* Editor’s note: This column was published originally in April.
By Chris Higgins
“You’re not riding to work in this wind are you?” asks my wife, Jane. “Need you ask?” I reply.
Yes, I’m riding because it’s my routine, and I look forward to it regardless of the weather. The “ride” is my commute by bicycle between Davis and my job in downtown Sacramento. Deep down, Jane really understands because she used to commute with me.
Recently, The Enterprise profiled Diane Swann, a recipient of a Cool Davis 2013 Eco Hero Award. Diane has joined a number of cyclists who have commuted on this route for years. When I started this ride in 1977, I rarely saw another cyclist in the morning or evening. Now, it is common to see a half-dozen to a dozen riders at both times. Among the “regulars” are not only those who live in Davis, but many who live in the Sacramento area and commute to Davis. To all, it’s part of their daily routine.
The common segment of the route for riders who live in Davis begins at Mace Boulevard and Second Street. It follows the frontage road (32A) to the Yolo Causeway where it crosses that structure via a separate bike path. It then continues on West Capitol Avenue over Tower Bridge to downtown Sacramento. Altogether, the segment is about 12 miles long. Various projects over the years have improved some of the road surfaces and shoulders along this route, and we look forward to more improvements in the future. Generally, motorists are considerate of cyclists. As always, each needs to respect the other, follow traffic laws, and “share the road.”
Although you wouldn’t call it “scenic,” the route has several interesting features. East of Mace Boulevard, Road 32A offers nice silhouette views of the Sierra Nevada range on clear winter mornings. After the route follows historic U.S. Highway 40 for a few miles, the path on the Yolo Causeway provides views of many types of birds in the Yolo Basin Wildlife Area. During the summer, large colonies of bats reside at each end of the causeway and can be seen at sunset. Leaving the causeway, you pass a levee that was recently seeded with poppies and lupine. In a few years, this display will be spectacular. As you begin riding on West Capitol Avenue, a plaque on the north side marks the site of a former automotive speedway. Prior to the speedway, and of interest to cyclists, a velodrome was on this site. Finally, in the Civic Center-Tower Bridge area, you pass a few unusual sports-themed pieces of public-art sculpture.
The benefits of cycling between Davis and Sacramento are many. Besides getting daily physical exercise, the mental benefit is something that is just as important although often overlooked. You might think you’ll arrive at work exhausted, but the opposite is true once you improve your conditioning and ride regularly. You are more energized and ready to start the workday. Social contact is a plus, too. I frequently encounter cyclist friends and have also made many new friends over the years while commuting. The environmental benefits are obvious also. Finally, it’s an inexpensive way to commute: no cost for such things as gasoline or parking. Many workplaces have locker/shower facilities and bicycle-storage areas.
— Chris Higgins is a geologist with the California Geological Survey and longtime Davis cyclist