Most cities in the Bay Area are gearing up for Bike to Work Day this Thursday, with numerous activities to encourage people to make riding to work a more enjoyable and routine part of life. In San Jose, the city has planned a whole week of events.
The San Jose Cycling Classic will kick off with Bike to Work Day and finish with the Amgen Tour of California Stage 4 on Wednesday, May 19th, where luminaries like Lance Armstrong will race through the streets of the capital of Silicon Valley.
There will be two King of the Mountain events that encourage avid cyclists to ride a portion of the Tour of California race to raise money for charities, one dedicated to CEOs and corporate executives and one open to anyone who thinks they can surmount a very steep section of Sierra Road.
This year will also mark the first ciclovia in the South Bay, similar to San Francisco’s Sunday Streets, where the city opens its streets to cyclists and pedestrians by closing them to cars. San Jose’s ciclovia, called Via Velo and sponsored by Mattson Technology, is a modest first step that will close San Fernando Street downtown for just under one mile, from 3rd Street to the 87 freeway.
At a recent press conference, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and various Silicon Valley business leaders asserted that the week’s events would continue to boost the profile of bicycle riding in the city, and not just for the spandex crowd.
In fact, Mayor Reed made a special plea to residents in his city who were not the typical sport cyclists, urging them to take advantage of the Cycling Classic events or even the 50 miles of creek trails to reacquaint themselves with their bicycles.
"I know there are a lot of people out there who have bicycles in garages, bicycles in sheds," said Reed. "Those bicycles are lonely and I want this to motivate people to get out, get the bicycle out, and pump up the tires, put a little oil on the chain," and come out for Bike to Work Day or Via Velo.
"I ride in the name of people who don’t wear spandex," added Mayor Reed, who said the creek trail system was a great way for families to ride without the worry of traffic.
Dave Dutton, CEO of Mattson Technology, said his company was sponsoring Via Velo this year in an effort to promote the health benefits of cycling and physical activity. For those who haven’t taken up bicycle commuting in San Jose for fear of traffic or who discourage their children from riding, Dutton said the Via Velo would provide the safe space for families to embrace cycling together.
"Remember the first time you rode a bike and your parent let go of the bicycle and [you had that] first realization that you’re on your own?" asked Dutton. "That’s what we’re trying to capture again, to bring families back together and really bring it into a community."
Dutton said globally 15 percent of Mattson Technology staff rode their bikes to work for last year’s Bike to Work Day and that the company hoped to promote more regular riding among employees, which was good for the company’s bottom line.
"At Mattson, a thriving community is a good community for employees," he said. "A more well community actually lowers health-care costs and overall helps the industry have an advantage."
Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Corinne Winter made the decidedly bike-geek joke that the 16th Annual Bike to Work Day could be considered the true prologue to the Cycling Classic.
Winter also noted that 40 percent of people in the Bay Area live within five miles of their workplace. "This is a distance that is really ideal to ride a bike," she said. Compared to being stuck in a car in traffic, Winter said, "riding your bike to work is fun, that’s why those of us who do it do it."
For some at the press conference, fun was certainly important, but the lure of friendly competition and King of the Mountain bragging rights was clearly more of a draw.
Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and a noted cyclist who routinely rides to work 30 miles round trip, talked up the King of the Mountain ride, a 3.7 mile course up Sierra Road that averages 10 percent grade.
Guardino, who pattered around the Rotunda in San Jose’s City Hall in socks after leaving his well-used cycling shoes clipped into the pedals of his carbon-fiber bicycle, said with some irony that he expected to lose the race up the hill.
In order to give himself a further advantage, he held up a razor and shaving cream and made a promise (threat?). "For every CEO who beats me up that King of the Mountain ride, I will personally shave your legs," Guardino smiled.
"I will be there at the top of the hill at the VIP tent, ready to shave their legs, not their backs, their legs."
For more information on Bike to Work Day, visit the SVBC’s website. For more information on Via Velo, the King of the Mountain Ride and other events planned around the Tour of California, visit the San Jose Cycling Classic website or the SVBC website.