NIH’ers Leave Cars at Home for Bike to Work Day By Eric Bock
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NIH director Dr. Francis Collins welcomes BTWD participants.
Some NIH’ers actually enjoy their commute. And on May 15, hundreds of bike riders convened at 3 NIH-affiliated “pit stops” to celebrate Bike to Work Day.
A total of 617 cyclists registered for NIH’s observance of BTWD. At the pit stop in front of Bldg. 1, 338 registrants could pick up snacks, a free T-shirt, enter a raffle and maybe learn a new shortcut or two from a fellow rider. The NIH Bicycle Commuter Club (NIHBCC) organized the annual event.
The other two NIH-affiliated BTWD pit stops were Rockledge Drive at Rock Springs Business Park and Fallsgrove Village Center, near NCI Shady Grove in Rockville.
Among the riders who stopped in front of Bldg. 1 was NIH director Dr. Francis Collins. He pedaled in with his wife, Diane Baker, from their home in Chevy Chase.
“We are the National Institutes of Health. So it’s good that we actually think about health not only for the rest of the world, but also ourselves,” said Collins. “Riding your bike to work or riding your bike almost anywhere is a great way to do that.”
Collins added it’s important to eat right and exercise despite deadlines and busy schedules. He then urged occasional riders to bike to work more often.
“Make a practice of it. Do it every day,” he said. “I’ll be riding my bike most of this season. As long as it’s not pouring rain, I expect I’ll be rolling up here in the morning.”
After Collins spoke, Joe Cox, ORS’s chief of transportation services, presented Dr. Diane Bolton with the 4th annual Carl Henn Bicycling Advocacy Award. Henn, who passed away in 2010, was a co-founder and president of the NIHBCC and a dedicated environmentalist. The award is given to someone who exemplifies Henn’s values.
Bolton, now a researcher at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research’s U.S. Military HIV Research Program, advocated for bicycle commuters when she was a postdoctoral fellow at NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center. She worked closely with Cox during her time at NIH, providing him with a cyclist’s perspective on transportation issues that affect NIH.
NIHBCC chair Dr. Vernon Anderson greets Collins, who took the Georgetown Branch Trail on his way to work. Collins was one of 338 participants who passed through the pit stop in front of Bldg. 1.
NIAID system administrator Steve Bourque shows off his customized fat-tire bike. The 4-inch tires allow him to ride in all weather—including snow.
“Diane came to State Highway Administration meetings with me and she organized BTWDs until last year. She energizes everyone around her,” said Cox. “One year, she broke her ankle the day before BTWD. She still worked the registration table.”
He noted that there are bike repair kits and tire pumps available at garage attendant booths and bike racks on campus because of Bolton. One day, she asked Cox if he could store kits and pumps on campus. He agreed. Now, any booth that has a kit and pump inside is marked with a blue sign showing a bike and wrench icon.
Some bikers have substantial commutes. Steve Bourque rides 20 miles from Washington, D.C., to Rockville every day—in rain, snow, sleet or shine. Biking “is lots of fun,” said Bourque, a system administrator at NIAID. “It’s the best way to get to work.”
Cpl. Brett Alexander places a decal on a bicycle that was registered with the NIH Police as ORS’s Joe Cox looks on.
Photos: Rich McManus
ORS’s Cox introduces Dr. Diane Bolton, recipient of the 4th annual Carl Henn Bicycling Advocacy Award.
The longest commute of the day belonged to NICHD’s Rodney Rivera. His round-trip was 60 miles.
For NCI’s Don White, IT specialist, Bike to Work Day is just like any other day. That’s because he’s been riding a bike to work since 1959.
“I was going green before going green was popular,” he said.
He began biking to work when he was a lab technician at the University of Iowa Medical Research Center because it was affordable. When he arrived at NIH in 1975, he kept it up because “it’s economical, convenient, healthy and good exercise.”
Cpl. Brett Alexander of the NIH Police was on hand to help employees register their bikes with the department. He said registering a bike makes it easier to identify and recover if a bike is lost or stolen.
BTWD was sponsored by the Office of Research Services, Division of Amenities and Transportation Services and the NIHBCC.
Collins talks about the importance of making sure “our bodies are being attended to” so that employees “can live a long time and work at NIH for a long time because we have a lot of work to do.”
Before addressing the crowd, Collins stops to talk with fellow bikers, including NHGRI’s Dr. Peter Chines, who mapped out a convenient route Collins takes from home to NIH.
Carl Henn Memorial Bicycle Advocacy Award 2015
Bike To Work Day @ NIH 2015 (includes several interviews with NIH bike commuters)