Biking Hero: Mr. Pat

This week, our Bike To School Hero is Mr. Pat (Dailey), JSIS Special Education Teacher. He is a committed bike commuter, having got his start in South Dakota (where the weather in January is much worse). He even met his wife at a bike rack! Read on…

Biking Hero: Mr. Pat

How long have you been a bike commuter?
For as long as I can remember. I bought my first adult bike in high school, after working all summer to earn enough money. The nearest town with a bike shop was 50 miles away; my sister drove me there to buy the bike and ride it home. From that day on, I have considered myself a bike commuter.

What is your bike commute? What’s your favorite route?
Biking to work is pretty easy for me. I live at the south end of Capitol Hill, so most of the ride to JSIS is downhill. I can get a good workout riding home in the afternoon. One of the great things about where I live and where I work is that, on any given day, I can ride to almost any part of the city and take care of errands. As long as I am doing them on a bike, I don’t consider it wasted time. My favorite route to commute (both ways) is to ride through Roanoke and Interlaken Parks. If I feel like taking a break on the way, it’s great to stop in a park. I also like riding through the University and stopping to watch a baseball game or football game at Montlake Park.

What do you do to stay safe when you’re sharing the road with cars?
I do a lot of things to stay safe on the road. Since I build and repair my bicycles myself, I frequently give them check-ups to make sure they’re safe. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself, I recommend getting a yearly checkup. I dress for the road, which means reflective, bright clothing, rain gear (when necessary) and a helmet!!! I also make sure that my lights work.

On the road, I make sure that the people in cars can see me. I stay to the right, bike in bike lanes when I can, and I try to do my best to be very predictable. I realize that if I collide with a car, I’m the one who is going to get hurt, so I always make sure to follow the same rules as the cars. It can be tempting to run red lights or stop signs, but that puts the biker in danger–and it makes drivers mad. My goal for biking is to make it safe and efficient for everyone on the road. I respect the cars so that they will respect me and all other bikers on the road.

What’s the craziest weather you’ve ever ridden in?
Of all the weather I have biked in, I think that snow is the craziest. You can only bike in it when it first starts to snow–before the cars have packed it down on the street. I would not recommend snow biking for kids, but sometimes you don’t have any choice. If you feel unsafe, you can always walk your bike, or park it in a safe place and come back and get it later.

Do you know other JSIS staff who ride to school instead of driving?
What encouragement would you offer people to take up bike commuting?

Mr. Schirmer bikes to work almost every day. I am always excited to see other staff members show up on their bikes! Just last week Ms. Beth and Yumiko Sensei rode in; Ms. Karol, Ms. Nani and Ms. Elisabeth also ride sometimes. I hope I didn’t miss anyone. Nice weather often encourages people to ride.

Beginning commuters should realize that they don’t have to ride both ways every day. Leave the bike at school, catch a ride (or bus) home, and ride home the next day. Ride along the Burke-Gilman Trail. If you live too far away, drive part of the way and park your car closer to school. Once you get going on bike commuting, invest in good rain gear, make sure you have a good lock and helmet, and keep an extra set of clothes at school just in case.

When adults set an example by commuting to work, it teaches children that biking is a viable form of transportation. Since the first day of kindergarten, my two children have ridden their bikes to school. One is a junior in college and the other a senior in high school, and biking is still their primary means of getting to school.

What’s your favorite thing (or things) about riding your bike?
I like the guarantee of being outside every day. I know which way the wind is blowing, and I just feel more in touch with the natural world even though I live in a large city. I have met so many people along my route over the years, and I often run into friends. Biking keeps my senses sharp, and I don’t feel stressed on my way to school. I do my best thinking while I am riding.

What question do you wish I had asked you about biking?
“How did you meet your wife?”
I am glad you asked! Over 30 years ago, I went to my first day of work as a teacher in South Dakota in the middle of the winter. I rode up to the facility and parked my bike in the empty bike rack outside. At the end of the day, as I was unlocking my bike, I noticed another bike next to mine–not giving it another thought until Mary walked up and abruptly said, “Oh, You’re the one” (who also rode a bike to work). After a long cold winter, her bike finally had a companion at the bike rack. Subsequently, every day as I walked out to unlock my bike, if Mary wasn’t there, I would fiddle around with stuff on the bike until she showed up–and the rest is history!

The other thing I wanted to mention is that I spend quite a bit of time working on bikes to relax. Lots of people walk by my garage as I work, and I am able to find happy homes for bikes all the time. It is really rewarding to fix up a bike and give it to someone who appreciates it and is going to use it!