Biking at work downtown

Chris McSwain, Old Sacramento Business Association

I know that there are others who’s commute distance, route or other issues don’t make two-wheels the right solution to get to and from work. Last year, though, I discovered something that made perfect sense to me and probably would for a lot of other employees in Sacramento’s central city: I keep my bike at work.

In the backroom of my Old Sacramento office, I keep my road bike, helmet and a backpack. It’s there 24/7 whenever I need it.   Just because I’m not a bicycle commuter doesn’t mean I can’t take advantage of having a bike downtown and leaving my car in the garage.

Part of working downtown is that so many of the things I need are very close: Lunch, meetings, snack, copy shop, happy hour. Everything feels like it’s just a brief walk away, but when you walk it, it can be end up being 15 minutes each way – something a busy day can’t afford.

Here are some advantages of keeping your bike at work:

  • It’s not only quicker than walking, it’s frequently quicker than parking. Sure, if you luck out and can find a metered space right in front of where you’re going, then you save a lot of time. But chances are you will be walking from your office to a parking garage, pulling your car from one parking garage, driving to another, parking your car, then walking to your appointment. If the garage is near full and you need to drive around, driving to a meeting can actually take more time than walking. Here are the actual times door t
    o door from my office in Old Sac to the Downtown Sacramento Partnership office seven blocks away: driving, 16 minutes; walking, 12 minutes; biking, 8 minutes.
  • It’s literally cooler than walking. Let’s face it, it can get hot in Sacramento, and a walk in the heat can leave you feeling less than fresh. But a casual bike ride down the street (not racing, just casual) produces a nice breeze that keeps the ride cool. And Downtown and Midtown’s trees don’t hurt either.
  • It’s cheaper. These little trips around town can add up when it comes to fuel and parking. Whether it’s your dime or your boss’, money saved can be put to better use.
  • It makes Downtown better. I love cars, but I don’t love traffic. Either being in it or having it clog the streets of our city. Every minute that we leave a car parked and not idling in the street, improves the look, smell, sound and feel of Sacramento.
  • It’s part of the fitness craze. You might be like me and use FitBit to motivate you to make active rather than sedentary choices. Getting on a bike is just healthier for you than driving, and will contribute to your active lifestyle.

Some tips on biking while at work.

  • Keep a pump with you. Running out of air can be just as annoying as running out of gas. Practical Cycle in Old Sac has a loaner pump in front of their shop that can be used to top off your tires, but you’ll want to have one of your own.
  • Wear a helmet. I know, who wants hat hair? But we are sharing the street with big heavy vehicles and, in any collision between bike and car, the bike loses.
  • Follow the rules of the road. Maybe you’ve seen the movie “Premium Rush,” but don’t follow Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s example and ride the wrong way in traffic and weave in and out. Even when following the rules of the road, you’ll make great time through Downtown Sac.
  • If you can use the designated bike lanes (especially the green ones on Capitol Mall), definitely do it.

What Sacramento could do better. This is a good place to bike, better than it gets credit for, but it can and should be better.

  • Let’s see some more of the green bike lanes. It makes it clear to riders and drivers where each belongs.
  • Let’s fix I Street between 6th and 2nd. The bike lane actually jumps from one side of the street to the other between 6th and 5th and then again between 3rd and 2nd. It’s because of the I-5 onramps, and avoiding conflicts with cars eager to get on the freeway, but there’s got to be a better solution.
  • More office buildings could have secure bike parking areas and they should be easily identifiable. There are a couple public bike racks on each block, but they aren’t always easy to find, leaving bikes chained to parking meters and lampposts. For that matter, the City should continue its program of converting some parking spaces to bike corrals.
  • Bike share programs, like NYC’s Citibike or ones provided by employers would provide Downtown employees with alternatives for workday errands.

Perhaps the best part of my taking that little ride to a meeting is that it can give me that little extra energy to help me get through the day. Don’t let your decision to commute by car or mass transit keep you from biking downtown.