101 in 1001 #49: Bike advocacy volunteering: BTWD 2008

So Thursday was Bike to Work Day, for which I was determined to do something more than just biking to work. After all, every day is already bike to work day in that sense. So I decided to volunteer to help out as an Outreach Host for SVBC at an Energizer Station, to provide information and make contact with potential members, as well as to help manage the station.

My first stop was Outreach Training, where I learned what the goal of being an Outreach Host is and how to talk to people about SVBC. It was a fun night with some pizza and meeting other members of SVBC interested in volunteering.

The day of, I had to be at the Energizer Station by 7 at the latest, so I got up at 6:15, hurried through my prep, and made it to Cal Ave with five minutes to spare. The day was scheduled to be almost 100 degrees, so I brought a hat, sunscreen, sandals to change into, and plenty of water. We were between busy and inundated almost the entire time I was there, from 7 to 9:15 or so (after that we were mostly packed up). We gave away all our new VTA maps and many old ones, all our bags, all the bananas, and most of the bagels and coffeecake, along with lots of coupons, goodies, smiles, and support.

I really enjoyed the experience, even more than the Amgen Tour of California bike parking volunteering, which I didn’t count for this goal’s purpose because the Tour isn’t a bike advocacy event, it’s a competitive event. This was all about supporting utility cycling and traveling by public or self-propelled transit (walkers, skateboarders, scooters, and others are, of course, also welcome at Energizer stations). It was nice to connect with other people who have high bike-to-person ratios in their households and commute or do errands with their bike setups. My bike and pannier setup got some appreciation. I saw the full gamut from kids (in bike seats and trailers, or on their own bikes or trail-a-bikes) to roadies (there was a Webcor Alto Velo photo op at the station around 8, a good follow-on from last week’s BTWW kickoff event at Webcor).

It started to get pretty hot around 8:00, and by 9:25 when I headed out to work it was very hot. I had to stop several times on my ride to cool down and guzzle water, and I was not appreciating the conductivity of my metal water bottle. Every time I had to stop for a stoplight in the sun, my self-created breeze disappeared and I felt like I was melting. But I made it to work all right, even with a bagel stop. The bagel shop employees kindly let me bring in my bike and gave me some tape to make sure the bagel bag stayed shut and attached to my bike.

One of the most encouraging things for me is that this year I got a lot more positive response from my coworkers. Two of them already bike to work either regularly or occasionally, and did on Thursday. Another rides a lot but doesn’t normally commute that way, but decided to map it out and ride in for Bike to Work Day. Three more are considering it, and our CEO said he will ride someday when he doesn’t have meetings. I am hoping for a company BTWD later this summer, maybe when it isn’t 99 degrees outside! If we really get everyone who’s considering it we will have 8 out of the 25 people in the office riding — 30 percent. And everyone else at least appreciates the bagels. :-)

The day ended with a trip down to San Jose for the Bike Away From Work Bash at Gordon Biersch. I wanted to bike down, but work called, so I grabbed a Caltrain and enjoyed more conversation with fellow cyclists. I missed the food at the party, but got drinks and good company, and missing the food only provided an excuse to go to Ben’s later, so it wasn’t so bad. I finally got home, tired and happy, around 10:30.

I’m sure this is only the first of many SVBC volunteering events I’ll be doing, and it was a great start.

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