When UC Davis bike guru David Takemoto-Weerts takes a vacation trip to a city, he doesn’t photograph the usual landmarks.
“I’ll ask to see his pictures and they’re all of bike racks,” said his wife, Barbara Takemoto-Weerts.
David is retiring next month after 29 years as the university’s Bicycle Program coordinator, a job in which he determines the best size for bicycle roundabouts, thinks up better parking arrangements, encourages riders to register their bikes, collects abandoned bicycles and auctions them off, and generally serves as an expert on all things two-wheeled.
Cliff Contreras, director of Transportation Services (TAPS) and David’s longtime supervisor and friend, said transportation officials from other universities think of him as a resource.
“Oftentimes if somebody is grappling with an issue that’s bike-related, someone will say, ‘Just ask Dave,’” Contreras said.
David has worked to make the university more cyclist-friendly, and along the way the number of people who ride to campus has grown to nearly 50 percent. The League of American Bicyclists also named UC Davis a platinum Bicycle Friendly Business and platinum Bicycle Friendly University under his watch, both in 2013.
While his position is no longer part of the Police Department where it originated, one of his proudest achievements is the recent collaboration between TAPS and the police to create the Bicycle Education and Enforcement Program (BEEP), an online course for riders who receive citations — similar to taking traffic school instead of paying hefty fines.
David is analytical and detail-oriented. Anyone asking about bicycle parking is likely to get a long story about the advantages the campus’s newer racks have over the old concrete “wheel benders” he and Contreras are working to phase out before his retirement. David's wife warns that when he says, “To make a long story short,” settle in for a long explanation.
Outside of bicycles, his passions include the history of aviation and space exploration — topics he fell in love with during a trip to a library in his native Long Beach when he was 15. He often walks the TAPS hallways wearing a NASA cap or a shirt bearing images of vintage aircraft. He’s one of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s volunteer Solar System Ambassadors, who explain and promote NASA missions to the general public, and set up a telescope on Hutchison Field for passers-by to use during a recent partial eclipse.
He has a penchant for vintage bikes, too. He prefers the style and construction of bicycles of the 1970s, and one of his other career-defining moments can be seen just off campus at the corner of Third and B streets, inside the former Davis Teen Center.
In 2000, David won a federal grant for the university to purchase a collection of 65 vintage bicycles that sat in a barn near Modesto. The Pierce Miller Collection, so named for its former owner, formed the foundation of a bicycle museum that helped convince the U.S. Bicycle Hall of Fame to move to Davis from New Jersey in 2009.
David continues to work as the head docent at the museum, explaining the evolution of the bicycle to visitors. And if they happen to ask any questions about bicycling on campus, he’ll know the answer.
“We’re doing all these things to promote bicycle use and he’s got his hand in all of them,” Contreras said. “He’s been a wealth of info for us and the campus, and the campus is better off for it.”