Content without the car |

Content without the car

Nikki Katz
Shane Macomber/Vail DailyDawes Wilson says he bikes 20 minutes to work year round, rain, snow or shine.

EAGLE COUNTY — Dawes Wilson was on his way home from work last winter when a police officer stopped him on South Frontage Road. They spoke briefly as they stood on ice and fresh snow, and Wilson continued on his way, ignoring the officer’s warning.The officer had told the Vermont native it was too slippery to be on a bike. Wilson told the officer he’d been biking to work in the Vail area for the past 20 years, and he wasn’t about to stop.According to Wilson, the only trick to riding in the winter is having “the proper equipment and the proper attitude.”Wilson said he enjoys the outdoor exercise and the “reduced environmental impact” of biking to work year round.”It’s actually faster to ride my bike in the winter because by the time you scrape off the (car) windows, get it started and park in Ford Park and walk from there, it’s just not worth it,” Wilson said. “And it’s actually warmer for me to hop on my bike and go uphill than it is to sit in my cold car.”

“Commuters deserve a lot of praise,” said ECO Eagle Valley Trails Program Manager Ellie Caryl, who is heading a contest for the 2006 Commuter of the Year award. Although Wilson has not yet been nominated, he is a well known cyclist in the Vail area.With studded tires, two pairs of gloves, goggles, a hat and intense concentration on the road, Wilson can easily be recognized. Locals often honk or wave to him as he rides to and from work, he said.Wilson is a downhill ski instructor on Vail Mountain in the winter and works at Pedal Power Bike Shop in Avon in the summer. Both commutes are 20 minutes because riding on studded tires is a lot slower, even if the pavement is dry, he said.Wilson said the biggest challenge of commuting is “the stupidity of motorists.””I expect them to do silly things, like swerving around, speeding and talking on cell phones,” he said. “If I expect it, I can take evasive action.”Other than that, Wilson said he has no complaints.”Commuting is the best experience,” Wilson said. “Not one particular day or occasion, just the accumulation of satisfaction from being free of my car for days at a time.”

For Jeff Mohrman of Avon, who owns Colorado Bike Service in Eagle-Vail, commuting is a lifestyle.”So many times you find yourself running and rushing, trying to minimize your trip to, say Home Depot,” said Mohrman, who has been nominated for Commuter of the Year. “But on a bike, you don’t rush. You just take your time and enjoy it.”Mohrman said he began biking during an energy crisis in the mid-1970s when he was in high school and college. He said today he bikes out of concern for the environment, and he wants to see more people commuting without their cars.”I think it’s time more people find alternate modes of transportation,” he said. “I do it because I love it, but for anyone, once you get out there, you’re really happy you’re doing it.”Mohrman said he encourages people at his bike shop to make small goals for themselves and commit to them. For people who would have really far commutes, he said he suggests they find a parking lot halfway to work and commute from there.Mohrman said he rides four miles to work year round, except for on the “really snowy and blizzardy” days. He said he drives his car only about six times a year. “For me, riding my bike doesn’t seem different,” he said. “If I were going to get in a car to go to work, that would feel different to me, probably similar to how it would feel for someone who normally drives to work to bike instead.”

ECO Trails’ contest for Commuter of the Year will be judged by an 18-person committee, staffed with people who know what it takes to commute.Committee member Louise Randall calls herself a “fair-weather rider,” biking from her home in Vail to work in Edwards three days a week every summer. The ride is 30 minutes there and 45 minutes back because of the hill, she said.”It’s a great way to start the day, and it’s relaxing at the end of the day to get that down time,” Randall said. “It’s also a good way to build a workout into the day.”But for Randall, who has biked cross country twice – west to east and north to south – “commuting is just keeping in shape for the big trips.”Randall said she respected last year’s winner Tim Carlson because he commuted in virtually all weather conditions. This year’s nominees have quite an act to follow, she said.”We’re looking for a person who truly has a commitment to personal health and the environment here,” Randall said. “A person who chooses to cycle (or commute on foot) for reasons that make this a better place to live.”Nikki Katz can be reached at vdeditintern@vaildaily.comVail, Colorado

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