Friday, May 22, 2015

2015 Commuter Profile Number 6: Benjamin

· What is your age, roughly speaking? I will be 26 this summer.

· What is your occupation or area of study? I worked at Olympia Supply Company for the past three years and now I’m working on the vegetation crew for the city of Olympia for the summer. I am currently trying to get on track to study either horticulture technologies or fisheries biology in the fall.

· What is your most frequent destination on your bike? Well I work five days a week so work is a pretty common one. Aside from that I try to ride to the grocery stores in east or west Olympia to get more riding in since I live fairly close to downtown. I really dig the Woodland Trail so I try and go places that it and the Chehalis-Western trail run close to.

· How did you hear about the Bicycle Commuter Contest? I think it was four years ago. Just from riding public transit on a regular basis. 

· How many times have you participated in the Bicycle Commuter Contest? Pretty sure this is number three for me. There was a year in there when I didn't have a decent working bike to ride. I ”tacoed” the front wheel on my trusty Schwinn road bike and couldn't afford to fix it. I was unaware of the community bike shops and the assistance they offer, back then.

· What got you started riding your bike to get around (practical cycling)? I never pursued driver's education when I was in high school. I can't say why exactly. I just had zero interest. It just seemed like more work and a stupid reason to spend more time at school than I had to. I rode the city bus and walked till I got my first road bike at the age of 20. I remember walking past dumpster values in downtown and seeing a sparkly green, rebuilt Schwinn varsity in the window. I knew that I had to have that bike. The day I got it, there was snow on the ground and I still couldn't resist taking it for a spin. Within the first two weeks the freewheel failed and I had to figure out what shop I should turn to for assistance. Larry, at Olybike fixed me right up with enthusiasm and encouragement. After riding for a year roughly, the wheel failure incident happened and I was out of commission for almost a whole year. When I was finally in the financial position, I bought a brand new wheel set and brakes. After being back on the bike for a few months, I decided to trade it to Deschutes River Cyclery for store credit towards a more practical bike that most importantly, had fenders installed already. That was really the beginning of cycling feeling efficient.
· How many years have you been getting around by bike?  Almost six. Minus the majority of one year due to the tacoed wheel. I don't see any end in sight.

· Describe your current average or usual trip (distance, terrain, urban/rural, etc.) My daily commute is from home, to the transit center, from SPSCC back to work downtown and finally from work back to home. I think it adds up to around six miles. Each leg of that daily commute is a couple miles give or take. And then the evening bike rides to the grocery store, when I get them in, are another six miles, round trip.

· How have you adapted your habits to make practical cycling work for you? With the products out there, it's been made pretty easy for me. Fenders, Waterproof panniers and clothes take care of the biggest obstacle we face as Pacific Northwest riders. Aside from that I never buy more than I can carry and if that means I have to make more regular trips, why not? It just gives me more reason to go ride. Storage is the one thing I have had to adapt most recently. I went from having a garage for storage, to living in a converted garage recently. As a result there are bicycles hanging from the ceiling of my bedroom and the other half of the garage that is still a garage houses all of my partner's bikes. Also, I recently upgraded to a rechargeable headlight to save on battery expenses.

· What are some of the benefits you have experienced from commuting by bike? Fitness, for starters. I also get a great sense of community out of it. I have met people and had conversations that otherwise would not have happened. I see more of my surroundings on a daily basis. And not to knock our amazing public transit system, but I get around way quicker than I did when I rode the city bus. And one of the most important: not having to pay for gas or insurance.

· What are some of the challenges you have experienced, and how have you overcome 
them? I think the biggest problem I face would be repairs and maintenance. I will admit that I have been pretty naive in the past about how much care a bicycle actually needs. Just recently have I actually put some effort into learning about the finer points of the contraption that carries me where I have to go. My partner just happens to be a bike mechanic so I can usually ask her anything that I might think of no matter how dumb or amateur it may seem. The most disappointing and discouraging problem though, is the hostile interactions I have had with motorists. There aren't many things that bother me more than a car zooming around me while on a road with no bike lane, and yelling something ignorant about getting out of the way when all I am doing is exercising my right to the road for the same reason they are: needing to get somewhere. It can be really easy to think negative thoughts for the rest of the ride after something like that happens. Now it just motivates me to try and figure out how I can make a difference in making streets safer for bicycle commuters.   

· What is it that keeps you going, especially when the going is tough (weather, darkness, 
inertia, etc)? Probably the destination. Knowing that I am getting closer. Even in the rain, I am generally pretty happy when I am in the saddle. On the rare occasion that my resolve is wearing thin, it really is just motivation to ride harder and get it over with.

· How do you choose your route (most direct, least traffic, most scenic, etc)? If I am supposed to be there by a certain time, work for example, I usually go for the most direct. If my commitments for the day are fulfilled and I am just running to the store, I usually go the road less traveled. There is really only a handful of roads and intersections I try and avoid in Olympia. Cooper pt. and Black Lake Blvd. on the Westside is the worst.

· What style of bike do you ride to commute? I ride what was a flat bar commuter outfitted with a rear rack and full coverage fenders. It now has wide off road drop bars which have offered me a much better range of hand positions. That is the all-purpose work horse bike that I can put a full load on. And just recently I made some improvements on my older steel road bike that has just been sitting for some time and I feel as though I have been riding that more as the weather gets better.

· Any words of wisdom for the beginning practical cyclist? Find a bike that fits you well. The better it fits, the more efficient it is. The more efficient it is, the more likely you are to ride. Don't buy a department store bike. If you can afford it, buy a bike from a shop that can offer some advice on sizing. If you are buying on craigslist, try and have someone who knows about bicycles go with you when you check out the bike to assess whether or not it is in good working order. Once you have a bike that works well for you, carry an allen wrench set. It seems as though a lot of people I know who have bicycles don't ride them because they aren't comfortable in a specific way. If you are noticing that a specific area of your bike is uncomfortable don't be afraid to try adjusting it over and over till it feels right. You might be surprised at how intuitive it can be. Never forget that you do have a right to the road. Light yourself up. Learn the rules of the road. And most importantly, have fun!

· What’s your favorite thing about practical cycling and/or the BCC? The attention it brings to sustainable transportation. I tell friends about it and encourage them to sign up. At first they usually think its a race and don't want anything to do with it. But once I explain what it really is, their attitude completely changes and they are genuinely intrigued. The coupons for safety checks at local bike shops this year is a fantastic idea as well. It really is an excellent way to show how bicycle traffic can benefit our local economy and community. I sincerely believe that those are the kind of examples that can change the way people view the worth of the bicycle as a practical, healthy, and sustainable mode of transport and community building. Keep up the outstanding work! 

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