Calling all Tahoe cyclists: Bike to Work Week begins |

Calling all Tahoe cyclists: Bike to Work Week begins

Larry Montoya has watched Lake Tahoe gas prices rapidly rise from $2.67 per gallon (regular unleaded) in 2005 to more than $4 per gallon in 2008.

Even if there wasn’t such a thing as Bike to Work Week, the South Tahoe Refuse mechanic would alter his commuting tactics.

“Now that fuel costs are so high, I am going to be riding more this summer anyway, so doing this Bike to Work isn’t a big deal,” said Montoya, an avid mountain biker.

Montoya isn’t alone. Of South Tahoe Refuse’s 114 workers, 17 have signed up to participate – almost 20 percent of its employees – in the third annual Lake Tahoe Bike to Work Week Challenge, a localized event started by the Lake Tahoe Bicycle Coalition.

The citizen’s advocacy group created the Bike to Work Week Challenge in conjunction with National Bike to Work Month (May), now in its 50th year and organized by the League of American Cyclists.

Area employees, including some from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Heavenly Mountain Resort, the city of South Lake Tahoe and South Tahoe Refuse, were among 255 cyclists who logged 6,980 miles during the 2007 Bike to Work Week Challenge, keeping the equivalent of 6,300 pounds of carbon dioxide out of Tahoe’s skies.

In all, 29 agencies and companies participated, and several hundred people have signed up for this year’s challenge. The Lake Tahoe Bicycle Coalition is hoping area cyclists reach the 14,000-mile mark during the May 12-16 event, which would double the number from last year.

“Cycling is part of the fabric of this community, and we want to communicate that message to the rest of the world,” said Ty Polastri, president of the Lake Tahoe Bicycle Coalition. “Bike to Work Week is one way to let people know that we’re a community of cyclists and we care about the environment.”

According to the WorldWatch Institute, a four-mile round trip by bicycle as opposed to driving keeps about 15 pounds of pollutants out of the air, and 60 percent of the pollution created by automobile emissions happens in the first few minutes of operation.

The Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey stated that 50 percent of the working population commutes five miles or less to work, with 25 percent of all trips being made within a mile of their homes.

Realizing the impact vehicles have on the environment, it wasn’t hard to convince South Tahoe Refuse customer service representative Christy Smithmier to participate in Bike to Work Week.

“My husband works at Eloise Automotive, and he did it last year, so he said he’d do it with me this year,” said Smithmier, who will ride her bike eight miles round trip each day. “This is such a bike-friendly town. Plus, it’s just a wonderful and caring thing to do, because we are so environmentally concerned here.”

South Tahoe Refuse is adding an extra incentive for their employees to participate: The company is raffling off a Specialized mountain bike with accessories. Each day employees ride to work, they receive a raffle ticket from their supervisor, with the drawing scheduled at noon May 16.

Although the prospect of a winning a new bike is enticing, the company’s employees are just happy to be involved in a good cause.

“I’m not really into biking, but it’s a nice thing to do,” said Maria Castillo, who works in the recycle center and will bike three miles round trip every day next week.

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