Columbus, OH USA

Pedal Pusher
November 2007
by Greg Knepp

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Conversation with a Commuter

Sabrina prepares for the homeward trek
after a busy work day. PHOTO Darren Carlson

There’s no question about it, bike commuting is on the rise. And as world-wide petroleum extraction peaks and gasoline prices escalate, the humble bicycle will claim its rightful place as a major mode of transportation. Sabrina Bobrow is a long-time friend of mine, and a cyclist of seeming limitless energy. In fact, anyone who knows her will tell you that energy is what Sabrina is all about. She serves as an Activities Coordinator and Community Liaison at Westminster-Thurber Retirement Community – a job to which she commutes via bicycle daily, conditions permitting. Additionally, she attends meetings of the Victorian Village Society and has spearheaded the current effort to install permanent bicycle parking in Goodale Park. Ms. Bobrow lived in Dennison Place for 14 years during which time she helped found Midtown Parents & Kids and volunteered at Fifth Avenue Elementary School. She moved to North Linden a few years ago.

I asked her about her bicycle commuting experiences recently:

GK: How did you become interested in cycling?
SB: Didn’t everyone ride a Stingray with a violet glitter banana seat as a kid?

GK: Actually, I was in my early twenties when the Stingray made the scene but that’s another story. Why do you continue to cycle?
SB: Most people know that cycling is good exercise and good for the environment. But I would say that my mental attitude is improved: the endorphins must kick in because I feel so invigorated and ready to begin my day after my ride to work. I think I’ve gained a lot of confidence from knowing I can do it, and the residents I serve and my co-workers admire me for it.

GK: When you moved to northeast Columbus, what made you decide to undertake such a long commute to work?
SB: My goal has always been to not turn on the car. My commute to previous jobs was in the two-to-four mile range – no sweat. The new commute seemed scarier at first, with the freeway entrances and railroad tracks. I drove it for about three weeks and got sick of the bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-71; what a way to start the day! So I just had to do more figuring and talking with friends so that I would feel safe on my bike.

GK: And what made you feel safe?
SB: In addition to wearing light-colored clothing, the Piano Peddler (Eugene Beer) offered to make me a halogen light with a rechargeable battery pack. As the days grow shorter this light is indispensable. Motorists must think I’m on a motorcycle – it’s very bright and gives them more reaction time.

GK: Tell me about the trip. How long does it take? What problems do you encounter in terms of road conditions, motorists and the like?
SB: The round trip is about 13 miles. Going to work takes about 35 minutes; returning about 45. This summer there was a stretch of road that was worked on and then abandoned. I called 311 and work resumed the next day! I don’t think the roadbed would make the same impact on me in a car. So yes, I do feel helpful. There are some car drivers who try to honk me off the road, but, thankfully, they are in the minority. Some drivers have rolled down their windows and called out “cool bike”, which always surprises me.

GK: What type of bicycle do you ride?
SB: I ride a ten-year-old Raleigh C-30. It’s a hybrid upright, which means the tires are somewhere between skinny racing and fat mountain. It also means I’m not hunched over my handlebars; I can look around. I switched to it when my son was about two so that there would be room to attach his add-on tandem. I added panniers so I could pack clothes to change at work.

GK: What advice would you give to the casual cyclist who wants to take up serious commuting?
SB: Start when the weather is good. As the weather gets colder, keep analyzing and bettering your situation: consider leg wear, lights, windbreakers and mittens – whatever it takes to keep you confident. These things don’t have to come all at once. You’ll find your own comfort zone. For example, if it is dark and precipitating, I don’t bike. I figure visibility is low. But if it’s just cold and dark with no ice present, then I cycle down to 27 degrees. I wear layers with a windbreaker and a hood under my helmet. It keeps the wind out of my ears. If you live a long way from work, you may want to consider part of the journey on a COTA bus.

Since I started the longer commute two years ago, I’m happy to report that I’ve noticed more bicycles parked at my work and more on the road with me. I hope this trend continues. The more motorists encounter cyclists, the better their responses will be.

GK: A share-the-road mentality, you might say.
SB: Exactly!

Greg Knepp is a Short North cyclist


© 2007 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. all rights reserved.

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