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BIKE HIT THE ROAD TODAY, WORKERS ARE ENCOURAGED TO LEAVE CARS AT HOME.

Byline: JUDY O'ROURKE Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA -- Recreational cyclists are expected to hit the road in droves today as part of the city's Bike to Work Day Challenge.

Not ones to shy from competition, the city's four water purveyors have joined the friendly contest to see which company can get the most employees to bike to work. The head of one company cycles on weekends, but today he will travel the 16 miles round trip on two wheels.

``I really enjoy the city's bike trails. I use them often,'' said Robert DiPrimio, president of Valencia Water Co. ``I would gladly meet any of the other water company managers on the Southfork Trail in the future -- I would buy them coffee at the local java joint.''

The challenge is among a slew of events planned nationwide to celebrate Bike to Work Day and May as National Bike Month. Sponsors tout how cycling cuts traffic congestion, is environmentally benign, a boon to health and an answer to rising gas prices.

The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas in Santa Clarita is $3.34 this week, up from $2.89 a month ago, according to a price survey conducted by the Automobile Club of Southern California.

The popularity of Santa Clarita's contest continues into the third year, with organizers netting about 13 companies, said Kelli Lajer of the city's environmental services department. Participants include California Institute of the Arts, College of the Canyons, Answer Products Inc., Advanced Bionics Corp., Remo Inc., Precision PC, Wayforward Technologies, the city and the water companies.

Frozen yogurt is the prize for cyclists whose companies win in the small- and large-business divisions. Metro, a sponsor of events countywide, will provide a catered lunch to the employer with the most riders. Answer Products snagged the county prize last year.

One water company chief, who lives outside the city, said garaging the car is just one perk of biking.

``It goes to the overall conservation message, whether it's fuel or water,'' said Steve Cole, general manager of the Newhall County Water District. ``It's a good thing for people to do.''

Roger Hasper, owner of Newhall Bicycle Co., mused, ``It takes a lot more than a dollar price hike to get somebody out of their Hummer and onto a two-wheeler.''

Bike commuters tend to be those who ride recreationally, followed by those who are somewhat strained by the gas price hike, Hasper said. The past couple of weeks, many more people have inquired about how to commute or which bike is best suited to commuting. He recommends hybrids, which afford the straight-back comfort of a mountain bike with the efficiency of a road bike. Hasper said thousands of people in Los Angeles County who cannot afford a car or who must share one with others commonly ride bikes to work.

``I'll sell nice exotic road or mountain bikes to people for $3,000 to $4,000, and you see them three months later -- they don't have any miles on the bike (because) they don't have the time,'' he said. ``At the same moment, a grown man comes in on a small girls bike. That's his ride; that's how he gets to work. He's ecstatic he doesn't have to walk or take the bus.'' Hasper rehabs donated bikes and gives them to people in need.

judy.orourke(at)dailynews.com

(661) 257-5255

HOP ON A BIKE

Pit stops for Bike to Work Day participants will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. at:

Santa Clarita City Hall, 23920 Valencia Blvd.

Answer Products, 28209 Ave. Stanford.

Bike path at Newhall Avenue and 16th Street.

Bike path at Camp Plenty and Soledad Canyon Road.

A pit stop for College of the Canyons employees and students will be located near the campus security office.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 18, 2006
Words:645
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