Environmental Factor, February 2005, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Maria Orraca Makes the Most of her Commute
Last summer, Maria Orraca decided to try an alternative means of getting to work. She jumped on her bike and took a series of trails near Ellerby Creek in Durham to get to the downtown bus station, where she placed her bike on a Triangle Transit Authority bus bike rack and rode the bus to Alexander and Highway 54. There, she got back on her bike and was at work within minutes.
All total, it takes about 30 minutes on the bike, and 30 minutes on the bus. Cycling, she said, saves her money, improves her health, invigorates her mind, and frees up more time to spend with her 2-year-old daughter since she doesn't need to squeeze in time for exercise anymore. What more could you possibly ask for in a mode of transportation?
Orraca describes herself as "a budget biker." When she first started, she had no special equipment. Even the bike she used was just a standard discount brand. Now she sports lined windbreakers and rides a "comfort" bike, with springs on the seat, and higher handle bars, which allow the rider to sit up straight.
"It's amazing what you can build up to," Orraca said of her improving physical endurance. She says that when she first started, she was winded by the time she got to the bus station. But a surprise ice storm this past January that gridlocked traffic in the Triangle for hours provided the perfect opportunity for Orraca to find out if she could make the entire distance from work to home. After an hour in gridlock, waiting to get home, Orraca got off the bus and got on her bike. She had no problem going all 13 miles to her home. She said she stuck to riding on the fringe of snow to avoid the ice on the roads that caused the gridlock. She followed the American Tobacco Trail which goes downtown.
"I had the freedom to get where I was going. I couldn't have done that in a car," Orraca said.
Orraca said she sees much more wildlife from her bike seat than she did in a car seat, especially on the EPA campus. Recently, as she was leaving campus, she saw a flock of Canada geese take off. One of them flew into a light pole. She took the unconscious goose to the security gate, and a guard called a staff veterinarian, who checked it out and helped get the goose placed in a wildlife rehabilitation center. Orraca gets regular updates on how the goose is doing.