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Brandon Bikes to Work

Through the entire month of May, FOX40 News Director Brandon Mercer is trying to ride his bike to work every day.

May is Bike Month.

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brandon mercer bike month blog

FOX40 News Director Brandon Mercer

SACRAMENTO–

May is Bike Month, and on a challenge from the FOX40 morning producers, I’m seeing if I can ride my bike to work all month.  Today, the final verdict:  12 days biking to work, 11 days driving, plus 1 holiday where I did neither.

This has been an eye-opening experience, from co-workers who looked dumbfounded when I arrived at work with a helmet and shorts on, wondering if I was safe riding down Stockton Boulevard, to the physical demands of it (yes, I wussed out on rainy days), to the dangers of sharing the road.

Trading your car for pedal power frees you from the confines of steel and glass, and lets you really feel a part of your community. It forces you to think differently, and plan ahead, from your wardrobe, to your lunch plans to your errands, and the streets you’ll take.   You save money on gas, of course, and lose time, of course.  It’s a hassle, but also enlightening.

In summary, here’s my month:

*2 near head-on collisions with other cyclists.  Some people just choose to ignore rules about riding with traffic, and become dangerous kamikaze riders, barreling toward you in a narrow bike lane.

*3 near collisions with animals.  Twice with squirrels, and once with a well-fed tabby cat.  I’m either super quiet, or super fast.  I think it’s neither.  They’re just really nonchalant squirrels.

*5+ dead bugs in the teeth or eye.  Not fun, but free protein won’t hurt anyone. Much.

*7+ encounters with cars who are trying to be too helpful, and actually creating problems. If I’m in the left turn lane of a busy intersection, don’t slam on the breaks and stop in the middle of the street, as if I should ride in front of you. Just drive through, and let me follow the rules and make my turn when it’s clear! It’s so confusing when a driver just stops for no reason.

*8 drivers trying to squeeze me between a traffic light pole and their passenger-side mirror.  Good reminder to self:  Always check the rear view mirror for on-coming cyclists before turning right!

So, what about regularly riding to work?   For me, the answer is yes, but not daily.

The most powerful thing in leaving a car is experiencing your community firsthand.   Smelling what your neighbors are having for dinner. Smiling at the lady out watering her rose bushes.   Noticing the new paint job on that corner house that is 3 blocks off the busy “car commute” street, and letting the owner know “hey, it looks great!” when you bike past.  It’s invigorating to get a workout before work, and for those of us too busy to work out, it lets us combine the commute with the cardio.  Most importantly, though, was realizing driving is such a privilege.  As I biked past many people who don’t have the option of driving, I realized how fortunate I am to be able to make this decision.  Seeing families in South Sacramento all commuting together by bike, I realize compassion from those in cars is critical.   I also realize how much harder it can be for people to recover from adverse conditions to gain a roof over their heads, a job, and a reliable car.   Biking to work should be a monthly routine at least, so more people realize the value, and perspective pedal power can provide.

Me? I’ll aim for every Friday.

SACRAMENTO–

May is Bike Month, and on a challenge from the FOX40 morning producers, I’m seeing if I can ride my bike to work all month.

DAY 18: Bike: Biking in on a Friday, feeling good.

DAY 19: No bike: Off for Memorial Day!

DAY 20: Bike: Beautiful cool morning for a bike ride!

DAY 21: No Bike:  T

brandon mercer bike month blog

FOX40 News Director Brandon Mercer

oo many places to be, that riding wasn’t practical.

DAY 22: No Bike: Big meeting downtown, plus took 3 hours off to see Le Miserable Matinee, chose not to bike to and from work and downtown, and back.  If you’re a bike commuter who can handle that, more power to you! (But you’ll probably arrive at those big meetings rather sweaty, right?)

DAY 23: Bike: Finished strong, on the last day of the month!

photo

Brandon Mercer wearing dress socks while biking to work, to save time on the morning routine.

SACRAMENTO–

May is Bike Month, and on a challenge from the FOX40 morning producers, I’m seeing if I can ride my bike to work all month.

Day 14:  Drove to work.  I had a big event, and was dressed up.  I just can’t be that guy who bikes in a suit, and biking with a garment bag over my shoulder isn’t going to happen.  But, I did take a nice long ride SUNDAY with all my kids, so that makes up for it, right?

Day 15:  Back in the saddle! This is good! Dropped the kids off at school, traded my car for a bike, and made it into work in less than 20 minutes.  I’m discovering wearing your dress socks with your bike shoes saves time when you change clothes–three minutes from sweaty bike commuter to “shirt and tie” news manager!

Day 16:  I had to bike home both these nights at 9:45 p.m.  No traffic, so that’s good, but I need to get a better bike light.  See the rules attached to Day 1 of this blog on what lights are needed.   On the residential route I take, there are some really dark spots where I can’t see a darn thing, and it’s pedal and pray that you aren’t biking into a parked car.  Yes, it’s that dark, because of all the glare, your eyes can’t adjust as you race through the dark pockets.

Day 17:  Had appointments, and wanted to get into work for the Kings Rally live field show.  I drove.  Gotta say, I felt isolated in the car! It’s a steel and glass cocoon, keeping you away from the social nature of being human.  And you can’t smell the flowers along the way!  But, I did hit the Taco Bell drive through.   Anyone try riding a bike through a drive through? They frown on that for some reason.

SACRAMENTO–

May is Bike Month, and on a challenge from the FOX40 morning producers, I’m seeing if I can ride my bike to work all month.

Days 12:  When we say “bike” to work, the phrase “hoped to bike” would have been better.  Today, Rain again.  I realized, if I’m serious about this, I need mud guards.   Our morning executive producer says at UC Davis, freshman who biked to class would arrive some days when the streets were wet with what they call “The Freshman Stripe” up their back, from the splashing.   I’m not investing in bike mud flaps or fenders, so it was the lazy car ride for me.  I checked, Davis Wiki is all over this: http://daviswiki.org/Freshman_Stripe

Day 13:  Breaking news.  You all saw it–the Sacramento Kings are staying.  After Tweeting the mayor’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” speech, I raced into work to help coordinate coverage.  No time for a bike ride, change of clothes, and all that.  Back to the pedaling on Monday though!

brandon mercer bike month blog

FOX40 News Director Brandon Mercer

 

biking to work

FOX40 News Director Brandon Mercer, biking to work.

SACRAMENTO–

May is Bike Month, and on a challenge from the FOX40 morning producers, I’m seeing if I can ride my bike to work all month.

Days 10 & 11:  Full disclosure: I drove to work both days.  I’m realizing that bicycling to work is not as crazy as people make it out to be, but there are times when it just gets ridiculous. Here is my list of what’s bad, and what’s good, and why I drove twice:

BIKING TO WORK GOOD & BAD:

BAD: It’s not feasible to pack your suit in your backpack when you have a Metro Chamber luncheon to go to.

GOOD: It’s not feasible to pack your suit in your backpack, so you wear casual clothes, while getting praise for being so environmentally friendly, and helping improve the amount of parking spots at the station.

BAD: Arrive at work sweaty, have to take time to change clothes, fix “helmet head,” stop panting before walking into the newsroom.

GOOD: Workout combined with commute creates nice efficiency, and if you don’t work out, you don’t get to work. Cheaper than a gym!

BAD: I never worked out previously, so it just sucks the time.

GOOD:  It saves big bucks on gas.

GOOD:  You get to smell the world around you, the flowers, the breakfasts cooking, the freshly mowed grass.

BAD: You get to smell the world around you, the diesel exhaust, the sewer gas emanating from storm drains.

BAD: It’s impossible to pick the kids up from school on my bike.

GOOD:  It’s impossible to pick the kids up from school on my bike.  (Thank you honey, for doing pick ups this month!)

BAD: It’s REALLY impossible to bike to work when you have to pick up your FRIEND’s kids too.

BAD: There’s no AC, so it’s cold in the morning, and hot in the evening.

GOOD:  Teaches me to man-up and stop whining.

BAD: Impossible to run errands while at work. Imagine trying to drop off the recycling while on your bike!

GOOD:  Impossible to run errands while at work. (Thanks honey, for dropping off the recycling! Keep the CA Redemption Value refunds, and buy yourself something nice!)

SACRAMENTO–

brandon mercer bike month blog

FOX40 News Director Brandon Mercer

May is Bike Month, and on a challenge from the FOX40 morning producers, I’m seeing if I can ride my bike to work all month.  I’m the News Director at KTXL FOX40, so yes, the boss is arriving in the newsroom each morning with shorts, a t-shirt, and usually some other nerd-like items, like reflective ankle bands.  Cycle Chic.

DAYS 7 & 8: Getting faster.  Got the commute down to under 20 minutes.  How? a) I’m going faster, b) I’m learning how to ride in traffic better, and not sit at lights, c) I’ve been late, and have had to race in, literally.

DAY 9: Tried a different route. Big mistake.  Got onto Stockton Boulevard for about a miles, and it was not pleasant.   Also, many people on Stockton Boulevard ride AGAINST traffic, making it a bit challenging to dodge on-coming cyclists while sharing the road with fast-moving traffic.

brandon mercer bike month blog

FOX40 News Director Brandon Mercer

SACRAMENTO-

DAY 6: I have to finally put air in the back tire, but I keep forgetting, so I was slow today.  Good workout though!

Things I’ve learned so far in this bicycle commute experiment:

*Killing a bug when it hits your windshield is FAR less traumatic than killing a bug when it hits your teeth.

*Lots of neighbors barbecue steak. Dang, it smells good on the ride home! You miss those things when you’re cooped up in a car.

*How beautiful the neighborhood is!  Riding through East Sac, the UCD Med Center area, and even down to Stockton Blvd., I pass neat little lawns, budding fruit trees, sleeping kitty cats, nicely mown lawns, and freshly painted Craftsman homes.  Sure, there’s also the used mattress thrown in the street, but let’s focus on the good stuff.

*People are courteous once you’re out of your car.  People wave, smile, say “Good Morning!” and seem to generally be social.  More on this to come…

day 1photo

FOX40 News Director Brandon Mercer is hoping to ride his bike to work every day this month.

SACRAMENTO-

DAY 4:  It rained. I wimped out.

DAY 5:  Fastest bike commute yet:  19 minutes, 55 seconds.

Interesting challenges today. I’m riding faster, and I almost ran over a squirrel, on my bike. I think he didn’t think I was really going that fast.   Then, a near collision. What’s the etiquette when two bike commuters (okay, one real bike commuter, and me trying to see if I can earn that title), come to a stop sign?

Neither of us is truly planning to stop, and we each sort of half-swerved out of the way while doing the customary head nod of, “yeah, we’re cooler than those dudes in cars, whassup!?”

Next time, I’ll slow down more and follow my new bike commuter rule:  “ALWAYS YIELD TO THE DUDES IN SPANDEX.”

day 1photo

FOX40 News Director Brandon Mercer is hoping to ride his bike to work every day this month.

SACRAMENTO-

DAYS 2 & 3:  I knew to skip the tie for the ride, but tow to arrive at work without sweat dripping through my dress shirt?  Today, I tried the change of clothes in the backpack.   Not fun to hop on one foot to put the dress slacks on near the urinal, but I feel clean today.

On my way in, I got passed by a dude wearing flip-flops and riding a beach cruiser.

Monday, I’ll work on speed.

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