Terry Tracy and Tammy Wong are among those who like to leave their cars at home and travel around town for errands by bicycle.
They are Napa County’s Bike Champions for 2022. Bay Area Bike To Wherever Days organizers honored them for replacing fossil fuels with pedal power — and hope others will be inspired to do the same.
Tracy works as an architect from his city of Napa home at Alta Heights. He uses his bike much of the time for local transportation.
“I’ve always been on a bike since a little kid. In college, biking was my main transportation source, I guess. After college, I’ve done it off and on,” he said.
A turning point came a year-and-a-half ago when he bought an electric assist bike. He estimates he went from making 25% of his in-town trips by bike to 95% when not carrying a large load.
“It just took away all of my excuses,” Tracy said recently.
The electric bike has settings that give him various degrees of a pedaling power help. He usually opts for the middle setting.
“That gets me where I’m going,” he said. “I’m still doing some exercise, but not really overexerting myself.”
As an architect, he might be taking drawings on one of his trips. He built a wooden box that sits on his bike rack that can hold the rolled-up papers. He can also use the box to carry a bag of groceries.
Tracy bikes to downtown Napa to the city or county building departments. He bikes to the gym at South Napa Market Place. He bikes to Trader Joe’s at Bel Aire Plaza.
The trick is avoiding as much as possible streets such as Trancas Street that have lots of traffic and frequent shopping center driveways. His trips often take him on the Napa Valley Vine Trail, a city of Napa bike thoroughfare paralleling the Napa Valley Wine Train tracks.
“The Vine Trail is nice because it diagonals across town and is safe,” he said.
His advice for people who are contemplating using a bike for local transportation, but might be a little wary?
“I guess it depends what they’re worried about,” Tracy said. “If they’re worried about safety, I’d suggest to try out the bike trails like the Vine Trail and the river trail.”
Or maybe they’re worried a bike might be too slow. Tracy said he doesn’t debate at the last minute whether he needs to take the car or bike to reach a place in time, but plans ahead for the bike trip.
“If I have to leave five minutes early, I leave five minutes early,” Tracy said. “There’s very little difference.”
On his wish list to make biking easier in Napa — more bike paths that are separate from the road. The city of Napa recently added one by widening the sidewalk along several blocks of Soscol Avenue to become part of the Vine Trail.
Wong lives in American Canyon, where she is on the city Planning Commission. She began biking regularly last May, willing to participate in that year’s Bike to Wherever Days as pandemic restrictions wound down.
“I thought, ‘Let me try that. I want to try to go out and do a little more things’ and it was outdoors,” she said.
She took the bike she hadn’t ridden for years out from her garage and had it tuned up. It’s nothing fancy, she said, of her $100 bike from Walmart with seven speeds.
That bike became her mode of transportation to such places as the community garden, post office and library.
Wong noted the ease of biking for short errands in American Canyon, given the city is a few miles wide and mostly flat. Still, she had an initial concern.
“I am a little cautious around cars,” Wong said. “It turned out one of my neighbors —he’s a very experienced rider — we went on a bike ride together. He gave me tips on how to navigate the road with cars, how to share with cars.”
She has advice for people who are debating whether to take the biking plunge.
”I think it’s easier than people think,” Wong said. “Especially for American Canyon, we’re a really small city and we have so many things within a couple of miles access for us.”
Still, she’d like to see the city make some biking improvements, such as having more places to park bikes at stores, parks and other places.
A key part of Bike to Wherever Days is Bike to Work Day on May 20. That is when cyclists can go to various energizer stations for snacks and encouragement as they make their trips. The accompanying information box lists station locations in Napa County.
Bike to Wherever Days and the commuter champions program are presented by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and various Bay Area organizations, including the Napa County Bicycle Coalition.
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You can reach Barry Eberling at 707-256-2253 or [email protected]