For Bob Lawrence, the best part about biking to work is the early morning birdsong that announces the arrival of spring.
Robins and sparrows aside, though, there are other good reasons to commute on two wheels instead of four. For Lawrence, a bicycling commute guarantees 45 minutes of aerobic exercise every day and saves him about $5,000 per year in car cost, parking fees and maintenance. In addition, he gets to enjoy the good feeling that comes from making a modest contribution to the environment.
Except for those few days of the year when there’s snow or ice on the road, Lawrence makes the four-mile trek every morning from his home near Charles Village to his office on North Wolfe Street—and then back again at the end of the day. His commute is such a fixture at the School that he has a new parking spot in the Dean’s garage reserved especially for his bike, complete with a hook for his helmet.
Fortunately for Lawrence, Baltimore drivers seem willing to share the road. And, with new bike lanes and bike racks popping up in some neighborhoods, the city has made some modest strides toward becoming a cycle-friendly town. (There are more bike paths slated in the Bicycle Master Plan, which proposes connecting the entire city by bike lanes.) Lawrence notes the bike paths are a positive step, but he laments that, “None are yet available on the major north-south commuting roads of St. Paul, Calvert, Charles and Maryland.”
The worst part about commuting by bike, for Lawrence, is the air quality on summer days—Baltimore gets “hot, hazy and humid,” he says. Does he ever wish he could just drive to work? “Yes, especially so I could listen to NPR while commuting, as I am a news junkie.” But the health benefits and the ecological contribution help him to stick with it.
And the more the merrier. “As the weather improves, the all-weather bike parking area [in my garage] gets pretty full. I counted thirty at one point in the fall.” But he’s surprised that more people don’t bike to work in Baltimore, “a city that has few hills.”
Lawrence’s advice for aspiring bicycle commuters? “Get rugged tires and a rugged bike. Wear reflective clothing or a vest. Have a good helmet, and watch three to four cars ahead so no one surprises you by opening a door on a parked car.” And, of course, keep in mind that on May 16, he will lead a group of cyclists from the Homewood campus to the East Baltimore campus for Bike to Work Day. This would be an ideal way for new commuter-cyclists to try it out for a day with an experienced guide. The last piece of advice? Enjoy!