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Bike to Work Day just another day for two Santa Rosa men

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Bike to Work Day in Sonoma County

Refueling stations will be set up across the county. Click here for more information.

With supplies for his kindergarten class strapped to his bicycle and a pacemaker keeping things orderly in his chest, Steve Bush leaves his home in Santa Rosa’s junior college neighborhood for his morning commute.

The 54-year-old schoolteacher pedals north on Old Redwood Highway before crossing over Highway 101 on Airport Boulevard. The 7-mile journey to Sonoma Country Day School near Windsor is one Bush has made daily for years, rain or shine.

He has few alternatives. About a decade ago, Bush and his wife, Meredith, sold their car. It’s been two-wheels traveling for the couple ever since.

“It’s nice to wake up in the morning with a bike ride and to relieve all the tension in the evening on the way home,” Bush said this week. “It makes my life better.”

Thursday is Bike to Work Day across the Bay Area. But for some, like Bush, it’s just another day to keep doing what they do as a matter of routine and passion.

In recognition of Bush’s dedication, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission named the Santa Rosa man Sonoma County’s bike commuter of the year.

Bush shares the honor with Shaun Ralston, regional program manager for Sutter Health, who cycles to work from his home in the McDonald Avenue area to Sutter’s hospital at Mark West Springs Road, a one-way trip of about 4.5 miles.

Both men exemplify the rewards, as well as the challenges, of commuting to work by bike.

For Bush, that includes lugging supplies for his students aboard one of two Bike Fridays he uses for commuting purposes. The custom-built bikes are geared specifically for getting around town. Some models can be folded into a backpack and carried.

Bush said he ditched his car and began cycling to school to embody values he taught in the classroom, such as cutting down on air pollution. He also had health reasons. Bush beat Hodgkin’s lymphoma years ago but the treatment left him with heart problems, hence the pacemaker.

Over time, Bush has witnessed an evolution in thinking on bike safety. In all the years he’s been biking to work, he’s suffered only two minor collisions with motorists.

“I find there are a lot more people who are willing to give me the space that I need,” he said.

Ralston, 47, noted that Sonoma County has a lot more bike lanes and other infrastructure designed for bike safety than when he seriously hit the pedals 15 years ago.

“Just a few years ago, there weren’t bike lanes on Mendocino Avenue,” he said.

Ralston also had health reasons for taking up cycling. At 29, he was diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes and was told his choices were either to lose weight or go on medication. He took up riding and has been free of the disease for years.

Ralston benefits by the array of amenities Sutter offers its bike commuting employees at the Larkfield hospital, including covered parking, lockers for storing gear, tools for making repairs or fixing flats and showers.

Ralston also uses parking lockers at the Santa Rosa Transit Mall when he takes public transit to his office in San Francisco. Or, he sometimes takes his bike with him.

Bush said the only time he misses having a car is when he and his wife are invited to parties in far-flung locations, such as on the Sonoma Coast.

Otherwise, he said, the benefits of cycling “so outweigh the negatives.”

You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 707-521-5336 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @deadlinederek.

Bike to Work Day in Sonoma County

Refueling stations will be set up across the county. Click here for more information.

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