Pedaling Professor and Mother of 3 Kids win 2012 Bike Commuter of the Year Awards

East Bay Bicycle Coalition Recognizes a Los Medanos College Professor and an Albany Mother of Three.

OAKLAND, CA, May 1, 2012 – Kara Vuicich, an Albany mother of three young children, and Curtis Corlew, an art and journalism professor at Los Medanos College in Pittsburg, have won the East Bay Bicycle Coalition’s 2012 Bike Commuter of the Year awards.

Every year during Bike Month the East Bay Bicycle Coalition recognizes two outstanding members of the cycling community - one from Contra Costa County and one from Alameda County - for their commitment to bicycling and for inspiring others to use a bicycle for regular transportation. Corlew, who began riding at the urging of his wife after many years off the bike, now commutes 8 miles each way from his home in Antioch to his office every work day. Vuicich, a transportation planner, commuted by bike through two pregnancies and countless rainstorms when she worked for the City of Berkeley.

“More schools and colleges are participating in Bike to Work Day this year and we are delighted that our award winners are helping us reach the next generation of riders,” says Renee Rivera, Executive Director of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition.

The inspiring pair will be recognized and receive their awards during the Bike Happy Hour Party (5:00 - 8:30pm) in Old Oakland on Bike to Work Day, Thursday, May 10, 2012.

Alameda County: Kara Vuicich
“Obstacles like rain or transporting children might cause others to hang up their helmets and reach for their car keys, but transportation planner Kara Vuicich of Albany keeps on pedaling.” So wrote bike commuter David Radwin in nominating his wife for Alameda County Bike Commuter of the Year for 2012. “When it pours, she dons her raincoat, rain pants, and waterproof boots and bicycles as usual to BART.”

“I have to say I really do like riding in the rain,” Kara says. “It doesn’t cost that much to invest in a decent pair of rain pants and a rain jacket and some boots. And you know? You can stay totally dry underneath. It can actually be kind of fun riding in the rain.”

These days, rain or shine, Kara rides to North Berkeley BART with her daughter Ruth, who is nearly 8 years old. Ruth catches a bus to grade school and Kara catches BART to her job in San Francisco at the transportation consulting firm Nelson Nygaard, where her focus is transit and non-motorized transportation. Until last fall Kara commuted to a job in the planning department for the City of Berkeley.

“Being a transportation planner who’s focused on making it easier and safer for people not to drive their cars, I feel bike commuting is not just personally important but also professionally important in terms of understanding what’s involved in being able to bike. So I worked at the city of Berkeley from 2004 until just last fall and biked to work the entire time, through two pregnancies and three kids in preschool.”

But for Kara and her family it’s not just about biking to work. “I like being able to go at a slower place and look at things in the neighborhood, especially when my kids are with me. They want to look at things. If there’s a cat in the neighborhood, they want to stop and pet it. And I can do that on my bike. A couple of years ago, I transitioned from using a bicycle trailer to a cargo bike (I ride an Xtracycle). I’ve been able to fit all three of my kids onto the back of my cargo bike, and they love going for a ride all together. My proudest moment was when Ruth learned to ride her own bike and pedaled all the way from our house in Albany to the Berkeley Marina and back - with me close by her side.”

The family does own a car. “It’s not an all or nothing thing, but my husband and I really feel that to travel a mile or two, particularly in this area, you can make the trip just as quickly on a bike and there’s no reason to get in the car and use gas. A lot of people don’t realize that even if they just made 20 percent of their trips by bike or even a lower percentage, it would make a big difference in terms of the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and fuel that we use and the number of cars on the road. Just making a few more trips by bike or by walking can make a big difference.”

Contra Costa County: Curtis Corlew
Curtis Corlew bicycled when he was younger - in the 70s, 80s and early 90s, and then he stopped. “Boy was I getting big,” Corlew says. “I was over 190, and I’m a small person. Then my sweet wife convinced me that I used to like riding and I needed to start doing it again. She decided one day that she was going to ride her bike to work and I guess I responded well I’ll ride my bike to work too. It’s one of those funny things - you do it and then you do it again and then you realize it’s a pain to go back and forth between the car and the bike. And the weather gets colder and you realize you can just put on more clothes. It’s kind of a slow realization that you haven’t decided to ride the bike to work, it’s just what you do. So now it’s how I get to work.”

Corlew followed his wife, Tricia Campbell, into bike commuting. In 2008 she was named the Bicycle Commuter of the Year for Contra Costa County. So now Corlew has also followed her into bike commute stardom.

Corlew’s route to the College is mostly on the canal bike path. He’s ridden the 16-mile round trip every work day - except one - this year. “The best thing about the commute is how you’re in touch with the seasons and the aromas of the day,” Corlew says. “So as the seasons change you smell flowers or grasses or lavender or somebody’s cooking bacon in the morning. And every day you notice that the days are longer. Your not sealed off but rather are a part of the world.”

His work commute includes one late-night ride home each week. He calls it his “runs with the coyotes” ride. “In my short commute, in the burbs, I have seen turkeys and coyotes, lots of ducks, skunks, great big owls that sometimes fly up and startle me, buzzards, crows, raccoons, rabbits and squirrels. So my favorite commute story is that I see the world and feel connected to it.”

He adds, “Because I’m a teacher I can keep my bicycle in my office. So people see it and they ask me about it. You do something like this and you realize, gosh this is so great! I get better parking. It’s like a free gym membership. We live in the suburbs. We have a car. But it sits in the garage all week long not using gas, and not getting dirty and not having the sun beat down on it. It’s going to last a long long time. And that’s a real cost saving.”

Robert Scee, who nominated Corlew wrote, “On campus everyone knows him by his bicycle and asks him for advice on purchasing a commuter bike, bike routes, and bicycle vacations. Bike commuting morphed into vacation cycling: he and his wife cycled Oregon, Washington, Canada, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming last summer. Curtis’s life has changed for the better, just because he started riding his bike to work.”