MCBC Community Marin’s 2019 Bike Commuter of the Year: Brian Lehman

With Bike Month and Bike to Work Day quickly approaching, it’s time to once again recognize a bike-commuting superhero who makes every day Bike to Work Day. As always, it was very difficult for us to narrow the many deserving nominees down to one. In the end, it was Brian Lehman’s co-workers at the California Film Institute who–unbeknownst to Brian–nominated him and sold us on his dedication to bicycling.

Here’s a small sampling from the many nominations Brian received:

“Brian bikes everywhere. He bikes to and from work all year long, even in the rain, sleet, and smoke.”

“Brian is the most committed and enthusiastic bicyclist, bike advocate, and bike commuter I have ever met… He even creates his own bike-inspired t-shirts so he can share his bike philosophy with the world.”

“He really cares about the environment… His bikes are his main transport, and he is full of factoids about going car-free.”

“As long as I have known him, I have never seen him without a bike.”

“He’s a man of the planet, passionate about the welfare of the environment. He’s also nuts about bikes–the bike literally never leaves his side.”

“Biking is his passion and his way to get one more car off the road and enjoy being outdoors. He is a great example for anyone on how to be fit, active, and environmentally conscious.”

“Brian just might be part bicycle.”

Brian made dualsided pannier out of legos…for fun.”

“He’s an encouraging colleague, who supports us other bike riding fools, but isn’t ever braggy or snarky to those who don’t ride. He’s the best advocate for bicycles who you’ll find anywhere.”

OK, enough from his colleagues. Let’s hear from this year’s Bike Commuter of the Year!

introducing brian lehman, our bike commuter of the year!

Occupation: Publications Manager for California Film Institute

Years riding: Daily commute years: 15. Riding in general: many more, off and on.

Where do you commute to/from?

To downtown San Rafael from Santa Venetia. It’s not far, but I manage to get in many detours and average about 15 miles a day over the course of the year.

What bicycle do you like the best?

I ride a steel frame, hardtail 29er that I have “Frankensteined” into a commute machine and to meet my particular idiosyncrasies.

What do you like best about the benefits of riding your bike?

My number one reason for cycling is environmental impact. I have not used a car to commute since late 2004 and have not owned a car since 2013. Two to four times a year I do rent a car for special occasions, but I see cycling as a truly practical replacement for the car. Besides commuting, I do all my shopping and errands on the bike. In 2018, I rode my bike 6500 miles and used a car for 460 miles.

Of course, along with environmental benefits many other positives follow:

  • Health. Physical and mental. Though friends and family may express doubt about the effect on me in second part.

  • Economics. Not buying, maintaining, and insuring a car.

  • Exploration. Finding new roads, alleyways, paths, and pubs.

  • The senses. Moving through the world while completely enveloped by sights, sounds, and smells.

  • Ego. The satisfaction of piling up the miles.

  • Traffic jams. Zooming past and through them.

What would you have liked someone to tell you when you started?

Slow down. It took me a couple years to understand to not be in a hurry.

What is your favorite ride/route?

My favorite commute route is from Santa Venetia into San Rafael via the China Camp loop.

As far as non-commute riding, I love riding into the City. I like the levee ride north of McInnis Park then up through Hamilton and and either out through College of Marin Indian Valley campus or through Novato along the new path that leads to San Antonio Road and beyond to Petaluma, Cotati, etc. Lucas Valley through Nicasio to Point Reyes Station is really wonderful, then I like to loop back through Olema and into Fairfax via Sir Francis Drake. And of course I love riding to the store or the pub.

What part of riding would you most like to improve?

Car drivers: Slow down. You’ll get there.

Other cyclists: Please don’t blow through red lights at full speed and please do not ride two or three abreast in the road. These things anger and alienate car drivers which makes it tougher, in the long run, for all cyclists.

As far as road facilities are concerned, any road that has room enough for a painted, designated bike lane, should have one. There is a clear psychological benefit as well as a safety benefit in having that defined space. Where bike lanes are not possible, then sharrows seem to have a benefit in that cars and cyclists are consistently reminded that we all actually do share the roads.

My number one reason for cycling is environmental impact. I have not used a car to commute since late 2004 and have not owned a car since 2013. Two to four times a year I do rent a car for special occasions, but I see cycling as a truly practical replacement for the car. Besides commuting, I do all my shopping and errands on the bike. In 2018, I rode my bike 6500 miles and used a car for 460 miles.

What is your favorite vision of the bicycling in the future?

Cycling can be seen as an integral piece of local, regional, and national transit options. As the Green New Deal moves forward, a transit infrastructure overhaul needs to be part of that overall vision. For 100 years we’ve built around the automobile and are now coming to realize that it is the single-most destructive technology ever unleashed upon the planet. Long-term strategies must be developed to wean us away from it.

If we are ever to make real impact in reversing global warming and the march we are on toward an environment that is uninhabitable for humans, we have to develop a dramatically different transit model. Bicycles can play a pivotal and integrated role in moving toward a system that encourages alternatives such as trains, ferries, buses, car share, and incentives to encourage “live near your work” situations. In the long run these strategies will enhance day-to-day quality of life for many millions of people.

Finally, if there’s a further message you would like to share with the people who ride bikes in Marin County – whether simple, encouraging or aspirational – what would that be?

If you are thinking of getting into cycling, buy a decent used bike and start riding around your neighborhood. Get a feel for it. Ease into it and push yourself a bit further each week. Once you do, the absolute joy of moving through the world self-propelled will change your life.

And then, once you’ve become addicted to cycling, learn how to patch a flat tire. A nail or goat-head thorn will eventually find you. Carry a patch kit, tube, and pump. And learn basic maintenance. Keep your bike clean and lubed. Pretty much every local bike shop offers basic classes. They are very well worth it and it’s quite empowering.

Oh yeah, and don’t be afraid of the rain.

On another note, I truly want to thank my friends and co-workers at CFI for making this happen.

Photos by Christopher Markisz

congratulations to our 2019 bcoy nominees!

Trust us, it was hard to pick this year’s winner! Please join us in congratulating all of our deserving nominees:

  • Wils Cardan, Kentfield – San Francisco

  • Kieran Culligan, Sausalito – Mountain View

  • Andrew Fischer, San Anselmo – San Francisco

  • Shelagh Fritz, Larkspur – San Francisco

  • Clayton Kunz, Mill Valley – San Francisco

  • Andrew Levine, Mill Valley – San Francisco

  • Lucy Macpherson, Larkspur

  • Hilary Noll, Mill Valley – San Francisco

  • Larry Nygro, Fairfax – Lagunitas

  • Shea Putnam, Sausalito – South San Francisco

  • Frank Rollo, Greenbrae – San Francisco

  • Joy Sassoon, San Anselmo

  • Jeff Tuatini, Greenbrae – San Francisco

  • Peter Werba, Fairfax – San Francisco


Join Brian and our BCOY nominees in supporting MCBC. As a member-backed organization, our efforts to make bicycling in Marin safe, fun, and accessible rely on your generous giving. Please join today. >>

Thanks to our bike to work day 2019 sponsors!



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