it was a long time or distance, despite that his drive takes longer. But I’ve been bike commuting for years, and frankly, I wish the bike ride was longer. It’s hard for someone who sits in a car crossing the bridge to understand that I enjoy those minutes. I get a little exercise and a chance to check out the world, like how new buildings are going up, stores are changing, people’s styles are evolving, etc. I check out other cyclists bikes, gear, clothes, and bags – its their individual a strategy for how to efficiently commute while keeping your work clothes looking nice, or maybe your hair as hip as when you left the bathroom. I bike at a speed that allows me to take in a lot of detail. Its fun and interesting. Rather than hating the drivers around me as I sit in traffic, I feel a sense of community with the cyclists, pedestrians, and life on the street around me.

Oakland is a pretty great town for bike commuting. First, this side of town is pancake flat. The weather tends to be a lot sunnier than in San Francisco. The bike lanes are pretty good and get me north, south, and east (not too far west of here to go) quickly. So if I feel like exploring for lunch, within a few minutes I can get to any kind of food in downtown Oakland or Emeryville. When I need to head to a friend’s house in Berkeley, I can swing by Berkeley Bowl West on my way north. When I head to BART, it’s 5 minutes or less and I can either lock up or bring my bike to San Francisco with me. And PCL is a great home base too. There is a ton of space for bike parking and the bike lounge lets me plug in music and put my bike on a stand to fix my brakes or adjust my derailleur cables quickly before I head out for the day. And yes, we have a car and we use it. I can’t bike to Tahoe or when there are four or five people in the car sometimes its quicker to just jump right on the freeway. When I have driven to and from PCL, it pretty much couldn’t be easier to get on the freeway and plopped right in front of the bridge toll plaza. But honestly, most days I’d rather bike. And I love having that option and getting to make that choice every day.

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