Two wheels good

Poor Sacramento. We can’t seem to make it as a world-class city when it comes to anything.

Night life, restaurants, tech, basketball. No, no, no and definitely no—these are not the things to put us on the global map.

Now you can add allergies to the list.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recently released its 2010 study ranking cities on the severity of their misery-inducing allergies.

Sacramento? Perched way down at number 89.

Yes, 89—way below Knoxville (No. 1), San Francisco (No. 63), Modesto (No. 64) and even Stockton (No. 86).

Obviously, the members of the AAFA have never stepped foot in Sac, much let breathed its air.

We may not be the worst in the nation but, certainly, we sneeze, cough, itch and rub our eyes more than our neighbors in the Bay Area.

And it impacts not just our personal health and well-being, but also the health and well-being of our city at large.

May has ended, and so has National Bike Month, a countrywide effort to get people out of cars and onto bikes. Here in Sacramento, my friends and colleagues touted the local version of this, May Is Bike Month, by encouraging everyone to ride bikes to work, school and play.

To which I’ve loudly and resolutely responded: Hell no.

Listen, I’m not proud of this—but May is, arguably, the worst month for biking in Sacramento.

And with the one of the rainiest, windiest spring seasons in recent memory, everything’s in bloom and blowing around in the air, creating an unprecedented and constant confetti shower of blossoms and pollen.

If anyone knows allergies, it’s me.

I’ve lived in seven states and two countries and suffered allergies in all of them (from mold in New York and Manchester to cedar trees and honeysuckle in Texas and pine needles in North Carolina). In middle school, my allergies were so bad, I received weekly shots. I’ve been known to sneeze, almost uncontrollably, for hours on end until I exhaust my body into a wheezy sleep.

Sacramento’s been the worst offender, and the problem is twofold. First, we have more trees per capita than any other city in North America. Second, our city is stuck at the bottom of a bowl with dirty, smog-thickened, pollen-littered air that’s trapped in layers that hover, choking the life out of us.

Even my poor cat’s been inflicted—have you ever witnessed anything as pity-inducing as a gray tabby sneezing 12 times in a row? The I Can Has Cheezburger caption almost writes itself on that one.

Really, I love it here. I love the trees and the flowers and the greenery but, come spring, I tend to hide away in hermetically sealed bubbles of air conditioning—cars, light rail, houses, work.

The point is this: I’m trying to do my part to reduce my carbon footprint (making as few car trips as possible, turning off lights, recycling like crazy), but I’m going to have to save my Spare the Air biking days for June and July, when the only thing that will kill me is the oppressive heat, thank you very much.

Still, I’m duly impressed with those who did take to two wheels in May—more than 7,000 Sacramento cyclists pledged to ride more than 1.5 million miles.

Awesome—but imagine what we could do if we put forth that effort more often?

Maybe next year, the May Is Bike Month organizers can hand out free face masks or, better yet, push the health and benefits of biking year-round.

I know I’m not the only one battling the elements, and while our allergies might not be good enough to earn the City of Trees world-class status, certainly our environmentally friendly pedal power can.