ALAMEDA -- The 20th East Bay Bike to Work Day is on Thursday, but that won't make much difference to Randy Denton's commute.
Denton, 55, has been riding his bike from his home on Alameda's West End to work at Waste Management on 98th Avenue in Oakland every day, rain or shine, for the past 16 years. That's about 20 miles round-trip.
Not only that, he leaves home at 3 a.m. for his 4:30 a.m. shift as a garbage collector.
Denton has never missed a day.
"It's become a game over the years," said Denton, who belongs to the Los Gatos Bicycle Racing Club. "About five years ago, I got into an accident on my bike on the way to work and tore the muscles on my ribs. My manager offered to give me a ride home, but I refused because I didn't want to break the streak."
Denton began working at Waste Management 36 years ago, when garbage collectors "packed a barrel," in other words, hauled the garbage cans physically. When more automation was introduced, he wasn't getting as much physical exercise.
"So I started cycling to work to get exercise and also save on gas and energy," Denton said.
Denton applauds Bike to Work Day.
"It's a great feeling not to have to use a car," said Denton, who says cycling saves him gas and is great for his health. "There are cobwebs on my car because it's been sitting there so long."
Denton has a tip for commuter cyclists.
"Always have a patch kit and pump," said Denton, who twice walked from Oakland International Airport to work after getting a flat tire. "It's not if, it's when. The roads are full of junk."
He also advised taking the back roads.
"I'm adamant about not taking main streets," Denton said. "I like the back streets where you can sit up on your bike and relax and not have to worry about cars."
As a truck driver, he said he's seen both sides of the coin.
"I've seen the attitude with cyclists that 'I've a right to be out here,' " Denton said. "But if I'm dead, I can't enforce my rights."
Co-worker and fellow Alameda resident Dana Constance has also been biking to work since he took a job at Waste Management three years ago. He's a big supporter of Bike to Work Day.
"It spares the air and saves on car emissions," said Constance, 43. "It's also a great way for people to try biking to work in an organized event, to learn that riding a bike on the side of the road is not so scary."
It's also a great way to socialize with your neighbors, he said.
"I know some of my neighbors hand out bananas, apples and granola bars on Bike to Work Day," Constance said. "It gives cyclists a chance to pull over and socialize."
Constance and the cycling team at Waste Management recently took part in the Waves to Wine fundraiser for multiple sclerosis, a two-day, 150-mile ride from San Francisco to Santa Rosa.
"We raised $15,000," said Constance. "Some of our team hadn't cycled more than 10 miles before."
Constance said cycling gives you a chance to be out there and see what's truly around you.
"It's the right start and finish to the day. It clears your mind," he said.
Constance, who belongs to Team Alameda cycling club, said cycling clubs are a great way to make friends, to find out about new places to explore and to build confidence about cycling on the roads.
"It can be a solitary sport," Constance said, "but I've made a lot of friends through being on the team."
According to the East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC), participation in East Bay Bike to Work Day has grown by 285 percent over the past five years. The first Bike to Work Day was a celebration at Oakland City Hall in the mid-'90s that was organized by EBBC. There will be more than 100 Energizer Stations set up Thursday morning to hand out free goody bags and refreshments to bikers.
For more information on Bike to Work Day in the East Bay, visit https://www.ebbc.org/btwd.