Bay Area’s “Bike to Wherever Days” Proves Popular Despite COVID, Fires
More than 3,600 people from across the Bay Area participated in “Bike to Wherever Days,” which got bicyclists out across the nine-county region during September despite COVID-19, and poor air quality in the region for much of the month.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the organizers of Bike to Work Day 2020 (BTWD) rescheduled the event from May 14 to September 24 in the hopes that employees would be returning to regular work routines. Unfortunately, that did not happen, the event pivoted to create Bike to Wherever Days.
The focus of Bike to Wherever Days was the same as that of BTWD – to encourage cyclists across Bay Area counties – Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma – to get out and ride their bikes. This time, however, it wasn’t to work, but to wherever – through a park for fun, to run errands, to visit friends and family while social distancing – and to work if their places of business were open.
And riders across the Bay Area responded. Online participation, managed through a local Bay Area Love to Ride platform website, was on par with pre-pandemic years, even as part of September saw poor air quality resulting from a plethora of Bay Area wildfires.
Adjusted for population, Santa Clara County had the highest percentage of participation. Santa Clara was followed by San Mateo, Marin, San Francisco and Alameda counties. The event had participants from every Bay Area county biking for exercise, work, as well as physical and mental health.
“Even with the challenges, Bay Area residents got out and showed how important biking is,” said Scott Hagerty, MTC Chair and Alameda County Supervisor. “It bodes well for biking as an everyday mode for people to get to destinations, which helps reduce greenhouses gases, while improving physical and mental health. And many of those who participated in this event took advantage of the growing Slow Streets movement.”
Cyclists participating in Bike to Wherever Days used the Love to Ride platform to track their miles, vie for virtual prizes and enjoy friendly competition with other riders. Each week, a lucky name was drawn from the participant pool for a variety of prizes. Those items were donated by Alaska Airlines (four pairs of plane tickets), Timbuk2 (bike bags), Surly (Pugsley frameset), area bike shops (gear and gift certificates), a professional-caliber bike fitter (gift certificates for fittings), a plastic surgery practice (gift certificate), Patagonia and Ortileb/Marin County Bicycle Coalition (gear) and MTC (boxed sets of laminated Bay Trail maps).
During September, many counties partnered with local bike shops and libraries to distribute commemorative canvas bags (a staple of BTWD for many years), In addition, local coalitions and congestion management organizations stepped up their offerings to make September a robust bike-focused month, offering virtual classes, trainings and more.
There was even a friendly competition among the organizers in the nine counties, taking in to account points for distance ridden, number of people encouraged and number of days in the saddle. Marin County Bicycle Coalition took first place, Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition came in second, and the Board of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition rode into third. The prize? Bragging rights for sure.
Bay Area Bike to Wherever Days and Bike to Work Day encourages local residents to try riding on two wheels for the first time and celebrates those who regularly bike. It is presented by MTC (the transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area), 511 (the region’s traveler information system) and Alaska Airlines. Bike to Wherever Day/Days 2020 also receives regional support from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), as well as from many sponsors at the local level.