The Ride, Issue 109
"A bicycle has always been a means of transportation for me," said Justin Booth. "But now it is also a part of my philosophy on life."
Booth works for the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo, part of a statewide organization that provides encouragement and opportunities for citizens to be physically active in their daily lives. He also started a Recycle-a-Bicycle program for youth with the help of other community associations.
"I do a lot of advocacy implementing Bicycle and Pedestrian Road Shows, local workshops intended to stimulate an awareness of pedestrian and bicycle safety issues in communities," said Booth. "Our goal is to create knowledge on how communities can encourage an active lifestyle."
A New York native, Booth first learned how to ride a bike as a child on Staten Island. "My father was proud that he taught me how to ride without using training wheels," Booth said.
When he started working in downtown Buffalo, Booth sought a way to keep fit without straining his previously injured ankles. Riding a bike to work afforded the opportunity for daily exercise within a busy workweek while allowing Booth to avoid repairing his unreliable car.
"Cars disconnect people from the rest of their planet", says Booth, explaining his dislike for cars. "They contribute to urban sprawl, pollute the environment, create unsafe conditions for pedestrians and cyclists, and allow people to be lazy.
"By not driving one, I am making a personal contribution to my own health and that of the environment."
Being 6 foot 9 inches tall has challenged Booth's ability to find a bike that fits. His commuting bike is a 22-inch mountain bike tricked out to suit his needs, but his newest purchase, an Atlantis by Rivendell, has him raring to go. Booth describes this 68-centimeter lugged steel frame as "beautiful and light - and much bigger - than any other bicycle I have owned. I can't wait to put it together."
Lake effect snowfall presents another challenge to Booth's daily commute. At the end of December in 2001, 7 feet of snow fell in Buffalo in one week. This dedicated employee headed into the office at 9am one morning and watched through his office window as conditions outside deteriorated. To avoid being stuck at the office, he departed City Hall before noon, where he was photographed for a national story about Buffalo's snowfall. He finally made it home, with icicles hanging from his beard.
But the weather isn't the hardest part of commuting. "My biggest complaint in Buffalo is the people driving cars. They usually lack consideration for a person on a bicycle," noted Booth. "And there's no bicycle lanes on roads. Busses don't allow bikes aboard or on racks. The light rail does allow bicycles but it only travels seven miles."
In April, Booth will participate in the Active Living Institute in Seattle, a presentation by the National Center for Bicycling and Walking intended to teach community leaders how the Emerald City has become one of America's premier cities for non-automobile transportation. He also recently became a Board Member of the New York Bicycling Coalition. And he still finds time to take his children, aged 4 and 5, out riding in the park.
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Planet Bike honors the silent hero of the Revolution: the bicycle commuter. A supercommuter rides through every season, in all types of weather, day and night. Choosing the simplicity, health and pleasure of bicycling, a supercommuter isn't necessarily against automobiles. They simply prefer to ride a bike to the grocery store, to work, to a concert or the cafe.
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