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Cycling a Way to Break Oil Addiction

Daily News, August 2008

With gas prices over $4 a gallon, you’d think I’d be sweating my daily commute from West Hollywood to Encino. I am. My commute takes me 90 minutes and I average barely 10 miles an hour. But I’m not sweating the gas prices; I’m sweating from pedaling over the canyons into the Valley.

Last year, I began riding my bicycle to work. Almost everyone thought (and still thinks) I was nuts. But for all the apprehensions I had about commuting via bicycle, it’s been a great experience: good for the environment, good for my health, and a great opportunity to experience Los Angeles.

I had never considered cycling to work before I met Bob Mohme and Steve Hammond. They were my training leaders for the AIDS Lifecycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, which I did in 2007. These guys are cycling studs. Bob commutes via bicycle four days a week from Culver City to his job at Warner Bros. in Burbank (42 miles round trip). Steve bicycled daily from Sylmar to Hollywood until he retired last year (also 42 miles round trip). If you’re as fast as Bob and Steve, you can beat the cars into work.

That certainly would not be me. I am a slowpoke cyclist. I meander and daydream as I huff and puff. That’s part of the beauty of the ride for me.

Cycling in Los Angeles is not a solitary sport. Unlike driving, it is a community activity. Cyclists wave and nod at each other on the road, as if to acknowledge that we share the common challenge of navigating L.A.’s streets on two wheels. Occasionally I bump into Bob as he’s cycling to work, and we chat as we ride up Franklin Canyon together.

I know cycling has its risks. Last November I left work at dusk – too late to see well on Sepulveda Pass, even with my night light. A truck had spilled a load of tiles and I ended up taking a nasty fall, which has left me with a nagging rotator cuff injury. I leave work earlier now and I’ve bought a stronger night light.

Even though I know how good I feel when I ride to work, I often have to convince myself to do it. It’s so much easier to sleep in and jump into my car. I still drive to work more than I cyde.

My friend Bob, a committed environmentalist, has suggested that I pack my bicycle onto trains or buses and avoid using my car altogether. I haven’t been bold enough to try that yet. Change is incremental.

If there is a silver lining to the high gas prices, it is that it’s making all of us more aware
that we need to find ways to break our addiction to oil. For me and the large community of cyclists in Los Angeles, the bicycle is part of the solution.

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