Archive | May, 2013

‘Like riding a bicycle’? I beg to differ

31 May

National Bike to Work Month is coming to an end today. I’d like to take a moment — and this blog post — to reflect on bicycling to work.


Photo: Christian Mercat/Wikimedia Commons

I know many people who bike to work, and use biking as their main mode of transportation in general. I have friends who biked to work when I lived in Center City Philadelphia. I imagine they still do. My man bikes to work, about three miles each way. To me, this seems awesome yet terrifying at the same time.

I love the idea of the bicycle. It kills three birds with one stone — you’re exercising, you’re getting places faster than if you had walked, and you’re helping the environment! Finding parking for your bike is probably not as annoying as parking a car, you don’t have to pay for it, and you can often get closer to your destination before needing to park.

Yet…the bicycle and I are not friends.

This fact seemed to be glaring at me over the past few weeks. As mentioned, the entire month of May is dedicated to bicycling to work. Also, my department was reminded that our offices will be moved to a location that is not easy to get to by bus (my current mode of transportation to work). And I was writing an article with Penn State kinesiology researcher Melissa Bopp about active commuting.

Bopp’s study found that those who actively commute — read: walk or bike to work — can have a significant influence on their partners and co-workers to do the same. Whether or not an employer supports active commuting and availability of sidewalks and bike paths are also important factors.

And it turns out that men are more likely to actively commute than women. Why is this? Bopp’s current research doesn’t address the why, but I could guess. The appeal of arriving to work sweaty and with helmet hair is indeed overwhelming. And how does one bike to work in professional clothes and successfully still look professional when arriving to work? I know some people can do it, but this is yet another deterrent for me. But mostly, it’s that I haven’t been able to get over my bike-riding phobia.

My boyfriend has been trying to get me on a bike for a solid two years. I haven’t been on a bike for nearly 20. But one day a couple weeks ago, I told my boyfriend I was ready to attempt biking. He immediately got on Craigslist and found a bike. “It’s a pretty green color,” I replied…

We went to look at it, where boyfriend told me I had to ride it before we bought it. I’m pretty sure my apprehension was tangible. I’ll spare you the details, but just know there were tears of frustration, eventual pedaling by me while boyfriend held onto the bike and jogged along next to me, and a purchase, mostly because we were embarrassed by the whole fiasco and the amount of time this nice man let us take up on a Sunday.

I have gotten on a bike twice since then. However, I would not say I’ve achieved success quite yet. Or even close. But I’m not ready to give up. I am jealous of everyone I see riding a bike with ease these days. Maybe that will boost my determination, and I can join the ranks of people who encourage their coworkers to bike to work, too! Maybe. Keep your fingers crossed for me.


The Big Blue and White World

29 May
The  72nd Pennsylvania Infantry memorial at Gettysburg.

The 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry memorial at Gettysburg. (Photo by William Ames)

I’ve heard anecdotal evidence about how big the Penn State network is.

For instance, there’s a rumor that if you yell, “We Are!” in a crowded LAX airport, someone will invariably yell back, “Penn State.” I have never tried this. I’ve seen the scowls and piercing stares on some of those Transportation Security Administration agents, so I don’t intend to test this theory anytime soon.

However, I had my own brush with the big blue and white connection. A few days ago, I received an email from William Ames about a story I wrote on a new guide to the Gettysburg battlefield by historian Carol Reardon, the George Winfree Professor of American History at Penn State, and retired U.S. Army Col. Tom Vossler.

Ames, an information technology specialist at Penn State and a freelance photographer, immediately noticed something familiar about the book cover. The publisher — University of North Carolina Press — who contacted Ames earlier, used three of his photographs on the cover of A Field Guide to Gettysburg. He had no idea that the pictures would be used for a book co-written by a Penn State historian.

“UNC contacted me after finding stock photos on my web site,” said Ames. “It was a coincidence that I happened to be at Penn State as well, and they never mentioned that Carol Reardon taught at Penn State.”

For 27 years or so, Ames has taken pictures of “just about everything,” but he specializes in portraits, weddings, architecture and landscapes. His photos of Penn State campus are probably his most famous shots.

Ames spends a lot of time on various Civil War battlefields, including Gettysburg, so it makes sense that some of those photos would show up in his portfolio. He was kind enough to share another photo of the Gettysburg battlefield with our blog readers. The photo (above) is a picture of the memorial to the 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry on Cemetery Ridge.

You can check out more of his photos at his website.

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