EDITOR’S NOTE: In honor of National Bike To Work Week on May 14-18, we will be running a series of features of bike commuters who work at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Southcentral Foundation and Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage and the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium in Sitka. Thank you to Laura Kotelman of Southcentral Foundation for supplying the Anchorage profiles (written by Janice Swier) and SEARHC for the Sitka profile (note, most profiles appeared previously in newsletters for the various organizations).
Biking started as just a recreational sport for Southcentral Foundation Clinical Exercise Specialist Andrew Cunningham, but as he used his bike for recreation he realized how easy it would be to use it as a form of transportation as well.
Cunningham has now been riding to work for two years, trying to ride every day, regardless of weather conditions. “This winter threw some minus-20-degree (Fahrenheit) days at me, and I had to dress and prepare for that,” Cunningham acknowledges of one of the challenges he has faced with biking through the winter season.
According to Cunningham planning ahead and being prepared for all conditions is the most difficult aspect of commuting by bike every day. Initially when he started commuting by bike, Cunningham had to take the time to figure out a reliable route and an alternate route, just in case. Cunningham admits, “Changing my routine at first was a challenge,” but Cunningham now bikes 7-10 miles, depending on the route, to work nearly every day.
He would tell you that there are a lot of good reasons to use your bike as transportation: getting a workout, saving money on fuel, less wear and tear on your vehicle, etc.; but Cunningham says that for him, “The most rewarding part of commuting by bike is feeling energized first thing in the morning, which helps me through the rest of the day. Also, I love getting outside every day, year round.”
Cunningham encourages others, “If you are considering commuting to work on a bike, give it a try! If you don’t feel like you are fit enough to ride the full distance for your commute, start by driving a little closer and find a place you can park your car and ride to work from. Build up from there and make gradual increases in your distance. Not only will you eventually save gas and wear and tear on your vehicle, but your health will also benefit, mental and physical.”
Cunningham has participated in the last two Bike to Work weeks and will be participating in events again this year by both riding his bike and volunteering at an event.