Commuter Profile: Jeff Wilson

How long have you been a bike commuter?

Over a year. I started in March 2008 as gas prices started climbing
and fell in love with it quickly. 4,000 miles, 10lbs, and three bikes
later, I’m still having a blast.

What do you do and what cities do you bike commuter?

I ride to work in suburban Santa Clarita, CA, a big suburb of Los
Angeles. The city has a nice network of bike paths; unfortunately my
route includes none of them. I seldom see other bike commuters save
for Latinos riding beater bikes to their jobs.

Why did you start riding your bike to work and how long is your commute?

I started because gas prices were approaching ridiculous levels and I
wanted to get fit. My commute is very easy- only 2 miles- but I work
for a school district and I’m sometimes required to visit schools
during the work day. So, sometimes if I’m lucky, I’ll put twenty miles
in while riding to various schools.

What kind of bikes do you have?

I started out on a standard Trek hybrid. After having a few
reliability problems with that, I sold it and got a Swobo Dixon, which
was my main commuter for much of the last year. As I took up road
riding, I found I had a need for speed, so I’ve shelved the Dixon to
beer-bike duties and I now ride a rack-equipped Jamis Quest road bike
to work. It’s so much faster!


How does Bike Commuting help you with your lifestyle (economics,
health, relationships)?

Let’s see. I’ve saved hundreds in gas, car payments, and insurance
since I got rid of my car last year and we became a one car household.
I’m in much better shape, I get to be outdoors, and I’ve lost weight.

Any experience that you can share with us about ‘learning the hard way’?

In my first week of cycling to work. I got into a very minor accident.
You see I wasn’t paying attention closely enough and ran into the back
of a stopped car. I wasn’t going fast and no damage or injuries
resulted but it taught me a valuable lesson- pay attention!
Situational awareness is king when you’re cycle commuting, think ahead
100 feet, 500 feet, a half mile etc. Make plans and signal your
intentions!

What do you do for a living?

I work as a database administrator. I’m not sure why so many tech
people ride to work, but I’m pleased to be one of them. Just wish I
had more commute buddies in this car-dependent town.

What do people (coworkers, friends) say when you tell them that you
are a bike commuter?

Jerks say: You’re weird. Skeptics say: How are you going to handle the
heat this summer (it gets up to 110 in Santa Clarita)? The
Unimaginative say: I could never give up my car, I have
kids/dog/insert special problem here. Girls say: Nice, I bet you’re
going to lose weight and look good!

How about bicycling advocacy? Are you active in any local or regional
advocacy groups?

I monitor local cycling situations and blog about them at my new blog,
soulcyclist.blogspot.com . I’ve also spoken before the city council on
issues pertaining to cycle commuting. I’m thinking of starting an
advocacy group as well, but, I’ll be honest, it’s hard to find bike
commuters out here. I’m so jealous of the success I read about in
other places.


17 Comments

  1. Justin June 23, 2009 3:11 pm 

    I forgot that all Bike Commuters are White professionals – forget those brown skinned folk!

    I know your comment wasn’t meant to come off as such but I despise the repeated notion that a “Latino on a beater[sic]” isn’t a Bike Commuter. Or do we only get that title if we have a fancy bike with the right accesories, job and skin color?

  2. RL Policar June 23, 2009 3:32 pm 

    Justin relax…not sure if you knew this, BikeCommuters.com is owned by two brown people.

    Not that it matters, but Moe is Mexican and I’m a Filipino…we’re not white but we are also bike commuters.

  3. Moe June 23, 2009 3:46 pm 

    Justin, I think you will agree with me that most of the Latinos riding a beater bike do it because they have no choice. I can assure you that they would gladly trade their bike for a ‘beater’ car. Most of us are bike commuters by choice, and by doing so, most of us know the importance of following the rules of the road and wearing safety equipment.

    Have you ever tried to convince a Latino rider not to ride on the sidewalk or not to ride on the opposite side of the road? I have, they didn’t seem very receptive to my suggestions. In fact, my closest calls have been with Latino riders that happened to be riding on the opposite side of the road and were not paying attention. Can you say that Latino on a beater is a bike commuter? Not by choice.

  4. Dawn June 23, 2009 3:51 pm 

    I think the implication is that when it is a choice, you are a bike commuter. When you don’t have resources, but you do use a bike for transportation, you are not a commuter. At least, that’s what I get from the profile.
    The author’s loneliness lies in the fact that he does not share his choice with others in his socio-economic class.
    Maybe he should learn some Spanish.

  5. Moe June 23, 2009 3:57 pm 

    Here’s some Spanish you can learn:
    “Bajate de la banqueta”
    “Usa un casco”
    “Obedece las luces”
    “No vayas en sentido contrario” and
    finally “chinga la tuya”

  6. Jeff June 23, 2009 4:58 pm 

    I actually included that comment deliberately to generate discussion.

    Are they bike commuters? sure

    I’ve mentioned them at city council meetings- they are forgotten largely when it comes to transportation planning. They either take the bus or they ride.

    I’d like to organize them but have no idea how. There are probably hundreds of them. An untapped constituency for our cause if you will.

    But yes they do ride differently than I or most of you do (on the sidewalks etc).

    The author’s loneliness lies in the fact that he does not share his choice with others in his socio-economic class.

    Wha? I’m always talking about cycling, so much so that my friends are sick of me. I did manage to guilt trip a few of them into riding on Bike to Work day.

    Sorry for including this comment, didn’t mean to offend, just wanted some more discussion.

  7. Ghost Rider June 23, 2009 5:26 pm 

    It looks like a distinction between “bike commuters/cyclists” and “guys on bikes” — hard to reach those “guys on bikes”, as they are not often receptive to gentle correction.

    Some of the better bike advocacy groups have taken the time to create bilingual “rules of the road” placards they can hand out where “guys on bikes” congregate…and this can work wonders into getting underserved folks to follow the road rules, get some lights on their bikes and stop doing dangerous things that make ALL of us look bad in the eyes of motorists.

  8. Justin June 23, 2009 6:32 pm 

    RL – Honestly the color of skin of the site’s owners isn’t a large concern. You didn’t write this content.

    I totally understand that the profiled commuter wasn’t being intentionally demeaning – I said as much. But comments like that really serve as yet another reason people find cyclists obnoxious – even in the “everyday cycling” world of bike commuting you have to have fit some arbitrary criteria to be part of the club. It’s annoying.

    Also, you want other cyclists to follow the rules and make the choice to ride? Get them into the club! Give them the high sign, share some water or offer to help them get the fit right on their bikes. Don’t just tell them “you’re doing it wrong” like some cycling LOLcat – it just makes you look like a rude cracker.

    In Oakland we have a large population of these “Latinos on beaters” and there are outreach efforts – but even in the Bike To Work Day checkpoint setup you can see the obvious bias in what communities we value cycling to work.

    Maybe this is why I just ride my bike though – instead of trying to be a BOB or a freestyler or Bije Commuter.

    AND TO BE CLEAR: I’m not calling anyone the ‘R’ word ;). Just provoking some discussion around a point that bothers me.

  9. S Weil June 24, 2009 11:15 am 

    There sure does seem to be a large portion of those interviewed that are in the I.T. field. I think they are more often interviewed because their chosen occupation puts them in a position to view the “web,” better in a office/cube environment.
    I am a “Bike Communter,” and have been for over a year now. Get this…I work in finance, (Gasp!) Thats right, I am a cube-working-bike-riding-paper-pushing-office-drone! And still get chances to view this site, by the way it is a great resource and very entertaining!

  10. Raiyn June 25, 2009 1:32 am 

    For the record : “guys on bikes” when used as a counterpoint to “cyclist” bears no deference to race, creed, gender, or any orientation other than direction in traffic.

  11. Ghost Rider June 25, 2009 3:20 am 

    Raiyn — thanks. That is an important point. “Guys on bikes” come in all flavors!

  12. Tejvan June 25, 2009 9:15 am 

    Useful interview and that looks a mean bike. You can’t beat a fast racer for commuting.

  13. Bill Baker June 25, 2009 12:11 pm 

    Thanks for sharing Jeff! And the more you ride the more people will follow your lead and ditch the car.

  14. Jesus Christ June 25, 2009 1:39 pm 

    Justin give it up, I draw house plans in CAD so that makes me a tech guy I guess I am spanish and I do have to yell at the tons of wal mart mountain biking brown boys riding against cycling laws it is what it is. ride or die Jeff! and Justin you would be offended by pretty much anything wouldn’t you lmao. Thought i would put in my two sense its been awhile (just started commuting on a fixed it is alot of fun!), the lord out.

  15. Matt July 20, 2009 10:38 pm 

    I live in Santa Clarita, and was recently transferred to a work location that is closer to home. I’ve been commuting to work on my bicycle ever since the move, and have not seen a single other commuter… not even the “Latinos on beaters” you mentioned. My commute is a little further than yours, at around 10 miles, however most of the trip is done via the beautiful bike paths. I also like to make it hard for myself by riding a fixed gear. I like it because of the simplicity and how light it is to carry once I get to work. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that it’s nice to hear that there is someone else in this town that is doing what I’m doing. Ride safe, and keep on trying to convince your friends to start riding and clear up our congested streets.

  16. william August 22, 2009 9:03 am 

    Seems like LA area is blowing wide open about commuting. San Diego.. close behind!

  17. Joe February 4, 2010 1:56 pm 

    Jeff and Matt,

    I just moved to the Valencia/Santa Clarita area a few weeks ago and have been biking to work about twice a week (7 miles each way). I have to get from the East side of the I-5 to the West side (to get to the industrial park), and there isn’t a safe way! I only have about a mile of bike path, the rest is on roads with cars going 55 MPH and no street lighting. I come from Columbia, MO which has a VERY active bike commuting organization (www.pednet.org). I’d love to connect with either/both of you and talk about organizing our efforts. I have a few ideas, from Columbia, that would be simple/cheap for us. My addy is jkaylen hotmail

    Joe

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *