Bike commuter knows a trek or two

photo of Herman on bike

Spending more than an hour traveling an average of 18 mph on a one-way commute to work each morning is an absolutely hellish thought to most of us. But that represents a banner trip for Herman May.

May, a research associate in orthopaedic surgery, rides a bicycle 22 miles from his north Garland home to work almost daily.

The North Texas Clean Air Coalition named him the area's top bicycle commuter during the National Bike to Work Week, held in May. He was presented with a new Raleigh C-40 21-speed bicycle and helmet from Jack Johnston Bicycles.

The coalition aims to improve air quality by encouraging drivers to choose cycling, walking or riding the bus as alternative modes of travel. Automobile emissions are the primary contributor to elevated levels of ozone. By bicycling once a week, a commuter can reduce his or her own automobile emissions by 20 percent, the coalition says.

"You are part of the solution," Bud Melton, a coalition representative told May. "Riding 75 minutes to work is really quite an example to set."

Actually, May is on the road a little longer than that.

"It takes me about an hour to an hour and a half to get here, a little longer in bad weather. When it gets below zero, I have to seriously reconsider riding in, but the rain doesn't bother me," May said.

Ignorant and discourteous motorists do bother him. Some drivers yell at him to get on the sidewalk, to go faster or swerve their vehicles toward him.

"The problem is a lack of education. They don't realize the law requires them to share the road with us, and they don't see a bicycle as a legitimate form of transportation."

According to texas law, bicycles are vehicles and are accorded all the privileges of a driver of a motor vehicle. He said he usually doesn't respond to motorists' harassment, because "by the time I could do anything, they are a quarter of a mile down the road." But if he catches up with them at a stoplight, he doesn't hesitate to tap on their window and explain his right to the road.

He can reach speeds of 20 to 25 miles an hour and alternates busy roads with less-traveled scenic routes, including the White Rock Lake trail, for his commute.

Like most of us, his father taught him to ride as a child, and it was his major means of transportation around the neighborhood. By the time he was a teen-ager, peddling around wasn't as "cool" as driving, so the bike took a back seat. He rediscovered his passion for cycling as a college student at Baylor University , and he's been an avid cycler since.

"When I drove to work, I'd commute for 45 minutes to an hour by car and then bike for about an hour and a half when I got home. So by combining the commute with my exercise, I can spend more time with my family."

It also fits another passion — the environment. May, who is on the university's recycling committee, believes the North Texas region isn't doing enough to help the environment. He realized biking to work was an option when he found others around the country on an Internet mailing list who commute by bicycle more than 20 miles.

"I really should have started doing this earlier."

"Bike commuter knows a trek or two"
Bridgette Rose McNeill
Center Times: August 1996

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last edited: 07 December 2000