Neal Scott is our second featured scientist from the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, MA, and we think they deserve the attention for their focus on global ecology, climate change and other forms of environmental degradation. If anyone has an idea about how urban sprawl, ever-larger parking lots and automobiles negatively affect the world around us, it's these guys. That's probably why about 30 percent of the staff ride bikes or walk to work at the Gilman Ordway Campus, their new, 'high performance' building. The structure, designed to produce more energy than it consumes, uses a mere 19 percent of the energy required to maintain a similarly sized structure built to state code.
Scott has worked at Woods Hole since 2000, where he studies how land use and land-use change influence the emissions of greenhouse gases. He first got serious about bicycle commuting during his years in graduate school earning his doctorate. He rode the twenty miles between his home and Colorado State University whenever possible, averaging 1,200 miles annually. In the 90s, he moved to New Zealand, a famously bike-friendly culture, where his commute was much shorter.
"Their cities are generally cycle friendly," Scott explained. "On a given day, even in the middle of winter, hundreds of kids would ride their bikes to school. I was appalled when returning to the US to find that almost no kids rode their bikes (or even walked) to school in our town."
Growing up on a farm, Scott, now 44, tore around on a single-speed 'banana' bike.
"I rode it all over the farm - both on roads and through fields. I remember riding it up rows of corn, like riding through a tunnel," he remembered. "And there were the tricks - how high up the retaining wall could I go off the edge and still land upright! There were some trips over the front of the handlebars."
first geared bike was a Schwinn Varsity ("didn't everyone
have one of those?"), and now he mostly travels
the ten-mile round trip between home and work on Cape
Cod on his old twelve-speed
Cannondale touring bike. He also rides a Motobecane tandem
fitted with a child stoker kit to take his two children
Last year, with the help of a group of dedicated volunteers, Scott organized a town-wide Bike/Walk to Work Day that coincided with the national Bike-to-Work Day sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists.
"Someone had done this in Falmouth about ten years ago, but since then little had been done to promote cycling in the town," he noted. "We had over 200 people ride and walk about 2,100 miles. Everyone was very positive about the event, and local officials and businesses provided very generous support.
"I would like to see more programs that promote local cycling and cycle-safety to kids," he continued. "Some of the schools have events like this, but I would like to see it done throughout the school system. There is a lot of momentum at the moment, and a large group of riders interested in promoting cycling, so we are thinking of starting an ad hoc cycle advocacy group for our town."
Scott reports that road safety is a big issue in Falmouth. "Our town has not done much to accommodate cyclists on the roads. The end result is that I have to ride down some pretty busy streets without designated cycle lanes. I raise these issues with the town whenever the chance arises, hoping that if they hear about this from enough people they might consider changing their process."
How to encourage others to commute by bicycle? "What we really have to do is continue to tout the benefits of leaving the car at home: improved fitness, reduced air pollution, and reduced traffic congestion," Scott suggested. "In the end, what we need are people out there setting examples. Leading by example is far more powerful than telling other people what they should be doing!"
"Just getting on the bike can be euphoric, and is a great stress release," he concluded. "I feel sorry for those that spend all their time in cars, often sitting in traffic. There is nothing more rewarding than cycling past a line of cars stuck in traffic!"
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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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