The constant cyclist: Improving health and the environment are two reasons some locals use pedal power everyday

Ventura is seeing a new breed of bicyclist lately. Not just the occasional pedal pusher or weekend jock, these folks are everyday commuters who prefer to bike instead of drive everywhere — to market, to work and even to entertainment and social events.

•••

Published February 1, 2007 by The VC Reporter 
By Margaret Morris 

Ventura, CA — Ventura is seeing a new breed of bicyclist lately. Not just the occasional pedal pusher or weekend jock, these folks are everyday commuters who prefer to bike instead of drive everywhere — to market, to work and even to entertainment and social events. They prefer to use bicycles for a combination of reasons, including concern for the environment, desire for personal fitness and wanting to escape the cost of driving a vehicle.

Environmental Consultant Donna Hebert, 47, is one example. She bicycles 24 miles each day, going to and from work as part of her effort to reduce carbon emissions and help stave off global warming. She resisted this move at first, she said, with “every excuse in the book.” However, the film An Inconvenient Truth, and the example of bike-commuting friends, finally spurred her to make the commitment.

Hebert’s work site has a shower available if she needs it, but she points out that most businesses have restrooms where employees can sponge off after a hot ride and start work feeling fresh.

Last March, another regular biker, John Howard, 60, started doing virtually all his errands and shopping by bicycle. “I’ve carried just about everything and the kitchen sink on my bicycle,” he said, referring to the time he carried home a new kitchen sink on his bike. (He added that his office is not within walking distance or he would bike there as well.)

Howard cited weight control and health maintenance as his most important considerations for cycling, but he’s also happy to save on fuel costs and eliminate parking hassles, as well as help the environment.

As an engineer and energy expert, Howard was able to calculate his emissions savings: “I’ve ridden close to 2,000 miles over the 10 months I’ve been doing this. My car emits about one pound of carbon dioxide per mile. But I’ve saved more than 2,000 pounds because I would have been less careful [using a car] about consolidating errands.”

Perhaps the champion of bike power for ordinary use, Rachel Morris, 44, does almost all her shopping and local traveling by bicycle, including the distribution of a bimonthly magazine to local outlets. She once moved two four-foot-tall CD cabinets down Main Street to her house off Ventura Avenue. And on another occasion, she hauled 250 pounds of compost some several miles to her garden.

Morris indicated that a reduced carbon footprint is important to her, but fitness is also a big motive. As a Web designer, she never leaves her computer some days, except to eat and for other human needs. “I don’t even move my head most of the time,” she stated. Biking provides her exercise.

It also allows Morris to maintain a simpler lifestyle. Without the expense of operating a vehicle, she can afford to work fewer hours. As for fuel, “I can run my bicycle on pancake power!” she stated, referring to one of her favorite foods. She can also repair and maintain her own bicycle, unlike her car. This year, she has resolved to use the family auto no more than twice a month.

On those occasions requiring nice clothes, leg straps keep grease off Morris’s trouser legs and, in inclement weather, she remains warm and dry with a water-resistant wind breaker and nylon pants.

None of these cycling stalwarts owns expensive riding equipment. Howard uses a mounted basket and rack, and Hebert has saddle bags for carrying things. A four-foot trailer attaches easily to one of Morris’ bikes (for big jobs); but for smaller loads, she uses a removable basket placed on a rear rack of her bicycle. Bungee cords expand the carrying capacity of both and Morris always insists on helmets.

Bicycling on city streets presents some difficulties and dangers. According to Hebert, drivers that “act like I’m not there” occasionally endanger her, and debris left by the roadside damages her tires. Using special tires cuts down on punctures, and wearing bright clothing helps wake up oblivious drivers, she stated.

Morris complained of the dangers of cycling through “no man’s land areas,” areas between her home and her destination, where bicycle travel is extremely hazardous and where no viable alternative route exists. The Victoria Corridor and Main Street from Telephone to past the mall are particularly difficult. Howard chose the Ventura Auto Mall, which he labeled the “bike-hostile zone,” as the city’s worst area for cycling.

Efforts to accommodate bike traffic, such as adequate lanes and thoughtful conveniences like bicycle racks, where cyclists can park and lock up their bikes, won their praise. “A visible, convenient, well-used bike rack reflects well on a business,” Howard stated. “Something they might think about.”