Roll With It

Commuting the capital by bike

Back Article Sep 1, 2012 By Douglas Curley

Jim Hartley’s morning commute is more scenic than most. The 18-mile route follows residential streets devoid of traffic lights and includes a view over the American River from the Hazel Avenue bridge.

“As I crossed the bridge this morning and looked over at Nimbus Dam and Lake Natoma, there was this row of clouds resting above the Sierra. They were illuminated, backlit by the sunrise. The golden hue was almost other worldly,” he says. “I’ll bet no one driving a car, focused on the road and traffic, saw what I saw.”

Jim Hartley is 54, the vice president of CH2M Hill and an avid cyclist. He lives in eastern Sacramento County, works in South Natomas and prefers to make the trek by bike or public transit. Depending on traffic, the commute takes 45 minutes to more than an hour if he drives. If he rides his bike or light rail, it takes an hour and a half. The express bus takes an hour.

About six years ago, Hartley began using mass transit when his schedule allowed. Two years ago, he added bike riding into the mix.

“I had long been a fan of taking the Capitol Corridor (train) and riding [Bay Area Rapid Transit] when I had business in the Bay Area. And then it hit me: Why couldn’t I do the same thing here?’” he says.

Besides saving gas money, he says he now fills up his Camry just once or twice a month instead of weekly. Public transportation allows time for reading, while the bike commute keeps him in shape and offers tranquility. But his alternative commute doesn’t come without challenges.

“Without my bike, light rail is not an option. There is not a viable bus feeder line from the station to my home,” he says. “There’s also the issue of whether or not there is room for your bike on light rail or [a Regional Transit] bus.”

Hartley is the first to proclaim that he’s not an anti-car, pro-biking, transit-taking radical. He just likes taking advantage of the opportunities afforded him.

“I couldn’t ride 25 miles if I didn’t have a shower at the office. In the summer, if it’s over 90 degrees, I don’t ride. If it’s raining or below 40 degrees, I can’t bike either.”

Still, with these self-imposed temperature limitations, Hartley says he averages 70 to 90 miles a week during warm weather months and 40 to 50 miles a week during winter months. Just enough, he says, to keep him in shape without joining a gym.

When not on his bike, he remains a big fan of Regional Transit.

“Given recent budget restrictions, the express route that runs through South Natomas and the numerous connector lines through downtown, I believe what RT provides is a huge success story.”

Recommended For You