A few questions…
- Do you live on the grid?
- Do you work on the grid?
- Do you have children?
- Did you know you can burn approx 280 calories an hour during a light bike ride?
If you answered yes to #1 and 2 – and no to #3 and 4 – you are a prime candidate for going car-free in Sacramento. I should know, because I’ve been without one since 2006.
I grew up in Tennessee – the land of SUV’s, gas guzzlers and lifted trucks – my first car was a 2-door GMC Jimmy V8. I lived one mile from my high school, yet drove everyday. And my childhood home had a walk score of just 14 out of 100.
I was, in other words, completely addicted to – and dependent on – my car.
In all fairness, the cost of living in the South is much cheaper than California (including gas), and it was considered normal to receive a car on your 16th birthday (at one point, all four of my family members had their own car). And because we love our suburbs and sprawl and shopping malls, you hardly ever had to worry about finding a parking space (directly in front of) wherever you were going. Lastly, the only people who rode bikes were 6 years old or professional bike messengers or weekend enthusiasts complete with their neon spandex outfit. I knew virtually no one who used a bike to run errands, visit friends or get around my college campus.
But fast forward to 2006. I accepted a job in the Governor’s administration and moved to Sacramento, and right away I noticed people were riding bikes. Everywhere. To work in suits, to restaurants in dresses, to Target, to Safeway… And it was socially acceptable to do so. Whoa.
So I decided to jump on the bandwagon and haven’t looked back since.
There is NOTHING like riding around Sacramento on a beach cruiser on a warm day. Sacramento is the perfect biking city – it’s flat, it’s small, and if you avoid major streets like J, 16th and Alhambra, you can literally rule the road.
Would this work if I lived in Natomas or Carmichael? Probably not. But with a new walk score of 94 out of 100 and my office several blocks away, I make it work. It’s cheaper than owning a car, I get plenty of exercise (May is health/fitness/nutrition month after all!), and it decreases my carbon footprint.
Top 5 Questions I Get From Friends and Family
- How do I get to Arden or Natomas or San Francisco or Tahoe? This is where having friends with cars is helpful (TIP: Always pay for gas, they’ll forget they’re doing you the favor), but car rentals in Sacramento (Hertz, Avis and Enterprise all have locations in midtown) are almost always super cheap ($20-47 a day).
- How do I get groceries? I have a basket and a large tote. I may have to go more often, but I consider those extra trips bonus workouts. And whenever I have a rental car, I try and take advantage and do one giant trip for larger items like detergent and paper towels. Plus Safeway delivers!
- How do I get to the airport? Super shuttle – they pick you up and drop you off anywhere ($13/one way).
- What do you do when it rains? Ummm, I wear a trench with a hood.
- Is it safe? Yes! Period. Just get lights for night and a great lock.
I can’t over-emphasize how much of a novelty this is to folks back home. Everyone who comes to visit sees my two (well you need an extra for guests!) beach cruisers on the patio and has the same response: “Bikes? Oh my gosh, how cute! Can we really ride them around town?” Between the coolness factor and the safety factor, too many communities just aren’t bike-friendly, which is really too bad.
Are You Sold Yet?
- Find my recommendations for local beach cruisers and bike shops here.
- May is Sacramento Bike Month. Check out all the action here.
- Not completely sold? Try it out and see how you feel. The perfect excuse is Thursday (TOMORROW), May 20, which is Ride Your Bike to Work Day.
- UPDATE: Check out Melody Stone’s Velodius blog for local profiles, tips and bike news!
- Looking for a direct (and legal) bike route? Check out this handy google maps application.
- See also: Sacramento Bike Commuter Guide
And I can’t help but link to Meghan Smith’s rendition of “Here Comes Your Man” – such a cute video featuring a stylish/vintage beach cruiser!