Bike to Work Day is underway in Alameda County, and this year’s riders already broke last year’s record by 12.3 percent.
The Cities of Emeryville and Berkeley saw the largest increases, with 15 and 14 percent increases respectively. At one point, a quarter of street traffic at Sproul Plaza in the heart of Downtown Berkeley was bicycles.
Even Oakland, with a mere eight percent increase, set a new city record for its Bike to Work Day turnout.
The East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC) organized 79 energizer stations throughout Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. The stations dotted major corridors and destinations, offering a place for cyclists to stock up on coffee, snacks, tote bags of coupons and maps, and information about local bicycle organizations. Several stations adopted themes to give their patrons an extra boost of energy and excitement on their commute.
Four energizer stations counted over 500 people biking by during the morning rush hour. This is the first time East Bay stations outside Downtown Berkeley and Oakland saw this many people riding to work.
Dave Campbell, program director of the EBBC, was not surprised to see where some of the biggest increases appeared.
“The next two busiest stations were Broadway at 27th and San Pablo at Alcatraz. These two locations are very busy streets for cars, but lots of cyclists ride, despite there being a complete lack of accommodations for cyclists.”
Campbell continued: “The busiest energizer station in Emeryville was on 40th Street. The busiest energizer station in Oakland, outside of downtown, was on 40th Street. That’s just a case to put bike lanes on 40th Street.”
Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO) organized pools in each Oakland council district, meeting as early as 7 am for the ride to Downtown Oakland. Four city council members rode with their district’s pools.
“In the past we’ve had brand new riders, one of whom is a council aide for Rebecca Kaplan,” said pool leader Midori Tabata. “She was so thrilled by the experience that she’s now become a regular bicycle commuter.”
By 9 am, a thousand people arrived at the annual Bike Fair at Frank Ogawa Plaza. The fair is best known for its free pancakes, poured and flipped by Whole Foods and Piedmont Grocery.
“Those pancakes were off the hook,” exclaimed Nsomeka Gomes.
The fair also featured several bike shops, artists and clubs. AC Transit brought an entire bus to help people learn how to put their bikes on the bus racks. The rider with the fastest time (nine seconds) won a set of bike lights.
“I’m really glad that I finally found a group,” said Rita Watson, who lives near Lake Merritt. “I’m going to join the Yellow Jackets, because I’ll feel more comfortable with a group. I haven’t been out riding in years, this is only my second time on my new bike, so now, since I came here today, I have the Yellow Jackets and there’s probably other things too, I’m so glad I came.”
EBBC valeted almost 300 bikes during the fair. Though many people took their bikes to work after the fair, more than half of the bicycles remained during the work day.
“This is more than you see in the Downtown Berkeley Bike Station,” said Kassie Rohrbach, the executive director of WOBO. “It’s clear there’s demand for a bike station in Downtown Oakland on a regular basis. I’m thrilled that council member Rebecca Kaplan is working with WOBO to make this a reality this year.”
The fair concluded with a Rally for Bikeways in front of City Hall. Riders gathered with their pancakes and coffee to listen to four Oakland City Council members share their reasons for wanting to see the bike network completed.
“I’m a fair weather cyclist, which means I don’t do it very often,” admitted council member Kernighan. “But one of the things that would get people like me to bicycle more often would be to get more bike lanes. I am really excited that in the next year quite a few miles of bike lanes are going to be installed, including quite a few in District 2 and near… when that’s done, I think even I might bike to work.”
Rohrbach summarized the goals of the campaign:
“We’re calling on the city to complete the Master Bicycle Plan by 2020, starting with 30 miles of new bikeways in 2011, and five major transportation corridors by 2015.”
Bike to Work Day isn’t finished in the East Bay. While this morning’s bike commuters are at work, the EBBC and WOBO are busy setting up the second most important part of Bike to Work Day – the after party.
The Bike Away From Work Party rolls to 9th and Washington streets at 5:30 pm. With live music, food, beverages, the Big Tadoo Puppet Crew, and Cyclecide until 8:30, Bike to Work Day is anything but over.