New in town


I moved into town six weeks ago. My commute to work went from 10 miles to one and I’ve barely driven my car since. Work, groceries, friends…. Everything is less than two miles away and walking or biking is easy. What an incredible blessing.

At eight miles an hour, a very easy pace on a bike, it takes me about 8 minutes to travel the one mile to work. So I might save three minutes by driving my car, but there’s no “joy factor” to the car drive.

On the bike everything seems more to scale. I see friends, smell stuff (not always flowery – but I get to smell), hear the mockingbirds go through their cadenzas and feel the cool breeze in the morning and the dry heat of the sun on the way home. I’ve discovered new (to me) back streets and hidden glimpses of our community that go unnoticed in my car.

My life has slowed, if only for those few minutes of riding my bike to and fro.

On my way to work I’ve had friends drive along beside me to chat or tell me about an upcoming event. I’ve wanted to say (but just hoped they might notice) “wouldn’t this be easier  – and more pleasant – if you were on a bike too?” Can you imagine someone trying to chat with you as you both drove your cars down the road? Too scary.

Cars are dangerous. It’s so obvious and common we don’t notice it much. Pedestrians and bicyclists are hurt on the roads out of proportion to their numbers. Overall, it’s still safe, we just get hurt more than we should – and it’s the cars that hurt us.

Imagine this conversation; “John’s in the hospital after a traffic accident” – “oh no, what happened?”  – “he was walking across the street and this pedestrian blind-sided him!”

Walking ain’t dangerous. Despite perceptions, neither is riding a bike around town at a strolling pace. Get a bike that allows you to sit up straight with a good view, go easy (extra effort doesn’t give you much extra speed) keep a sharp eye out for idiots in cars, and you’ll be fine.

I’ve been riding bikes for pretty much my entire life, as have many of my friends. The people I know who have been hurt have all been riding for sport, at high speed. I spent ten years working in the emergency room and I can’t remember a single incident where a bicyclist, riding sensibly and at less than 15 miles an hour came to us. If you ride unpredictably or at high speed, all bets are off. But around town, going less than two miles, there’s no reason for that.

If you live in Ukiah, there’s not much that’s’ more than two miles away. Two miles. That’s an eight to ten minute rush in your car, or a 16 minute respite of relaxation, community awareness, and simple joy on your bike.  Join me.


jonathan middlebrook August 21, 2010 at 8:11 am

Nice–Ukiah’s a wonderful place to arrive. Wish you’d avoided the snippishness of “idiots in cars.” By percent, the idiots in cars are probably about as numerous as the idiots on bikes who aggressively shoot stop signs and ride on sidewalks, agitating and sometimes endangering pedestrians. — The statistical jury is still out on transporting your precious toddler on the back of a bike.

You’re right. Hopefully we’ll see more people walking and biking and we want to minimize conflict. Starting the day with name calling ( ouch, that was me) doesn’t help.


Welcome to “urban” life. A brisk walk up the street to work or a meeting, a bike by the front door for the slightly longer trek and some of us are fortunate enough to be able to run across the street for a gallon of milk. I love Mendocino County and living in Ukiah.