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Why I Ride #20: To Fly Past the Traffic

(Corinne Winter is the executive director of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition and a member of the League Board of Directors.)

Corinne Winter (Credit: Richard Masoner)

I started riding a bike when I was a kid because it was fun: pure and simple.

Now it’s still fun, but it’s also so much more.

In high school and college I found it the fastest, cheapest, and most enjoyable way to get around town. After college, when I moved to San Jose (which is a huge sprawling city in Silicon Valley), I wanted to ride to work but found it a little intimidating. I was lucky — I had a colleague at work who helped set me up with a good road bike complete with a rack and also advised me on what panniers to buy, and what gear I would need. For years I rode my bike to work, often taking my bike on the train for part of the 10-mile route.

Over time, I began to notice that each time I chose to drive my car for some reason–maybe I thought I had too much to carry, maybe the weather was wet–it made me grumpy. Really grumpy.

Thus I learned the great secret that bike commuters keep: sitting in traffic in a car is really annoying, and flying by stopped traffic on your bicycle is really invigorating.

When I took the Executive Director position with Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, I was plunged head first into the world of bicycling. In Silicon Valley, where “bicycling is the new golf,” I quickly found myself in circles where our fundraising asks were best made while in the saddle. While I’d ridden some casual recreational rides before then, at that point I started doing more frequent hill climbs and longer rides.

Thus I learned the great secret that recreational riders and racers keep: rides on which you burn over 1000 calories are a great way to stay in shape while not having to pass up your favorite foods.

Finally, I started traveling around with my bicycle. I’ve now ridden my folding travel bike in France, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao. This summer I’m going to hit England and Ireland. What an amazing way to see a country, and a culture. In Italy, a town elder in Sicily invited us into his home and shared some brandy with us while telling us all about his life. That sort of thing doesn’t happen very often when traveling by motor vehicle; traveling by bicycle is an entirely different way to see the world.

Thus I learned the great secret that bicycle travelers know: bike travel is the single best way to really see a foreign land and dive into its culture.

My typical week these days includes two or three recreational rides along with a bunch of commute trips. Our organization serves a very large area, so sometimes I drive when that is the most convenient option–but I much prefer it when I can ride. When riding a bike becomes the most convenient option for the majority of the trips taken in Silicon Valley, and all riders are given respect on the roadways, then I’ll be able to retire.

May is National Bike Month and this year’s theme is One Ride, Many Reasons. To highlight and celebrate the many benefits of bicycling, throughout May we’ll bring you the personal reflections and inspirations of a diverse collection of bicyclists from coast to coast with our daily 31 Days, 31 Reasons blog feature.


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