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Green and healthy: Cyclists commute through winter part II

In single digits, Pat Navin dons a windproof face mask, wicking head cover, and ski goggles. He says that mittens with glove liners are best for keeping his hands warm. Photo: Pat Navin
In single digits, Pat Navin dons a windproof face mask, wicking head cover, and ski goggles. He says that mittens with glove liners are best for keeping his hands warm. Photo: Pat Navin

Photo: © Pat Navin

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  • Pat's Chicago Bike Commuting Blog

  • Bike Commuting and Weather Blog

  • Let's Go Ride a Bike Blog

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Were you impressed with Michael's committment to bike commuting year-round in Chicago in Part 1 of this article series? Meet Pat Navin, a committed commuter for almost 20 years. This article is Part 2 of this 2-part series on bike commuting.

Pat rides his bike to work nearly every day from Evanston to his office at Two Prudential Plaza in Chicago. He thrives on his daily trip along the lake, which he views as a "living, breathing thing that has moods of its own."

Does anything stop him from commuting on his bike? "The only days I don’t ride are when I have to drive somewhere to see a client or am attending some event after work," Pat said.

"Before I started riding, I used to roller blade one-way, two or three days a week (depending on the wind). When we moved our offices a few years ago, I started using the McDonald's Cycle Center near Millennium Park. I cannot say enough great things about the facility and the people who work there, not to mention the community of riders/commuters."

Pat turned to biking when a friend suggested that he join him. It filled his need for exercise at a time when his kids were young. Now he is hooked. Thanks to his commuting commitment, he sees no need to go to the gym before or after work.

He feels good about his reduced carbon footprint and helping the environment. "Though I have to add," Pat said, "that I often wonder about the effects of bus and auto fumes on my lungs, particularly in winter when I ride primarily on city streets and not the lakefront. I wish the city, and the U.S. in general, would do more to promote cycling as an effective means of local transportation. Europe is a model. Copenhagen even times stoplights on its busiest street for cyclists and not cars." See cycle-friendly Copenhagen in this video.

"I’m in great shape for a 52-year-old guy. I ride on weekends as well, and last year, I logged almost 8,000 miles of riding. The great thing about riding that much is that I can eat whatever I want and not worry about gaining weight. A few of our fellow bike commuters down at Millennium Park have lost huge amounts of weight with consistent cycling. I very rarely get sick or catch a cold."

"Mentally, there’s nothing better than being outside, exercising hard, for two hours a day."

Here are Pat's suggestions for any cyclist who wants to ride in Chicago year round:

  • Stick with it the first few weeks. You have to get over the hump.
  • Use your gears and spin. That’s why God invented gears.
  • Invest in bike clothes. Cotton gets sweaty and doesn’t dry out. Bike stuff (and even wool in winter) dries out before you have to go home. Putting on wet gear is miserable.
  • ALWAYS wear a helmet. (Obvious, I know, but I am constantly surprised by how many people don’t wear one. You never know when you might go down.)
  • Winter riding is great fun and you feel invigorated after riding in the cold (and, again, invest in good outdoor clothing that dries and wicks sweat).
  • Enjoy your surroundings. Riding a bike means you get to see people, shops, and other things that you never notice from a bus, train or car.
  • If you can ride on the lakefront, do it. What you quickly realize is that the lake is a living, breathing thing with mood swings of its own. It can be spectacularly beautiful and surprising, day in and day out.
  • A day commuting by bike is a great day. Once you get hooked, you’ll really miss it on those days you can’t ride.

 For more info: Jane Brody wrote a great column in the New York Times about scientific evidence that supports exercising to improve your health in many ways. We've heard the message before, but Jane makes a strong case. Read this one, especially if you need motivation to make changes in your life.

Suggestions, comments, questions? Anything about environmental health that you would like to know about? Email your Chicago Environmental Health Examiner at MarisaNaujokas@gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter @chicagoenviron.

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