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LIFE ON WHEELS

Pair Pedal Stress Away by Cycling to Work--and They Never Get Sick

September 15, 1988|JAN HOFFMAN | Jan Hofmann is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

If you ever find yourself headed toward Los Angeles on the San Diego Freeway some rainy morning about 7:30, see if you can spot a frustrated-looking fellow in a Mitsubishi Starion waving his arms and cursing.

That just might be Gary Dye of Huntington Beach.

Fortunately, rainy days are about the only time he has to contend with traffic. The rest of the time, he leaves the Starion in the garage and commutes to his job as a chemical engineer in Carson by bicycle.

Even though it takes him 20 minutes to a half-hour longer to pedal than it would to drive, even though he's been hit "a couple of times" and he's constantly aware of the danger of being hit again, Dye says he much prefers his bike to his car.

Dye, 29, has been commuting by bicycle since he was in college in his native Oregon. After working in Washington state, he was transferred here 2 1/2 years ago.

"When I was transferred down here, I thought I would have to give up bicycling because I'd heard everybody drives here. But then I discovered the bike trails, the Santa Ana River trail, etc., and actually, I'm able to bike just as much here because of the better weather. And I think it's safer here, because of the trails and because people are more bike-conscious. You don't have guys driving pickup trucks trying to run you off the road."

"When I've had people in my car, especially like dates, they have noticed that I frequently tend to get upset at other drivers, shouting obscenities, pointing out the wrong things that they do," he says.

On his bike, he's not as aggressive, perhaps because he's so aware that his 25-pound vehicle doesn't offer him much protection.

But so far, he has been lucky. Even though he has been hit by a bus ("actually, I hit him"), a car and a pickup truck, his only injuries were bruises.

Claude Jacques of Orange doesn't let rain stop him. He bought his first 10-speed bike shortly after moving here from Chicago in 1971 and "for the past 17 years I've had three bicycles stolen and worn out four more. Since that time, I have cycled daily for exercise, transportation and relaxation."

Jacques, who is now a counselor with the county Probation Department, says he keeps pedaling "come Santa Ana winds, rain, cold, heat and smoggy traffic."

You have to be in good shape starting out to commute by bike, but if you can get going, both Dye and Jacques say, the health benefits multiply. Both men say they never get sick. And cycling, they say, also helps reduce stress.

"It gives me a chance to unwind," Dye says. "I do a lot of thinking; I get a lot of ideas, and I work on them riding my bike home."

"Stress is an unknown concern (for cyclists),"Jacques says.

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