Don Lubach constantly seems to be in a million places at once. Sometimes he’s leading a lecture in one of his famed undergraduate courses. Other times he’s rushing from meeting to meeting with administrators and students, always with a massive grin across his face. Where we like to catch him is on his modified Bianchi city bike, commuting around Santa Barbara car-free.
Don – who is approaching age 50 – has “enjoyed bicycling all the way through life.” (Recently he found a picture of himself with his first bike at age six.) While some people may feel restricted by a bike, Don says that’s not the case for him. He relies on a combination of a folding bike and a city bike that he has stretched into a “long-tail” using a product by Xtracycle to carry surfboards, boxes, groceries, and even people.
Today Don’s daily work commute is four miles each way, primarily along Class 1 trails like the Obern Trail, designed exclusively for bicycles and pedestrians. ”Commuting by bicycle doubles my enjoyment of living in Santa Barbara. When I get to Goleta Beach, I leave the trail and ride through the parking lot so that I can be as close to the ocean as possible.”
Biking is a way of life for Don, but it’s not his only option. With his folding bike, he can “drive or take the MTD to the highest point on State Street and then use my bike and the help of gravity to zoom into town with no worry about parking.” This multi-modal mindset is exactly what he encourages his friends to participate in. When he factors in the time it takes to park and traffic, he figures that bike trips can actually be faster than driving around town. For that and other reasons, he’s tried to find alternatives. He is a long-time member and fan of Zipcar, and with UCSB’s ample supply, he rarely needs to use his own car. “Most cars in the U.S. are not moving, just taking up space, for more than 90% of their life. That’s ridiculous. We could all save a lot of money and worry if we shared cars.” Plus, no car means more room for bikes in the garage.
When his two daughters were younger, he would drop them off and pick them up from school on the tail of his bike. Because of Don’s influence, his daughters are also strong riders now and are planning a long bike tour together in June 2014.
When he’s not cramming his bike in with the rest of the family fleet at home, he’s parking it in one of the numerous bike lots on campus. When he’s at UCSB, it seems like everyone is biking too. “The rates of faculty and staff who bike are quite high compared with professionals across the state. When it comes to students, daily drivers are very rare,” so he feels like he’s going with the crowd. He loves saving money, and parking costs hundreds of dollars at his workplace. He reckons his long-tail Bianchi might be stolen one day, but “it’s such an unusual bike that half the campus would wonder what someone else is doing on the associate dean’s giant bike.”
Aside from the theft concern, sometimes Don runs into complications or mechanical problems. Still, he thinks it’s a better alternative than driving. He finds car repair “mysterious,” where as bike malfunctions are usually fixable on the spot. With significant repairs, he looks on the bright side and realizes it means spending time with some of his favorite bike mechanics.
Weather isn’t always on a biker’s side either, but Santa Barbara gets pretty lucky. For riders who find themselves frequently in the rain, Don recommends fenders, a rain cape or poncho, wearing an old pair of sandals or no shoes at all and storing necessities (e.g. work shoes, socks, and his briefcase) in a large plastic bag. During rainy season, he follows this routine and walks into the workplace, wearing a suit and tie, looking just like his colleagues who commute by car.
On top of these benefits, the regular bike commute forces him to stay in shape and provides him with a solid social life. “Why join a gym when you can both get to work and get some exercise at the same time?” He enjoys coming upon one of his many bicycle friends and having a great conversation as they make their way to the office. “You just can’t do that on the 101,” he says with a grin. “You could try, but it would be very hazardous.”