The Cycle of Life

    UCSD Bike Shop operator Kris Wells cleans a bike chain. With the growing popularity of cycling, Wells is kept busy with store repairs and sales. (Will Parson/Guardian)

    An octopus of a city, San
    Diego
    ’s asphalt tentacles sprawl across its dusty
    canyons, making the automobile a valuable piece of machinery for residents.
    UCSD commuters witness the same glorious spectacle daily as they leave campus
    during rush hour around four or five in the afternoon — a dazzle of flashing
    red lights in a bumper-to-bumper shuffle that can last hours.

    In recent years, an increasing number of bikes have popped
    up around campus, complete with slender wheels and flashy colors. This biweel
    revolution is bringing UCSD up to speed with the rest of San Diego, which has
    traditionally been known by bike enthusiasts as “a biker’s haven,” said Kris
    Wells, operator of the UCSD Bike Shop.

    The UCSD cycling team is an integral part of UCSD’s growing
    biking scene, participating in competitive cycling in San Diego and with
    universities around the state. The team’s practices involve travels of up to
    100 miles along the coast and countywide.

    But these honed athletes have started to share the road with
    a growing group of students drawn in by culture rather than competition. Slowly
    but surely, a younger crowd is introducing a trend that is well established in
    San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, among other places.

    “I have noticed, this year more than any, freshmen bringing
    in their single-speed and BMX bikes, probably from the Bay Area where the bike
    culture is much bigger,” Wells said.

    When the administration knocked out approximately 100 “S”
    parking spaces this year, many began looking for alternate methods of transportation.
    UCSD’s Pedal Club has made efforts to increase the use of bicycles instead of
    cars by providing its members 10 free parking passes per quarter, as well as
    three free hours to use campus Flexcars, as long as they commit to traveling by
    bicycle for the majority of their commuting.

    Though UCSD promotes bicycle use, it is really the student —
    as well as local — bicyclists who, in the spirit of endorsing bicycling, have
    helped campus interest grow. One such enthusiast is Randy Van Vleck, a John Muir
    College senior dedicated to bringing the San Diegan cycle culture to life. Van
    Vleck participates in the downtown Critical Mass ritual, an event that occurs
    internationally on the last Friday of every month, partly in response to modern
    cities’ unfriendliness to bicyclists.

    Critical Mass has grown tremendously since Van Vleck first
    joined the movement.

    “I remember in 2005,
    there were only about 35 people present, and the ride only lasted about 15 to
    20 minutes. Last month’s ride had around 400 people,” Van Vleck said.

    In addition, Van Vleck is founding an independent cycling
    newsletter called Revolve, which will help inform San Diegans of events and
    news within the biking community. He plans to publish the first issue this
    month.

    Another member of UCSD’s biking community, Juan Coronado,
    has cycled the streets of San Diego for years. A two-year employee of
    Groundwork Books, he started his cycling career in the Normal Heights/North
    Park area. Once Coronado began biking regularly, he noticed there were many
    others who had similar interests.

    “I started meeting people who liked to bike, which made
    riding an even greater experience,” Coronado said.

    UC Cyclery on La Jolla Village Drive is also a major hub for
    cyclists around UCSD. Though it is a run-of-the-mill bike retail store, it
    features weekly rides open to anyone that start from the store on Sundays at
    6:30 p.m. and use trails through the windy paths on campus.

    “Just by a guess, I’d say that about 20 to 30 percent of our
    customers are students,” said Casper Rubalcava, a UC Cyclery employee.

    Although the layout of University City keeps most residents
    strapped into their cars, riding a bike around town has become a participatory
    activity for friends.

    “At a lot of band shows, cafes and whatnot you’ll definitely
    see a good amount of hip kids who’ve brought themselves there by bike,”
    Coronado said.

    Like many other pastimes, bicycling serves as a networking
    tool. This subset of alternative athletes enjoys transportation away from San Diego’s stacked
    freeways and around fellow bikers.

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