Each year, in honor of Bike to Work Month in May, the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition (SCBC) honors one inspiring cyclist as Bike Commuter of the Year. This year’s winner Dr. Tracey Jones is so dedicated to bicycle commuting that when she moved to Santa Rosa for her job at Kaiser, she prioritized choosing a home within cycling distance of the hospital. “Five miles is the sweet spot,” she said,. “I can ride in my work clothes without working up too much of a sweat. During my internship in Michigan, I was seven miles away, and had to change my clothes once I got to work. Of course, winter was a more challenging time to bike, but I didn’t own a car at that point.” Dr. Jones has been cycling to work her entire life, including when she lived in Madrid in 1989!
With a specialty in physical medicine and rehabilitation, Dr. Jones is a role model to her patients and coworkers, demonstrating the benefits of physical activity. She also practices and teaches the Brazilian martial art of capoeira; she recently bought a Burley bike trailer so that she can haul her musical instruments and materials to class by bike.
Jones was nominated by coworker Dr. Todd Weitzenberg, who has witnessed her daily cycling commute since they were in residency together at UC Davis in 1999. He says, “Rain or shine. Day or night. Hot or cold. Dr. Jones can be seen riding her bike to and from work. I am an avid competitive cyclist and find bike commuting difficult and hazardous. I have always been inspired and amazed by her commitment to ride her bike to work. She is dedicated to the health, fitness and safety aspects of cycling and is a role model for bike commuting.”
On why she voted for Jones, SCBC Board Member Genevieve Navar said, “She walks the walk (or rides the ride) by cycling to work. 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. I often was told when I commuted to work that commuting was dangerous and would reply that it was precisely by riding that I felt I 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.” SCBC staffer Sarah Hadler adds, “I see myself in her, a woman who has a busy schedule and life-affirming work; like me, I suspect that commuting by bike gives her a lot back and keeps her going strong!”
Dr. Jones’ commitment doesn’t stop with her daily commute; she has given back to the cycling community by serving on the Santa Rosa Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board. She’s a member of Kaiser’s “Green Team”, working to make their operations more sustainable. When asked what more the company could do to encourage alternative commuting, she rattled off a list: reward people who don’t drive; offer a shuttle to SMART; add more bike parking; create a bike repair stations with extra lights, tubes, repair kits, and a pump. “The lot here is often full; if more employees took alternative transit there would be more parking for patients.”
Her advice to someone just starting out? Start small – just ride once a month or once a week at first. You have to plan ahead, as it does take longer – have your clothes and everything ready the night before, or else it will be too easy to just jump in the car in the morning. And the right gear helps – she recommends getting panniers rather than a backpack. She showed off her panniers that resemble kayaker’s drybags and truly keep all her things dry.
“Riding a bike is better than going to a gym,” she says. “Spin classes, where participants ride stationary bikes indoors, are highly popular; why don’t we sell an eight-week cycling class as a weight loss program? Start out on safe, easy bike trails for short rides, teaching participants about how to handle their bike safely, then gradually increase the distance and difficulty.”
It’s not “all or nothing”, she says. “You don’t have to go from driving everywhere to biking everywhere to make a difference. If we can just get people to stop and ask the QUESTION before they get in the car, rather than just jump in without thinking – THAT alone would be revolutionary.”