Kelly Maestri, a staff member with Strategic Communications at UCLA, counts her bike blessings. Commuting by car around L.A. for over two decades, Kelly joined the Earn-A-Bike program and went from driving to campus to riding a bike that she received *free* from UCLA for turning in her parking permit.
Available to employee and graduate student participants who qualify, the program offers an economical, sustainable, and healthy alternative to driving alone. Described as the ultimate me time, Kelly says bike riding seriously lifts her mood. Here’s more on how skipping the car commute went.
Where are you commuting from?
I live in Silverlake which is about a 13-mile commute to UCLA. It can take between 45 minutes to two hours one way (seriously).
Why did you apply for Earn-A-Bike?
I was maxed out on driving and kept seeing research about the negative health effects of commuting. It was time to take a chance on a different commuter solution, so I was excited to take advantage of this program.
Any hesitation about returning your parking permit?
I had a Blue Permit which was terrific because I could park anywhere on campus. But, even if I gave up my swank permit, I knew I could buy a day pass if needed, so it didn't feel too scary to let it go.
How did you find the application process?
Applying for Earn-A-Bike was very easy and the customer service team was super helpful.
How did it feel to receive the bike package and go on your first ride?
Getting the bike package was exciting. Like being a little kid and getting a new bike! I practiced the commute on a weekend before the first ride to work so I could figure out the best route. At first, I was slightly terrified of doing it by myself, but it was super easy. I made sure I was highly visible by wearing bright cycling gear and having flashing lights on the front and back of my bike because I was commuting on major streets like Wilshire Blvd.
I wanted to tell everyone how cool it was to ride a bike to work. I got a gym membership where I could shower before heading into the office. And I figured out how to stitch together the bike ride to work with taking public transportation home after especially long days when I didn’t feel like biking back.
Why should other commuters give an alternative transportation choice a try?
Simply put, you'll be healthier, save money, and save the planet!
Getting out of our cars means we're engaging with humans we might never otherwise encounter. Sometimes it is on the bike. Like the time I stopped to help a homeless guy fix his own bike. And sometimes it's on the bus or train where we can relax and watch Netflix while someone else drives.
Getting out of our bubbles can be refreshing, making for a more diverse experience. And it makes us more grateful for what we have. Like a free bike from UCLA!