By Bill Crist

Brownwood Bulletin

With gas prices hovering at $4 a gallon at stations around town, commuters are increasingly finding alternative methods to get to work.

Mark Bradshaw began riding his bike to his job with Texas Departmemt of Transportation (located on the Cisco Highway) in 2007. Bob Crook, who works as a morning DJ at The Breeze and has another business with his wife, tried the bike route for about a month, but now rides a scooter.

“That started as a fitness thing. I rode it for about a month and went from that to driving,” Crook said of riding his bike to work.

For Bradshaw, riding to work was something he decided to do, and went about planning the best way to accomplish it. His first step was to purchase a bike.

“It’s a hybrid,” he said. He describes his bike as having a mountain-bike frame and road tires. He says the handlebars are on a riser so that riding upright is more comfortable.

Although the initial costs will vary depending on what equipment a new bike commuter has, Vonne Cornett, who with her husband Lynn owns the Bike Peddler in Brownwood, says to expect to spend about $250. Equipment she suggests include a bicycle; carrying capacity such as saddle bags or a basket; fenders; lights; a tool pack; and a helmet.

Once the bike was in hand, it was time for Bradshaw to get started.

“I wanted to ride a bike,” he said. “I first started riding on Saturdays to get some strength up and then tried to find a decent route to get here (his office).

He started commuting by bike in June 2007.

“When school was out the traffic volume dropped and because of daylight savings, I wouldn’t be riding in the dark.”

Crook’s motivation for starting was a little more economic in nature.

“My son’s truck fell apart at college and it was going to cost more to fix than it was worth. We got the scooter for him” he said. “He could never manage to get his license and when he came home, I started to ride it. The higher gas got, the more determined I was to ride it. Since mid-March, I’ve put about 700 miles on it.”

Crook rides to work at the radio station in the mornings, about a 2-mile commute, and then to his business after that. He also rides it around town to run errands. It gets about 75-80 miles per gallon and he says it costs just $5 to fill up when it’s totally empty.

His other car is a Chevy Avalanche, which costs about $100 to fill up.

Bradshaw has about a 4-mile ride from his home to his office. The ride usually takes him 20-25 minutes, he said.

“I try to leave a little before 7 a.m. in the morning. That gives me time to clean up and get organized before 8 a.m.” he said.

Bradshaw’s office does not have a shower, so he packs a washcloth and towel along with his work clothes and a lunch each day.

He says that last year the traffic along C.C. Woodson was his biggest concern, and that several times motorists would “buzz” him.

“It’s crazy, they would just barely try to get by me. This year has been better than last year,” he said.

Crook says he’s had one close call, but he does feel like he draws attention on his scooter.

“I get lots of looks when I’m at a stoplight, and some snickers from Harley riders. The hardest thing on my male pride is those Harley guys who throw the ‘Harley wave,’” he said.

James said besides the scooter itself, the only other things a rider needs are a motorcycle license and a helmet.

“It’s 150 cc (engine) so technically it’s a motorcycle by definition even though it looks like a moped.”

Bradshaw carries his clothes, lunch and gear in a backpack. He said he tries to wear as bright clothing as he can find.

And both men have found tangible benefits to their change of pace.

According to Crook’s figures he’s save about $164 worth of gas since mid-March.

“It doesn’t sound like a lot but it adds up real quick,” he said. “It strictly began as ‘I’m not going to pay these gas prices. I’m sticking it to big oil.”

The Texas Dept. of Transportation does offer its employees incentives for engaging in “Green” activities through its Clean Air Program. Bradshaw said that was the push he needed to begin commuting on bike.

“I did lose a little weight and I do feel better. Really in the morning I feel a lot better when I get to work,” he said. Which in turn has led him to doing more on two wheels.

“I ride to the barbershop routinely,” he said. “I’ve run to Weakley-Watson, the hardware store, and I take my backpack with me so I can carry things home. I’ll ride to the Post Office to mail things.”

According to the Austin Cycling Assoc, which organized a Bike to Work day last May, “it was estimated that 781 cyclists participated in Bike to Work Day and rode 9,372 miles. Had those 781 cyclists driven to work in cars that averaged 20 miles per gallon, bike to Work Day participants saved 468.6 gallons of gas,” said Cornett in an email.

According to Cornett, there are more than five reasons to commute by bike to work. She says bike commuters will save gas and money, fight pollution, get and stay fit, avoid traffic delays and the trouble of finding a parking spot and that bike commuters will arrive at work refreshed and full of energy as well as being able to ride off stress after work.

And Bradshaw says it’s something almost anyone can do.

“It can be done. I really believe as more could do it (commute on bike or scooter) it would become safer,” he said.