Biking to work: 6 CHoR team members share why they do it and how they stay safe
May 20, 2022
Man getting off his bike at a bike rack

    Biking to work: 6 CHoR team members share why they do it and how they stay safe

    Several CHoR team members hit the road by bike to get to work each day. In recognition of National Bike Safety Month, hear from some of them about why they started and what they’d recommend to others who may be considering commuting on two wheels.

    Dr. Jesse Bain
    Critical care medicine

    1. Why did you decide to bike to work?

    It’s a great way to not have to worry about how long the commute will be and just be outside and get my body moving.

    1. How long have you been doing it?

    I’ve been biking to work the last 13 years.

    1. Do you have any funny stories?

    I spent four years in Portland, Maine where I did my residency. We then moved to Durham, North Carolina for my fellowship. I still remember the first time I rode home after working a 24-hour shift. It was the middle of July. It was so hot that it felt like someone was blowing a hair dryer in my face the whole way home! I had to convince myself I would get used to the heat. We’re fortunate to have the weather we do. It allows me to ride year-round!

    1. Any pro tips for someone who’s thinking about trying it?

    Biking to work is a great way to get your day started. I always make sure to remember that despite cyclists having the right of way, it’s important to ride defensively and always be aware of your surroundings. I never ride with headphones in. I have multiple blinking lights and a headlight, which are imperative!

    1. Where’s your favorite place to bike on the weekends/for fun?

    I really like to ride around Richmond. It may be to a lunch spot or an event. It’s a great way to get to social events as well. The James River Park System has some fantastic trails for mountain biking too

    Dr. Hannah Hollon
    Fellow, Healthy Lifestyles Center

    1. CHoR doctor Hannah Hollon with her bike in the mountains

      Why did you decide to bike to work?

    I enjoy the extra time outside, especially to decompress after work and get a little bit of exercise. I also think it's important that we do our part to limit our carbon footprint, and commuting can be a great way to do that! 

    1. How long have you been doing it?

    I’ve been riding to CHoR since I moved to Richmond in 2019. That said, I walked to school from first grade all the way through medical school. 

    1. Do you have any funny stories?

    It's fun seeing other people from CHoR on the commute down Franklin Street. I've embarrassingly fallen off the bike a few times on my commute and lost things, but nothing too crazy!

    1. Any pro tips for someone who’s thinking about trying it?

    Invest in bike lights and a good pair of gloves for colder months. I had this conversation with some PICU nurses a few months ago who felt uncomfortable riding on Broad Street, but you can ride in the bus lanes on Broad Street! They are now commuting and feel safe doing so.

    1. Where’s your favorite place to bike on the weekends/for fun?

    My favorite place is in Charlottesville/the mountains, but in town I like riding on the south side of the James River. 

    Meg Lessard
    Senior clinical research coordinator

    1. CHoR researcher Meg Lessard and her son on their bike

      Why did you decide to bike to work?

    I work on the MCV campus and my son attends the VCU Family Care Center, so we commute together. Biking is a great way to spend time together, be outdoors, reduce my car use and work exercise into my daily routine. Another benefit I discovered is it helps me transition from work to home; I can pedal out some stress and arrive home more centered and ready for family time. And, since I can park my bike right at my building it takes about as long to bike as it would to drive, park and then shuttle in!

    1. How long have you been doing it?

    Just over a year – I bought an electric bike last year and that was a game changer. I can handle the hills or longer distances easier (and don’t sweat as much).

    1. Do you have any funny stories?

    We bike over the T-Pot pedestrian bridge so have met a lot of wildlife. Sometimes you’ll see us stopped on the bridge as we count turtles or look for woodchucks.

    1. Any pro tips for someone who’s thinking about trying it?

    Try your route out on a weekend or a time when traffic will be less to see how it works for you. Search out the bike lanes, but if you have to ride on the street don’t be afraid to take the whole lane (it’s safer and cars will see you more easily). Just try it!

    1. Where’s your favorite place to bike on the weekends/for fun?

    Belle Isle, along the river or to a bakery

    Dr. David Marcello
    Hospital medicine

    1. Why did you decide to bike to work?
      It’s easier than driving and parking from the Fan and more efficient as I can be halfway home in the time it takes to walk to the parking decks. I save on parking fees and get some exercise during the day. I also save on car insurance – I gave up my car when it failed state inspection.
    1. How long have you been doing it?
      7 years
    2. Do you have any funny stories?
      I was asked by an administrator if I was parking my vehicle in the Children’s Pavilion (spaces in that deck are reserved for patients and visitors) as someone reported they saw me crossing 11th Street toward Sanger Hall. I was using the bike racks in the Children’s Pavilion thruway!
    3. Any pro tips for someone who’s thinking about trying it?
      Just do it. Use the bike lanes (like those on Franklin Street or Brook Road) or ride to the Pulse bus line to catch a ride (you can put your bike on the front of the bus). Wear a helmet. Use front and rear lights. Use hand signals. Do not assume vehicles will see or respect your space. I don’t ride in the rain or snow – brakes are less effective when wet. 
    1. Where’s your favorite place to bike on the weekends/for fun?
      I ride from the Fan to Ashland or Varina along the Capital Trail to get to some of the Richmond Area Bicycling Association published routes.

    Elizabeth Olmsted
    Associate administrator for research

    1. CHoR researcher Elizabeth Olmsted on her bike

      Why did you decide to bike to work?

    I live in the Church Hill neighborhood, less than two miles from MCV campus. The Leigh Street bridge that connects the two areas is fantastic – there is a double-wide bike lane going each direction and also a buffer area. It feels safe and biking is so much easier and faster than driving and parking and walking – not to mention the cost savings and the light cardio and leg workout.

    1. How long have you been doing it?

    I’ve been riding my bike to work every day since we moved to Church Hill a little over two years ago – although rarely during the heyday of the pandemic when I worked from home.

    1. Do you have any funny stories?

    I’m on the older end of bike commuters so I like to think that when people see me they think, well, if she can do it, I can too.

    1. Any pro tips for someone who’s thinking about trying it?

    Try your ride to work the first time during low traffic times (non-rush hour) and try different routes once you’re riding in the normal time frame to find what’s most comfortable. It may be different from your car commute and may not be the most direct route. You have to learn how to map your route from a different perspective – safety, hills, bike lanes, etc.

    1. Where’s your favorite place to bike on the weekends/for fun?

    My husband and I love to ride from Church Hill to our favorite lunch spot, Goatacado. We go through Monroe Park campus. The residential streets are quiet and I love looking at the architecture all over Richmond. Biking gives you a chance to slow down and connect with your surroundings in a way that driving doesn’t.

    Dr. Michael Ryan
    Hospital medicine

    1. CHoR doctor Mike Ryan riding his bike on the stairs

      Why did you decide to bike to work?  

    In no particular order: cost, efficiency, environment, joy and exercise. I really wouldn’t consider going to work any other way for all those reasons. I estimate I’ve saved $40,000 over time by biking rather than driving to work. A decent bike costs money, but nothing like traveling by car.   

    1. How long have you been doing it?

    I’ve been bike commuting to essentially every job I’ve had since I was 14 years old.

    1. Do you have any funny stories?

    I worked at a pool concession stand for a summer job when I was 17. One day when I left, I found out that someone stole my bike seat. I had to bike home three miles with no seat. I would not recommend that experience.

    1. Any pro tips for someone who’s thinking about trying it?

    I think there are several keys to staying safe while biking in a city like Richmond. 

    • Wear a helmet. Always. You do not want a head injury. I have seen dozens of kids with head injuries from a variety of causes. Most do very well, but it’s not something you want to have if you can avoid it.    
    • Bike aggressively defensive, meaning look four times when crossing a street, assume cars are not going to see you, assume drivers will go through red lights/stop signs, etc. If you’re ready for the unexpected, it won’t be so unexpected 
    • Choose a route that is safer even if it takes a little longer. If you have the option of avoiding a busy street, do so. 
    • Be very cautious of cars, even those that are parked. You never know when someone will open a door on you – it’s called “getting doored” by bike commuters. Fortunately, that has never happened to me, but I always look for it when riding on narrow streets with parked cars. 
    • Invest in high quality lights. It’s worth the money to make sure you’re noticed when it’s dark. 
    • If you are biking in the city, don’t use traditional road biking tires. You need a heavier duty set of tires to deal with city streets. I had six flat tires in one year before switching from a road bike to a hybrid. Haven’t had any in the four years since. 
    • Learn how to change a flat tire and bring tools to do so yourself. 
    • Make it fun. If it’s not fun for you, it’s not worth it! 
    1. Where’s your favorite place to bike on the weekends/for fun?

    I strongly prefer mountain biking but will road bike if the trails are wet. For mountain biking in the area, I think both Pocahontas and JRPS are great for different reasons. Pocahontas is ideal because there are trails only for mountain bikes (no hikers) and they’re mostly one way only, which avoids the stop and go that happens with shared bi-directional trails. But, it’s also a bit far from the city. JRPS is relatively difficult and can get a bit busy, but it’s incredibly convenient and a rarity to find such a great trail in a major city. For road biking, I prefer low-traffic country roads. There are great ones both east and west of Richmond. Bike Route 1 is a good option locally and not hilly for those who don’t want too much of a climb. The traffic dies down about five miles north of the city. The Capital Trail is a good place to start for road biking, but it can get congested. 

    Read bike safety tips for the whole family from Corri Miller-Hobbs, registered nurse and Safe Kids Virginia program coordinator.

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