Bike winner agrees to crank out riding blog
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SF State’s cycling activists said they believe their latest contest winner will follow through on his commitment to not use a car for a year and report his experiences in a Web blog.

Luis Silva, an English major, won a black Fuji bicycle from SF State’s Bicycle Advocacy Group and local bike shop Ocean Cyclery. The student group, dedicated to promoting bicycling as a mode of everyday transportation, selected Silva out of more than 200 contestants.

Student bicycle enthusiasts entered the contest Oct. 15 during this semester’s Bike to School Day, which saw more than 300 students park their bicycles in the quad for a day. “We got an enthusiastic response by passersby. A lot of people wished that we could do it every day,” said Randall Orr, member of BAG.

Orr and other BAG members pared the submissions—short essays describing why entrants wanted the bicycle and to live car-free for a year—to eight finalists and picked Silva’s randomly from those. The group awarded him the bicycle, donated by Ocean Cyclery, shortly before Thanksgiving break, Orr said.

Though this is the third time a student has won a bicycle from a Bike to School Day event, it is only the second time the winner had to promise not to use a car for a year. This semester’s contest was the first to ask entrants for a written piece, and it specifically asked the winner to write about the experience at least twice monthly on a Web blog.

“We wanted to make sure we got someone who was really dedicated to blogging. [Silva] seems enthusiastic about biking and about blogging.” Orr said.

Conversely, the output from previous winner Sarah Wang—three posts since April—was “a little disappointing because Ocean Cyclery was very generous in donating the bike…and the goals for the contest were not met,” Orr said.

The store and students involved in the contest wanted to read the ups and downs of Wang’s experience with bicycle travel and use it to promote “biking and other forms of sustainable transport,” Orr said. Without regular feedback, though, “we don’t know if she’s riding or not. I hope she’s getting a lot of use out of it,” he said.

By contrast, Silva has already posted twice on his We blog at http://prettysmartbiker.blogspot.com/, entitled “Too Pretty to Walk, Too Smart to Drive.” He said he will continue posting at least twice a month, but “it should be more frequent than that. I enjoy riding and I enjoy writing about my riding.”

Silva said he wrote his short essay on “the oppression that suburbia has due to cars.” In his home city of San Jose, “larger than SF in population but with no centralized area, it was very oppressive without a car,” he said, whereas “a bike is just a natural extension of independence. You can just hop on and go where you need to go.”

So far, bicycling from his current home in the Lower Haight neighborhood is “definitely a little bit trying to ride, since it’s a single-speed and there are crazy hills in San Francisco,” Silva said. Overall, though, “it’s been pretty amazing. I feel better because I’m getting more physical exercise. It’s pretty good to know I can get from place to place. It sounds pretty simplistic, but it’s a pretty good feeling.”

Silva said he still sometimes takes his bicycle onto MUNI for part of his school trip, but “my goal is to use only my bicycle as my mode of transportation. It’s definitely on my checklist of things to do.”

Omitting car trips has not yet posed a big challenge, thanks to public transportation, Silva said. To see his family in San Jose for Thanksgiving, he took Caltrain into the city “and I biked my way from there, which wasn’t so hard,” he said.

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