From the hills of Concord to the flats of Oakland, Alameda County's 2010 Bike Commuter of the Year totes electric grinders, saws, braces, scissors and the occasional prosthetic limb to work via her purple Rockhopper mountain bike, rain or shine.
After 10 years of driving from her Oakland home to work sites as far-flung as Lafayette, Antioch and Oakley, sometimes all in one day, T.D. Fisher was fed up.
"I felt like I lived in my car. I would make panicky calls to friends saying, 'I am desperate for a hike, can I see you after work?' " said the orthotist, who designs prosthetic devices for children.
She started biking to work a year and a half ago and has not looked back. Now she logs as many as 30 miles a day round trip, taking it easy on the way to work at places such as Children's Hospital Oakland "because I want to look somewhat presentable when I arrive. It is a job, after all," said Fisher, 47. She goes all out on the return trip.
"Say I'm working in Concord on a certain day," Fisher said. "I'll take BART to Concord and ride three miles to the job site, and then I'll ride a 20-mile route to Orinda and take Orinda BART home."
Clearly, Fisher has no need of a gym membership. She estimates that she hauls about 35 pounds in the trailer she hooks up to her bike.
In addition to saving money on gyms, Fisher estimates she saves about $70 a month just on gas. "I used to drive 700 to 1,000 miles a month," she said. "I spent
For those who find it difficult juggling a briefcase, a purse, an iPhone and a bag lunch on BART, much less a mountain bike, Fisher's commute may seem unimaginably demanding. At first, she tried to carry her bike up the BART steps and ended up injuring her back. Now she uses the elevator. As for the gear she hauls, it's all in the prep work.
"I have to know my schedule a day in advance, who I will be seeing, what size they are and what they might need," Fisher said. Her actual employer is the Center for Independent Rehabilitative Services. Based in the firm's Oakland office, she visits schools, therapy units and other institutions to fit patients, often children, for braces and other devices.
"I have to bring their charts, their paperwork, and all the gear I use to make the prosthetic devices," Fisher said. "All that plus bike supplies, rain supplies, lunch."
The process was tough at first, but now she takes it for granted, just as some people are resigned to driving in horrendous backups for as long as two hours every morning.
"She has more challenges than the average commuter," said Dave Campbell, program coordinator for the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, which chose Fisher as Alameda County's top bicycle commuter for 2010. "She really stands out because she is hauling equipment with her. It wasn't easy for her at first. She had to figure out which bike, which racks and panniers to use."
Fisher also impressed the coalition because she combines BART and bike to get to work, Campbell said. "That can be tough, but she has it figured out. She's a good example."
Contact Janis Mara at 925-952-2671. Follow her at Twitter.com/jmara.