By Dave Lavallee
Want to help combat climate change? Stop driving to work and start riding your bicycle. Dave Lavallee shares why he rides in all seasons and in almost any weather. Spoiler alert: Your bicycle commute might be as good for your health and happiness as it is for the environment.
When I ride my bicycle to work, I look like a cross between Miss Almira Gulch–the cranky old lady in The Wizard of Oz who speeds off on her bike with Toto in her basket–and a crossing guard. That’s because my modified Bianchi Cortina hybrid has high handlebars to prevent wear and tear on my back and neck, a rearview mirror, and a carrier rack–not unlike Miss Gulch’s ride. And my bright orange, reflective vest, which helps make me visible to cars, is unmistakably crossing guard-like. When fully tricked out for night riding, I look like a carnival ride–a rear red light on my helmet, reflective Velcro straps across my ankles, spoke lights, and my Tru headlight.
I’ve been making the 5-mile trip to URI and back just about every day for at least 20 years. I ride in snow, rain, wind, frigid cold, and, on a few occasions, when the forecasts have failed me, I’ve even braved the ride in thunderstorms. But still, a bad day on my bike is better than a good day in a car.
More on Why Dave Lavallee Rides
How Lavallee uses his love of cycling to support those living with multiple sclerosis, help ease traffic and environmental woes, get some exercise, and lift his spirits.
Why? Because I’m generating my own power, which makes me feel great and helps keep me relatively fit, notwithstanding my stomach bulge from eating too many chips and drinking too much soda. And when I blast down a hill, the sensation of speed and the wind in my face make for a wonderful rush. I can also smell, feel, see, and hear the seasons changing. Each season offers its own treats for the senses; but autumn–which offers bright foliage, the pungent aroma of decaying leaves, crisp air, and the rustle of deer in rutting season–is one of my favorite times to ride.
I also bike to church (a perfect time to examine my conscience and get ready for worship), the library, URI football and soccer games, and Scarborough State Beach. I’ll even put my bike on a Rhode Island Public Transit Authority bus to get to Newport and Providence.
And, like Almira, I get cranky about:
1. Drivers who speed by when there is barely any room, almost taking the hair off my arms, and those who pull in front of me by just a few feet to make a right turn. Really?
2. Cyclists–especially the super-competitive folks–who don’t signal or obey traffic laws. Also cyclists who ride through intersections without stopping or ride against traffic and on sidewalks. And cyclists who wear earbuds–do you want to die?!?
3. Shortsighted state and municipal officials who fail to incorporate bike lanes and wider shoulders in their road planning.
But this is what keeps me going: getting the best parking on campus, keeping a car off the road (my little effort to combat climate change), and knowing I can still crank out 20-, 30- and even 75-mile rides on a hybrid bike at 62 years old. •
Dave Lavallee ’79, M.P.A. ’87, is assistant director of communications for the University of Rhode Island. He has worked at URI since 1994 and has been a bicycle commuter for the better part of his tenure here.