Santa Rosa doctor recommends simple path to fitness: bike to work
Tracey Jones is a committed bicycle commuter. Her journey takes her 3½ miles from her Spring Street house in Santa Rosa’s McDonald Avenue neighborhood to Kaiser Permanente’s medical offices on Old Redwood Highway. It takes the doctor about half-hour on two wheels. Weather - hot or cold or wet - does not dissuade her from the saddle of her Kona street bike, a heavy steel frame tank strong enough to carry a load, including groceries, which she picks up from Safeway on her way home.
She can pack 30 to 40 pounds in each of her panniers - which resemble kayaker’s drybags - without wobbling.
Jones goes everywhere on her bike. To the swim centers at Finley and Ridgway, out to visit her horse in far west Santa Rosa, over to the Arlene Francis Center near Railroad Square where she teaches the Brazilian martial art, Capoeira.
“Ever since I was a little kid I’ve always biked everywhere,” said the 50-year-old physician, who strategically chose her home because of its close proximity to work.
Jones’ dedication to her two-wheeled commute earned her the title of Bike Commuter of the Year by the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition. Each May, to coincide with National Bike to Work Month, the coalition honors one super commuter. On May 10, Sonoma County will participate in the Bay Area Bike to Work Day to encourage people to get out of their cars. Energizer Stations will be set up during the morning commute that day from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. along cycling routes throughout the county to pass out snacks, swag, and encouragement.
“She walks the walk, or rides the ride, by cycling to work,” said coalition board member Genevieve Navar in explaining why Jones was picked for this year’s title. “I was impressed that she didn’t leave cycling behind after moving from the bike mecca of UC Davis and that nearly a full ?20 years later she continues to commute by bike.”
Relying on a bicycle for basic in-town transportation comes naturally to Jones, who commuted to school while growing up in Boston, establishing a lifelong habit. Back in 1989 when she was teaching English in Madrid, she determinedly rode her bike everywhere although few people were doing the same. She was forced to share a lane with the buses, whose drivers resented the intrusion. During the year she served as an intern in Michigan she kept up her two-wheeled commute, braving snow and icy roads to get from home to the hospital seven miles away.
“People who cycle in Sonoma County don’t realize how good they have it,” she said, smiling.
Back then her “ride” was a clunky Schwinn, which still sits in her garage. But about 10 years ago she upgraded to the Kona, equipped with disc brakes for added safety. Although no “equipment geek,” she’s all about safety and practicality, and she hasn’t looked back.
“I just feel like it’s more solid and comfortable. The other thing is I got carpal tunnel syndrome on my aluminum frame bike. The steel frame has much more give so you don’t have as much jarring.”
Jones has commuted to Kaiser ever since she moved to Santa Rosa in 2005 with her husband Larry Meyer, a computer software engineer. Since the ride is so short she barely breaks a sweat, and Jones can wear her work clothes on her ride. She only has to don her white coat after locking her bike into a bike locker at the medical offices.
“Rain or shine. Day or night. Hot or cold. Dr. Jones can be seen riding her bike to and from work,” said Dr. Todd Weitzenberg, who has known her since their residency rays at UC Davis and who nominated Jones for the Bike Commuter of the Year award. “I often was told when I commuted to work that commuting was dangerous and I would reply that it was precisely by riding I felt it could make it safer. It’s so good to see others do so, especially with the sphere of influence she has as a healthcare provider.”
Jones shares that philosophy. As a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation, she frequently is in a position to recommend exercise to patients. But she knows that some roads can be treacherous. She would recommend a stationary bike for anyone. But it’s up to the individual to judge whether their cycling skills are good enough to ride city streets, many of which don’t have bicycle lanes.
Cycling is an excellent form of exercise, she maintains. It’s good for people with knee and hip arthritis and she said it’s a great way to maintain a good baseline of muscle strength.
“As we get older it’s harder to do. It’s easier to lose muscle mass when you get older. To have something built into your day-to-day routine that doesn’t take a huge effort, like cycling even five miles a day, will keep your muscles toned and you’ll function better. You’ll be stronger and you’ll support your joints.”