Reflections on Biking To Work

May. 14, 2015

Columbus and other cities throughout the world celebrate Bike to Work Day on Friday, May 15. To celebrate, we are sharing a few reflections by School of Environment and Natural Resources faculty and staff on biking to work.

Joe Bonnell, program director for watershed management frequently rides his bike to work. Bonnell lives more than 7 miles west of campus and rides mostly on side streets through Upper Arlington where he observes there is hardly any traffic, even during rush hour to get to work.  Reflecting on why he likes to ride, Bonnell shares a number of reasons, "I like the idea that I'm saving money on gas, reducing my carbon footprint, and getting in a little exercise all at the same time." He also notes, "Having my bike at work makes it easier to get around campus. I can get to main campus in just a few minutes and I've even used my bike to get to meetings downtown, made easy by the Olentangy Trail which takes you on a scenic route with virtually no traffic to the heart of downtown." 

Bonnell mentions that he also finds riding his bike is more convenient than driving his car since he parks on West campus. He notes, "If I include the walk from West campus to Kottman Hall, it only takes a few more minutes to get to work biking versus driving."

Joe Campbell, a research associate and lecturer in the School shared, “Outside of winter, there is no easier way to get around campus than on a bike. I’m fortunate to live only a few miles from Kottman Hall so I try to ride as often as I can. Being able to ride the Olentangy River Trail to work is a real blessing!”

Alia Dietsch, a new faculty member in the School of Environment and Natural Resources who started autumn 2014, loves biking in her new home of Columbus.  Alia sold her truck in March 2011 and has been a bike-only commuter for more than 4 years now. Columbus does have unique challenges to a bike-only lifestyle that her previous state of Colorado did not have. “First of all, it definitely rains more here than it does in the west,” laughs Alia. “I had to get fenders put on my bike.”

Alia spent a lot of time thinking about the benefits of different neighborhoods, and selected the Short North area due to its proximity to campus, downtown, arts and music events, and, of course, the Olentangy River Trail. “Being bike-only really changes the way you live,” says Dietsch. “I go to the grocery store about twice a week, which is great for fresh food. I also love the commitment to a healthier way of living, the daily exercise, and the way that time seems different to me now.

Alia notes that biking definitely takes planning, a sense of adventure, and dedication, and also admits that she has used other transportation means. For example, she has used COTA to get to the airport, the OSU bus system on really “nasty” winter days, Car2Go (twice), and Greyhound (it has WiFi!) to get to Louisville and Chicago. “When I first moved here, so many people acted like it wasn’t possible to be car-free in Columbus.” She shrugs, unlocking her bike. “And yet, it is possible.”

Esther Dwyer, scholars and recruitment coordinator for the School has been an avid bicyclist since college, but went car-free three years ago when she started graduate work at Ohio State.  About biking to work, she says, “For me it has been a win-win-win: good for my health, good for the planet, good for my wallet.” She also notes, “Bicycling around Columbus has also enabled me to get to know the details of this city and to be more aware of the changes and needs within my community.”

Esther shares the past two winters have been difficult, and biking is generally not as convenient as driving in Columbus, but it has taught her to be more flexible and strengthened her problem solving skills.  “While it may be a bit inconvenient in the city, biking is easily the fastest way to get around campus, and the rewards are substantial if you are up for a challenge!”

Greg Hitzhusen, a lecturer in the school says he has been bike commuting since 1998.  In 1998, he says, "My car died that year, I was in graduate school, and I figured that I'd probably be just fine without a car, so decided to give it a try."  Hitzhusen has been biking year-round to OSU since he began working at Ohio State in autumn 2007.

According to Hitzhusen, "When I started bike commuting in the 1990s, I did it mostly to reduce my environmental impact. Since then, I'd also say that I maintain my biking routine because it keeps me in shape, gives me some time to myself that's relaxing and energizing (versus being stuck in a car in a traffic jam), and it keeps me in touch with the weather and the great outdoors." Hitzhusen looks forward to his ride along the Olentangy River and he notes, "I also enjoy avoiding parking fees and the other costs of car commuting."  Greg is currently training for an IronMan Triathlon later this year (which includes a 112-mile bike leg), so his daily commute is now becoming an integral part of his training program. “It’s the bread and butter of my conditioning program.”

 Jeff Sharp, director of the School of Environment and Natural Resources also enjoys riding to work and reflects that he would like to ride more often. “I love the exercise of biking and the evolving scenery and wildlife found all along the route in from South Clintonville.” Sharp notes that his decision to live in Clintonville when moving to Columbus in 1998 was largely because the Olentangy Bike trail had recently been extended, allowing easy connection between Clintonville and Ohio State. Sharp notes for a long time (nearly 8 years or so) he did not even have a parking permit.

Learn more about how Columbus celebrates Bike to Work Day here.

Shown in photo:  Greg Hitzhusen and Esther Dwyer