August 11, 2011


Biking to work a lifestyle

Bicycle safety class slated for Sept. 14 at County Office Building

UnionJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Judy Walrath, an employee of the CAPCO WIC program, rides her bike to and from work most days, even in the rain and snow, and is seen here riding down Richard Street in Cortland last week after work.

Living and Leisure Editor

Judy Walrath counts herself lucky to live in Cortland — with its wide roads and accessibility, so she can ride her bike to work, to the grocery store, or to the post office to pay her bills.
“We have big shoulders. That’s nice. I don’t have a lot of beef about Cortland’s biking. The roads are bike friendly. Sometimes the people aren’t,” she said. “They think bikers should be on the sidewalk. No,” she said. “I’ve had people yell, ‘Get on the sidewalk,’” she said.
She acknowledges that parents tell their kids to stay on the sidewalk and that’s another story, but regular bikers should be on the roads, she said.
The WIC nutritionist at CAPCO has been riding her bicycle regularly for a good 30 years. She bikes every day the few miles to work, dropping off her child to St. Mary’s School beforehand and counts this time as her fitness time.
“It’s a habit. I would love to see more people doing it,” she said.
“I think it’s phenomenal,” said Angela Perry, bike safety educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County. “It’s a great idea. I think work places should support it. They should provide places for changing and cleaning up.”
Perry said that’s the number two reason people surveyed say why they don’t bicycle to work. The number one reason is the safety factor, not having an easy route because of traffic.
Perry will be offering a class in bicycle safety 5:30 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Cortland County Office Building, to show people how to navigate the roads. Sign up at 607-753-5077. It will be free, people can get a free helmet and there will be snacks offered.
Perry said people need to follow the regular rules of the road that any car driver would. Respect and follow traffic signals, wear a helmet and be aware of their surroundings, she said.
Kate Reagan of Cortlandville is a court clerk at Cortland City Court and makes it a practice to ride her bicycle to work.
“It’s really — just as much as I can. We have a big family, so some days I have to. I actually ride our son, who is 6. I have a ride-a-long bicycle,” she said.
She probably does this a couple days a week, rides her son to school, then to work, and picks him up later in the day.
“I do it whenever I can,” Reagan said. “I like to ride and I ride as much as I can ... But I’m not a long distance rider ... I think it’s important to keep moving, to move when you can,” she said. “Not all year long. I do it until just about when it snows and put it up until spring.”
“If I don’t get exercise, I don’t feel very good and it’s not anything remarkable,” Reagan said. “It’s not competition.”
Biking is year-round for Walrath.
“There’s only a very few times that I wouldn’t (bike) and that would be if there’s a snowstorm,” Walrath said. “I bike in the winter most of the time, as long as there’s no slush on the road, and torrential downpour, then I probably won’t. That’s very rare. And when I know it’s going to rain, I dress accordingly. Regular rain doesn’t bother me.”
Walrath wears skorts, pants or capris to work, making sure they are dark to cover any dirt she picks up on the road. She has a raincoat and wears sandals because they will dry out at work. She keeps an extra set of clothes and shoes at work.
Walrath and Reagan both have hybrid bicycles and Walrath has a bike rack and bike bags that carry groceries. She takes her bike to Aldi’s and Price Chopper.
“I always carry bungees with me. That’s my prerequisite for travel and the unexpected,” she said.
Walrath will get a box from Aldi’s to carry food and bungee her load to her rack. Watermelon? No problem, she puts that in the box and bungees it in.
“People look at me like I’m nuts,” she said.
She doesn’t worry about it. And when she rides her bike, she doesn’t dread any hills on her path. If she wants to ride her bike up a hill, she does. If she wants to walk the hill, she does. “I have gotten through that pride thing ... I am not proving anything to anyone.”
She and her husband, Bob, a guidance counselor at Cortland High, have a vehicle, but Judy Walrath is very choosy about using it. She has two bikes, in case one has a flat, and her husband takes care of the maintenance on her cycles.
“My husband, he puts up with my shenanigans with transportation because for me it’s more ... I do my prayer, my thinking, it’s my quiet time.”
She also spends her lunchtime biking or walking. “It’s my mental health break,” she said.
The body is built to be moving so she tries to move it whenever she can. She doesn’t understand why a person would drive their car a mile to work, then drive to the gym to work out. “To me, that’s ironic. Your work out is your daily life.”
“I am very conscientious of the environment ... I was brought up to be thankful and aware of what we have and never take it for granted,” she said.“I just do what I know is right and do it. To me this is right.,” Walrath said.
Perry, a Truxton resident, made it a point to ride her bike into work once a week, a 16 mile trek, last summer. This year, she’s been healing from a back injury and is ready to start up again.
“It’s so different. It slows you down. It makes you appreciate the beautiful surroundings we live in. It makes you see the world differently. It makes you calmer inside.”


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