[*BCM*] BOSTON-HERALD\Bike commuting? No sweat

Jym Dyer jym at econet.org
Sat Mar 10 14:49:30 EST 2007


Bike commuting? No sweat
     By Darren Garnick/ Working Stiff
Boston Herald | Wednesday, 07-Mar-2007

Although the Ladder District's Ivy Restaurant doesn't brag about
it on its menu, chef Tony Bifano might have the most powerful
calves in Boston.

Bifano, regardless of the weather, makes a three-hour roundtrip
commute six days a week by bicycle. He wasn't motivated by the
new Al Gore documentary. Fossil fuel consumption and global
warming aren't on his radar screen. Bifano's purpose is more
primal: He can now eat as much Italian food as he wants.

"I can't get fat," he claims. "I'm on my feet another 12 to 15
hours a day and I don't get as tired as I used to."

Bifano recently cut his South Weymouth to Boston commute by 30
minutes each way by switching from a bulky mountain bike to a
sleek commuting bike -- essentially a lightweight road bike with
fenders and storage racks. _Wired_ magazine calls mountain bike
commuting the equivalent of "carrying around a 17-inch gaming
laptop as a PDA."

The chef agrees with the analogy, claiming his new wheels (a
Christmas gift from his boss) "make riding a bike uphill easier
than walking."

The cycling industry is trying to woo urban bike commuters with
high-tech $1,200 models featuring headlights that charge as you
pedal and thermal coffee mugs that clamp to the frame. Other
accessories include a dental-tool-sized mirror for bike helmets,
a bicycle garment bag that neatly folds over the rear wheel and
even studded snow tires.

At the Cycle Loft in Burlington, owner Jeff Palter says he's
noticing more customer interest in bike commuting, but admits
"it's a slower process than some of us would like. Some people
just aren't willing to stuff their suit in a bag and ride

The Cycle Loft has forged a partnership with Sun Microsystems,
sending technicians to the company's Burlington campus to tune
up employees' bicycles on designated days. It also promises the
"highest priority service" to bike commuters, according to Sun's
internal company Web site.

Palter says about half of his 13 to 15 full-time employees
choose to bike to work. His shop has two showers and a changing
area, amenities that can tip the scales for any commuters
wavering between their bikes and cars.

Bike commuter Tim Pierce, a software engineer for Akamai in
Cambridge, has made his wish known for showers at work. But the
lack of facilities doesn't deter him from his "hybrid" journey.
Pierce drives 30 minutes from his Carlisle home to Arlington,
where he parks and takes his bike off his car rack. From there,
he pedals another 30 minutes into Kendall Square, saving about
$20 a day in parking fees.

He also saves valuable coat rack space at Akamai.

"I don't even wear a jacket in the winter. I find that if I wear
anything more than a T-shirt and sweatshirt, I get too sweaty,"
Pierce says, adding that he also rides at a "gentle pace" to
avoid showing up to work soaked.

"I wish more people did it," he adds. "It's much less
aggravating than sitting in traffic."

Cycling enthusiast Eric Miller disagrees, finding that his
potential for expressing road rage multiplies when he commutes
by bike. "Maybe because I feel so much more vulnerable out
there," he says.

For the past decade, Miller has been a curious roadside
attraction for Brookline and Brighton motorists -- primarily
because of his extremely low center of gravity. Before recently
relocating to Philadelphia, he rode a ground-hugging recumbent
bike to his software job at the Art Technology Group in

Need a visual clue to jog your memory? He was the guy dressed
in neon with a bright orange flag and spinning windsock flying
above his rear wheel. (Miller will be bringing his bike back to
the Bay State in August for the Jimmy Fund's Pan-Massachusetts

The fitness buff's paranoia about being seen by zombie motorists
seems justified. According to the Associated Press, the
California Highway Patrol issued citations to 510 drivers last
year for using a TV or computer monitor in the front seat. Last
week, a Honda driver died on California Highway 99 after using
his laptop seconds before crossing the center line and smashing
into a Hummer.

Once motorists do see Miller, though, they don't forget him.

"People either think I'm crazy or they get totally turned on by
the bike," he says. "It's almost like a religious thing."

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