Bicycle envy

Jeff vonKaenel

There are a lot of reasons I admire my wife, Deborah, who has spent 26 of her 53 years married to me. Getting up early every day so she can ride her bicycle to work is one of the latest ones.

We live in Land Park, close to Vic’s Ice Cream, so the ride to News & Review’s “international headquarters” at 20th and J streets in Midtown is 2.85 miles, according to my odometer.

So, nearly every morning, barring torrential rain or wind, Deborah dons her urban bicycle gear and her helmet and rides to work. She enjoys the beautiful Sacramento mornings, the feeling of her heart beating a little faster as she pedals through the mixed residential and commercial neighborhoods that line the route. She starts her workday with a healthier glow.

Intellectually, I understand the need to decrease greenhouse-gas emissions by driving less and biking more. According to the Climate Leadership Initiative at the University of Oregon, every mile traveled by bike instead of car prevents approximately 1 pound of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. The U.S. Department of Transportation says that 87 percent of daily trips occur in cars, when 50 percent of the trips in America can be knocked out with a bike ride in less than 20 minutes.

But why I admire Deborah and am frankly jealous of her transportation mode (vs. my hybrid Prius, which, while not a Hummer, still emits carbon dioxide) is because her commute is so much more alive than mine.

She knows the weather and watches the sky change colors at sunrise and sunset. She feels the wind on her face, sees the small pockets of fog hanging above the dips on the road, hears the leaves rustle as they fall to the ground.

Meanwhile, I drive effortlessly in my temperature-controlled car from point A to point B, without the pleasure of experiencing the space between those two points. The weather is getting nicer each day, and Sacramento’s flat landscape is the perfect terrain for pedal-powered transport, yet I persist to commute to work, alone, in my automobile, like tens of thousands of other Sacramentans.

But starting May 1, we’ll all have a chance to follow Deborah’s lead when the Sacramento region’s Bike Month kicks off with a press conference and ride at the River Walk Park in West Sacramento. Special events are scheduled throughout the month and will include weekly prizes and awards. Registration for the annual regional bike campaign, which challenges Sacramento-area residents to collectively bike 1 million miles, has already begun. Last year’s Million Mile May campaign saved 366,551 pounds of carbon dioxide and 5,092 pounds of other air pollutants from the atmosphere.

Bike Month reminds us that there are really no good excuses not to ride our bikes. After all, biking is not only good for the environment, it’s good for the mind, body and soul. As H.G. Wells said, “Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.”

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.