Our next Bike Commuter is from Virginia, Daniel Lunsford works in the military and rides a disguised Wally world machine. Here’s his Bike Commuter Profile:
How long have you been a bike commuter?
Why did you start riding your bike to work and how long is your commute?
Last September, I was faced with doing some car maintenance. Being a frugal (read: cheap) driver, I instead donated my car to the Veteran’s Administration and aired up the bike tires. Without a car, I essentially got rid of every excuse I could come up with. Soon it was December-February and the temperatures dropped drastically. I already had some nice warm riding gloves, but I still found myself too cold for comfort. Purchasing a pair of Pearl Izumi leggings/tights with the chamois may have been the best cycling purchase I’ve ever made. I was able to use them well into April to keep my entire body warm (I think that the knees are the most sensitive to the cold weather). My commute was 6 miles each way at one point, but I’ve recently transferred jobs to one that is only 4 miles away. I’m also fortunate in that I have a gym across the road from my building where I can shower for free (although admittedly I don’t usually do this since I rarely sweat due to the short commute).
How does Bike Commuting help you with your lifestyle (economics, health, relationships)?
Well, there are the obvious health benefits involved with getting your heart up and racing twice a day. I have noticed a significant increase in energy throughout the day (my boss is pleasantly surprised to notice that I sleep much less during meetings lately!). I’ve also gotten to know many other commuters/riders in my area.
What do you do for a living and in what city do you bike commute?
I’m in the military, and commute in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.
What kind(s) of bike do you have?
My commuter is a Wal-Mart Schwinn that I’ve put over 6,000 miles on. I eventually got self-conscious about the cheap looking decals on it, so stripped its identity off and repainted it with a LiveSTRONG theme.
I also ride a Trek 2100 ZR on the weekends (including a 106-mile ride this weekend!). I occasionally commute with my road bike, although now that I’ve switched jobs there is no secure place to lock it up, so it typically gets left at home.
Lastly, I’m in the market for a folding bike (so I can secure the bike inside). I’ve been thinking about getting a Dahon Mariner (or similar). Do any readers have any advice on this?
Any funny or interesting commuting story that you may want to share?
Picture this: Mid-February, in the middle of a blizzard, I roll up to the guard shack at my base. The bike is covered in snow and I’m dressed to the hilt in my insulating clothes. The guard opens the window a few inches, sticks a gloved hand out to inspect my ID, then withdraws it back into the heated shack. I hear a voice come through the thin crack “You’re free to pass, but I’ve gotta tell you, I think you’re nuts!”
What do people (coworkers, friends) say when you tell them that you are a bike commuter?
95% of the time I hear: “I’ve thought about doing that for a long time, but I live too far away, the roads are too busy, the cars go too fast, etc. (insert excuse).” I respond by pulling up Google Maps and dropping a destination pin on our office building. Then I get them to tell me where they live. The mapping feature allows you to drag the route to find the one that spends the most time on quiet roads, and they typically admit that their fears are unfounded given their new route options. If the excuse is “My bike is too old/tires are flat/needs to get tuned up”, I offer to repair it for free. If this is their true excuse, a $3 tube is a small price to pay to get someone out of their car and on their two-wheeler! (Just get them to pay you back after they start saving $60/month in gas!)
How about bicycling advocacy? Are you active in any local or regional advocacy groups?
No advocacy in terms of an organized activism, but I do encourage everyone I meet to try and do it at least 3 times. The first time will obviously be stressful. You might get your routes mixed up. You might get to work late or sweaty. The second time you’ll probably try a new approach to make the trip easier. By the third trip, you’ll be somewhat comfortable and actually be able to enjoy the ride. People will always complain about safety and hassle, but the more people you get on the bandwagon, the easier to convince others. When I started 9 months ago, I was the only commuter I knew. Now, I have three other regular riders who help get beginners onto the road. Once people realize that it’s not just one nut on a bike, they’ll be more likely to consider it as a viable method of transport to work.
Anything else that you want to share with us?
Always try to break down the barriers of “impossibility” with regards to commuting. The benefits are incalculable, yet people miss out because of something as simple as not having anyone to talk to and bounce ideas off of. Especially as gas prices increase, bike commuters have the perfect opportunity to breach the subject of dusting off the ol’ ten-speed!
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