Berkeley biking bliss

Illustration of a girl biking through a sky of kites
Jericho Tang/Staff

Riding a bike feels enlightening, and I’m convinced that riding bikes is one of the pillars of meaning in my life.

The year before college started, I contemplated purchasing an electric bike. After hearing that walking is often sufficient for Berkeley’s compact campus, I ultimately did not go for it. Friends said to me again and again, “You won’t need it. The bus works. Bikes get stolen.”

I forgot why I bought a $79 bike at Walmart in spring 2018. Nobody knows what prompted that decision, but something in my heart just said, “Let’s give it a try.”

Three years later, I can say with certainty that getting a bike is one of the best decisions I’ve made during my college career. It has elevated my quality of life in numerous ways.

Not only does biking get me to destinations faster than walking does, but it’s also reliable. If I must get somewhere faster, I’ll just pedal proportionately harder. Luckily for us, our campus has pretty good bike infrastructure, and the city of Berkeley, by U.S. standards, is also ranked as an excellent city for biking.

The mobility that biking has afforded me has allowed me to explore and see so much of the world outside my home. 

Whenever I need a breather, I head down Virginia Bike Boulevard and arrive at the Berkeley Marina within 20 minutes. Because the route is entirely downhill, there’s no pedaling required. 

I speed through colorful houses, local shops and lots of plants on the bumpy road.

Once close to the water, I get off my bike and stroll near the water. People frequently throw barbecue parties, and I think, “Maybe I should ask them if I can have some.”

I go to the edge of the water facing San Francisco. I sit by a picnic table, inhaling the salty air and watching the foggy city. Occasionally, there are some open water swimmers or ducks to admire. 

I’m usually by myself, though sometimes my housemates join me. 

“Ah, what great weather. Look at the streaks in the sky,” I’ll often say. I frequently time my bike rides so that I can watch the sunset. It never disappoints.

The Berkeley Marina connects to the SF Bay Trail, a partially finished trail that allows for continuous travel around the shoreline of San Francisco Bay. I’ve completed many stretches of it, and have had great memories riding along it.

To date, one of my favorite bike rides was following the Bay Trail to attend the Berkeley Kite Festival. 

My father and I parked at Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline, San Leandro. As soon as we got our tangled bikes off the car, we started riding through the warm weather. Here’s a good tip: Bikes keep things breezy, as riding them slightly balances out the heat. 

We passed by the Oakland airport, and I got to see the modern BART connector to the Oakland International Airport. At the time, I thought it was some kind of future BART prototype. We turned in and out of parks and crossed boulevards. We arrived in Oakland to admire the residential neighborhoods and community activities. Along Emeryville, we saw Snoopy by the Bay Trail.

The coastal wind was extra strong, and it blew against my body, making it harder to pedal. Nevertheless, the combination of sun, fellow bikers, and high moods galvanized us to keep going.

We finally reached the Kite Festival held at the Berkeley Marina, and because so many people chose to bike, bike parking was scarce. We found a random fence to lock our bikes to and continued enjoying the afternoon.

The kite festival was breathtaking: Hundreds of kites of varying colors and designs flew in the sky, painting the sky into an aquarium. In the middle, there were synchronized kite performances, grateful and fierce. The event organizers even had candy drops for kids. I very much felt tempted to run in and grab some candy for myself. 

After a full day of admiring kites, we rode our bikes home.

Biking is such a fantastic way to see the city. Biking is so perfect because it allows you to cover more ground than walking, but you’re still able to stop whenever you want.

Outside of the amazing outdoors, I’ve found an incredible biking community in the East Bay. I’ve received free community education through Bike East Bay and taken its urban cycling courses. Our campus has a bicycle co-op that helped me fix my bike for free (you only pay for parts). You can also take its decal or learn bike maintenance by volunteering at the shop. Members of Cal Cycling have taken me on fun trips, such as a 60-mile bike loop to San Francisco. 

Biking has enriched my life in so many ways. Berkeley wouldn’t be Berkeley without my bike.

Shuge Luo is a student at UC Berkeley. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.