A New Set of Wheels 

East Bay Bicycle Coalition stretches Bike to Work Day into a whole month of bicycle-themed activities.

There was a time when biking represented an alternate vision of civil society. It was the defining activity of several loosely agglomerated subcultures: Critical Mass activists, zero-fat health nuts, consumers of Clif Bars, doctrinaire environmentalists, collectors of "gear," people who thought they looked good walking around town in Spandex and a helmet. But recently, it's become more of a mainstream trend, according to East Bay Bicycle Coalition chair Dave Campbell. More and more people are using bikes as an everyday form of transportation — not just to commute to jobs, but to shop for groceries or go out to dinner. BART stations are rolling out a new kind of electronic bike locker that comes with a smart card so patrons can open them on demand. Most AC Transit buses have bike racks. Forty-six-year-old Campbell said he started using a bike regularly after moving to the Bay Area in 1996. In 2003, he sold his car and never bought a new one. He's extremely happy with his cardio-intensive, less carbon-emitting lifestyle.

This May, the East Bay Bicycle Coalition will try to create a new kind of urban metropolis, in which bicycles — not cars — jam the city streets. Actually, the idea isn't new. The League of American Bicyclists proclaimed May National Bike Month fifty years ago. Oakland had its first Bike to Work Day back in 1993, and the rest of the Bay Area followed suit in 1994. With increased funding in recent years (from a $10,000 budget in 2006, to a $100,000 budget this year) Bay Area bike enthusiasts and city agencies managed to stretch Bike to Work Day into an entire month of bicycle-themed activities. This year, the East Bay Bicycle Coalition is sponsoring a Team Bike Challenge, for which teams of two to five cyclists will compete to see who can ride their bikes the most. (The point is to get newbies biking to work or school, so each team is required to have one novice.) The coalition will also offer a spate of free bike clinics (including one at the Berkeley Farmers' Market, 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 9) that will teach everything from how to change a flat to grocery shopping on a bike.

The big highlight is May 14's Bike to Work Day, during which cyclists will receive free goody bags at energy stations throughout the Bay Area. Campbell says the event has grown exponentially in the last few years. "Last year, it grew 25 percent on average throughout East Bay," he said. "At some energizer stations we used to only see forty to fifty cyclists go by in morning, and now we're seeing 150." That augurs well for a leaner, greener Bay Area. EBBC.org

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