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The Baby Boomer Bikers

Recently, Eva Inbar and her husband, Michael, purchased a set of road bikes. Avid cyclists, the two have been biking for decades, and they don’t have plans to quit anytime soon. No matter that they are in their late 60s.

“I’m 67, and he’s 69,” Eva says. “We’re baby boomers on the verge of retirement, and we’re having so much fun with the new bikes. My husband in particular loves passing young people on the bike path to UCSB on his way to work. It makes him feel great,” she laughs.

Both Eva and Michael commute primarily by bicycle. A tech consultant in Goleta, Michael’s commute averages about 14 miles round trip, while Eva makes the half hour trip to downtown Santa Barbara for her job with the Coalition for Sustainable Transportation (COAST), one of CEC’s nonprofit partners.

In 2005, Eva and Michael downsized to one car, passing along their Ford Taurus to one of their sons. They kept their Toyota minivan, however, and about once a week, they use it to pick up groceries from Tri-County Produce or Trader Joe’s. “And we go to Costco for the wine,” she says. “That’s very important.” They use it occasionally to drive downtown if they’re going out in the evening, to dinner or a concert, or on their yearly vacation to the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

When Eva has a particular need for the car — transporting equipment for COAST or picking up Eastside moms for council meetings, for example — she lets Michael know and the two coordinate. “If you’re sharing everything else, you can share a car,” she says. Otherwise, the car is little used.

“Most of our friends were shocked when we decided we didn’t need or want to have two cars anymore,” Eva says. “They were astonished that someone would do that without it being a financial necessity. Very few people our age that I know have made such a commitment. But we enjoy biking and walking so much that it made sense for us. Besides, it was just a daring thing to do, and I liked that.”

Born and raised in Hamburg, Germany, Eva started biking early and grew up in a culture where cycling or walking was the norm, even in rain, sleet, or snow. When they were in their 20s, she and Michael moved to Orange County, “the height of car culture” she describes, to attend graduate school. Culture shock aside, they stayed, and they started driving more. “People told me that if you didn’t drive you might as well be dead and buried. So, I started driving for most of my trips. But I never really stopped biking, and as soon as I could get back on my bike, I did.”

She was on a bike one day in Santa Barbara 30 years ago when she rode past a house with a “for sale” sign in the yard. In part because of its proximity to the bike path, the two bought the house and have been there ever since. They raised their four children there, biking and walking places while the kids were still young, just like their own parents had done.

The closest elementary school was within walking distance, but Eva was alarmed that there were obstacles to her kids making it to school safely on foot. “Of course as a parent, I was concerned about any danger to my kids, so I became active. One of the first things I did was get a crossing guard at Vieja Valley Elementary. I persuaded the PTA to pay for it. That was my first campaign, and then one thing led to another.”

What it has led to is a long and passionate career advocating for bicycle and pedestrian safety in Santa Barbara.

Eva started working with the Santa Barbara Area Council of PTAs and founded the PTA Safety Committee. “Most people don’t take the step from caring about their own neighborhood to caring about all of the people in Santa Barbara and the surrounding areas. Somehow — and I’m not sure how —a few other friends and I developed that larger concern and through the Safety Committee worked with all the schools and with government agencies to ensure that other children had crossing guards and safe walks to school, too.”

After her kids graduated, Eva retired from the PTA and joined COAST in 2005, where she helped to grow their Safe Routes to School program to include nearly every school on the South Coast. Now a board member of COAST, Eva points to that program as well as projects like the footpath that leads to Montecito Union School as some of her successes. “The County did a beautiful job building the footpath,” she says. “I could almost jump up and down it makes me so happy to see it.”

Another project that gives her particular joy is the Santa Barbara Open Streets Festival, now in its second year. Drawing inspiration from the weekly Ciclovía events that first occurred three decades ago in Bogotá and the subsequent Open Streets movement it has inspired in cities across North America, Eva found herself brainstorming with Traffic Solutions director, Kent Epperson, about how to bring a similar event to Santa Barbara. Last November saw the fruition of all of those plans as part of Cabrillo Boulevard was closed to motorized traffic for the day and filled with various activities, music, art, and performances showcasing how differently a road could be used in a society with less reliance on motorized vehicles.

Now, through COAST, Eva is working on a new initiative called Vision Zero to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities among cyclists and pedestrians due to car collisions. On her own bike rides, she takes time to map out routes that she finds both safe and enjoyable.

She’s planning on continuing her biking habits long into the future, and she draws inspiration from her own mother, who back in Germany, could be seen biking around Hamburg into her 90s.

“If I’m able,” Eva says, “I’m fully expecting to do the same.”

Join CEC as we once again sponsor the SB Open Streets Festival on Saturday, October 25 from 10am to 4pm. Take a spin on the 7-person big orange conference bike with local elected officials, leaving from the CEC booth across from Chase Palm Park.

Emily DeMarco

Emily DeMarco holds a master of environmental science and management from the Bren School at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she specialized in strategic environmental communication and water resources management.
Emily DeMarco

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