Bike to Work Day 2012 marks revival of the fittest

For Betty Jung, Thursday’s bike ride to Berkeley on her Schwinn was extra fun — she rode with three new campus friends — but not unusual. It was six years ago that the Tang Center staffer first tried cycling from home, near Oakland’s Highland Hospital, on Bike to Work Day 2006. She’s been a regular bicycle commuter ever since, using bicycle lanes along Lake Merritt and a manageable grade up Telegraph Avenue. (When it rains, she rides the bus.)

three cyclists

Campus staffers (from left) Betty Jung, Hulda Nelson and Emily Strange en route to the Berkeley campus

Why the 12-mile round trip on two wheels? For Jung, it’s simple: longevity. “I want to be fit for retirement.”

On Thursday, Bike to Work Day 2012, Jung was one of scores of cyclists who mobbed the Energizer Station at Bancroft and Telegraph during the morning commute hour, getting quick bike repairs from the student group BicyCal, license renewals from UCPD officers and pastries provided by the Berkeley Student Food Collective (which offered coffee, too, while it lasted).

Berkeley resident Anita Levitch, en route to a workout at the Rec Sports facility, was there. Levitch uses her bike regularly for transportation and errands — something her friends find remarkable, she says. “‘You’re 79 and you’re still riding your bike?’ Why not? In Europe, everyone rides their bike.”

Grad student Ginger Jui, of the student-funded Campus Bicycle Initiative, says it’s been a good year for cycling at Berkeley overall. She cites a student-organized event last September, Campus Bike Day, that attracted more than 500 bicycling enthusiasts, and a series of informational workshops offered this spring — on biking in the rain, biking with kids and other topics.

“Our initial counts showed bikes making up to 50 percent of traffic rolling through the Bancroft and Telegraph intersection,” Jui said. (Environmental Health & Safety staffer Karl Hans, former chair of the UC Berkeley Bicycle Committee, reported a similar trend at the Richmond Field Station Energizer Station, near the Bay Trail: “there were more bicyclists than last year” — both daily bicycle commuters and “enthusiastic BTWD-only riders from as far away as Marin County.”)

“We know based on our surveys that roughly 11 percent of the campus population are bicycle commuters,” notes Jui. With 47,000 total students, faculty and staff, “this equates to just over 5,000 bike commuters.” Her group has set a goal to grow that number significantly — by converting more than 400 from car to bicycle commuting. Results of a recent transportation survey, she says, should make clear how far the campus has come.

For more photos of the day, check out the Campus Bike Initiative website.