Commuter Spotlight: Psychology Professor Daniel Gets to Work While Working Out
"I love riding back and forth to work. There are days when my bike commute is the high point of my day," said Daniel
Daniel Spieler is a professor in the School of Psychology at Georgia Tech who regularly gets in two hours of cardio five days per week. He does his workout each morning and evening, and it powers his commute to and from his work at Georgia Tech, where he studies cognitive aging.
Daniel finds his 13-mile bike commute and his research focus to be connected in a crucial way: “One aspect of research in cognitive aging is a better understanding that things like cardiovascular exercise are really important for maintaining cognition as people age.” In short, Daniel says activities like biking can keep you alert as you get older.
Going From Car Commuter to Biker
These days, Daniel is a bicycle commuting pro. He knows the right time to leave from his home in Avondale in order to get to work with time to shower. He’s got the right gear to bring to prepare for inclement weather, whether it’s rain or extreme seasonal temperatures. And he knows how to navigate the roads safely via bike in a city of mostly car commuters.
“I love riding back and forth to work. There are days when my bike commute is the high point of my day. On a nice day, I’ll stretch my commute another few miles, and will be disappointed when it’s over,” said Daniel.
Daniel wasn’t always such a confident commuter. He began commuting by bike five years ago. The switch from driving was gradual: At first he kept his parking permit as he tried out various bike routes to see what would work best for him, then starting biking more and more often and found that he didn’t need a regular parking permit anymore. And he doesn't need to go to the gym anymore, which is another efficiency benefit of biking.
Daniel finds Strava’s heat map to be a helpful program in determining popular and safe bike routes, since it relies on information from real cyclists in a city. He also connects to other riders in the Bike Commuters of Atlanta Facebook Group, an online space where people can ask questions and get helpful advice from bike experts in the city. Daniel also encourages new bike commuters to connect to Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, which offers classes and instructional rides for free.
“Finding the right route will keep you safe,” said Daniel, whose commute route involves a greater distance in exchange for less car traffic.
The Experience of Biking in Atlanta
Over the years, Daniel’s bike commuter knowledge has improved alongside the bike infrastructure of the city. He cites the Edgewood bike lane, Luckie Street Cycle Track, and the Tech Square pedestrian scramble in Midtown as adding ease to his experience on the roads as a bike commuter.
“Ninety-nine percent of drivers are courteous and careful, but they don’t always understand what it’s like to be a biker,” said Daniel. “My advice to bike commuters is that they stay safe by taking the lane,” said Daniel, referring to the practice of cyclists riding centered in a lane of traffic instead of hugging the curb on the right, in order to remain visible and prevent passing in conditions that are unsafe, and to avoid a section of the road which is often full of debris and storm grates.
One major difference between the bike and the car commute, in Daniel’s experience, is the amount of face-to-face communication you get while on the bike.
“Because I go at consistent times, I see some of the same people out on their porches while I’m riding through neighborhoods. Sometimes I’ll pull up to a light on Edgewood and there will be six other bikers there. Especially if it’s rainy, we will talk to each other, and say ‘good job.’ There’s a self-reinforcing aspect to it that I really like. And that's the type of social interaction you don't get in a car."
Within the past five years, Daniel has noticed many more cyclists out on the streets commuting, including more e-bikes.
“The more bikes that are out on the road, the safer all of us are,” said Daniel.