Friday, March 9, 2012

I want to ride to work...

Pratt, Kan. — A typical weekday morning in February finds many Pratt residents starting the day something like this: trudge out to the car, start the engine, turn on the front blower and rear window defroster, and let the car idle for 5 to 10 minutes.

By the time most back out of their driveways, at least three local residents are well on their way to work. 

Nelson Garcia, Kristen Castleberry, and Mike Neifert buck the norm by commuting on their bicycles. 

Garcia said his mile or so commute normally takes 6-7 minutes if the weather is good but closer to 10 to 15 minutes when it’s windy.

He has never owned an automobile and depends on his bicycle to get him where he needs to go.

“If you ride your bike, you save gas,” he said. “And you can just about get free water everywhere,” which he considers to be like fuel for cyclists.

While riding, Garcia totes a backpack for his belongings and purchases, such as groceries or the 40 pound barbells he once carried back to Wal Mart. He sometimes sports a larger backpack, which he said is “equivalent to the size of washer,” for trips to the Laundromat.

The mountain bike he rides these days was given to him about a month ago by a local couple who are regular customers at McDonalds, where he works.

In the month prior to this he pedaled a children’s bike, borrowed from one of his step grandchildren, after the rims cratered on his 26 inch wheels.

Garcia rides his gray mountain bike rain or shine, though he sometimes opts to either walk or use general public transportation services when it is snowing.

Kristen Castleberry confesses that she is mostly a fair weather commuter, primarily commuting from March or April through November. However, she said she rides to work at least one day out of every month of the year.

Her one way commute to Taylor Printing typically takes 10 minutes, and she averages 8 miles a day, returning home for lunch at noon.

“I started this whole ambition two years ago,” she said, “because one of my co-workers biked to work.” 

Castleberry’s riding is primarily limited to commuting, a leisure ride with her husband, or, in her words, “a random trip to the grocery store for a small item.”

One thing she has observed is that while cycling “a lot more people recognize you” than when driving a car. 

Friends Pastor Mike Neifert also regularly commutes to his work at the church and at Skyline School. He wears a bright orange jacket for visibility.

Neifert began commuting to work when he moved to town seven months ago, because, he said, “everything is close in Pratt.”

He averages 20-40 miles per week commuting but also runs daily and often takes longer bicycle rides into the countryside.

All three commuters consider Pratt a reasonably good town for cycling.

“People are fairly courteous,” said Neifert, adding, “Usually when I get honked at, it’s someone I know.”

“I almost got ran over twice so far,” said Garcia of his five years commuting in Pratt. He added, however, that the majority of people are friendly and that many “drive by and wave.”

Castleberry recalled one positive experience with a motorist.

“One time I was at a light,” she said, “and this lady rolled down her window and said, ‘Hey, it’s good to see you wearing that,’” indicating Castleberry’s helmet.

In closing, Neifert offered this friendly advice to local motorists: “Be alert and watch for us. We’re trying to ride smart, so please drive carefully.”

Brandon Case, The Pratt Tribune, March 3, 2012
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