The fantasy football craze unfortunately sums up the average American adult’s involvement in sports. We don’t get real. We wear Kobe’s jersey or our favorite team caps. We watch the games, bet on the games, read about the celebrities who play the games. These pursuits are not bad in themselves, but all too often they pull us from being really, truly alive in our own bodies. We avoid the physical exertion that we are capable of; indeed, that our bodies are designed for. We overlook this laxity, our own significant contribution to the national healthcare crisis.
I am a decidedly average American adult, but I have become committed to a physical activity that enhances my vigor, saves money, and makes for cleaner air. I ride a bicycle.
I do not consider myself a zealot. I ride in cotton and sandals, not spandex and clip-on shoes. I’ve never joined a peloton. My riding is purely practical. It propels me to the store, the post office, the library, the beach, to an event at UCSB-usually between six and 16 miles a day.
I feel more in control of my safety while cycling around town than I do driving on freeways. I’ve learned to anticipate when a car is going to turn right in front of me-don’t count on a signal-and at intersections, I prefer to yield to drivers, it always being beneficial to get out of the way of their grilles. The separate bike paths are wonderful. I love the Obern Trail that follows the creek to Goleta Beach.
There are people looking out for me. The Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition (SBBC), one of the first local organizations to have a Web site (sbbike.org), has been around for almost two decades. It describes itself as “a countywide advocacy and resource organization that promotes bicycling for safe transportation and recreation.” It is behind many improvements like the bike path over Ortega Hill.
Ralph Fertig, the president of the SBBC, is well armed with facts and figures that reveal the value of bicycling in the community. He points out that through sales taxes, bicyclists “pay more for their little section of the road” than do motorists, and they cause little damage to the roadways. They do not require vast acres of paved parking. The coalition does an annual survey of bicycling traffic in the City of Santa Barbara, and in June it showed a 16-percent increase in the number of riders over the previous four years. Still, Fertig says, it takes “time and perseverance” to secure funding for bicycle projects.
In matters of safety, Fertig emphasizes responsible behavior by bicyclists. Since he has logged 100,000 biking miles without a car crash, he must be on to something. He recommends the SBBC’s CycleSmart program, which teaches street skills in a two-part class. The next sessions are September 17 and 19. Another program offered by the coalition is Bici Centro, which covers all aspects of the bicycling lifestyle.
Bicycling is a sport, too, and at the high end it’s like a fantasy world-the Alberto Contadors and Lance Armstrongs averaging 25 miles per hour as they tear through 2,000 miles of France and adjoining countries in three weeks. Santa Barbara has several racing clubs, including the Kalyra women’s team that cleaned up this summer at the U.S.A. Cycling Masters National Championships in Louisville. Next year, the pink-clad team plans to attack the women’s record in the Race Across America.
Besides racing, there’s touring, and nobody did it better this summer than Santa Barbara’s 70-year-old Frank Schipper, who pedaled home from Virginia-a meandering trip of 4,285 miles that took him three months. By soliciting pledges, Schipper raised more than $30,000 for charity.
As for myself, I’m proud to put in my few miles a day. I still have time for fantasy football.
GAMES OF THE WEEK: It’s the Big Ten against the Big West tonight (Thu., Sept. 3) when Michigan State faces UCSB in a women’s soccer game (7pm at Harder Stadium). Both teams appeared in the 2008 NCAA tournament. : High school football kicks off locally Friday night with a traditional rivalry: The Santa Ynez Pirates visit the Carpinteria Warriors at 7:30 p.m. : The championship match of the Bombardier Pacific Coast Open polo tournament will be played at 2 p.m. Sunday at the club in Carpinteria. Still in the hunt for the prestigious trophy this week were semifinalists Mansour, ERG, Grant’s Farm, and Patagones. Audi Polo, the squad that swept all the high-goal tournaments last year, was surprisingly knocked out of contention last Sunday.
For more sports, including a weekly highlight schedule, see independent.com/sports.