Yesterday, I asked readers to send along their best photo assignments for a project we call the People’s Photographer. We quickly got a message from the Twitter account for Bike San Diego: “@voiceofsandiego cyclists in the region. Everyone who commutes on their own power.”
I liked the idea. As someone who drives every day by necessity, I often envy those who pedal to work and wonder how they navigate our city streets.
I asked them to direct me to someone who bikes to work. After a brief Twitter exchange, they set me up with Chris Kluth.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Kluth and his two blond boys set out from their North Park home by bike. Karsten, 9, and Kai, 6, both attend Albert Einstein Academy, about two miles south of the family’s home.
This morning, the boys donned their helmets, and Kai insisted on getting his Fox biking gloves, before heading off for a quick 15-minute ride to school. Karsten quickly pedaled ahead of his dad and younger brother, who rides tandem with his father. They flew down the alleyway behind their house, and in moments, they were around the corner and out of sight.
Minutes later, they’d arrived at school. Kluth helped Karsten lock up his bike before heading off to work himself. There, he has bikes on the brain, as well. As a senior planner for the San Diego Association of Governments, he’s in charge of the organization’s Active Transportation Plan.
So as he bikes to work, takes his kids to school, or cruises the neighborhood on the weekends, he gets perspective that helps plan projects to make bicycle riding more accessible.
“It is sort of part of my job,” he says, standing in front of his kids’ school. “You have to get out there and walk the walk and see what the conditions are and what people have to deal with on a realisitic level.”
Kluth has biked to work in every city he’s lived in, regardless of road conditions. In San Diego, he’s commuted to work on a bike every day for nine years. Standing in front of his kids’ school, I ask him to give San Diego’s bikeability a letter grade, from his first-hand experience.
“I’d give San Diego, overall, alright, I’ll give it a B-,” he said. “We’re not fulfilling our potential as the teachers would say.”
But, he says, there are a lot of projects that can help San Diego “get over the hump.” With Sandag, he’s working to creating both bike trails and “bike boulevards” — corridors that will help connect San Diego’s urban neighborhoods, all the way from La Mesa to downtown San Diego.
“We’re a lot better than average, but there’s a lot of things we can do to make it better here.”
For now, Kluth says he can happily and safely take his young boys to school in the morning, even when they protest. While they usually love to jump on their bikes in the morning, they’ll occasionally ask if they can just hop in the car with mom. What does Kluth tell them?
“Tough,” he says.
Here are some more photos of the family ride this morning.
I’m a photojournalist at voiceofsandiego.org. You can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619.550.5664.
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