I am a new mom, a Bike East Bay board member and professional bike advocate. Finding myself between jobs and ready to get back into my body and out into nature, I decided to participate in a rolling, carbon-sequestering party on wheels known as the Climate Ride. I did it for the glory of riding 350 miles, for the camaraderie of connecting with some of the most prominent voices in California’s pedestrian, bicycle and environmental advocacy communities, and most of all, for the challenge of fundraising over $3,000, something I had never attempted. After months of fundraising, I reached my goal and cried tears of joy.
What I had not expected was how the challenge of meeting my fundraising goal would reignite my career as a professional advocate for healthier, walkable and more bikeable communities. My renewed sense of purpose and enthusiasm not only led me back to my career path as a Safe Routes to School advocate, but also served me well as a board member and representative for Bike East Bay during the ride.
The first day was a blur of nerves and excitement, I stumbled out of the door at 5am. Despite an ominous chain slip on my way to the meeting point, which resulted in several bleeding fingers from a good samaritan and fellow Bike East Bay member that helped untangle my chain, I arrived on time. While taking the shuttle from San Francisco to Fortuna, CA we witnessed the horror of a completely overturned car in the middle of the interstate. As someone who does not own a car, I reflected on whether the dangers of taking transit or riding on paths or low-speed roads, were anywhere near as dangerous as a daily freeway car commute!
For our first day of riding, I struggled to catch up on lost sleep and get the hang of riding with 100+ riders, I quickly found myself in the back of the pack, deciding to embrace my identity as a steel bicycle riding slow roller and lone wolf cyclist. We wound through the “Avenue of the Giants” and were treated to a heavy soaking from mother nature. At the point where I was close to giving up, another rider yelled that I needed to ride fast to stay warm. This helped immensely and coupled with some highly caffeinated tea, propelled me to the middle of the pack, where I sailed into camp and prepared to represent Bike East Bay for that evening’s three-minute Ignite presentation. With the enthusiasm of a revivalist preacher, I talked about Oakland’s new protected bike lanes, The new bridge bike paths, as well as Bike East Bay’s women bike initiatives.
Day 2 featured our first serious climbs. I wore my Rosie the Riveter “We Can Do It” bike jersey to inspire both myself and others climbing the hills. The jersey was also a nod to my frequent Bay Trail training rides to the Rosie the Riveter Museum in Point Richmond. The shouts of “nice jersey” by the many cyclists passing me by propelled me to the top of each hill and ended with the breathtakingly cinematographic scenic ocean vistas of Highway 1. That evening, our executive director, Renee Rivera shared a presentation about Bay Area Bikeshare, and the organization’s collective efforts to incorporate equity into the planning process.
Day 3 was the 100-mile day and it was awesome to see so many cyclists complete their rides over an amazing landscape of coastline and hill after hill. I was thrilled after completing 65 miles and rewarded myself with a delicious ice cream drink from the owner of the Two Fish Bakery. Celebrating with participants, a spontaneous dance party (one of many over 5 days) broke out that evening.
Day 4 included some of my favorite riding through various protected rail trails and soft rolling canyons of Sonoma County. Noshing on some delicious Strauss ice cream, I had the chance to chat about Bike East Bay’s Equity and Retention board member task force with staff from Bike Santa Cruz County, as well as the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition. There was a lot of interest in the reading list we had developed for board members to use as a tool for self-educating about racism and white privilege, and it also offered the perfect opportunity to reflect on some of the great work our bike advocacy neighbors to the south at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.
After coming so far, and improving so greatly on my technical riding abilities I thought Day 5 would be the easiest. Instead, I struggled with a final climb up Mount Tamalpais through the clouds and conversations to the summit, where yet another spontaneous dance party erupted. We all celebrated what, in the words of another participant, was “basically the end to an amazing adult summer camp on bicycles for people deeply committed to finding solutions to climate change, while having a good time along the way.”
As a group, we raised $400,000 to support organizations helping to fight climate change, a significant amount when considering that only 3% of all charitable donations benefit environmental causes. I am grateful to Bike East Bay for helping me make this dream come true. From the staff-led training rides, to the ongoing encouragement, I was proud to represent an organization that is doing so much to help create a greener footprint throughout the East Bay and beyond.
Learn more about the Climate Ride on our page here: BikeEastBay.org/ClimateRide.