Photo: Spin Cycle: Chris Wilcox of Light and Motion is a de facto spokesman for the joys of bicycling to work.

Photographer: Randy Tunnell

Chris Wilcox knows he''s lucky. Looking out his Cannery Row office window on a break from his job at Light & Motion, a bike light and underwater camera gear company, Wilcox spots a whale. A black cormorant perches on the peeling weathered wood siding of the 1930s cannery built on piers over the water. It''s obviously an exceptional environment for an office job, but for Wilcox and many of the other employees, getting to work is just as an important part of the day as actually being there.

Today, like almost every other day for the past three years, Wilcox left home in Carmel on his Lightspeed mountain bike, equipped with semi-slick tires for the roads, and rode six miles past traffic on bike paths and busy streets to Cannery Row. If he needs to, Wilcox can make it there in 20 minutes.

"It would take me the same time to drive my car, find parking, then walk to work from my car," he says. "It''s just perceived as far."

Some days, Wilcox leaves home a little earlier and takes the scenic route through Pebble Beach. Arriving at work, Wilcox hangs his bike next to the other cycles inside the cannery, and if he''s sweat-soaked, cleans up in the shower his employers provide.

For Wilcox, the benefits of sustainable commuting are manifold. The most important, he says, is reducing the impact on the environment.

"We don''t have to be married to our cars," he says. "Alternative forms of commuting means less traffic, less oil being used, less wear and tear on your car."

There are also the benefits of getting to know his town at a slower pace.

"I know every side street in Monterey," he says. "You get to know where you live and get a feel for a place-the smells and the sounds-at a different speed."

An avid surfer and snowboarder, Wilcox finds that he doesn''t have to worry about making time to keep in shape. "Cycling to work provides the base of fitness for all the activities I like to do," he says.

It worked for Wilcox''s fiancee, Val Gaino. Inspired by Wilcox''s example, Gaino started riding her bike from Carmel to classes at CSUMB twice a week, and won first place in her second race ever, the Beginner''s XC event at the Sea Otter Classic this year.

"I try to convert everyone around me," Wilcox acknowledges.

Indeed, having the support of friends and employers seems crucial to maintaining the commitment to alternative transit.

For the past four years, Light & Motion has been a sponsor of Bike Week, among other community cycling events. Part of May''s Clean Air Month, Bike Week runs May 12-May 19th, and includes organized rides, bike safety and helmet checks, and free bike licensing. On Thursday, May 16, riders participating in Bike to Work/School Day can have a free breakfast and massage at various Monterey county locations, and win prizes up to $1,000.

Kyrrha Sevco, Program Administrator for Commute Alternatives, a Bike Week organizer, works with employers year-round to set up incentive programs. Some are obvious perks, like providing showers and bicycle racks for riders. Others are financial.

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Commute Alternatives, part of AMBAG, or Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments, organizes and helps pay for van pools, loans out electric bicycles for employers to try, and offers an emergency ride home program for those reluctant to totally depend on their own two feet. There are also employer and employee tax benefits, discounted or free parking for carpoolers and mass transit riders, as well as flat out cash.

Light & Motion gives Wilcox an extra $15 per paycheck for committing to riding to work four out of five days a week.

Commute Alternatives offers practical tips that make walking, carpooling, vanpooling, mass transit, cycling and telecommuting viable options for the faint-hearted.

"If you have to dress up for work, plan ahead, take a week''s worth of clothes and leave them at the office, and ride your bike the other days," Sevco says.

Or if you''re afraid of a little sweat, you can just cycle more slowly. Almost every day, as Wilcox heads up the Carpenter Street hill in Carmel, he passes a middle-aged woman on a cruiser in full makeup, hairdo, and flowing skirt, patiently pedaling to work. "You don''t need a high-end bike to ride to work," Wilcox points out.

Wilcox recently signed on to represent Carmel in a Citizen''s Advisory Committee to the Transportation Association of Monterey County. He reports on, among other things, dangerous areas for cyclists, and to try to expand bike lanes and bike paths.

"It''s in the works to extend the bike path all the way to Santa Cruz," he says. "My dream is that it will go all the way to Half Moon Bay. They shouldn''t build communities without bike accessibility."

Contact Commute Alternatives at 831-883-3750 for more information or visit www.cleanairmonth.com

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