Wednesday, February 18, 2015

2015 Commuter Profile Number 1: Matthew

  • What is your age, roughly speaking? This year, I’ll be halfway between L and LX.
  • What is your occupation or area of study? I’ve been really fortunate to have made a career in archaeology. After more than 20 years as an archaeologist in the private sector, I accepted a job with the State and now review and evaluate transportation projects across Washington for potential impacts to archaeological sites, historic structures, or places of cultural significance.
  • What is your most frequent destination on your bike? Like most commuters, I have to say work. I don’t have a super long commute (just under ten miles a day round trip), but rain or shine I’m on my bike heading to work four days out of every seven! During the “nicer” months, I’ll often do errands or joyride on my days off (shout out for the Chehalis Western!) and some years I’ll do the STP or some other century-type ride just for the fun of it.
  • How did you hear about the Bicycle Commuter Contest? I honestly can’t remember how I first heard about the BCC. Probably through my agency somehow.
  • How many times have you participated in the Bicycle Commuter Contest? Pretty sure I’ve done it as long as I’ve been in Oly (10 years). Wait, has the BCC even been going on that long? (ed. um, the BCC is in it's 28th year! :-)
  • What got you started riding your bike to get around (practical cycling)? How many years have you been getting around by bike? I’ve been a bike rider for a very long time. We’ve been a one-car family for forever and I honestly can’t remember whether biking is a ‘cause’ for that or an ‘effect’ from it.
  • How have you adapted your habits to make practical cycling work for you? Having relocated to Olympia from Tucson, Arizona, I guess the biggest change has to be the amount of gear needed to commute here!! I mean, jeez!! It’s wet. It’s cold. It’s light . .  . then dark. It’s hot and sunny. And sometimes all in the same ride!! It took me a few years to accumulate all the right gear, but now that I have the right kit, nothing really stops me from riding any time of day/month/year! I might look like the “Stay Puft Marshmallow Man” when I’m riding on a rainy day, but once I strip off the outerwear I’m totally dry and ready for a day at the office!
  • What are some of the benefits you have experienced from commuting by bike? Without question, peace of mind! As I said, my commute isn’t a long one each day (the trip takes me anywhere from 12 to 18 minutes), but the ride gives me plenty of time to get into or out of my work persona.
  • What are some of the challenges you have experienced, and how have you overcome them? Like most bike commuters, I have to say ‘roads without dedicated bike lanes’ and ‘unconscious drivers’. I have only encountered one truly belligerent driver all my years riding around Olympia, but it’s the ‘unconscious’ ones that scare me the most. You know the ones: they’re on their cell phones, had a bad day, didn’t get their coffee yet, in a hurry, or maybe just pissed at the world! They’re behind the wheel of hundreds of pounds of machine with only a part of their brain focused on what they’re doing. So I just try to be as “big” and “visual” as I can be with lights (run my taillight even during the day if I’m on a road with traffic) and bright clothes, and I’m not shy about taking a quarter to a third of the lane. And if I’m not in a hurry, I’ll definitely forgo the major roads for neighborhood roads if they’re available. And I always try to be considerate to the drivers --  a smile and a shrug goes a lot further than shouting epithets at some driver who just crowded you into the curb!
  • What is it that keeps you going, especially when the going is tough (weather, darkness, inertia, etc)? How can you possibly top being on your bike?
  • What style of bike do you ride to commute? My “tried and true” or my “magic carpet” (as the friend who I got the bike from used to call it) is a steel-framed, Specialized Sirrus road bike manufactured in the early 90s. She isn’t super lightweight, but she’s perfect for commuting with racks, panniers, and fenders to keep the elements at bay during the winter. I did pick up a second road bike (Cannondale R600—again 90s vintage) last year that I like to use for joyriding. It’s a little lighter than the “carpet” and it just feels fast, probably because she isn’t loaded down with racks, panniers, and lights!
  • Any words of wisdom for the beginning practical cyclist? To steal from Nike – just do it!! Get on the bike!! While I may not feel like getting on the bike every single day to get to work, I am always thankful that I did once I get there! There are a million reasons that biking is a great thing to do (having time to yourself, getting exercise, taking one more car off the road, etc., etc.), choose one and get on your bike! Bicyclists are cool people. Bicyclists are happy people. Did you ever see two bicyclists with ‘road rage’? 
  • What’s your favorite thing about practical cycling and/or the BCC? The best thing about “practical cycling” to me is knowing that you can drop me anywhere on the planet, me and my bike, and we’ll be just fine!

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