Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

Greg Peck: A remarkable year of commuting by bicycle

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Greg Peck
December 29, 2015

In 2014, I made 174 round trips, a mile each way, to the office and home by bicycle. I easily surpassed my goal of 150. This year, I got a jump-start, pedaling four times in January and dozens more in March. So I set a new goal of 200.

So how did I do? I breezed past that, too. In fact, realizing how easily I'd hit 200, I revised the goal in late summer and hoped to hit 250. I finally did it last week, pedaling both in the morning and afternoon on Tuesday (I usually ride home for lunch). Given Monday's snowstorm, I've ended the year at 251 rides. That required 19 round trips this month, including a few chilly ones, and many sticking to the sidewalks in darkness after work.

When I think about it, that's 502 fewer starts on my car's ignition, 502 fewer miles on my odometer. Estimating the total number of trips I make to and from the office each year, it also means I reached a tipping point and pedaled to work more often than I drove, in all four seasons. I believe the exercise was valuable.

Not that “bicycling season” has ended. Not by a long shot. Heck, as my dog, Molly, and I finished our walk before dawn today, walking along tire tracks in the unplowed street to avoid the many unshoveled sidewalks, here came my neighbor Jim with his lights on his fat-tire bike. Jim was struggling to stay upright until he reached a plowed street. He bicycles three miles to work year-round.

Don't think he's foolish. Earlier this month, Paul Murphy, the former city council member who's president of the Janesville Velo Club, announced the local bicycling group's 15th annual Frozen Fools Challenge. The event is the club's largest fundraiser and—get this—runs Jan. 1 to April 1 (Yes, April Fool's Day, thus the event's name). The challenge is for participants to pedal outdoors as many days as possible during those three months. Since 2002, more than 120 people have taken part, collectively riding 13,770 days and covering 277,000 miles, often in harsh conditions. The winner gets a sense of pride and the club's Challenge Penny, an encased coin.

The fundraising aspect of the challenge began in 2009 and has raised $15,000, split equally between the Anna Schenker Memorial Scholarship Fund and Velo Club projects and cycling-advocacy efforts. In 2015, for example, the club bought a brush mower for Rockport Park's mountain biking trails and donated toward a new ski trail groomer for the Friends of Rockport Park.

To donate or sponsor your favorite “fool,” go to www.michaelscycles.com and look for “Frozen Fools Winter Challenge” under the “Rides and Racing” tab.

Oh, and in an email to me, Murphy threw down the gauntlet for the 2016 challenge: His plan is to ride all 81 days and cover 1,500 miles.

Think you're up to that challenge? Better bundle up.


Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or [email protected]. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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