The Wheel Deal

How many people resolved to ride their bikes more in 2010? Maybe do a bike-ferry-bike commute to work? Or pedal those four short blocks to get groceries? So far, how’s it going? Lousy, right? Me too.

Well, there are six who made the pledge and kept it. All these folks—ages 26 to 70—are first-time cyclists and live throughout Marin. They were chosen from 32 applicants to participate in the Marin County Bicycle Coalition’s “Bike Locally Challenge.”

The six-month campaign’s objective: “to encourage bicycle riding for local transportation.” Specialized Bicycle Components, along with the Dean Witter Foundation and the Clif Bar Family Foundation, funded the $15,000 project.

“Personally, I’ve gained confidence relying on a bike for trips to St. Anthony’s Church, doctor’s appointments and my weekly pedicure,” says Novato’s Lea Snowden. “It’s funny: I thought that new positive attitude was why everyone was smiling at me when I was getting my toes done recently. Then I realized I still had my helmet on.” Snowden, who never before rode a bike, has pedaled over 154 miles since the challenge began last May.

The six challenge participants are awarded points—one for every mile pedaled, five for taking another newcomer along, 10 for granting media interviews—and if they amass 500 points by November 15, they get to keep the bike provided to them at the outset. “Sure, I’ll make my 500 points,” Snowden says. “I love my French blue Globe Vienna ‘step-over’ bike.” Incidentally, Snowden recently celebrated her 70th birthday by skydiving with her 17-year-old granddaughter.

Another Bike Locally rider is 40-year-old Peter Meringolo of Larkspur, an attorney with offices in San Francisco’s Financial District. “Fifteen years ago my wife gave me a mountain bike,” he says. “The only action it saw was being moved from garage to garage in the early years of our marriage.”

Now Meringolo is pumping five miles (round trip) three or four times a week from his Larkspur home to the Larkspur Landing ferry terminal. “When I’m feeling adventuresome, I’ll go to the Sausalito ferry terminal, which is nine miles round trip.” Once in the city, he walks the few blocks to his office. “Actually, I really enjoy it. It’s a real stress reliever.” Like Snowden, he’s confident he’ll pass the 500-point benchmark and keep his Globe commuter bike.

Challenge entrants also include Corte Madera’s Anjuli Elias, 28; Novato’s Jason Walsh, 38; Kentfield’s Nakiesha Koss, 30; and San Anselmo’s Delanie Kern, 30. Besides use of a new bike, each rider gets coaching from a mentor on the ways of cyclists. And one evening a month, they all gather and bike as a group to a community event such as the Novato farmers’ market.

Another Bike Locally goal is to spotlight new or upcoming bike-friendly construction like the Lincoln Hill pathway parallel to Highway 101, the bike/pedestrian pathway from Tam Junction to Tennessee Valley Road, and reopening of the Cal Park Hill Tunnel, says MCBC membership director Tom Boss.

“The tunnel opens in November. It will cut 15 minutes off the trip between the San Rafael Transportation Center and the Larkspur Landing Ferry Terminal.” For more about biking in Marin, call 415.456.3469 or visit