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George Sackett

A Cool Guy Who Bikes from Work

George Sackett, the College's Web Content Supervisor, is 58, but you wouldn't guess his age. In fact, your estimation would probably be about ten years on the young side. Grey haired and fit, George looks a little like Paul Newman when Paul was playing left wing for the Charlestown Chiefs in the hockey film Slapshot.

How does he stay so fit? He bikes home from work, and home is not just around the corner. Indeed, the ride is from Downtown to West County. "The beginning of the season my ride takes about two hours. It soon drops to about 1 hour 40 minutes. By the end of the year I can hit 90 minutes if I do not run into a head wind."

Because of this long ride and because Cosand Center, like most places of business, does not offer shower facilities, George's commute is multimodal. He takes public transportation into work, placing his bike in the buss's front carrier, so that he has his bike for the ride home.

Like most commuters, George has found that one of the keys to commuting by bike is to find the best route. "My usual tack is to go down Broadway to Chouteau - out Chouteau to Macklind Ave. I cross over to in front of STLCC- Forest Park; I then pedal out Oakland to Clayton. Then it is all the way out Clayton to Clarkson. I turn left on Clarkson and travel a couple of blocks past Manchester. The toughest part is then up the hill into my neighborhood."

George doesn't bike every day, but he bikes as many days as he can. "My commuting schedule is controlled primarily by the number of daylight hours. The trip home takes anywhere from 90-110 minutes. When I find I have a hard time seeing the road in front of me because the sun is so low on the horizon, I believe that the drivers will also have a hard time seeing me and I hang it up for the year. I do try to ride a bit on weekends and do a spinning class or two during the winter to stay in shape in the off season."

Why does he do it? Smiling, George says biking to work is one way to meet the "challenge" of his wife's delicious meals. "I have to stay very active or eat less. Staying active has so many other benefits as well as maintaining my weight that I choose to eat well and exercise." But George could simply stick with those spinning classes at the gym, why the long ride into work?

Part of the answer is George's love of biking the road, which he rediscovered as an adult. "My younger brother started riding before me. He was a more serious biker doing a number of amateur competitions, and his experiences encouraged me to start riding again." This was the late 80's and George started biking the eight miles to his Maryland job, a commute that worked so well, he looked to do more. "I also got involved in the Multiple Sclerosis Society, riding a number of the 150 mile fund raisers." Clearly, George has caught the biking bug, but he commutes for other reasons as well.

George started taking the bus to work for selfish and selfless reasons. Public transportation is good for the environment, to be sure, but the bus ride is good for George too. "I do feel good that I am not adding to the pollution level of the city, but I have come to enjoy the commute by bus even when I do not have my bike. I enjoy the time to myself without the hassle of driving. I read at least a book a week since I regularly started riding the bus. Plus I save a few bucks over driving, which appeals to my parsimonious ways."

But then George found that mixing in biking would improve the trip. "My green motivation really was what pushed me to public transportation. The biking was a result of the extra time it took to commute by bus. I was losing time that I would have otherwise used to exercise. I figured that I could combine the bus and biking to be environmentally friendly and get a great workout."

For all those wanting to commute, George suggests getting a good bike, a helmet and being prepared for simple repairs such as flat tires. It's also a good idea to investigate your options of parking and securing your bike. You want to know that your bike will be safe without having to hide it under your desk.

There's one more step that will aid your commute-supporting public transportation. As George notes, biking is only half of the green and healthy equation. "Given the length of my commute, it is almost impossible to do both an inbound as well as a return commute in one day. That is especially true because there is no shower for me to get cleaned up after a long ride in. When Metro canceled the buses in my neighborhood, I was forced to curtail my bike rides until the buses were running again. I am very hopeful that the tax issue on the ballot this spring passes so that I will be able to continue my bike rides."

These concerns aren't so great when one considers the benefit of commuting to work. Extra savings. Movie-star looks. Saving the planet. These are all good reasons to follow George's lead and relearn what we knew as kids. Biking is cool.