I Love to Ride My Bicycle Like a Ninja: Part 2

Earlier, Elaina shared with us why she chose to bike to work and everywhere else she goes. Keep reading to find out how she overcomes the challenges that ride her way on daily commutes as well as some of the benefits.

Challenges, Gear and Being a Ninja

For the cold, I wear a balaclava over my head under my helmet (covers those cowardly Zora on back of cruiser.jpgareas like neck and ears and can be pulled down as a scarf or up over your mouth and nose during blizzards), microfleece lined stockings and boots, which wipe easily.  I wear only dresses, which are more comfortable when biking every day and transition well to the office. If dresses aren’t your bag, be sure to always have a pant cuff, or your chain will delightfully gobble at that right leg. Also for pants, you will need good socks to keep you warm – a wool blend is easy to find and they will last forever if air dried after a wash. A good backpack is important, with lots of pockets. Good gloves and liners are important and worth spending a little more on – same for the balaclava, which may make you unrecognizable and very ninja-esque but will also make you impervious to every type of cold weather imaginable. Another invaluable piece of gear is a seriously obnoxious light that has the ability to be seen from more than one angle and has a flashing mode. This will make you visible to cars who are not expecting to encounter a bike and will make things a bit more relaxing if you are returning home from an evening downtown (where parking is always free and ridiculously convenient for bikes). These lights are waterproof and can be charged with a USB cable.

I do not spend more than a few hundred dollars on my bikes and I do not spend much each year to maintain them. As a bike commuter, the ubiquitous wear and tear pales in comparison to that spent on maintaining a motor vehicle and amounts to a new seat for my single speed cruiser and new tires after ten years of heavy use.  I have invested in thorn resistant liners with slime beneath my tires that allow me to purposefully roll through a patch of thorns without a single worry. Prior to discovering the liners I would get several flat tires per year, which is very costly in both time and money to repair.

Flexibility and Happiness

IMG_1372I have enormous flexibility as a bike commuter. I can run several errands on my lunch break. I can even shop for groceries and often carry loads of up to 50 pounds back to the office. I have a cruiser with large wire baskets, a trailer for larger loads, and several trunks which have expandable panniers.

I am much happier than I have ever been. There is also the fabulous side effect of not having to maintain a gym membership. Biking year round gives me an advantage in maintaining a healthy weight and as a result, I avoid spending unnecessary money on healthcare.  I have more energy than ever and enjoy the proximity of our office to the greenbelt for tiny breaks which are spent exercising in more fresh air. I also interact more with members of the community more easily; I enjoy smiling and saying hello to everyone on the bike path, whereas in the past I was a bit shy. I know many people by name and I have the ability to stop and chat with individuals of all ages if I want to, even for just a few moments of conversation. The sense of community that this allows for me is satisfying and a wonderful example to give to my children.

The best part about embracing a bike commuting lifestyle are the memories I am making with my children of what is possible. We get to talk to one another as I escort them to school, without worrying about traffic hazards. We share the experience of the local wildlife and the changing of the seasons without the barrier of a windshield or the roar of a motor. We get snow and rain on our faces. I get to see them master a very practical skill that will bring them joy for life. We notice the elusive herons, bald eagles, and have great IMG_1160reverence for the geese and ducks that, like us, are out living their lives, rain or shine.

There’s nothing like witnessing the beauty of our planet from a bicycle. It is a pastime that will constantly give back at least as much effort as you put in. And, yes, it is possible to ride on ice!   Xmas Eve sunrise nature path

 

 

Do you ever feel like what you seek is seeking you?

It’s always great when your values as an individual match your employer’s values. Julie T. is one of those PacificSource employees. Julie takes it upon herself to actively live our values, every day.

During Idaho Gives, a 24-hour charitable event, Idahoans will give back to the nonprofits that support their communities. In honor of Idaho Gives, we asked Julie to share her story about why giving back to the community is so near and dear to her heart. Here’s her story:

When my family decided to move from Missoula, Montana, to Boise in 2013, I knew I

IMG_0109

PacificSource Health Plans employees strive to make a difference in the community.

wanted to seek a career at PacificSource Health Plans. I had the pleasure of working with many individuals over the past few years, and while it was the people that drew me to the company, it was the company’s mission and values that intrigued me the most. One of my favorite values has brought so much passion to my life:

We actively participate in efforts to improve our communities.”

Last year, I was chosen to lead the PacificSource United Way campaign, a company-wide fundraising activity. Although I knew I had the passion, I was very nervous about being able to execute a successful campaign.

At the United Way launch breakfast, I clearly remember Nora Carpenter, CEO of United Way Treasure Valley, saying the best way to inspire people is to share a personal story. I started thinking, “I have a story—a very personal story—but am I brave enough to share it with our staff of more than 100 people?”

The answer was, “Yes!”

I was reluctantly brave, and although it was a very vulnerable moment in my life, it is one that I will never forget. During my childhood, for more than six years, I was matched with a Big Sister from Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. My mom was a single parent, and we didn’t have much. It changed my life.

I think my story inspired people, because over the next six weeks, employee participation in the campaign increased dramatically.  Many employees wanted to learn more about United Way, as well as Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Since then, I’ve had the chance to share my story and the benefits of a one-on-one mentoring relationship at the Big Brothers Big Sisters Mixer in December, 2015. I will also speak at their Magical Moments Gala in May, 2016. In addition, I have the opportunity to lead the Charity of Choice Committee for Big Brothers Big Sisters and work closely with them this year to continue paying it forward.

BBBS Mixer 009-001

Nora Carpenter, CEO United Way Treasure Valley, Sarah Leeds, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Idaho, and Julie Triepke at the Big Brothers Big Sisters Mixer.

The past few months have been life changing for me, and I look forward to remembering these experiences as the time when I found my passion!

As an adult, I realize the impact complete strangers had on my life, because they donated their time, money, or items to a local nonprofit. It means even more to me that I work for a company that encourages their employees to actively participate in the community, because they also believe it changes lives.

It’s a beautiful thing when your career and your passion come together!

 

Click here if you would like more information on how you can participate in Idaho Gives.

On Thursday, May 5, Idaho gives. Will you?

 

 

 

 

I Love to Ride My Bicycle: Part 1

I recently found out that Elaina, one of the employees in our Boise, Idaho office, bikes everywhere she goes.  To me, that was really amazing, I can barely walk on snowy roads let alone contemplate riding a bicycle on them,  but it left me with a million questions for her. How do you grocery shop?  How do you get your kiddos to school, how do you get to work without looking like a hot mess?  Here’s part one of Elaina’s bike riding story.

Bicycling combines exercise, lifestyle prioritization, financial benefits, environmental IMG_1359consciousness, and being awesome all into one single outdoor activity. This will be my 5th straight year of commuting via bicycle year-round, with kids in tow, and I’m having the time of my life.

If you ride a bicycle, be proud. Humans riding on bicycles are more energy-efficient than any other animal and any other form of transportation. Vance Tucker of Duke University compared bicyclists to humans and animals running, birds flying and fish swimming, as well as to people in motor-powered cars, boats, trains and planes (J. Exp. Bio, 1973; 68 (9): 689 – 709). The less energy per weight you use to travel over a distance, the more energy-efficient you are. Vance found that the most efficient creature without mechanical help is a condor. With mechanical help, the cyclist comes out on top. Here is a partial list, ranked from most to least energy-efficient:

  1. Human on a bicycle
  2. Condor
  3. Salmon
  4. Horse
  5. Human in a jet plane
  6. Human walking
  7. Human running
  8. Human in an automobile
  9. Cow
  10. Sheep
  11. Dog
  12. Hummingbird
  13. Rabbit
  14. Bee
  15. Mouse

Biking forces you to be efficient with your choices. 

When I became a single mother, I was forced to be ruthlessly efficient with my choices. Armed with no resources but supportive family and my sociology degree (with its associated altruistic yet teensy paycheck), I had to decide between being able to afford a car, which would make the choices for child care suboptimal, or to live without a car and spend the bulk of my income on better childcare.  I chose the latter and have never looked back.

I met the love of my life and his daughter a few years ago and moved here to Boise, where we have slowly built a life that caters to bike commuting and living simply. Together, my family of four have twelve bikes (our ancient dog even has a trailer) and one (equally ancient) car, which is rarely driven. We sold my partner’s house and now live in a small home that is next to the bike path and the pristine Boise River. I sought out work at this amazing company, which, refreshingly, encourages wellness endeavors and just so happens to be less than a mile away from my home and across the street from my children’s school, with only one major street to cross. It may seem a stroke of luck, but mine is a lifestyle carefully engineered over several years to focus on the priority of living without being dependent on a car.

If you want to hear more about how Elaina stays on her bicycle during winter, spring, summer, and fall, check out Part 2 of this blog.