News: Employee’s Cleveland work commute ‘just plain fun’
Story by Jo Adail Stephenson
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- There are more ways to commute to work than driving, vanpooling, public transit and walking.
Jim Rowe has taken a sport he’s been doing his whole life and turned it into a money-saving, environmentally friendly and enjoyable daily adventure which lasts from mid-March through October. The Defense Contract Management Agency Cleveland employee commutes by bicycle to work, a 35-mile round trip which takes about an hour each way.
“We're leaving a nonreversible carbon footprint on this planet by driving gas-powered vehicles,” Rowe said. “I'm also not a fan of paying $4 a gallon for gas. Just driving back and forth to work, my car uses a couple of gallons per day. If you do the math, that's $40 a week and $160 a month. Then there's the wear and tear on my car. It's expensive to maintain the upkeep.”
Lastly, the fitness aspect is worth its weight in gold to Rowe.
“I dropped 10 unwanted pounds really quickly not to mention the cardio benefits. Maintenance of a bicycle is peanuts compared to that of a car, plus it's just plain fun,” he said.
Rowe, who grew up in Cleveland, said, “Our area is blessed with some of the best bicycle trails in the nation, so I took full advantage of them. I've ridden while serving in the Army (20 years) and have cycled in Korea and Germany. In all, I've been riding for about 45 years.”
When he was a 12-year-old, Rowe said he would get on his bicycle and go see his relatives.
“They would call my mother and say ‘guess who's here.’ I would end up on the other side of the city without letting my mother know where I was going. It was fun and I enjoyed the challenge. I guess that's why I do it to this day. It can be very addicting,” he said.
The bicycle he now rides when commuting to work is made specifically for touring. “It's built with a strong frame to allow hauling cargo, such as spare parts, tools, water, snacks, and clothing. It isn't a speed demon by any means but it can withstand some real stresses,” Rowe said.
He also uses safety gear including a good/comfortable helmet, eye protection and reflective bicycle jerseys. “My bike is outfitted with various reflectors on the wheels, pedals, shoes and on the seat. I also have a flashing headlight that helps alert vehicles turning from the opposite direction not to mention vehicles pulling out of their driveways,” he said.
Rowe, who has been commuting to work by bicycle for six years, wears clothing specifically designed for providing comfort while riding a bicycle. “I carry my work clothes in my panniers (saddlebags) along with some basic tools and a tire repair kit.”
When he gets to the office, it’s a quick shower and he’s ready for work, Rowe said, adding, “We have a shower facility here at work so it isn't hard to freshen up. I leave at 5:30 a.m. It's still relatively cool. I keep a few things prepositioned at work as well.”
Regarding the weather, Rowe said he is not a big fan of rain or ice. “I can handle the heat, but I don't enjoy getting saturated by a downpour … I pay very close attention to the weather, especially the Doppler Radar, that shows incoming rain. I have some lightweight clothing I pack just in case I get caught in a pickle.”
Rowe also rides his bicycle for more than just commuting. After spending a couple of summers in Iraq with DCMA, Rowe said he missed the opportunities to cycle. “I've always been an avid rider … I used the conditioning from last summer to prepare for a ride to southern Ohio (where my aunt lives). It was 160 miles which took two days and a lot of hill work to complete.”
One of his more memorable rides occurred last summer when he was cycling through Holmes County, Ohio.
“I was coming off some of the toughest hills I've ever dealt with and was feeling pretty smoked,” he said. “I glanced over to my left and there's this UH1H helicopter sitting off to the side of the road. Behind the helicopter was the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Association. I stopped in and they were some of the nicest folks I ever met. They invited me in, offered me a water, chatted and gave me some great advice about which route I should take to get to my next destination.”
Rowe said he was thinking about joining a bicycle club this year and doing some organized rides. “I'd like to meet some new folks and enjoy hearing of their experiences, too.”
For those interested in bicycling for recreation or for commuting to work, Rowe had some helpful tips.
“I would encourage them to go to a reputable cycling store and get properly fitted for the right bicycle. Bikes come in a variety of sizes, specifications and prices. Once they're equipped with the right bike and gear, I would recommend that they start out with a 10-minute ride and work themselves up in 5-minute increments until they reach their target fitness level.”
He also suggested checking with local bicycle shops and searching the internet for more information. “Most states will post printable bike path maps online. The tools for successful cycling are out there for anyone interested,” he said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s lists seven smart routes to bicycle safety:
1. Protect your head. Wear a helmet.
2. Assure bicycle readiness. Ensure proper size and function of bicycle.
3. Ride wisely. Learn and follow the rules of the road.
4. Be predictable. Act like a driver of a vehicle.
5. Be visible. See and be seen at all times.
6. “Drive” with care. Share the road.
7. Stay focused. Stay alert.
For more information on bicycle safety, visit NHTSA’s website at http://www.nhtsa.gov/bicycles.