Monday, August 3, 2009

Commuter Profile - Rebekah Wallis

Bikejax met Rebekah as a volunteer during the Jazz Festival. She was assigned to the valet station at The Landing. The soggy weekend that deterred most commuters from riding bikes to the Jazz Festival was no issue for Rebekah who rode eight miles to The Landing and back. Rebekah rides to UNF regularly. She has added a rear rack with integrated basket for cargo. Her infectious optimism even inspires a stubborn soul like me. Intro via Abhishek

What do you use your bike for?

I use my bicycle as my primary method of transportation, so pretty much everything. I ride to school, events, meetings, church, to run errands, to hang out with friends, and to go to babysitting or tutoring jobs.

How often do you ride?

I ride almost every day.

How long have you been commuting by bicycle?

I’ve been commuting by bicycle on and off for several years, but consistently since May.

What would you say to convince someone who is considering commuting by bicycle to go for it?

Bike commuting is not as hard as many seem to assume. Riding my bicycle is so much more fun than driving a car; often it is one of the most enjoyable parts of my day! There are the obvious benefits of commuting by bicycle, such as improving your health, reducing your carbon footprint, and saving money. I really like the feeling of community that I experience when riding my bike; I enjoy interacting with the people who I pass by. I feel like it is really easy to become isolated from the rest of the world when driving a car. Another huge reason that I commute by bicycle is that I am appalled by the effect that the oil trade has on the rest of the world; I do not have any desire to support corporations who value profits over human lives by being a consumer of gasoline.

What could the city do to make biking better?

The city could make roads safer by creating more bike lanes, safer roads, and by educating the general population about the rights of bicyclists. There are many roads in Jacksonville that are scary to ride on. Almost every day people speed precariously close to me or yell not-so-friendly things out their windows.

What reaction do you get from co-workers?

I get mixed reactions. Some of my peers think it’s cool; others raise an eyebrow and warn me to be careful. The other day, an acquaintance told me that I was really brave. Last fall, when I was commuting to a tutoring job, my six-year-old student thanked me for helping the earth.

What’s the best thing about commuting by bicycle?

There is nothing quite like the feeling of the wind against my face and I love being able to appreciate my surroundings as I ride my bike. It feels very freeing to fly around on my bicycle; I like to ride fast. I also enjoy not having to worry about going to the gym or finding time to exercise, and I can eat dessert almost every day because I burn it all off. Another great thing about commuting by bicycle is that I do not have to pay or search for parking spots.

Can you give a brief description of your route?

When I ride to UNF, I take Belfort Road to Gate Parkway to Town Center Boulevard. Gate Parkway is really nice until I cross Southside, where the bike lane ends. My usual route is approximately 15 miles round trip. I try to stay away from major roads at all costs, but sometimes they are unavoidable.

Where are your favorite places to bike in Jacksonville? Least favorite?

I really love riding around Riverside and Downtown. However, I usually don’t leave the Southside area because I’m pretty busy with school. AC Skinner is a nice road to ride on. My least favorite places to bike are any places where there are busy roads without bike lanes, like Beach Blvd, Southside Blvd, or parts of Baymeadows. Touchton is probably my least favorite road because it is so narrow and I’ve had several negative experiences with impatient drivers.

What do you like about biking in Jacksonville? And dislike?

Parts of Jacksonville are really pretty, and biking enables me to appreciate the city’s beauty. I do not like having to deal with the ignorance of many Jacksonville drivers.

Do you commute in cycling or street clothing?

And if cycling clothing, how to handle the change to street/work clothing?

I commute in street clothes, but I almost always bring an extra shirt with me. I like to wear comfortable clothes for my commute; I usually wear shorts or a skirt (with bike shorts or leggings underneath).

Any bike gadget/gear cyclists should not go out without?

I installed a rear rack on my bike that really helps me carry things that I need, like books or food. I always bring lights with me just in case it starts raining, or in case I’m out longer than anticipated. I also bring a towel or two, extra tube(s), patch kit, mini air pump, and some Dr. Bronner’s soap.

Favorite or Funny bike stories?

I was waiting at a red light once, and a minivan pulled up next to me. The driver, an older woman of African-American descent, rolled down her window and said, “Baby, you look like you’ve been working hard!” I replied in the affirmative. She then proceeded to offer me cold water and told me to ride safely and to have a great day. I declined the water, but that encounter brightened my morning.

Scary bike stories?

A couple weeks ago, I was riding home from school, going down Town Center Pkwy. A company van purposefully swerved into the bike lane, causing me to veer into a right-turn only lane. The driver of the van slowed down, looked at me and laughed, like she thought it was funny that she could have seriously hurt me.

Anything else you would like to add?

I really appreciate this opportunity to share; I would love to see more people, especially girls, use their bicycles for transportation! Thank you Matt for everything that you do!


Ernie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ernie said...

I admire you riding to work as I'm very familiar with that route you take to UNF. I ride to work everyday in Mandarin, and EVERY weekend my girlfriend and I casually ride from Mira Bella to the Town Center just to relax and grab some good eats. My girlfriend also rides her bike to work(not everyday like we do), but she does when she's feeling good. Keep up the awesome motivation on commuting as I wish there were more people like you in our empty bike lanes around town. If you see a BRIGHT PINK hybrid and a Graphite Gray 400HT mountain bike around the St. Johns Town Center, wave and we'll definitely wave back if not stop to hang out!

GhostRider said...

Amen, bike-sister! Great profile.