Lost weight, family time, bike dates—it’s amazing what two wheels did for one East Sac resident
Bicycling to work isn’t a bother. On the contrary, it’s pleasant and healthy mode of transportation. This is what Maureen Pascoe, an East Sacramento resident who works as a redevelopment program manager at City Hall in West Sacramento, discovered during 2008’s May Is Bike Month challenge. Pascoe helped reach the goal of logging a million miles during the month of May—but then she continued to ride after the campaign was over.
Besides finding it to be a enjoyable way to get to and from work for the past year, she’s also discovered that making the very small lifestyle change of commuting by bicycle resulted in the shedding a very large amount of weight: a few dozen pounds, and increased quality time with her family, too.
You bike to work every day, from East Sac to West Sacramento?
I work three or four days a week, most of the time, and I started last May. I had biked to work occasionally prior to that, but then last May’s [May] Is Bike Month promotion, the Million Mile [May] effort, I decided to participate in a big way. Since [then], with a break for the winter, I have biked three or four days every week.
What made you want to participate?
It was a good way to fit in some exercise, and also because of air quality and gas prices, and it’s a good idea just to use the car less.
Were you much of a biker before, or just a weekend biker?
How about now?
I have gotten more seriously into it since then. Last January , I started using my bike for exercise during the winter. I had it set up in my garage, and it was sort of like spinning at home. But I wasn’t out riding on the bike trail all that much. Since I’ve started commuting, I’ve gotten into it more, really all the way around.
What kind of benefits have you seen?
Well, I lost 30 pounds since last May. And one unexpected benefit is that my son also got interested in participating in May Is Bike Month. And so he and I would ride to school together in the morning, and then I would continue on to work. … The time we spend together on the bike is precious. … It’s real good quality time. It’s a very different kind of time than when you’re in a car together.
Do you use your bike to run errands and other things around town?
I do a little bit for errands … but I’m not fanatical about it. But we do, as a family, go out for ice cream or something like that; go out for dinner. And every once in a while, my husband and I have a bike date.
What’s that like?
Well, it’s perfect, ’cause you can drink. (Laughs.)
You haven’t gotten a BUI yet?
Bicycling under the influence?
Yeah. Be careful! You didn’t bike during the winter?
It was just too cold. There was more than one day I recall I got myself all suited up, you know, I had on a coat, gloves and a scarf, and I got on the bike and I rode about two blocks and I went, “It’s just too cold!” And I went back home and I drove. So I would say from November to the end of February, except a couple days here and there when the weather was good [I didn’t ride]. I’m not a nut. It just works for me.
What’s the distance you ride?
Five miles. What’s really interesting, it really doesn’t take any longer to bike than to drive (to drive and park). It takes me about 30 minutes, door to door, on my bike, and in the car it’s 20 on a good day, if I don’t run into any traffic. One of the great things about the bike is that I have a lot more options to get around traffic. … I never get stuck on a freeway on my bike.
What’s your route?
I take H Street, and generally go all the way to 15th [Street] on H, then south to L [Street]. Then I go down to Ninth or 10th and cut over to Capitol Mall, and then over Tower Bridge, then to West Capitol Avenue.
At work, do they have good accommodations to store your bike?
They built a barn, and we opened it last May (or last summer) in connection to May Is Bike Month. … And they also offer loaner bikes for people who aren’t regular bike commuters, but [there are] bikes available for short trips around town.
How many of your co-workers also bike?
There’s probably 80 or 90 people in the building, and I know at least four others who bike commute regularly. Two guys come from Davis—they don’t do it every day, but they’re pretty regular. …
But really, the champion bike commuter here, she lives here in West Sacramento. She doesn’t live terribly far away, but she is an everyday, all-conditions, always, all-the-time bike commuter.
Has your riding inspired anyone else to follow suit?
My son. He also inspired some of his classmates, and he’s spearheading another promotion for May at school. He’s in to get the whole school to participate. …
I have at least one other friend [whose] car was stolen recently, and she decided not to replace it, and she’s using her bike for all of her errands and so on.
Have you had any close calls or inconsiderate or dangerous drivers on your commute?
No, actually. I’m really impressed. People are very accommodating to bicyclists. There [have] been [a] few people who turn without signaling; that puts me in a dangerous situation. Even turning right without signaling, if I’m coming up in the curb lane behind you and you turn right in front of me, I could just go flying. … I think this is a great town for bicycling with our climate and topography, and I think there’s a pretty strong bicycle culture here, and drivers are generally aware of bicycles on the road. … I’ve had a few people shout things at me. Something like, “Get off the road!”
A lot of people are scared to bike because they don’t think it’s safe. What do you think?
Generally, I think they’re wrong. But if you don’t feel safe, it’s because you’re unfamiliar with it. Either you’re underconfident about your skills [or your] abilities on the bike, and [the] way to resolve that is to practice.
I was pleased with another thing my employer did last year. They offered a safe-cycling class right before May Is Bike Month. … They brought in an instructor and he gave a one-hour discussion, and he offered some really good tips about how to handle yourself in traffic and how to commute by bike successfully. And it was useful. … I felt better equipped. So that’s my suggestion for somebody who felt unsafe about bicycle commuting, that they find one of those classes.
What kind of bike are you using?
It’s about 10 years old. It’s a Trek hybrid-style bike. It’s got a few extras that make it good for commuting, like it has fenders, it’s got baskets, it’s got lights and bells on it. And the riding posture is very upright, which I would really recommend for commuting, to not use a drop-handlebar bike, ’cause you’ve got better visibility. You’re able to see the road and what’s going on around you if you’re sitting upright.
Any unusual happenings on your commute?
I found somebody’s phone the other day. I was riding along, and there was a phone lying in the street next to somebody’s truck. I saw that phone and I was stopping to go back and pick it up, and this woman was on the sidewalk, putting some stuff in and out of this truck, and I said, “There’s a phone in the street. Is that yours?” She walked around and saw it and said, “Oh, thank you so much!” Now, if I were in a car, I wouldn’t have seen the phone. In fact, I probably would have driven over it.
Did you have any hesitations in ditching driving for biking?
I’m a mom, and I work in a professional setting. There are a lot of things about me that I overcame—the usual excuses or reasons that people have—for not bicycling to work. I’m not young, you know. (Laughs.) I’m 48, right? I dress for work, and in the summertime I make a point of not riding fast so I don’t work up a sweat, so I don’t have to change when I get to work. The most that I change are my shoes.
I have a kid, we carpool, but he’s also quite willing bike, so I’m able to accompany him to school.
What else are the usual obstacles that people cite? It’s too far. Well, My distance is very pleasant. Five miles. Traffic: I go right through the middle of downtown and Midtown … and I’m able to find routes that are traffic free. Danger: The scariest parts of my ride are where I go under the freeway. Drivers behave a little bit erratically when coming off the freeway. That’s probably the worst part of my route, but it’s just two blocks, and I try to be very aware.
Has there been anything hard about doing this for you?
This probably isn’t very fair for me to say about my husband, but he’s a little anxious about me riding home in the dark. But I’ve got good lights on my bike, and I’m very familiar with my route, and my route is well populated and lit well enough that I’m not worried about it.
Occasionally, my schedule gets in the way. I’m actually more disappointed on the days I don’t get to ride. In addition to the health benefits and so on, it’s a pleasant way to get to work instead of an unpleasant way. I don’t particularly like driving as an activity, so I’m not sorry to give it up. (Laughs.)
What’s surprised you the most about being a commuter on a bike this past year?
How little conflict I have with cars. I did anticipate that I was going to encounter more discourteous or inconsiderate drivers, or more people who were shouting at me to get off the road or out of their way. Or that I would have more scary encounters with cars. It’s been a pleasant surprise to find that’s not the case.
When you do drive, do you treat cyclists on the road differently now?
I’d like to think I was always pretty accommodating to bicyclists. (Laughs.) But perhaps even more so now.
Do you feel like you know the city better from passing through it in a more intimate way?
Oh, yeah! That’s part of what’s really pleasant about riding the bike. Instead of just getting on the freeway and zoning out, and treating that 20 or 30 minutes as a hole in my day, I have 30 minutes in which I am observing whatever’s going on with the weather and nature, and looking at the houses and trees and people and stores and seeing what I’m passing through a lot more. Plus burning 200-some calories.
That doesn’t hurt, either.
Not at all!