Chris Mertens
Chris Mertens
Government Affairs Director

This Summer: Skip the Traffic and Help the Environment by Riding Your Bike

A version of this article appeared in the summer issue of Moonshine Ink and is reprinted here with their permission.

It was a warm, cloudless summer afternoon and I was sitting in my gridlocked parent’s car on highway 89 north on our way into Tahoe City for dinner. At 10 years old, my patience for being stuck in a car on such a beautiful day had run out and I stared jealously at people walking and biking on the bike path unimpeded toward our shared destination.

Then I had an idea.

With surprisingly little objection from my parents, my cousin and I quickly jumped out of the car, unloaded our bikes from the rack, and, grinning widely, pedaled on the bike path past the gridlock toward Tahoe City convinced we were the smartest people in the world.

COMM CM Blog Baldwin Beach 2019 08Thanks to the hard work of public agencies, nonprofits, individuals, and advocates like the Lake Tahoe Bicycle Coalition, the ability to ditch your car and grab a bike has become easier in the Tahoe-Truckee area. New bike paths, improved safety measures, enhanced route-finding, and better bike racks are just a few of the reasons why there has never been a better time to pedal your way around this beautiful region.

New trails and bike racks this summer

Excellent new bike path offerings seem to emerge every year.

Going to Sand Harbor for a matinee performance of this year’s Shakespeare Festival? Hop on the stunning brand-new 3-mile Incline Village to Sand Harbor bike path (easily one of the most spectacular bike paths on the planet).

Want to check out the latest addition to the trail that will eventually connect Tahoe City to Kings Beach? Take a ride on the recently opened 2.2-mile Dollar Creek Trail which weaves through the forest and over streams connecting the Cedar Flats neighborhood to the Tahoe City trail network.

Yet another brand new path now connects Sugar Pine State Park (and Tahoe City) to Meeks Bay for anyone wanting to take a dip in the serene waters of Meeks Bay.

All of these new paths are paved and fully separated from the roadway making them great for families and riders of all abilities.

Plus, with funding from the Tahoe Fund and the Nevada Division of Tourism, the Lake Tahoe Bicycle Coalition last summer installed 215 modern secure bike racks at public beaches, state parks, and trailheads throughout the Tahoe Basin. You can rest assured that your bike will be safe while you enjoy a Wet Woody on the pier at Garwoods or take a hike up Eagle Rock on the west shore. The Bike Coalition and Tahoe Fund partnered again this summer to install another 130 bike racks at local businesses.

How can I find the safest route?

Even though experienced cyclists are often comfortable riding on the shoulder of Tahoe/Truckee’s roadways and highways, many cyclists prefer to ride in bike lanes or bike paths to reach their destination at a more leisurely pace.

Thanks to the support from local public agencies and nonprofits, the Lake Tahoe Bicycle Coalition offers a comprehensive and free bike map of the entire Tahoe-Truckee region. Pick up a paper copy at most bike shops and visitor centers throughout the area or access the intuitive and mobile-friendly online version at map.tahoebike.org. The online and paper versions of the map clearly identify where bike paths, bike lanes, and bike routes exist to help cyclists find the best route for their trip.

The online map has a handy trip planning tool where you can enter your starting point and destination and choose whether you want the most direct route or if you prefer bike paths and bike routes instead. Want more safety tips? Visit the Bike Coalition’s website at www.tahoebike.org/bike-safety to check out our safety tips and videos to make your cycling experience as safe as possible. Here are a few: always ride single-file (even on bike paths), perform regular safety checks of your bike (check brakes, tighten bolts, etc.), and be visible by wearing lights (even during the day) and bright clothing.

It’s good for the environment, it’s good for you My friends and I find the biggest motivating factors for us to bike in the Basin are the environmental benefits of eliminating vehicle trips and getting exercise. Congestion, emissions, and fine sediment originating on local roads are significant contributors to air and water pollution affecting the sensitive ecosystems we love and enjoy. Reducing vehicle trips is one of the best ways to reduce these impacts and avoid sitting in traffic on your way to work or the beach. From a health perspective, studies show that regular cycling can reduce cardiovascular disease, cancer, and hypertension (not to mention justifying that extra helping of fries with lunch).

One trip a week

Now that I know where to ride, why I should ride, and how to ride safely, how can I incorporate cycling into my life? We’re creatures of habit so I believe incorporating new activities requires small adjustments to our routine. I’m a big fan of starting small. So, this summer, I’m trying to eliminate one vehicle trip per week by riding, walking, or taking the bus (maybe even paddling?) instead of driving. It’s a small adjustment but one that can scale up and make a difference. Will you join me?