Miami, meet Ellen Haas, a 45-year old commuter bicyclist who lives on 8th Street and 62nd Avenue. Citing fitness, economic, environmental and personal reasons, Ellen recently started bicycling 6.5 miles to work downtown. Transit Miami has asked her a few questions about her commute.
Transit Miami: What was the impetus to start commuting by bicycle?
Ellen Haas: I promised myself that when gas reached $4 a gallon for the lowest octane, I would search for an alternate form of commuting. I decided on bicycling after doing some Internet research on public transit, carpooling and bicycling. Bicycling won out because I keep my independence.
TM: How was the first experience?
EH: The first experience was exhilarating. I rode like a bat out of hell, terrified, almost full speed the whole way thinking that I was going to be maimed or killed by a big dump truck or Metrobus, leaving my daughter with no mother. I was amazed when I arrived downtown intact. Riding home that first day was much more difficult, more traffic, intense sun, exhaust fumes, thunderstorms. Every day when I get home, I feel like I have summited Mt. Everest.
TM: Where do you ride and what is your route of choice?
EH: I head east on Eighth Street [Calle Ocho] at 62nd Avenue. I merge left onto Beacom Blvd. in Little Havana at 22nd Avenue. Then I merge onto Southwest First Street and head all the way downtown. I think it’s about 6.5 miles one way. My route of choice would be Coral Way east/west if it had designated bike lanes. It is a lovely shady street and not as manic as Eighth Street SW or Flagler.
TM: What are the challenges to bicycle commuting?
EH: The biggest challenge by far is car drivers ignorance of laws regarding bicycles and their aggression accordingly on the streets of South Florida. Another thing I didn’t realize is how bumpy poorly maintained roads are on a bike with no shock absorbers. The poorer the neighborhood, the less maintained the streets.
TM: What are the joys?
EH: There are many more joys than challenges. I am saving a lot of money on gas and will save more when I give up my parking space that I will surrender to a poor, deserving, still driving co-worker August 1st. I will also notify my auto insurance carrier that I drive a fraction of what I used to. I am also getting into good shape cardiovascularly.
TM: What type of bicycle do you ride?
EH: I ride a Trek 21 speed track bike. I’m not at all technical, so I don’t know the model or whatever.
TM: Do you have showers at work?
EH: There are showers at work but I would be able to deal with a sink and a washcloth if I had to.
TM: How about safe and reliable bicycle parking?
EH: No. I park over at the public library. I have approached the building management people but they look at me as if I have two heads and cite “security” concerns.” Soon I will ask a superior in the building with more “pull” than me to contact building management.
TM: What advice do you have for people who may be considering commuting by bicycle, but have not yet made the leap?
EH: Like Nike says, “Just Do It”. I am an overweight asthmatic 45 year old single parent. If I can ride 6-7 miles to work, ANYONE can. If you live further than that, consider biking part of the way and using MetroRail or Metro Bus for part of your commute. Everybody I talk to who is still driving has an excuse as to why they can’t.
TM: You have a daughter. What type of values do you think you are instilling in her by bicycling to work?
EH: I hope to instill in her a sense of strong individualism. When the new school year begins next month, I would like for us to bike commute together and I am quite sure no other student in her school rides a bicycle to school. We are becoming active in city, county, state and federal politics; carefully noting candidates’ stands on bike lanes and alternative forms of energy. She also has asthma so I want us both commited to improved health.
TM: What does Miami need to do to become more bicycle friendly?
EH: I could go on for paragraphs about how Miami-Dade County needs designated bike lanes with accompanying signage. Drivers need to be educated via “public service announcements” on television and radio to be broadcast in English/Spanish/Kreole about bicycle [e.g. the “Steer Clear” law] safety. I’ve noticed abandoned train tracks, perfect areas for bike paths. We each need to contact our elected officials and start making ourselves known, on the streets and off.
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