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For local cyclists, commuting challenge is year-round task

Portlands Bicycle Transportation Alliance event draws riders from Cornelius, Forest Grove


by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: JILL SMITH - Neela Kale doesnt like driving, so she bikes to her job in Cornelius from Beaverton every day. Occasionally, shell take the bus or MAX home at night. Every September, the Portland-based Bicycle Transportation Alliance tries to reduce traffic congestion by recruiting new people to exchange driving for biking through its annual Bike Commute Challenge.

Last year, the challenge drew 11,745 people connected to 1,395 workplace teams. In Washington County, many participants were from corporate giants Nike and Intel, which are playing up a “Nerds vs. Jocks” rivalry this year.

West of Hillsboro, the participation is softer, with only three “teams” registered for the challenge. One of those appears to be a Viasystems team that never got off the ground.

Another is the one-woman “team” of Neela Kale, director of religious education for St. Alexander Catholic Church in Cornelius.

Kale, 33, bikes from Beaverton to Cornelius every day, a 14-mile, hour-long trip that she does even in the pouring rain.

“You have to get really solid raingear for that,” said Kale, who started using her bike in graduate school in 2005 and continues because she doesn’t like to drive.

Plus, “it’s good for the environment, it’s fun, it’s active,” she said.

The third team is composed of several city employees in Forest Grove—two of whom commute regularly even without the bike challenge.

They sign up “mainly just to support the idea,” said Public Works Director Rob Foster, who is registered as the team captain.

The “assistant captain” would be Derek Robbins, with Parks and Recreation Director Tom Gamble, Human Resources Director Brenda Camilli and a few other employees participating to different degrees over the years.

Foster said he knows some police and fire employees ride their bikes too, but he doesn’t know them well enough to recruit them for the team.

“We’re the diehards,” Foster said of himself and Robbins.

Both have commuted regularly for a decade or more, summer and winter, although weather occasionally stops Foster.

“Derek rides in rain,” Foster said. “He’s fully equipped with wet-weather gear. Plus, he’s a horse. He can really move. I tend to chicken out a little bit.”

Robbins has the longer commute, about 12 miles from his home in Hillsboro.

Foster lives just three miles away, a mere 10-minute trip to work. But it takes five minutes longer for him to get home because he lives at the top of the Forest Gale Heights hill.

“There’s 200 feet of climb just getting into my neighborhood,” he said.

For more information or to sign up for the Bike Commute Challenge, go to bikecommutechallenge.com.




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