Marek Warszawski

He rode his bike to work, through the mean streets of Fresno, and lived to tell the tale

Last week I did something that will probably cause many of you to question my sanity — if that hasn’t happened already.

I rode my bike to work.

Gasp!

Guess what? Despite the lack of bike lanes for much of the route, potholes and cracked pavement and inattentive drivers with eyes locked on their cell phones instead of the road, I’ll do it again soon.

Why? Because the ride was enjoyable, relaxing and hassle free. And regardless of the hazards mentioned above, not once did I feel in any danger or experience any close calls. Maybe it was my lucky day.

My ride was inspired by a Mall to Hall event sponsored by the Fresno County Bicycle Coalition that I participated in (and wrote about) in honor of National Bike Month. Last week was Bike to Work Week, so I decided to get into the spirit.

During my 17 years living on the Figarden Loop, I used to bike to work fairly frequently. Weber Avenue, my primary route, is such a straight shot from northwest Fresno to The Bee newsroom on E Street downtown that it was actually shorter to ride than drive on Highway 99.

But since moving to Clovis four years ago, I hadn’t ridden to work once. There just didn’t seem to be any easy way.

Google Maps suggested three potential routes, each about 15 miles. I decided to take bike paths as far south as I could before heading west on Sierra Avenue. From there I’d turn south on Cedar Avenue, west on Princeton Avenue and south on Palm Avenue until hitting H Street and crossing the Union Pacific railroad tracks onto G Street near the main post office.

Sounds pretty simple, huh? OK, not really. But it would get me there.

To make things easier, I left my laptop computer and other items at work so I wouldn’t have to carry them. I also brought a change of clothes to work so I’d be able to shower (thankfully The Bee has showers and a locker room) and not spend the day wearing Lyrca.

Besides wearing a helmet and gloves, the only precaution I took was leaving the house at 8:30 a.m. — after peak rush hour — so there would be fewer cars on the road. At least in theory.

Of course, some things are beyond your control. On the morning of my ride the skies were covered with threatening clouds. Rain was the last thing I needed. Oh well.

EPZWARSZAWSKI_BIKETOWORK04
The Fresno Bee’s Marek Warszawski crosses railroad tracks as he nears the office Wednesday, May 15, 2019 in Fresno ERIC PAUL ZAMORA ezamora@fresnobee.com

The first 3.5 miles of my journey was familiar. I started on the Dry Creek Trail near my house before merging with the Old Town Clovis Trail. I passed fellow cyclists, joggers and moms pushing strollers. Besides intersections, there were no cars to contend with.

That changed when I veered onto Sierra Avenue, a two-lane road with bike lanes and not much traffic. The bike lanes vanish when you cross Willow Avenue into Fresno, but at least there’s a wide sidewalk on the south side of the street that borders Fresno State’s ag fields.

It was here that I saw a resident cross the street with two bags of potato chips that he fed to a flock of eager mallards. Lucky ducks.

Things got a little more hairy on Cedar Avenue, which has bike lanes that disappear whenever you approach an intersection. Guess city planners expect cyclists to disappear, too.

Despite that, my ride down Cedar was uneventful. I even had a driver wait for me to pass before she turned into 7-Eleven. She didn’t even look mad.

Google Maps advised me to take Princeton between Cedar and Palm, a decision I almost immediately regretted. Even though Princeton is a quiet residential street, the pavement was so cracked and broken that I had to be careful or risk a flat.

EPZWARSZAWSKI_BIKETOWORK01
The Fresno Bee’s Marek Warszawski rode his bike to work in recognition of Bike To Work Week, photographed Wednesday, May 15, 2019 in Fresno. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA ezamora@fresnobee.com

At one point I veered onto Michigan Avenue in order to cross the Dry Creek Canal. Which, incidentally, is the canal where the Midtown Trail is supposed to go.

Remember the Midtown Trail? Former Mayor Ashley Swearengin announced the creation of the 7.1-mile bike and pedestrian trail to considerable fanfare in June 2016. Three years later, not an inch has been built.

The last segment of my ride, taking Palm southbound toward downtown, proved the most sketchy. There are no bike lanes on this section of Palm and the street is narrow until McKinley Avenue. Unfortunately, the wider the road gets the worse the pavement becomes. It’s especially bad around H Street.

All in all, the 15.5-mile ride took me 1 hour and 10 minutes — a little quicker than Google told me it would. Along the way I crossed 26 stoplights, two railroad tracks and three canals.

And the timing worked out great. By the time I turned into The Bee parking lot, the first raindrops splattered on my helmet.

According to a 2016 survey by the League of American Cyclists, only 0.7 percent of Fresno’s commuters ride their bikes to work. (Frankly I’m surprised it’s that high.) For one day, I was glad to swell the ranks.

Related stories from Fresno Bee

Marek Warszawski writes opinion columns on news, politics, sports and quality of life issues for The Fresno Bee, where he has worked since 1998. He is a Bay Area native, a UC Davis graduate and lifelong Sierra frolicker. He welcomes discourse with readers but does not suffer fools nor trolls.
  Comments