Sunday, May 20, 2012

Carmel Indiana bicycle commuter.


Traffic reports? Who needs 'em.

Not Bruce Baldwin, who saddles up his bike each day around 5:45 a.m. for a two-wheel commute down the Monon Trail -- no radio necessary.

"It's good for my fitness, but it's also just a mental thing," said Baldwin, 39, who lives in Carmel and works at Eli Lilly and Co. "I'm not bored, and I don't sit in traffic.

"And there is nothing better than coming out of work on a sunny day and looking forward to a nice ride home."

Baldwin is among the growing number of suburban folks taking bicycle commuting seriously.

Friday is the annual Bike to Work Day, when city leaders and bike enthusiasts encourage rookies and casual riders to try it for at least a day. Not many do, even if the Monon appears to be rather busy during the two-wheel rush hours.

"Well, no one has a number on bicycle commuters other than 'a lot' and 'it's growing,' " said Joe Hettle, a spokesman for the Central Indiana Bicycling Association.

According to one national survey, 0.3 percent of the working population in the Indianapolis area commutes by bicycle. So says the Washington, D.C.-based Alliance for Biking & Walking. Those numbers may be higher in bike-friendly Carmel, but no surveys could be found.

Indianapolis ranked 40th out of the 51 largest U.S. cities in the study. Portland, Ore., is the U.S. city with the highest proportion of bicycle commuters, almost 6 percent.

INDYCOG, a bicycle advocacy group, said novices can jump on a trail or on a street with a bike lane (and there are plenty in Carmel and Indianapolis) and make their way to the new Bike Hub at the City Market in Downtown Indianapolis.

At the Bike Hub, you can store your bike, take a shower and change into work clothes. On Friday, there will be a free breakfast, speakers and other "biker hoopla."

Baldwin, whose almost daily bike commute (depending on the weather or other needs) has totaled 20,000 miles in the past 10 years, works as a molecular biologist at Eli Lilly and Co.

It's still rather dark when he leaves his house, just east of Keystone Parkway near 116th Street. Many days he rides with a neighbor, who also works at Lilly.

He's a regular on the trail -- averaging four to five days per week in the summer months -- and bikes from March to November. If it's pouring down rain or if severe storms are coming, he will drive.

And there have been times when a spouse is called to rescue the pair during a sudden lightning storm.

But on most days, Baldwin very much prefers the bike over a car.

"We go across 116th Street, to Range Line Road, down Westfield to 111th Street, and then to the trail," he said. He takes the Monon all the way south to 10th Street, before jumping on city streets and over to Eli Lilly.

One way, it takes about an hour, but he spends no money on gas and never has to scramble for a place to park.

Key note: While he does not have to gas up his bike, he admits that the savings on gas money are not as clear-cut as many believe. After all, he has spent plenty over the years on bike repairs, flat tires and food.

"I do get hungry," he said. "Biking is great for your health, but you burn calories and you need to eat more to keep up your energy."

Baldwin keeps clothes at an Eli Lilly locker room. "I sweat, so it's nice to be able to get a shower." He carries his work papers and other things on a rack behind his seat.

And he has never worried much about safety, despite a few high-profile cases of crime.

"My wife and I have talked about it," he said, "but millions of people use that trail and you only hear about a couple of incidents on the news. I think the stats are a lot better than what people think."

Besides, he said, it's rare to ever be really alone on the trail. There always seems to be somebody nearby.

The ride home, which begins about 5 p.m., tends to be more crowded on the trail, but Baldwin said he has had no crashes and deals with just a few flat tires each year.

"Believe it or not, the trail stays pretty clean," he said. "There is not a lot of broken glass."

Just in case, he carries with him the tools necessary to fix a flat fast. He also said his fellow bikers tend to be very helpful.

"There are many times when I'm fixing something and everyone riding by checks to see that I'm OK or if I need a hand," he said.

Not as friendly are the occasional drivers at the cross streets who zip across the trail without looking or slowing down.

"They are really not that bad, because most drivers are very courteous," said Baldwin.

"I will say, though, that they are more courteous as you get closer to Indy, and a little less so in Carmel.

"Let's just say I've been yelled at a few times."

Not enough to cause him to abandon his bike. It has become a daily part of his life.
Credit: Dan McFeely @

1 comment:

Charlie said...

I love to save money riding my bike! I can enjoy a beautiful day and at the same time I'm being healthy!