Not so long ago, Redding was probably one of the poorer cities for urban cycling in the nation. A city that so much relishes its connection to the automobile had almost no safe route to travel by bike from the west to east side of town across the Sacramento River. It was rare to find a street with a bike lane, dozens of intersections were dangerous for cyclists, and there seemed to be no energy being put forth to help cyclists.
But that situation is continuing to change in a good way. Safe and significant bike (and pedestrian) lanes are being built into both the Highway 44 and Cypress Avenue bridge projects. The city seems open to making improvements and has elicited the help of the NorCal Bike Partnership to lead it down a good path.
What the area does have is this: a world-class network of dirt and paved trails for recreational riding. If Redding continues to improve its urban cycling corridors, it’ll be one of the great places to ride a bike on the West Coast.
May is National Bike Month, and in Shasta County, an advocacy group is pushing for area residents to dust off their bicycles and get out riding. The week of May 14-21 has been designated as Ride to Work Week, and there are several clinics and special activities being held in conjunction.
Click here on Healthy Shasta’s webpage to see what types of activities are going on. Click on the calendar on that page to see what activities are happening throughout the month.
For instance, there’s free bike parking at the Asphalt Cowboy’s Pancake Breakfast on May 14 and free breakfast for the first 150 riders who show up (with helmets). Throughout the month there are clinics for bicycle repair, including things like how to change a flat tire.
One area business will win a fancy new bike rack based on how many employees ride to work and how commuter friendly the business is. Click on the Bike Commute Challenge link off Healthy Shasta’s page.
One of the most dedicated commuters I know is Record Searchlight reporter Scott Mobley. I’ve seen him riding up the North Market Street hill on 100-plus degree days. He rides to City Council meetings. He often rides to interviews.
Mobley started commuting while living off Hilltop Drive when he learned that short car commutes are actually worse environmentally than longer commutes. Now, even though his commute from south Redding is longer, he still rides.
“It’s my only opportunity to be outside all day and I like being outside,” Mobley said. “I like being out in the weather, whatever it is, and noting the seasons and how they’re progressing. It never gets old, going across Sundial Bridge and looking at the patterns of light off the Sundial Bridge. It kind of loosens my mind and prepares me for the day.”
Mobley, after interviews, says he often thinks about how he’ll structure his story while riding back to the office.
People talk about the environmental aspects of bike commuting, and they are sound arguments, but businesses should really examine how riding to work helps employees. When I would ride to work, I’d always feel better and less stressed. That little bit of exercise combined with being outside seemed to make a huge difference (plus, it saved me some gas money).
Employers can help by providing bike racks, changing areas that (if possible) include locker rooms and showers, and incentives for employees who ride to work. It’s also important to remember that employees who ride to work will likely be healthier, which translates to health care costs. There are so many upsides and almost no downsides.
In general, Mobley believes area motorists are getting much better about sharing the road with cyclists, though bikers always have to be on the lookout for that one dangerous or inconsiderate driver. Some online comments following bicyclist-car accident stories on the R-S website have included some bewildering antagonism toward cyclists. (Then again, much of the discourse from R-S comment writers is a negative physiological bummer, so what are you gonna do?)
Anyway, cyclists have a big obligation to obey traffic laws and be safe travelers as well.
“Every cyclist should be an ambassador for the cycling community and every cyclist should obey the laws,” Mobley said.
There are a few instances where red lights won’t change for cyclists and they have to roll through and some intersections. And there remain some really difficult intersections for bikers (Mobley mentioned riding south on North Market across Lake Boulevard and the merging right turn lane from Lake). There’s also the matter of what are cyclists going to do once they cross the Highway 44 Bridge heading east and emerge at Dana Drive and Hilltop? Right now that doesn’t appear to be much of a cycling friendly scenario.
But those riddles can be solved. Redding is certainly not going to be bike-crazy Davis (where the U.S. Cycling Hall of Fame just opened and almost everyone rides a bike) overnight. But the overarching issue is that more attention is getting paid to facilitating cyclists.
Bikes and bike riders are good things.