Lee Penn, Age 37

Lives: Longfellow

Works: University of Minnesota, Chemistry Professor

What sort of trips do you take by bicycle?

All sorts.  My bike trips range from my daily commute to work to play dates with my son's friends to grocery trips to trips to the library to just getting out for some training or some fun.

How often do you bike?

Probably about 350+ days per year.

How long have you been riding your bike?

Which bike?

What keeps you pedaling?

I love it and really do not like being in a car. There are so many other reasons - good reasons!  With increasing pressures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and reduce our dependence on petroleum, biking represents a realistic and efficient alternative to most car-based transportation.  With increasing demands on our time, biking represents an excellent way to accomplish two important activities at once:  exercise and transportation.  With the large expense of owning and operating a car, biking represents an economic choice for transportation.  Add to that the growing concerns regarding global warming and the huge amounts of money spent on car infrastructure, and you have a winning combination for this biker.

What kind of bike do you ride?

I currently ride three different kinds of bikes: road bike, cyclocross bike, and a single speed road bike equipped with cyclocross tires (great for winter riding).  Each trip has its ideal bike.  I also have a bike trailer, in which my son can ride or cargo can be transported.  In addition, my son and I also frequently use a tag-a-long bike.

Where is your favorite place to ride?

Good question - too many answers!  I suppose my favorite place to ride is in a cyclocross race.  But, in reality, give me the chance to ride a bike, and I will.

How do you stay safe when you ride?

I know a lot of people worry about safety while riding in traffic - and they should! Honestly, I feel very safe on my bike - both on and off the roads. The number one thing I do while riding in traffic is to ride predictably: signal turns, no sudden swerving motions, obey traffic signals and signs (when there are cars or trucks around). If a car or truck has the right of way, I always yield - always. The number two thing I do is make myself as visible as possible.  I don't, for example, wear clothing that matches the color of asphalt.  Rather, I wear a bright yellow jacket or other brightly colored cycling gear and use multiple lights at night. 

Do you have a shining moment with a motorist, or something you really appreciate from motorists?

Yes, actually.  It is both a shining moment and a very sad moment.  One day, I was cycling north on West River Road.  I was going approximately 22-23 miles per hour.  I know this because I have a speedometer on the bike I was riding.  A car passed me - going at least 15 mph faster than I was.  The speed limit on this section of W. River Road is 25 mph.  After the car passed me, the driver slammed on the brakes, jack-knifed her car to block as much of the road as possible, and her children opened all the car doors.  I had to slam on my brakes in order to not strike her vehicle.  She then proceeded to scream at me that I should not be on the road.  Okay - that is not the shining moment part of the story.  This was a terrible situation, and I was fearful for my personal safety!  After she finished screaming, she asked me why I was not using the bike path.  I told her that there was a 10 mph speed limit on the bike path and that I had been going at a speed of between 20 and 25 mph.  She started screaming again.  Then, she and her children closed the car doors and drove off.  I was shaking, actually.  I started riding again, and this huge white SUV pulls along side of me - at a very comfortable distance from me, though - and the driver rolls down her window and tells me that she's a park ranger and that she witnessed the whole thing, and wouldn't I like it if she were to place a call on my behalf?  That part - that is the shining moment.  Her reaching out to me was very kind.

What are your pet peeves, either from motorists or other cyclists?

Motorists - driving aggressively and rudely.
Cyclists - riding unpredictably, riding the wrong way along a one-way street, and riding without lights at night.

What is the most unusual thing you do on your bike?

Some would say that my riding throughout the winter is unusual - crazy even. I suppose it is unusual, but it's far easier to do than people realize.  My coldest ride to date is minus 26 degrees Fahrenheit.  Honestly, though, once it's below about 5 degrees, it's just cold.  One simply needs to wear the appropriate gear (e.g., ski goggles and face mask for really cold weather).  Some of the gear is pricey but totally worth it.  For example, the $60 lobster gloves I have been using for over five years represent less money than a single month of car parking at the University of Minnesota, where I work.

Last updated Oct. 21, 2011