Bike commutes catching on

With climate-change awareness and gasoline prices both soaring, San Francisco bicycling advocates are expecting a large turnout for today’s annual Bike to Work Day.

Each year, tens of thousands of people in San Francisco take to the streets on two wheels to promote bicycling as a healthy, environmentally friendly alternative to vehicles. Throughout the Bay Area, 100,000 people are expected to participate.

In The City, volunteers will host about two dozen “energizer stations,” where riders can get snacks, bicycling information and a free canvas bag to commemorate the day.

“We believe if people try it once, they’ll see the good things that occur, and they’ll make it a habit and stick with it,” said Cole Portocarrero, executive director of the Bay Area Bicycle Coalition, which is co-sponsoring the event with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and other local bike coalitions.

About 5 percent of all commute trips in San Francisco are by bicycle, according to the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, an alliance of thousands of people who ride regularly and want to encourage more people to do the same.

Advocates are optimistic, and some have said they’re seeing more and more people gravitate toward bicycling in recent years — especially with skyrocketing gas prices.

“There is so much more diversity in people biking,” said Leah Shahum, director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and a member of the Municipal Transportation

Agency’s board of directors. “It’s not just for young, hearty men. I think we’re really changing the stereotype.”

After going on a few recreation rides with the local coalition, Sacha Ielmorini, who lives in the Richmond district, decided to participate in last year’s bike to work event. She was prepared for an intense hour-long ride to her job downtown, and even wore clothes that would still look presentable after working up a sweat.

Ielmorini was shocked at how easy it was. Along the way, she met a veteran bike commuter who showed her the best routes. She stopped at an energizer station and filled up on free coffee and bagels. She set a goal to ride two or three times a week, and within a few months, she was making it downtown in 30 to 45 minutes.

“My overall attitude has improved. Sometimes I find myself smiling through the Panhandle,”

Ielmorini said earlier this week. “With some of the other transit options in The City, Muni or driving, you don’t always end up smiling.”

arocha@examiner.com

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