BikeCommuters.com

Commuter Profiles

Commuter Profile: Andrew Li

Editor’s note: Many of you may have seen Andrew Li’s excellent guest articles over the past couple months…well, we loved his work, and he loved doing it for us. So, we figured “why not add him to our staff?” So, welcome Andrew to the Bikecommuters.com team; in our tradition, here is his commuter profile for your reading pleasure.

Name: Andrew Li

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How long have you been a bike commuter?

Since about 2001, I have been commuting by bike. By no means am I car-independent. I would say that about 30% of my commuting distance during these last 10 years has been by bicycle.

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

I started pretty much out of necessity, in high-school. At that point, I did not have a car. So I carpooled, walked, or biked to school. By my senior year, I realized how fast a bicycle could be, and so I adopted cycling as my primary mode of transportation all throughout college and medical school.

Currently, my standard car-free commute is 20 miles, both directions combined. My longest car-free commute was about 32 miles, again, both directions combined.

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

Bike commuting allows me to:
1. Exercise (saves me a gym membership) and get somewhere I need to get to, all at the same time.
2. Saving me money not having to buy as much gas (check out the “commuter tools” tab on bikecommuters.com to see how much you can save by biking a few miles here and there).
3. Reduce my time sitting in traffic.
4. Slow down so I can more easily see and appreciate my surroundings and be more aware of the community through which I am cycling, both the good AND the bad. “An unexamined life is not worth living.”
a. I can’t tell you how many little shops and nooks I started noticing when I biked a route that I usually drove.
b. And since I was on a bike, I was more willing to stop and explore on foot.
5. Appreciate my car more, and as such, when I must drive, I don’t get as frustrated when stuck in traffic. Fascinating cycle: I bike to avoid driving, and in the end, it makes me a better driver.
6. Value the food I eat and view it not merely for pleasure but more for its properties as a source of energy and means of improving my performance and health. I was quick to learn that a bad diet easily manifested itself in a weak and weary ride.
7. Reduce your carbon footprint.
8. Cool topic of discussion at dinner parties.

What do you do for a living and in what city do you bike commute?

I am a general surgery resident, and live with my wife in Long Beach, CA. I bike from Long Beach to Torrance for my current commute.

What kind(s) of bike do you have?

My first commuter was an old Taiwanese road bike that my dad bought in the 80s at a garage sale for $20. It was my first love and a real beauty. I rode that bike for about 8 years, until it was stolen. In this photo, I am wearing a mask because Southern California during that year was having a bad firestorm, and so the smoke from the fire was pretty noticeable.

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I had a beautiful Panasonic at one point, but we had to leave it when we moved away.

In college, a friend bequested an old Cannondale to me. However, the front wheel got stolen. So I rummaged through our engineering department and found a BMX wheel that no one needed, and the clownbike was born (see first picture above). I rode that thing for about 2 years all around campus and beyond. Amazingly good handling (small wheels mean tighter turns). It got a LOT of attention, pointing fingers, and great laughs. Riding it, you just could not help but smile and laugh. I also called it the “happy bike.” As tradition dictated, I bequested it to a friend when I graduated.

Currently I own an old Trek Antelope 830 with some simple personal modifications for my commute. Pretty robust so far.

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Any funny or interesting commuting story that you may want to share?

Some of the most interesting experiences for me were during my commute to one job I had in South Central Los Angeles (LA). The ride started in North Hollywood, and I saw the transitions from Valley suburbia, to decadent Hollywood Hills mansions, to the stark Business District and Downtown LA streets rushing with expensive cars, to South Central LA with its stretches of industrial compounds, schools with uniformed children laughing and playing behind high metal fences garnished with barbed wire, and the rattling homeless shopping carts.

One of the most powerful memories I had during that commute was biking by two homeless guys fighting over a shopping cart filled with empty soda cans and about 50 others trying to break it up. As I rode by, one of them overturned the cart, and the sound of a hundred empty soda cans crashing on concrete and my bike tires crunching over them was overwhelming.

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

They usually ask if I have ever gotten mugged before, as quite a few of my commutes have and currently go through rougher parts of town. Overall they are extremely supportive. I even converted one guy at my current work, and he is now a regular commuter.

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

I have been getting involved with bikelongbeach.org. We are trying to get RL’s mobile bike repair unit getting started in Long Beach.

Anything else that you want to share with us?

I think I have gotten more tickets cycling than driving.

Commuter Profile: Hannah Decker

The first cycle lady of the summer to be featured in our ongoing Commuter Profile series is Miss Hannah Decker! A dear friend of mine, Hannah and I met in Buenos Aires through a language exchange meetup. She turned out to be my Palermo neighbor, and we had tons of South American fun on and off the cruiser bikes in B.A. Read on to catch up with Hannah on her commute from her hometown of Boise, Idaho!

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Name: Hannah Decker

How long have you been a bike commuter?

I’ve been commuting since 2007.

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

I started commuting while still in school. I would commute to campus and to work. I try to ride my bike as much as I can. In Boise we have a beautiful Greenbelt pedestrian path that winds through the city next to the Boise river. The Greenbelt makes commuting awesome and it’s only a block away from my where I live. Overall, my bike commute averages 5-6 miles roundtrip.

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

It helps save on gas and it also feels great to be outside and exercising.

 

What do you do for a living and in what city do you bike commute?

I live in Boise, Idaho and I’m doing freelance graphic design and tutoring Spanish. Now that I have my fancy new degrees I’m looking to get a bigger kid job. In true fashion I’ve been bike commuting to my interviews. I also commute daily to coffee shops or wherever I go to get my freelance work done.

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What kind(s) of bike do you have?

I commute with my incredibly cool Crescent “Pepita” Racer. It’s a classic Swedish racing bike. My Aunt was the original owner and then it was passed on to my Mom, who was hit by a driver that quickly fled the scene and left my mom unconscious… but don’t worry they both survived relatively unscathed.

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So, the insurance company paid for my mom to get a fancy new road bike as I happily took the old Crescent. The frame has some scrapes but overall it’s still in great condition. I’ve been riding my Crescent since I started bike commuting regularly in 2007. I’ve gotten used to some of it’s design quirks… e.g. while making a sharp turn the foot cage ‘overlaps’ with the front wheel. I also have an old American Eagle cruiser made in Japan. The frame was a gift and I rebuilt it. It’s a cute little bike and so fun to ride!

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Any funny or interesting commuting story that you may want to share?

I was riding my road bike to the store once and I hit a cat… How did that happen?! It was like a game of chicken gone horribly wrong! Haha! Not really. What actually happened was this chubby orange cat decided to sprint right in front of my wheel as two horrified kids saw the whole thing unfold. The cat was okay because I braked and slowed down just enough not to actually run him over (I love animals).  Does that count as interesting?

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

Bike commuting is big in Boise, it’s normal for people to bike commute to work or wherever they’re headed. Usually people respond with “That’s great, I need to start commuting more”. I always get a positive response from people.

 

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

I am not currently active in any, but there is a really great bike cooperative called the Boise Bicycle Project. They do awesome stuff for the community. Here’s their link so you can check them out! http://www.boisebicycleproject.org/about.html

Muchisimas Gracias Hannah for hooking it up with your summer bike adventures and sharing some inspiring photos of your bike commute! Any of you other readers want to show us your ride and tell us all about it?  Then send an email and we’ll send you our Commuter Profile questionnaire… easy as pie. Email mir[at]bikecommuters[dot]com for details.

Commuter Profile: Dave Simmons

Name: Dave Simmons

Dave goofing around on a bike that was raffled off at the Tour of Elk Grove

How long have you been a bike commuter?
20 years. I’ve commuted by bike since high school. I used to commute to my after school jobs, then at

Dave created a Lego version of himself

college, and finally to my job.

Why did you start riding your bike to work and how long is your commute?
I started biking to work at my last job for the exercise, to pollute less, and save money (and wear and tear on the car). Now that I work closer to home, it’s a no-brainer. I bike to work almost year-round.

How does Bike Commuting help you with your lifestyle (economics, health, relationships)?
Biking to work has saved me some serious cash over the years. I haven’t quantified it, but if I had to guess, it’s somewhere in the $5,000 to $10,000 range. I’ve always been active, so biking fits my lifestyle quite well. Biking has been great to my family too. My wife and kids bike quite a bit. The kids don’t even realize how much it helps them in sports from a conditioning standpoint. Cyclists are definitely a different breed. I’ve met quite a variety of cyclists over the years and have built a nice network of like-minded individuals.

Dave & family sporting their Friends of Cycling in Elk Grove shirts

What do you do for a living and in what city do you bike commute?
I am the manager of Technical Production Services at Riverside Publishing. I bike from Elk Grove Village and commute to Rolling Meadows. I have a great route – through Busse Woods each day.

Dave's commute on a foggy morning through Busse Woods. A good part of his route includes the trail at Busse Woods. He used to commute from Elk Grove to Skokie!

What kind(s) of bike do you have?
I have a 1993 Trek 820 mountain bike and a 2002 Felt SR81 road bike. The majority of my miles are on the Trek. I love the stability of the steel beast!

All smiles on a ride in central IL in 2010

Any funny or interesting commuting story that you may want to share?
I bike through Busse Woods even during the winter. Of course, I don’t always leave work before dark. I really enjoy biking at night (with a bright LED headlight, of course), but the forest preserves are closed at dusk. So, there have been lots of times when I’m racing along the trail while being hollered at by the police to leave. That makes for a more exciting ride home.

What do people (coworkers, friends) say when you tell them that you are a bike commuter?
They are very interested in how I make it all work. So many people think that commuting by bike is difficult, but that’s just not true. I tell them that, in order to commute by bike, they have to stop thinking like a motorist. The route that is best for cars is not always best for bikes.

How about bicycling advocacy?
Are you active in any local or regional advocacy groups? I started the Friends of Cycling in Elk Grove. We’re a local advocacy group that is working to “promote, support, and improve cycling in Elk Grove”. We’ve been around for just about a year and have made some real progress in the community. I am excited about the future of FCEG. Aside from that, I am a member of Active Transportation Alliance, League of Illinois Bicyclists, and League of American Bicyclists.

The cycling advocacy group he created, the Friends of Cycling in Elk Grove

Anything else that you want to share with us?
I was certified as a League Cycling Instructor (LCI) since 2009. I’ve had the opportunity to teach cyclists of all ages the benefits of Smart Cycling. I see education as the most important piece of advocacy. The most enjoyable aspect of being an LCI is teaching first time riders, most of who are adults.

A photo of the Traffic Skills 101 class Dave taught on 9/16/12

To see the smile of someone who just learned to ride a bike is truly priceless!

Dave with his nephew after he taught him how to ride a two-wheeler

Thank you, Dave, for sharing your commuting story and photos with us. If you’d like your glory of minor Internet stardom, just drop us a line at elizabeth [at] bikecommuters [dot] com and we’ll send you the details about sending in your own profile!

Commuter Profiles: Freddie & Vi!

Howdy from the west coast again, cyclegators!  For this week’s commuter profile series, we present to you MORE architects and Los Angeles Bike Commuters: Freddie & Vi!  Freddie and Vi are both friends of mine who responded to much internet poking and cajoling to show off their ultimate cuteness as a cycling couple.  Vi is a friend of the recently-profiled super hot strong bike chick, Sarah Eberhardt, and Freddie joined Task Force Chicago (a.k.a. me and Elizabeth) last summer for some midwestern two-wheeled excursions.  Get ready for some bikealicious fotogs and bikey adventures, peeps.  Without further ado: a combo-profile from two of my favorite kids from Ohio who ride bikes in L.A.!

Freddie and Vi

Vi and Freddie, making those god-awful groomsmen ties look GOOD.

Name:

(Freddie) Michael Frederick

(Vi) Ha-Vi Tran

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How long have you been a bike commuter?

(Freddie) since grad school at UCLA started in Fall of 2009.

(Vi) Since 2010!  Two, almost 3 whole years better!  You could say living in the LA “bicycle district” that I call Silverlake has had quite the influence…

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Bike Friends, hanging out in the neighborhood!

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Who needs freeways in Hell-A anyway!?


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

(Freddie)  Because being on my bike is 10 million times better than sitting in LA traffic and it takes just as long! My commute is 16 miles.  I mostly commute by bike on Fridays.

(Vi) Why ride when you can walk?!   My current commute is a 10 minute walk but hasn’t always been.   Before I developed “assertive” road riding skills, I took the bus and subway to work.  I love bikes as much as public transportation and use them for fun weekend rides and utility cycling.

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

(Freddie)  Bike riding saves money and kills two birds with one stone. I get exercise for the day and get to work all in the same time I usually spend in my car… oh, and it’s awesome fun so that’s a double bonus. My girlfriend (Vi) and I both love our bikes so its pretty awesome when we get to share our riding time too.

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(Vi) So so grumpy in my car, so so happy on my bicycle!  I have no problems searching for a parking spot and get to fly by traffic.  It’s exercise that doesn’t FEEL like exercise, and I show up more positive to wherever it is that I’m going.  I save money on gas, and it’s the cheapest date EVER.  Luckily my boyfriend (Freddie) likes nighttime adventures on our bikes; it’s an awesome way to explore the city together.

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What do you do for a living and in what city do you bike commute?

(Freddie) I’m an architect in Los Angeles.

(Vi) Architect / interior designer in LA-LA land!


What kind(s) of bike do you have?

(Freddie) Surly Pacer

(Vi) Just my trusty hodgepodge of a road bike, Mr. Soma Smoothie.

Surly Pacer

Freddie's blue Surly Pacer is his pride and joy: no more ghetto Costco MTB shipped out from Mom & Dad's garage that was his college campus commuter!

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Ha-Vi's Soma Smoothie. I like that front rack and the white saddle!


Any funny or interesting commuting story that you may want to share?
(Freddie) No funny stories to share yet. Just a massive hatred for extended length buses and how big and slow they are and always in the way!

(Vi) Don’t you just love it when you’re climbing uphill all hot and sweaty on your bike and a runner passes you by?  Yeah.

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

(Freddie) People in Los Angeles think your nuts if you don’t get in your car to go across the street.

(Vi) You biked how many miles?!  You biked where?!  You’re going to get hit by a car!  My favorite is my dad’s reaction, “Why do you choose to ride in the street?  Couldn’t you pick a safer hobby?”

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

(Freddie) I try to encourage my friends to ride with me on the weekends and after work as much as possible. I participate and support CicLAvia when I can.

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(Vi) Isn’t the best advocacy showing up at a friend’s door so excited, sweaty, beet-red in the face, with helmet hair?   Come on, you know you want a hug and to ride with me…  I have friends come up to me all excited telling me about their weekend rides which is absolutely fantastic.  That to me is advocacy at its best.  In all fairness, CicLAvia (based on Colombia’s original Ciclovia) is my favorite holiday to gather everyone and anyone to participate in the ride for the first, second, and whatever time.

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Anything else that you want to share with us?
(Freddie) Carmageddon and CicLAvia should team up to make a annual shut the freeways down and ride your bike holiday in Los Angeles!

(Vi) I love the fact that regardless of socio-economic background, bikes give people some commonality to talk to each other.  That is such a beautiful thing.


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Well Freddie and Vi, thanks for hooking it up with your bikely adventures throughout the west coast and cute couple cycle craziness! You might have a stalker with that yellow man in red overalls… watch your backs, yo! Any of you other readers want to show us your ride and tell us all about it?  Then send an email and we’ll send you our Commuter Profile questionnaire!  Email mir[at]bikecommuters[dot]com for details.


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Commuter Profile – Ben August

Holla at your boy, Ben August – a.k.a. “Big Ben August” from the South Bay in California, our commuter star of the week!   Ben is an avid Bike Commuters reader, and we finally roped him into submitting his fun-fun commuter profile after much internet begging and pleading

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Ben August and his orange Motobecane... JK, that is a Donkey.

Name: Ben August

How long have you been a bike commuter?

Since 11 September 2000, the Monday after I bought my first bike.

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

One day, I realized that I was 23, 5’9”, weighed about 190lb, and not in the best of shape. I also had a beat-up 1989 Civic Hatchback with nearly 150,000 miles on it that I didn’t want to replace nor did I have the money to replace at the time. My friends were mountain bikers, so I went out and bought a Trek 4500. I was so excited to have it that I did a dry-run multi-modal commute to my office that night. Sure, it was only about 6 miles of riding and 10 miles on light rail total, but it was the start of a beautiful friendship. That was 12 years ago.

Over the years, the reasons have shifted from the above to “ I have this new truck, but I don’t want to pay for the gas” to “this is good for me” to “this is how I prefer to do it” to “my wife has the only car”… or some combination of all of them!

Currently, I ride almost 12 miles each way, and it is occasionally lengthened for errands. My time record is 40 minutes, but the average is closer to 50-55. This is only slightly slower than taking the shuttle bus-train-light rail or even driving over the same distance– I have some experimental data to prove it.

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12 Miles one way ain't Easy Street, Ben!

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

Economically, it is a no-brainer. Stanford (my employer) charges $300 a year for the cheap parking spaces and $600 for the expensive ones. Right out of your paycheck! They pay me (or anyone else who signs the form promising never to drive to work) $300 extra a year not to drive. So a year after I started here, I sold my truck. We just didn’t need it anymore.

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Ben and his two chicken nuggets.

The mental health dividends are priceless. I have two kids at home, and my daily quiet time is on the bike between work and home. Some of my best work ideas come to me on the bike, too. When I have a programming project, it’s better to save it for the end of the day so I can grind it out in my mind on the way home. I come home with a better understanding of an issue from work and all ready to help with dinner and putting the kids to bed.

What do you do for a living and in what city do you bike commute?

I work in IT, as the server/infrastructure admin for one of the academic departments (http://ual.stanford.edu) at Stanford University. Between my house and the office, I cross at a minimum Sunnyvale, Mountain View, and Palo Alto, and sometimes I go through Los Altos and Cupertino also. It’s far more suburban than most of the contributors on this site, and it sure isn’t Hawaii (I wish!), but this is where we live. 🙂

Ben August and Spam MusubiSingle speed and musubi… is that a side of mac salad AND katsu!?

What kind(s) of bike do you have?

My stable has stabilized over the years. I’ve had mountain bikes, a touring bike (when I thought I’d actually go touring), a folding bike (it was a blue Xootr Swift), and even built up a wacky 26” MTB-with-drops from scratch. Never more than three at a time, though. At some point along the way, I became my own wrench and got married and had children, so all of my current bikes came from BikesDirect to save a buck and I’ve assembled and maintained them myself.

My three current rigs, in chronological order of procurement are:

  • 2009 Motobecane Fantom CX in gray, with a rack, fenders, bar-end shifters, and a few other things. This is the bike that I kept nice for a while to ride with my roadie friends and finally just gave up, kitted it out for commuting, and started riding it most of the time last fall. It still gets out for the occasional metric century or lunch group ride, though. It’s even fallen off of the back of a friend’s car at 85 mph.
  • 2010 Windsor Shetland mini-velo, with a rack and front mudguard. It was a prototype that came from BikesDirect at a discount and became my Christmas present. The frame is a little tweaked from crashing it once (wet railroad tracks, cheap frame, and narrow 451 slicks are a terrible combination), but it rides well. I save this bike for when I need to take the car somewhere and ride from there, or meet my wife somewhere without bothering with the hitch rack.
  • 2012 Motobecane Fantom Cross Uno in ridiculous orange, also with a rack and fenders. This one is probably the closest to stock of all three. I asked my wife to get me this one for my 35th birthday, and it is SO MUCH FUN. Once I got the fit dialed in, I fell madly in love with this bike. 39×16 singlespeed is a great gear for bumping around town and the South Bay is flat enough for it.
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Ben, Motobecanes, and Mini-Velo! AND a Baby-cart!

Any funny or interesting commuting story that you may want to share?

Valentine’s Day 2011: I was going to surprise my wife by showing up at her office (her office was 16 miles the other direction from our house and she went to work later after taking our son to the sitter) and taking her to lunch. I hopped on the mini-velo at the usual time and went off toward her office instead of mine. I get to the seedy industrial neighborhood north of downtown San Jose and it starts raining. The mini slipped on some wet railroad tracks on 10th Street and I ate it right in front of a city truck. The crash opened my knee up a little, but I was okay… and still determined. I stopped in downtown for some flowers and had a bike messenger ask if I wanted to help him deliver flowers next year. I get to my wife’s office about an hour earlier than planned, soggy and still bleeding from the knee, but holding a dozen roses. Did I mention that my wife is a nurse in an office full of nurses? 🙂 She patched me up, I changed, her boss gave her the day off, and we had a great lunch together.

I also recently made a pannier out of a cat litter bucket to replace a badly damaged nylon-and-PVC pannier that I had unsuccessfully repaired. It was as simple as removing the mounting hardware from the pannier and putting it on the bucket. Since I got the bucket from a neighbor, it cost me absolutely nothing. It is absolutely hideous and I have made no efforts to hide its former purpose (other than a little Scotchlite). It doesn’t even have a lid, as my supplier didn’t keep them. I have taken SO much flak for doing this. From roadies who scoff at it to other commuters who think I need more “serious” gear. The moral of the story: If it works, do it and do it with conviction.

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

I park in the office, so I don’t usually have to tell them anything. 🙂 After 6.5 years in the same department and 12 years on the bike, one’s reputation gets around. But when one of the uninitiated catches me in the elevator with my bike, the questioning goes something like this:

  1. ​How far do you ride? (just about 12 miles)
  2. ​How often do you ride? (all the time)
  3. ​What do you do when it rains? (they make these things called “jackets”…)

Because of this, I have unwittingly served as inspiration for a few instructors and staffers over time and the cubicles and offices are pretty well-populated with bikes.

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The Ridiculous Orange Motobecane is an inspiration, when real panniers (not kitty litter buckets) make for a slick lookin' steed!

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

We have a great group in the area in the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (http://svbcbikes.org), but I am sadly not a member. I’d never be able to make the meetings. I am at the very least on their mailing list and I do attend their annual bike swap meet.

There is another non-profit group in San Jose called Good Karma Bikes (http://goodkarmabikes.org) that maintains and distributes bikes for the homeless and underprivileged people, and also teaches maintenance classes to anyone interested. I went by there with a box or three of parts to donate and got a tour of the place a few weeks ago. They are an awesome bunch and I’d love to volunteer for them when the kids are a little older.

Other than that, I have needled a couple of local cities into getting some things fixed (overgrown street trees and stoplight timings). Caltrans, please fix the light nearest my house, the timing is still too short. 🙂

Anything else that you want to share with us?
I am pretty sure that was plenty. I have no blog, but I am a regular on bikeforums.net.

Thanks for sharing, Ben!  I love getting to know our readers more through the Commuter Profile series!  We hope you enjoyed our show today, Cycle Ladies and Gents… If you, too, would like to show us your mug, send me an email at mir[at]bikecommuters[dot]com and we’ll hook you up with the profile questionnaire!