IN MAY, Melanie Bibens got fed up with the commute from her home in Spotsylvania County to a part-time job as a strength coach at a Fredericksburg gym.
Gone are the days of the pandemic when the roads were nearly empty, replaced by traffic jams along the route she took from her home off Smith Station Road.
The lifelong athlete grew increasingly frustrated with her time behind the wheel, concerned about the money she was spending on gas and feeling that car trips weren’t good for either her or her. environment.
So she came up with the idea of cycling to work at BIO Community Fitness and then riding her bike home when her husband James came to train.
The Navy veteran enjoyed the ride so much that she made it a regular thing.
Soon she was going back and forth every time she worked, walking 20 miles each way, loving how it allowed her to exercise and get her out.
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“I liked it, I exercised more and saved money,” Bibens said. “The first week was a bit tough on my legs as I was riding back and forth and then doing CrossFit training, but pretty quickly I got used to it and realized I really liked it.”
Yes, she said, sometimes the bike ride is a bit scary. Every day, a few motorists come dangerously close as she cruises down busy streets such as Courthouse Road and Lafayette Boulevard. She said those drivers are “completely unaware” of a new law requiring motorists to change lanes when passing a bicycle if they cannot allow a three-foot clearance.
But the positive side outweighed the negative side. Bibens has made considerable savings, both by buying less gas and due to the fact that it is more difficult to stop for groceries.
And she said the bike ride gave her “a real sense of satisfaction. And I don’t have to go home and go for a walk to exercise. I’ve already done it.
Although biking might take longer than driving, she was surprised the difference wasn’t that big.
“With the roads getting more and more congested, it took me 30 to 35 minutes to drive during rush hour,” she said. “My bike ride only takes me 35-40 minutes, and I’m having so much more fun.”
Lest you think Bibens only rides when the sun is shining or the conditions are perfect, consider this: she kept a diary of the bike miles she rode because of her commute and the total is now a little less than 2,100 miles since she started in early May. It’s pedaling between 60 and 100 miles a week along Courthouse Road and Lafayette Boulevard.
She uses an app to work out how far west that distance would take her in the United States.
“On MapMyRun it shows that I ran from the corner of Caroline and William streets in Fredericksburg to the Petrified Forest in Arizona,” she noted in a recent email.
She added: “I would like to go all the way [California], where my brother lives outside of Pendleton. Not much further, just 586 miles more, almost coast to coast! That’s a lot of gas [money] saved, a big reduction in emissions, a lot of leg work and a lot of “smiles” from the road. ”
She plans to continue commuting by bicycle until it is too cold to continue. This kind of perseverance is found in another habit she adheres to.
Bibens decided a few years before retiring as a crime analyst at the Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office that she was going to work hard to fund travel-related hobbies.
To that end, she saved a dollar for every mile she ran or cycled, putting the money into CDs or an investment fund. The total reached $10,000 when she retired some time ago, and she continued the practice.
“My idea was to travel around the world when my husband and I retired, and although COVID prevented us from doing so, we still want to do it,” she said, noting that her husband is still working at part-time for the Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office. “We’ve been to Greece before and I would love to go back. My idea is to start somewhere like Italy or Greece and backpack or cycle through Europe, only coming back when we want.
Bibens, who would be instantly rich if someone could bottle up and sell his positive energy and purpose, wants to make it clear that everything about his bike ride there and back isn’t easy.
It’s tough on days when she rides in strong headwinds or in the rain. Danger is always present in the form of debris and passing through work areas. The hills on the way back are tough and she constantly watches drivers distracted by their cell phones.
She would like Spotsylvania County to take bike lanes and lanes as seriously as Fredericksburg does, even if it’s just to educate motorists by using signs and road markings to promote the sharing the road.
She appreciates her bike’s mirror which helps her watch motorists behind her, and notes that even something as innocuous as painted lines and unexpected gravel can cause problems for cyclists.
Bibens, who spent two years on the Admiral’s staff at a base in Newport, RI, aboard a 52-foot teakwood command cutter, said the benefits outweighed the away on the inconvenience in his transition to commuting on his bike.
“For years I had a job that was sometimes difficult, and now that I’m away from that, I want to enjoy my time and my life,” she said. “If I describe myself to anyone, I’d say I’m an athlete, and that’s what I always will be. That’s what I want to be.
Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415