Bicyclists are everywhere in San Luis Obispo, especially on the Cal Poly campus. It is a major mode of transportation for students, and many cycle for recreational activity.
For many students, bicycling was not a large part of their life until moving to San Luis Obispo.
“Strangely before moving here it never occurred to me that you could ride a bike as a form of transportation,” said Carol Boland, 23, a crop science graduate student from Lakeside, San Diego.
Boland has been riding since her junior year at Cal Poly and has competed twice in the Wildflower Triathlon. She started with the Cal Poly Tri-Team while they were training for Wildflower.
For those purchasing a bicycle for the first time, there are many things to consider. “Frame size is of utmost importance,” Boland said. “It determines the comfort of the ride. Fit is usually underestimated.”
A beach cruiser costs around $225 to $350, a cheap mountain bike to commute on usually under $250 and a cheap road bike around $600, said Arts Cyclery sales manager Luke Ganache.
Once the bicycle is purchased, there are other costs that can accumulate when it comes to maintenance and common parts that need to be replaced.
Ganache estimates the cost at around $100 a year for commuter bikes as long as the owner takes care of the bike. Some common things that need to be replaced are intertubes for flat tires and bar tape. Tune-ups are suggested every six months as well.
“Bike maintenance versus car maintenance is ridiculously cheap,” said Katie Cowley, 22, a fourth-year agriculture business major.
Safety is always a big issue in the sport of cycling. A bicyclist is most likely going to be the one hurt in an accident.
“The most obvious and important factor is the cars,” Boland said. “You need to be more vigilant and assume that cars can’t see you.”
Boland also cautions that roads are more slippery when it is raining so riders should slow down, especially around corners. “Think about the safety of everyone around you,” Boland said.
Bicycles are allowed on the Cal Poly campus, but there are restrictions and rules in place. Bicyclists are held to the same rules and obligations as those driving a car.
Bicyclists are not allowed on Poly View Drive outside of the C-5 parking lot because this is a “Walk Your Bike” zone and violators are subject to citation. They are also not allowed on sidewalks or outside of bicycle lanes when they are provided.
Bicycles are not allowed inside buildings or stairways on campus. They must be securely locked in bicycle racks and can not be parked where they impede pedestrian traffic or cause a hazard. Examples include sidewalks, lawn areas, stairs, or secured to lampposts.
A bicycle parked anywhere besides a bike rack will be impounded by the University Police Department and a fee will be required before it is released. Key operated bike lockers are located around campus and are rented out by the University Police Department annually. Storage of personal items other than bicycles is not permitted.
For those living on campus, bicycles must be licensed and registered with the University Police Department at no charge. Unclaimed, impounded or found bicycles of six months may be disposed of or sold through a Cal Poly auction.
With so many students walking around campus during the day, there are things new cyclists should watch out for to avoid an accident. Ride slower on roads and walk your bicycles in really crowded areas. Beware of students suddenly changing direction in front of you.
“You are more aware of your surroundings than people are of you,” Boland said.
With the parking situation worsening on and around campus, commuting on a bicycle is a great alternative.
“It’s great exercise and you don’t have to walk all those hills to get to class, you can just park your bike outside of the building,” Cowley said. “Also you meet people while parking your bike and strike up a conversation.”
Cal Poly has a bicycle club called the Wheelmen. There are around 80 to 100 members depending on the season. Fall season is for mountain biking while spring season is for road biking and takes place February through May.
There are three categories, ranging from beginning to professional for men and two categories for women. Every weekend there are different races hosted by different schools.
On Saturdays and Sundays, they also have different group rides around the county from San Luis Obispo. These are not competitive and are for recreation.
“The greatest thing is the culture,” said Wheelmen President Ken Hanson, a fifth-year nutritional science major. “Getting into cycling with a group of students where everyone likes to ride.”
This is Hanson’s fourth year with the Wheelmen. He got involved after a friend in his dorm heard about it and brought him to a meeting. He really fell in love with it after his first mountain biking competition held in Parkfield. He now competes in both mountain biking and road biking.
The Wheelmen really emphasizes self-sufficiency, Hanson said.
“The Wheelmen helps develop ethics, maintenance, knowledge and riding tips,” Hanson said.
Hanson encourages anyone who has the slightest amount of interest in bikes to come to one of their weekly meetings held Wednesday’s at 7 p.m.
“Come out and try to introduce yourself to members,” Hanson said. “Most importantly, don’t be intimidated because not everyone races. People who just like to ride for recreation are in the Wheelmen as well.”
There is a bicycle community outside of campus as well and plenty of bike enthusiasts to join. The bike community in San Luis Obispo is one that other cities should follow, Boland said.
“I think bike riders are the best people,” Boland said. “I never met a serious rider here that I didn’t like. People love to promote cycling in this town.”
Finding someone to ride with should not be hard with the Wheelmen, the Bike Coalition and the avid bike enthusiasts who work at the local bike shops.
“The key is to find someone to ride with and get out there and ride,” Ganache said. “The more time you spend on a bike, the easier it gets and the better rider you become.”
A bicycle is classified as a vehicle in town when it comes to laws and regulations. It is not allowed on sidewalks and unlike a car must ride in bike lanes. Many tickets are given to student commuters in the Foothill and Highland area, San Luis Obispo Police Department officer Colleen Kevany said.
“We have a real problem with bikes on the wrong side of the road or flying past someone’s driveway,” Kevany said.
Kevany also said students wearing headphones are a big problem because they can’t hear anything around them. By law, only one headphone is allowed in an ear while riding a bicycle.
Although riders may not be allowed to cruise town with music blasting from their headphones, there is still so much to look at while riding around town.
“SLO is a mecca. When I’m out riding around the county it’s therapeutic,” Boland said. “There’s almost nothing I would rather be doing.”
There are also little shops and gardens that most people don’t notice while in a car that are apparent while riding, Cowley said.