Carless in Corvallis

JeevanBikeStoryIn 2011, the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that Corvallis has the highest percentage of bicycle commuters in any city with more than 50,000 residents in the nation. Erica and Vivek Jeevan are two local residents who proudly represent that statistic and even take it a step further.

“We bike mostly because of environmental concerns,” Erica said. “Our other reasons to bike are that it is healthier, financially beneficial, and a safer mode of transportation.”

The husband and wife bike an average of three miles a day for errands and round trip to work at Good Samaritan Hospital, where he is a medical physicist, and she is a registered nurse. But that doesn’t begin to tell their story as dedicated bicyclists.

Vivek hasn’t been behind the wheel of a car for five years and didn’t really drive much before that. How far would he go to live a car-free lifestyle?

Well, he denied himself the legal right to drive.

“I biked while having a driver’s license for awhile and still people expected that I should drive. I wanted to get rid of that expectation, and so I returned my license to the DMV. Needless to say they were a little confused,” Vivek said.

Though she still has a driver’s license, Erica followed his lead shortly after, and has been car-free for nearly four years now. It’s a decision she, too, doesn’t regret.

“I remember when I sold my car I felt this huge burden was lifted off my shoulders. I would never have to think again about car problems, and later I would realize the financial gains of not owning a car,” Erica said.

To the average driver, it’s probably difficult to imagine not having a vehicle to travel long distances, or a trunk, truck bed, or backseat to store groceries and other items. Plus, it’s always a good idea to have a backup mode of transportation, if unforeseen issues occur with the bike.

However, Erica and Vivek have all of their bases covered for just such cases, none of which include relying on a car.

“Corvallis is a town that is easy to get around in. At first, it requires a little bit of planning, but you get the hang of it and soon it becomes easier than driving,” Erica said.

If they need to travel to Portland or out of town, they usually catch the HUT Shuttle or take the train. Worst case scenario, Erica is willing to rent a car, which is a reason she kept her license. If their bikes go kaput they both have a spare bike in the garage to fill the void. Vivek has also learned how to fix almost anything on a bike.

The two once bought a large metal storage rack at Home Depot and didn’t have to bother paying a delivery fee, since Vivek installed a trailer behind his spare bike to haul the rack home. They’re truly prepared for everything.

It’s no surprise Corvallis is widely considered a bike-friendly city, especially compared to surrounding areas. The Jeevans are satisfied overall with their commute here, but admit improvements could be made to accommodate bicyclists more.

“Bicyclists still make up a small percentage on the road, but we feel there should be more education about cyclists’ rights and safety. Unfortunately, even in Corvallis bicyclists’ rights are overlooked or ignored,” Vivek said.

“We believe that communities should set up a less car-dependent society. Biking is not an option for everyone, but proper public transportation and city infrastructure should be concerns within a community,” Erica added.

If Corvallis continues to fulfill its end of the bargain, so, too, will bicyclists like the Jeevans.

by Patrick Fancher