As published in the Record Journal Wednesday August 11, 2010
By Jesse Buchanan
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WALLINGFORD — In a bright yellow shirt, or a ski suit in cold weather, Ben Martin stands out on his ride to work. Since moving to town in 1998, Martin has been bicycling to and from work most days, including in the winter. For him, there’s no contest between taking a bike and taking a car — biking is healthier, saves money and is better for the environment.
“It was gradual thing,” he said Tuesday. “I kind of got addicted to it. … Now it’s year-round that I ride.” Martin, who is trying to spread his enthusiasm for biking by collecting petition signatures asking local officials to put bike racks in the town center, has a 4.25-mile commute from Ward Street to Fiserv Financial Services Technology Solutions on Sterling Drive.
It usually takes him 15 to 20 minutes, but that’s nothing for Martin, 36, who earlier this year participated in a 135-mile ride across the state.
He said he finds biking to work less stressful than negotiating traffic in his car, and he gets to see his neighborhood in a different way on two wheels. He showers and changes at his workplace, and takes a change of clothes in a waterproof bag on rainy days. Martin said he doesn’t enjoy the winter cold, but by bundling up he stays warm.
The yellow clothing, Martin said, helps make him visible to drivers, who, he added, generally respect his presence on the road.
“I’ll be to the right of the road so people can get by, but I’m not going to ride on the sidewalk or the grass,” he said. Police Officer Linda Lopresto said town ordinances require bicyclists to ride on the road and not on the sidewalk.
“They’re supposed to follow all the rules of the road,” she said Tuesday.
Martin has had some close calls — a car once pulled in front of him and stopped suddenly — but he’s never been in an accident, he said.
In addition to commuting, Martin takes his bike on shopping trips and got a wheeled child carrier for added carrying capacity. On one occasion, Martin said he has carried a guitar, amplifier, food, clothes and a laptop while biking with the carrier.
A self-described environmentalist, he finds biking preferable to driving.
“It’s a better way to get around as far as your carbon footprint,” he said. “You’re not giving more money to people who are spilling oil in the Gulf.”
Cheshire resident Eric Nelson doesn’t own a car and also bikes to work and stores. Choosing a bike over a car was a financial decision, he said, and the 10-minute commute to his job at Town Hall wouldn’t be much faster in a car.
“It saves a lot of money. It’s economic,” he said. “It costs an arm and a leg to own a car.”
After raising the idea of installing bike racks in downtown Wallingford at Town Council meetings, Martin hopes to collect 500 to 1,000 signatures on his petition. The rack plan has yet to gain traction with town officials.
He’s also suggested the town give bikes to police rather than cruisers for some duties, such as directing traffic close to the station.
Martin suggests that people start biking short distances, such as a trip alone to a store to buy a few things. People who commute a long distance can also park their cars in a commuter lot halfway and bike the remaining distance. Martin said he has started biking longer and longer distances and using his car less and less. “You get hooked on it,” he said.