If you're driving on Stanley Boulevard today, keep an eye out for cyclist Jim Ott. The Pleasanton resident and school board trustee is pedaling the seven miles to and from his workplace in Livermore to support the efforts of his Be the Change Cyclists team.
Today is the Bay Area's 16th Annual Bike to Work Day, but it's just another typical day for Ott. He's a regular on the bike lane, frequently choosing to cycle to his job as the CEO of Uncle Credit Union and to other places around town.
Ott founded the local group Be the Change Cyclists in April 2009 to encourage Tri-Valley residents to make their local commute on two wheels.
"When we put it all together, in terms of a team, we can really make a difference," said Ott.
According to Ott, the group has collectively cycled 10,986 miles over the past year, saving 1,800 car trips and 10,656 pounds of carbon emissions. The group's name is inspired by Ghandi's words, "Be the change you want to see in the world."
The 34-member group began with Ott, his wife Pamela and daughter Melissa, and a couple of cycling buddies. It now includes local businesspeople, attorneys, city workers, teachers, families and retired residents.
Members bike regularly to work and school.
“Cycling to school is a way that I can show other people how easy and fun it can be to think more about our environment and learn to live in a non-polluting way,” said Melissa Ott.
Group member Steve Sherman remembers training for his first triathlon in 1982 by riding a 50-pound orange 10-speed bike to a summer job at the Santa Cruz boardwalk. Now a Pleasanton attorney and long-time cyclist, Sherman bikes the two miles to his work as often as he can.
"You feel like you're trying to help keep a car off the road," he said. "I feel like I'm doing something positive."
Sherman rides his mountain bike and wears lightweight outer gear to protect his work clothes.
"People will be pleasantly surprised with how they can make this happen," he said. "Just start with one or two easy rides to work, and the great feeling will help to keep the momentum going."
Be the Change Cyclists members connect online, sending weekly updates on the number of times each member rides to work. Ott keeps track of the collective effort, and urges new cyclists not be to be discouraged by perceived obstacles.
Members don't have to ride every day, or ride hard enough to break a sweat, he says. Cyclists may contact Alameda County Guaranteed Ride Home Program, which provides free transportation home from work in the case of an emergency.
Many of the group's members are active in the community, serving on city boards and commissions.
Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti was among the original members of the group. Sbranti said because of his schedule, he doesn't get to ride his bike as much as he'd like to, though being part of the group has inspired him.
"Every little bit helps," said Sbranti.
Ott encourages Pleasanton residents to join Be the Change Cyclists online and on the road, even after Bike to Work Day has come and gone.
"We've got to set the example ourselves," he told friends when he founded the group. "There's no magic to it- we just need to be that change."
Melissa Ott is a Pleasanton Patch youth contributor.