Green Living Special Section: Hit the road on two wheels

Published on Wed, Apr 18, 2012 by Angela Hamilton

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Blaine resident Ken Knutson, 81, loves to ride his bike. He generally goes on two trips daily, adhering to a similar route each time. He starts at the senior center, and from there he travels to city hall for a cup of coffee. Then he rides home, unless he wants to stop at the store or visit friends a bit further south.

Like many bicyclists, Knutson finds pleasure in his commute. While riding, he collects coins he sees on the streets. This hobby can be rewarding and dangerous.

“I had a close call a couple of times,” he said. “One time I saw a quarter and I stopped right in the middle of the street, and some young couple came running out and asked if I was okay.”

Knutson also rides his bike for the health benefits. He gets the most out of his rides by walking his bike on some of the downhill parts instead of coasting, which allows for more physical activity.

Western Washington Universiry graduate and Blaine native Sara Sutton enjoys the perks of riding as well. Having recently moved back to Blaine, she has commuted a lot within Whatcom County. In Bellingham, she would ride her bike to school, work, the grocery store or downtown.

“A car is expensive,” Sutton said. “And also I can justify that I got my workout in riding my bike.” While it can be a little intimidating to begin a long ride, once she’s on the road, she says it’s “a nice, refreshing experience.”

One of Sutton’s favorite summertime activities is to bring her bike with her on the Plover ferry to Semiahmoo and ride around. It only takes about 15 minutes from the Blaine side, and it’s inexpensive.

While Knutson and Sutton are veteran bike commuters, resources are available for beginners who would like to start riding. In addition to the personal benefits of bicycling, eliminating just one car trip per week contributes to less pollution and congestion on the streets. EverybodyBIKE, a program of Whatcom Smart Trips, helps the community get involved with alternative transportation. 

“We encourage people to ride their bike for transportation trips. And we teach classes for adults, commuter classes. We also do bicycle education in elementary schools,” EverybodyBIKE event coordinator Mary Anderson said. Bike to Work and School Day is planned for May 18, with a host of “Celebration Stations” throughout the area offering free treats, drinks and prizes for those taking part.

Blaine Middle School teacher Dan Steelquist said the school district is hosting a Celebration Station on the corner of Mitchell and H streets during the event. The C Shop in Birch Bay is also slated to host a Celebration Station.

“Blaine is a great little town to ride your bike in, and it would be really neat if we could get more families out riding,” he said. Steelquist and his wife, Sue, are recreational riders who ride four to five times a week in the warmer months.

Other upcoming events are Summer Rides, taking place throughout the summer. Bike trips are coordinated in advance, and people meet at a designated spot to begin the ride.

“Summer Rides is a series of social-paced, fun rides,” Anderson said. Each trip is less than seven miles, and most take place in Bellingham, but some are planned for Birch Bay, Ferndale and Lynden. A Summer Rides trip is scheduled for Birch Bay on July 22.

Anderson noted that Whatcom Smart Trips and EverybodyBIKE assist anyone wanting to make a difference with their transportation choices. Replacing a car trip with a bike ride might be just the way to spend Earth Day, coming up on April 22.

For more information on upcoming events and how you can contribute, visit the Whatcom Smart Trips and EverybodyBIKE websites at www.whatcomsmarttrips.org and www.everybodybike.com, or call 360-756-TRIP. For information on Bike to Work and School Day, visit www.biketoworkandschoolday.org.