Every year during Bike Month, Bike East Bay 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.
Here are our 2014 winners:
Alameda County: Rachel Donovan
Rachel Donovan has one of the coolest jobs in the Bay: she is a bridge inspector for Caltrans, which means she gets to climb around all Bay Area toll bridges: “We rappel, drive motor boats, climb around on the piers and go spelunking inside the bridge structures.” Her climbing does not get in the way of her other passion: biking.
“Rachel is a tireless advocate for corporate bike commuting programs in the Bay Area,” wrote one of her colleagues in a nomination. Her efforts and pro-bike attitude, they wrote, helped push Caltrans to third place in the 2013 Region-wide Company Bike Challenge and 1st in Alameda County. They added that “more employees participated in last year’s Bike To Work Day than ever before, thanks to Rachel’s work!” Under her tenure, Caltrans has become one of Team Bike Challenge’s most active companies, with exceedingly well attended bike commute workshops and weekend rides.
It wasn’t always so. It took long hours of organizing and encouraging for their to be a bicycle culture at Caltrans. The first weekend group ride she organized was a 20 mile ride on the Iron Horse trail from Dublin/Pleasanton BART to Pleasant Hill. “We were biking just to spend time together on the weekend and enjoy the beautiful Bay Area,” said Donovan. “A lot of us are traffic engineers and planners, so we’re also riding on the roads that we’re helping plan and design.”
Since that first ride, Donovan has designed bike jerseys for Caltrans’ Sustainability Team, coordinated bike commute workshops, classes, and many more social rides. Still, she shirks from the title of Bike Commuter of the Year saying that “sometimes people give me the credit for this achievement, just because I was the team organizer, but come on now, I couldn’t have biked all 20,000+ miles myself!”
“There are so many people I can think of here at Caltrans and everywhere else who deserve this title much more than me,” Donovan said, “Perhaps I can be a Bike Commute Encourager?” Of course as one of her colleagues who nominated her wrote “commuter of the year is not just about biking the most miles, it is about inspiring others to do so as well,” and in that category Rachel Donovan is unbeatable.
Ray Pixton has been biking to work since 1981, when he started working for the Contra Costa Water District. He is a construction inspector, and he rides rain or shine. “It feels weird to drive a car now,” he says, “I have 3 cars and they just sit in the driveway.”
Ray’s coworkers nominated him for the award, writing that his dedication to riding to work inspired them. “It’s news to me,” said Pixton about being an inspiration to his coworkers; “I just thought I was doing my own thing.” His commute is a pleasure, he says, because the 8 miles from Concord to Pleasant Hill allow him to ride on trails alongside the canals he also helps inspect.
It wasn’t always easy though: “I remember my first ride was a 5-mile ride and I just about died, I was so out shape,” Pixton joked, “but I stuck to it.” His commitment helped him out when, in the 90s, he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. “Exercise has been a really important part of my treatment to keep my blood sugar levels down,” says Pixton.
Last year he raised close to $900 for the Tour de Cure, a 50-mile fundraiser ride for the American Diabetes Association. He’s planning on riding again this May and plans on surpassing $900. “It’s been a good goal which helps me train and gets me in better shape, but 50 miles is about my limit - I’m 61 after all!” Pixton is retiring this summer and although he’s not sure if he’s going to stop working, he won’t stop biking. “I’ll miss the commute,” he says.