A Healthier, Happier Commute
By: Elise Hugus, May 16, 2012
ELISE HUGUS/ENTERPRISE - George Sykes (left), owner of Corner Cycle, and Hugh Birmingham (right), owner of Coffee Obsession, congratulate Jonathan Murray, the winner of a bike raffle sponsored by the two stores in 2009.
Rain or shine, Teaticket resident Jonathan Murray has gladly made the 11-mile commute to work on his Surly all-terrain bicycle over 200 days out of the last 365.
For the past three years, Murray, a member of the Falmouth Bikeways Committee, has committed himself to biking as often as possible to his job as a Linux specialist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic and while doing errands around town.
"When I have to go somewhere, the first question I ask myself is, 'Is there any way I can do this by bicycle?' In this busy life, it's very efficient to use the bike to get there and get exercise at the same time," Murray said.
Going green, saving green
Maintaining his health might be a motivator, but Murray's concern for the environment is also an important factor.
Get moving for Bay State Bike Week!
Outer Cape Bike Social
Thursday, May 17, 5 to 7 PM
Crown & Anchor
247 Commercial Street, Provincetown
Sponsored by the Cape Cod Commission, the Provincetown Bike Committee, and other local Bike Committees
Come and meet other bike enthusiasts from the Outer Cape Cod area. Bikeweek T-shirts & giveaways (while supplies last). Maps available.
Hyannis Biker Breakfast
Friday, May 18, 8 to 8:45 AM
Hyannis Transportation Center
Sponsored by Cape Cod Commission, Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, & MassBike
Bike commuters to Hyannis – start your day off right! Maps, schedules, and light refreshments/coffee available.
Bikes Not Bombs Bike Drive
Saturday May 19, 10 AM to 2 PM
Falmouth Congregational Church, 68 Main Street, Falmouth
Join the Friends of Falmouth Bikeways in a Bikes Not Bombs drive to benefit bikeless people in the Boston area and in developing countries!
Clear out that garage or basement, and feel good that your old bike gear is not going to waste! A $10 donation helps the organization pay for shipping costs.
Noting that the Union of Concerned Scientists rated biking or walking as the best thing a person can do to protect the environment, Murray said he reduced his car mileage by about 4,000 miles last year, just by biking to work.
"I can't say it's always easy when it's raining and 34 degrees, but I am prepared for all conditions and I simply love to be on my bicycle. Normally, by the time I get on my bike, I am happy I made the decision to not drive," he said.
Reducing his carbon footprint also reduces his gas expenditure by about $3,000 per year, he estimates, using a tool on the AAA website. He said the savings would increase further if more employers participated in an IRS reimbursement program that rewards bicycle commuters with $20 per month toward transportation expenses through the 2009 Bicycle Commuter Benefit Act.
Right of way
Despite the benefits to his health, his wallet, and his conscience, Murray said there are a number of challenges to biking year-round in Falmouth. During his commute from Teaticket to WHOI's Quissett campus, he said he has to navigate several busy intersections, Main Street traffic, and often fierce wind.
Bike lanes would make the two-wheeled option more attractive to people who are concerned about safety on main roads, said Murray. He has been discouraged by town officials, who say their reason for not painting bike lanes on the road is due to a lack of funding and because it is not a state requirement.
"As a taxpayer, I just want a three-foot wide area that indicates to motorists that I have a right to use the road. The problem is definitely at the state level, but towns have the option of deciding to put the lanes in if they want to mitigate the increased risks to cyclists," he said.
Taking a proactive approach, Murray said he hopes just his presence on the road creates more awareness among motorists and also encourages more people to ride a bike. He also said he is willing to help any resident tune up their bicycle and give them tips on how to commute.
Biking Providence to Provincetown
Biking is a good way to reduce traffic congestion, says Clay Schofield, a transportation engineer with the Cape Cod Commission. With a growing year-round population and an increasing number of people commuting to work from off-Cape, he says the region's "vehicle miles traveled" is projected to increase by 13 percent in the next 15 years.
While his focus is mainly on reducing the factors that lead to congestion, Schofield says the commission is tackling a cross-Cape bikeway that would link bike trails from Woods Hole to Provincetown.
Out of a "top 40" list of projects eligible for federal funding, the commission is prioritizing three new bikeways: a "shore route" running parallel to Route 28 from East Falmouth to Hyannis; a "bay route" along Route 6A; and a connection from the Cape Cod Canal in Sandwich, through Mashpee, and into Hyannis.
In addition, the commission wants to extend the Cape Cod Rail Trail from Wellfleet to Provincetown by making a right of way available to bikers and pedestrians. The Cape Cod bike trails could eventually connect with a "Providence to Provincetown" bikeway.
Though he says an expanded bike trail would be a nice perk, Murray wonders why the commission was placing a priority on bike trails that attract tourists, rather than bike lanes on main roads that residents could use to commute.
"It's a chicken and egg situation," he says.