When I got my first job interview at Genentech, it was a no-brainer. My first question: What is the train schedule to South San Francisco?
Today I am a full-time cycling, Caltrain-riding green commuter. It is a fabulous way to get to work – no stress, no gas, no car maintenance costs. And I have some free time before and after my day in the lab to catch up on reading or sleep. I arrive at the lab refreshed and invigorated from my bike ride, ready for the day.
My green commute habits started early. I grew up in Los Altos, attended Oak Avenue, Blach Intermediate and Mountain View High schools. My parents did not drive me to Oak; instead, we walked nearly every day with our dog Princess. We met others in the neighborhood and Princess became famous along the route to school. On Bike to School Day, I said to my mother, “Bike to School Day is every day for us!” As it should be for more children.
As I got older and moved on to Blach, my friend and neighbor Tina Hsu would come over and Mom would make cinnamon toast before Tina and I headed out on our own. These days, children don’t get enough exercise and are stressed out, and that could be helped by walking or wheeling to school. I hope my story inspires more parents and children to walk or bike to school.
Establish good habits early
My friend Tina is living proof that learning good habits early can integrate into your life as an adult. She pursued green transportation as a career. Tina lives car-free and works in Oakland at TransForm, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating world-class public transportation and sustainable communities in the Bay Area and beyond.
Here’s what she has to say about how her experiences walking to school have influenced her career choice:
“Confession: I didn’t always like walking to school, especially on cold winter mornings. I preferred getting to school in a quick car ride. Had it not been for Alexx and her parents stopping by my house every morning, I would never have walked. In junior high, I biked or rode my stylish Razor scooter to school with Alexx, but then in high school, I gave up the bike for a car because that was the ‘cool’ thing to do.
“During my senior year of high school, I watched ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ and started reading news articles about how global warming was threatening the future of our environment. It made me realize how fragile our environment is and how humans are shifting its natural ways for the worse. That discovery shook me out of my car-dependency and got me back on my bike.
“I hold a degree in environmental studies and am working at a nonprofit that is changing policy to support public transportation and sustainable communities. State and federal funding disproportionately goes toward automobile infrastructure. We’re working on finding ways to ensure that public transit and walkable neighborhoods are priorities when allocating funding and designing communities.
“I know that not everyone lives in a community like Los Altos, where it’s safe to walk and bike places. Looking back now, I feel blessed that walking to school was even an option, and I regret not taking advantage of it more often. In the future, I want to see more people walking in neighborhoods than driving, and firmly believe that if kids are raised seeing walking and biking as a fun and easy way to travel around, they will grow up loving it. Green transportation has always been a part of my life, and it’s definitely going to be a part of my future.”
Alexx Smith is a research associate at Genentech.