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Workers around Sonoma County enjoy freebies, exercise on Bike to Work Day

  • Riders leave an Energizer Station in Santa Rosa after breakfast on Bike to Work Day, Thursday, May 12, 2011. (JEFF KAN LEE/ PD)

Delroy Williams pulled over Thursday morning to jump-start another motorist's car when he got an invitation to breakfast at the Bike to Work Day rest stop at the Sonoma County Center.

But it didn't take long among all the cyclists gathered there to decide that he should join the crowd.

"This is a good idea," said Williams, a home care provider. "I've got a bike at home. I'm going to start doing this."

That's the point of National Bike to Work Day, now in its 17th year: to expose folks to the possibility of cycling or otherwise commuting with greater energy efficiency.

"Once you do it, you're like, 'Oh, this is easy,' " said Valerie Jimenez, an administrative assistant for the county Information Systems Department who carpooled to work for the first time.

Most of those taking advantage of snacks, breakfast and free swag at the 30 energizer stations set up around the county by the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition actually had ridden bikes -- some as part of their usual habit, others on a lark.

George Vega, a mechanical engineer at Jetronics off West Third Street, said being freed up Thursday from taking kids to school allowed him to ride to work, though he's an avid cycler anyway.

Showing off the fixed gear bike he refurbished after a neighbor kid gave him a frame from the 1970s, Vega, who has five other bikes, said he's a regular with the Santa Rosa Free Ride trip reduction incentive program and routinely rides to work off West Third Street.

Sandra Lupien, outreach director for the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, said volunteers staffing the aid stations counted 3,000 cyclists Thursday, "a very modest increase from last year" even with the extraordinary rise in gas prices.

"It feels really good to see people feeling good who are riding and feeling the benefits of riding for transportation," Lupien said.

"You feel good for the rest of the day," Agilent employee Nerina Winsor said after riding down from Windsor and detouring for breakfast on her way to work.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Bud McMahon, decked out in blue spandex, said he cycles from home to the Criminal Justice Center weekly once the sun starts rising by 6 a.m. It's a 90-minute trip made possible, in part, he said, by a shower recently installed at the office.

"You have to be able to clean up and change and store your bike and stuff," said Billy Harville, a social worker with county Family, Youth and Children's Services.

He and Lupe Heredia were on their way to work at the division's current offices near the airport. They said they're moving to new digs on Corporate Center Parkway soon.

"I hope they plan it with bikes in mind," Harville said.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com.

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