97.1 F

Davis, California

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

The history of biking culture in Davis

Students share advice for newcomers and favorite aspects of our bike-friendly town 


By ZOEY MORTAZAVI — features@theaggie.org


Davis is known to many people — far beyond just its residents — as a community that is centered around biking. In fact, Davis is widely considered the biking capital of the United States. We have plenty of local infrastructure based around biking, including many bike stores, repair shops and the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame. Much of Davis similarly takes inspiration from cycling, including its decor, local art and even community events.  

Davis is home to the very first bike lane that was implemented in the United States; it was created in July of 1967 and was then referred to as a “lane for the preferential use of bicyclists.”

Davis bike culture has skyrocketed in popularity since 1967. Now, the city hosts 102 miles of bike lanes, as well as 63 miles of additional pathways for bikers. A significant amount of the Davis community, both residents and UC Davis students, utilize their bikes as a primary form of transportation. 

UC Davis students quickly grow accustomed to the bike rules and practices once the school year starts, even if they’re not always using their bikes. The campus is filled with cyclists year-round, and even pedestrians have to learn the cyclist rules of the road in order to get around successfully. 

Ashley Rewa, a first-year neurobiology, physiology and behavior major, shared advice for incoming Davis students about adjusting to the fast-paced bike lifestyle.

“For me, biking around Davis makes the campus feel smaller and more approachable,” Rewa said. “With Davis being the biggest UC campus, walking from the Cuarto dorms to the library can feel like a really long time. But on my bike, it only takes 10 minutes.” 

Rewa also commented on how biking has improved her experiences as a student.

“Not only is biking convenient, but I think it’s something that makes Davis unique and fun,” Rewa said. “A quick bike ride across campus can go a long way [toward] clearing my head after a tough midterm or long lecture, too. My advice for incoming students is to make sure you know how to ride before you get here because bike traffic is no joke sometimes!” 

Today, 98% of the main streets in Davis have at least some form of bicycle provision, according to The Guardian. When new classes of students arrive in September, many have a difficult adjustment period during their first-year induction days. 

During the first few weeks of each new school year, upperclassmen have a tradition of gathering at campus intersections and cheering as inexperienced first-years crash into each other and struggle to adjust to the bike-specific roundabouts and lanes.

Grace Pei, a first-year biochemical engineering major, shared her opinions on Davis’ unique bike-based culture after getting used to it for the first few weeks.

“Bike culture at Davis has been so cool to see and be involved in,” Pei said. “I love how it is a unique factor to Davis and almost brings a sense of comfort as everyone is immersed in the same culture. Biking is a great way to get around, but it’s also important to be mindful of others by following biking guidelines. Trying to bike with other people can be difficult at first, so everyone should learn to be patient while riding.”

Pei continued by sharing some of her favorite activities as a student who bikes to class the majority of the time.

“I love to bike with friends, whether it be going downtown or visiting the Arboretum,” Pei said. “Biking around Davis, surrounded by nature and when there’s a light breeze, is an enjoyable experience that I think everyone should try once.” 

Our city’s logo is a highwheel bike, which was the first practical human-powered wheeled vehicle, and has become a recognizable symbol of Davis. 

Local organizations aim to educate residents about bike safety and infrastructure. A primary example is Bike Davis, a non-profit organization that hosts an annual “Loopalooza” bike ride throughout the city that is open to the public.

There are also many examples of bike-centered events and groups in Davis. Our downtown is even home to the “Bicycling Hall of Fame,” located in Central Park next to where the farmers market is held.  

Whether you are new to Davis or not, it is clear that biking holds a special place in the heart of the community. Students at Davis have reported that the city’s flourishing bike culture makes them feel closer to the community as a whole.

Hazel Henninger, a first-year history major, shared what makes Davis’ biking traditions so special. 

“It’s been so cute to see how Davis took our bike traditions and really ran with them,” Henninger said. “A lot of the town’s identity is based on bikes, and it’s been a really cool thing to be a part of. Seeing everyone on bikes or scooters to get around is a huge part of the charm of downtown and Davis as a whole.” 

She continued by sharing her main takeaways for incoming students who are uncertain about adjusting to Davis’ bike-centered environment.

 “Future Aggies should definitely prepare themselves by dusting off their biking skills,” Henninger said. “Falling off your bike or getting into a bike accident — or a couple — is all a part of the Davis experience. More than that, they should also be ready for a really charming environment with wholesome [bicycle] traditions that will make them appreciate Davis that much more.”


Written by: Zoey Mortazavi — features@theaggie.org 



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here