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.
A Tandem Retirement
When David Takemoto-Weerts retires in June, it will be a few days after his 39th wedding anniversary. It’s only fitting, then, that his wife retires from UC Davis on the same day. She's been working here 22 years — some of it part-time — and he's been here for 30.
The two met as undergrads at UC Santa Cruz, but started dating as grad students at UC Davis. David’s love affair with cycling, inspired by one epic day of cycling as a freshman (see video above), grew in Davis when he worked as a student mechanic and then manager of the Bike Barn.
Married under the redwoods at UC Santa Cruz, they moved around California before returning to Davis to raise their son and daughter. Barbara spent several years working as an accountant at the UC Davis bookstore before joining the Shared Services Center, where she now works as a purchasing coordinator.
While bicycles have shaped the course of her husband’s life, Barbara is interested in them “only by association.” They do complement each other on two wheels, though: They’ve ridden a tandem bicycle together since before they were married, and Barbara has always been the stoker, or rider in the rear.
“It takes a special person to be the stoker,” she said, explaining that she doesn’t have any control over when they stop or where the bike goes (although David said he defers to her if a decision comes into question). But that doesn’t mean she wants to switch saddles.
“I’m not interested in that.”
“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.”
Cody Kitaura/Dateline, Dateline, 530-752-1932, firstname.lastname@example.org