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Taking the 2-wheel way

Longtime cyclist makes it easier for others to pedal, not drive, to events around Sonoma County

By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Eric Eisenhart doesn’t own a car and never has, finding it convenient enough to get around by bicycle and bus.

“I never ended up finding it necessary,” said Eisenhart, 38, a Santa Rosa resident. “I am not religiously opposed to cars. I never got around to it and get around without one.

Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition volunteer Eric Eisenhart of Santa Rosa directs other volunteers during Levi Leipheimer’s King Ridge GranFondo last month. Eisenhart, who has never owned a car, commutes by bike to his job at Sonoma State University. (KENT PORTER / The Press Democrat)

“I find cars isolating. Being on a bike or on a bus with other people is less isolating. And knowing my own tendencies, if I had a car I would probably not get as much exercise,” he said.

Eisenhart is a systems administrator in the information technology department at Sonoma State University, commuting daily to the university on his bike.

He supports more people riding, but he is realistic in his approach.

“If a friend asks me how to get around on a bike, I would be helping them, but it is not a practical option for everybody,” Eisenhart said. “You would have a hard time convincing people to ride a bike when a rain storm is happening, but a lot of trips across town in Santa Rosa could be on a bike.”

Eisenhart is a volunteer for the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, working mainly in the valet bicycle parking booth set up at many local events.

If people know they have a safe and convenient place to park their bikes, Eisenhart said they are more likely to ride to an event rather than drive.

“I think it is a way to promote it for other people, at least for large events,” Eisenhart said. “It is hard for people to lock up their bikes at large events.”

The coalition started its valet parking program four years ago, setting up an area marked off with street barricades where people can bring their bikes and packages to be stored.

This year it has been at 40 events and volunteers parked 9,000 bikes, said Sandra Lupien, the coalition’s outreach director.

At began at the Wednesday Night Market in Santa Rosa, and then spread to other events, including the Levi Leipheimer King Ridge GranFondo, where they park about 2,500 bikes for entrants and people riding to the festival.

“The GranFondo is our most demanding volunteer event, because of the volume of bikes we park and the number of bags we check,” Lupien said. “In 2009, we were understaffed badly and Eric was there and signed up for one shift, but he worked three shifts. He was there all day.”

Lupien said Eisenhart has been a valuable worker ever since, even designing the system used to keep track of all the bikes they park.

Eisenhart now also serves on the coalition board of directors and rode in the five-day Climate Protection Ride, raising $4,000.

“I did a lot of training for that,” Eisenhart said. “My usual commute is a little shy of 25 miles. Before I signed up for Climate Ride I had ridden 40 or 45 miles, but the climate ride is 60 miles a day and they are back to back. There were a lot of training rides.”

(You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@pressdemocrat.com.)