Ahead of Bike to Work Day, we’re excited to congratulate Maria Stokes, San Francisco’s Bike Commuter of the Year! Maria inspires others to bike with her commitment to commuting daily between the Richmond and her job in Dogpatch. She shares her love of cycling with her husband and two kids, all of whom also regularly commute by bike. We sat down with Maria to find out what keeps her pedaling all these years.
SF Bicycle Coalition: Why did you start biking to work?
Maria: I have been biking to work for more than 20 years and started when I was in New York City, biking across the Brooklyn Bridge to my first job at a PR agency in Manhattan. I bike for so many reasons: for my health, for the environment, to beat traffic, to reduce stress and for fun! With the way that traffic is in SF these days, biking is actually the fastest way for me to commute across town. And, with two young kids, who has time to go to the gym?
How does biking impact your day?
Biking is the perfect way to start my day. Coffee can’t compare! My ride to work at the SF-Marin Food Bank gets my heart pumping and kickstarts my creativity. Whenever possible, I bike to business meetings around town. After a hectic day, biking home helps me decompress, reflect and transition into family time. On my way home, I pick up my kids at school, and we bike the last half mile together.
What changes have you seen in terms of infrastructure and the number of people biking in the last 20 years?
The changes have been remarkable. I’ve seen changes at every mile of my commute during the last few years, including better traffic/bike signals, more bike lanes, wider bike lanes and more bike lanes separated from traffic. The corresponding boost in people biking has been great; I think there is safety in numbers when it comes to people driving being alert and folks biking. Through all of the improvements, the SF Bicycle Coalition has been a considerable force. I am a proud supporter and so thankful for the changes that SF Bicycle Coalition has brought about that make our city a great place to bike.
Do other members of your family bike?
Yes, my husband is an attorney at The Trust for Public Land and he bike commutes, too. We have been biking our kids to and from school since they were in preschool. My husband takes care of drop off and and picking up the kids from after-school care. With all of the craziness of raising little kids, we were pleasantly surprised that our kids (now 9 and 11) could become a part of our daily biking routine.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about bike commuting?
Give it a go! Start on a beautiful spring day and give yourself plenty of time so you can enjoy the ride and take it all in. After a couple of rides, you’ll be hooked. SF is not as hilly as you think! Plus, the clever people who make bike maps and apps have figured out the flattest routes.
Bike to Work Day is coming up soon on Thursday, May 11. To see where you can pick-up a free bag of goodies along your commute, or to RSVP to join your neighbors and community leaders on a morning ride to the City Hall rally, check out sfbike.org/btwd.