Reporter's Notebook: Biking to work in Glendale

I can count on one hand the number of times I have been on a bicycle in the last decade. All of them were recreational, mostly swerving up and down suburban sidewalks in pursuit of my much speedier nieces and nephews.

While I've continued to run and play soccer, the two-wheeler was relegated to a distant childhood memory.

So as I slogged my way along Glenoaks Boulevard Thursday, loaner bicycle under me and loaner helmet up top, I questioned how it was that I allowed myself to be talked into penning a few graphs about commuter cycling in Glendale.

Or had I volunteered? I couldn't remember for lack of oxygen.

The hipster cyclists zipping around town always make it look so easy. Their tapered jeans never catch on their pedals, and their messenger bags hang at a perfect angle over shoulder.

Still, if the Hirsch brothers — Harrison, 11, and Tristan, 9 — can brave Glendale streets, then I certainly could take on Bike to Work Day, celebrated in Southern California on Thursday. I met the pair last week at R.D. White Elementary School during the inaugural Bike to School event, organized to foster pedestrian safety and healthy lifestyles.

The boys are not one-shot wonders — they ride with their parents on a nearly daily basis to places like school and the grocery store.

“Hand signals help a lot,” Harrison said.

I took his advice, practicing in the mirror a few times before jumping on the road at 6:30 a.m. It is only about a six-mile trip from my home in Montrose to the Glendale News-Press office on Brand Boulevard, but I figured the early hour would mean less sweating and fewer cars.

The downhill ride proved painless, but as I closed in on Glendale Community College, the narrowing streets made me nervous. Glendale traffic statistics began streaming through my head like the Times Square ticker. I suddenly recalled reading about a bike-riding Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa getting knocked to the ground by a taxi.

There is no charm in becoming a headline in one's own newspaper, however catchy “Reporter becomes roadkill” might be.

A warm welcome at a Bike to Work Day pit stop at the intersection of Sonora Avenue and Flower Street put my nerves at ease. It was one of several hosted by Walk Bike Glendale, a community organization that has gained visibility in recent years for its advocacy for local bicycling education and infrastructure.

There I met local cycling enthusiasts Nathalie Winiarski, Gene Gleeson and Erik Yesayan, who shared war stories and street smarts. At a second pit stop at Bicycle Land in the 400 block of Glendale Avenue, technician Clayton Chaney tweaked my bike's brakes while recounting the shop's history as the second oldest business in Glendale.

Walk Bike Glendale members polished off the day with beers at Tavern on Brand.

But after I had made it home — hamstrings and quadriceps intact — I decided that my favorite new acquaintance was a fellow neophyte.

Burbank resident Pam Cooper cycled to work Thursday in memory of a colleague. She had donned her most readily available gear: an equestrian helmet and gloves.

“I'm a horse woman, actually,” Pam Cooper said. “So if I could ride my horse to work, I would.”

Ride a Horse to Work Day? Please, sign me up!

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