Pedaling Prof and Mother of 3 Win Bike Commuter of the Year Awards

East Bay Bicycle Coalition Recognizes a Los Medanos College Professor and an Albany Mother of Three with Bike Commuter of the Year Awards

East Bay Bicycle Coalition Recognizes a Los Medanos College Professor and an Albany Mother of Three

Kara Vuicich, an Albany mother of three young children, and Curtis Corlew, an art and journalism professor at Los Medanos College in Pittsburgh, have won the East Bay Bicycle Coalition’s 2012 Bike Commuter of the Year awards.

Every year during Bike Month the East Bay Bicycle Coalition recognizes two outstanding members of the cycling community - one from Contra Costa County and one from Alameda County - for their commitment to bicycling and for inspiring others to use a bicycle for regular transportation. Corlew, who began riding at the urging of his wife after many years off the bike, now commutes 8 miles each way from his home in Antioch to his office every work day. Vuicich, a transportation planner, commuted by bike through two pregnancies and countless rainstorms when she worked for the City of Berkeley.

"More schools and colleges are participating in Bike to Work Day this year and we are delighted that our award winners are helping us reach the next generation of riders," says Renee Rivera, Executive Director of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition. The inspiring pair will be recognized and receive their awards during the Bike Happy Hour Party (5:00 - 8:30pm) in Old Oakland on Bike to Work Day, Thursday, May 10, 2012.

Alameda County: Kara Vuicich

“Being a transportation planner who’s focused on making it easier and safer for people not to drive their cars, I feel bike commuting is not just personally important but also professionally important in terms of understanding what’s involved in being able to bike. So I worked at the city of Berkeley from 2004 until just last fall and biked to work the entire time, through two pregnancies and three kids in preschool.”

“Obstacles like rain or transporting children might cause others to hang up their helmets and reach for their car keys, but transportation planner Kara Vuicich of Albany keeps on pedaling.” So wrote bike commuter David Radwin in nominating his wife for Alameda County Bike Commuter of the Year for 2012.

These days, rain or shine, Kara rides to North Berkeley BART with her daughter Ruth, who is nearly 8 years old. Ruth catches a bus to grade school and Kara catches BART to her job in San Francisco at the transportation consulting firm Nelson Nygaard, where her focus is planning for transit, biking and walking.

For Kara and her family it’s not just about biking to work. “I like being able to go at a slower place and look at things in the neighborhood. If there’s a cat in the neighborhood, the kids want to stop and pet it. And I can do that on my bike. I can fit all three of my kids onto the back of my cargo bike, and they love going for a ride all together.”

The family does own a car. “It’s not an all or nothing thing, but my husband and I really feel that to travel a mile or two, particularly in this area, you can make the trip just as quickly on a bike and there’s no reason to get in the car and use gas. A lot of people don’t realize that even if they just made 20 percent of their trips by bike, it would make a big difference in terms of the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and fuel that we use and the number of cars on the road. Just making a few more trips by bike or by walking can make a big difference.”

Contra Costa County: Curtis Corlew

Curtis Corlew bicycled when he was younger and then he stopped. “Boy was I getting big,” Corlew says. “I was over 190, and I’m a small person.” Corlew’s wife convinced him to get back on a bike in 2004 by starting her own bike commute.  Now Corlew rides every day, he’s down to about 140, and is so enthusiastic about riding that he incorporates bike consciousness into his teaching.

This year, for example, as one his graphics class assignments, his students have created Bike to Work posters for the Los Medanos College community, urging students, administrators and faculty to bike commute to school on May 10.

Corlew’s route to the college is mostly on the canal bike path. He’s ridden the 16-mile round trip every work day - except one - this year. “The best thing about the commute is how you’re in touch with the seasons and the aromas of the day,” Corlew says. “So as the seasons change you smell flowers or grasses or lavender or somebody’s cooking bacon in the morning. And every day you notice that the days are longer. You’re not sealed off but rather are a part of the world.”

He adds, “Because I’m a teacher I can keep my bicycle in my office. So people see it and they ask me about it. You do something like this and you realize, gosh this is so great!  I get better parking. It’s like a free gym membership. We live in the suburbs. We have a car. But it sits in the garage all week long not using gas, and not getting dirty and not having the sun beat down on it. It’s going to last a long long time. And that’s a real cost saving.”

Robert Scee, who nominated Corlew wrote, “On campus everyone knows him by his bicycle and asks him for advice on purchasing a commuter bike, bike routes, and bicycle vacations. Bike commuting morphed into vacation cycling: he and his wife cycled Oregon, Washington, Canada, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming last summer. Curtis's life has changed for the better, just because he started riding his bike to work."

There is no better time to start bicycling for your everyday trips to work, school, errands and play then Bike to Work Day, coming up on Thursday, May 10th. Go to www.ebbc.org/btwd for everything you need to know to have a great Bike to Work Day, or look out for the “Bike to Work Day Guide” in the May 2nd issue of the East Bay Express.

The East Bay Bicycle Coalition works for safe, convenient and enjoyable bicycling for all people in the east bay.  We are supported by over 3,000 members, here in the east bay.  Join us as a member at www.ebbc.org/donate and make the bicycle movement in the east bay a powerful force for change. 

Follow us on Twitter @EBBC and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/EastBayBicycleCoalition.

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