February 1, 2010 in City

Commuter uses bicycle to cut carbon footprint

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Jesse Tinsley photo

Kim Sherwood, suited up for his bicycle commute, rides south on Post Street on Tuesday. He said he gets funny looks at his bicycling outfit, a misfit collection of warm and brightly colored clothes and plastic to stay dry on his 31-mile one-way commute.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Map of this story's location

Kim Sherwood makes quite a sight commuting 62 miles round trip by bicycle from his home at Newman Lake to his job in north Spokane.

He wears an orange vest with reflective strips and flashing lights, pink sweatpants that were discarded from his wife’s wardrobe and an old white plastic tire bag as a poncho when it rains.

Laugh if you want, but last year, Sherwood saved 10 barrels of crude riding 5,050 miles back and forth to work.

“I like saving the carbon footprint,” he said last week from his office at the state Department of Ecology at 4601 N. Monroe St.

It takes him more than two hours to commute each way, in part because he takes the long route from Newman Lake to the Centennial Trail at Liberty Lake before turning right and heading to Spokane.

With so many miles under his leg power, Sherwood said he can eat anything he wants – about 5,000 calories a day – without gaining weight. That’s almost twice the recommended calorie intake for men.

The 58-year-old engineer said the routine has had immediate health benefits: His doctor has given him the OK to stop taking his blood pressure medicine.

Sherwood’s love of bicycling dates back to college when he took up the practice of riding long distances. He started commuting by bicycle in the 1980s when he worked at DOE’s office in Yakima.

He transferred to Spokane six years ago, but wasn’t ready for the rigors of a 62-mile round trip.

So he started by driving or riding the bus part way and bicycling the rest. He logged 2,000 to 3,000 miles the first several years, and in 2008 he graduated to the full ride.

Sherwood gets up at 3 a.m. to make it to work early in the morning, and leaves for home sometime after 3 p.m. He rides a well-traveled Marin bicycle equipped for winter with a knobby rear tire for traction and a lighter touring tire in front.

The bike is also equipped with two headlights and a flashing taillight. He said a state trooper once pulled alongside him and told him that all bicyclists should be equipped so well.

On days when the weather is really bad, Sherwood said, he takes the bus.

He thinks he might make it to 6,000 miles this year because of the milder winter weather.

He admits the riding can be grueling. The fifth day of the week “is a trial,” he said, and he’s suffered his share of road burns from minor accidents.

The biggest downside is getting a sore rear end, he said.

But early morning hours on the Centennial Trail offer the chance to see wildlife, including bull snakes that often curl up along the trail. He said he picks them up and moves them to the side so they won’t get run over, sometimes getting a minor bite when one strikes at him.

While Sherwood’s commute might sound extreme, he is one of three workers for DOE across the state who rode more than 5,000 miles last year, he said. The others are Rob Reuter in Seattle and Glen Alexander in Olympia.

Leave it to an engineer to do the math.

Sherwood calculates that the 178 gallons of gasoline he didn’t burn last year would have emitted 3,412 pounds of carbon dioxide, 421 pounds of carbon monoxide, 34 pounds of oxides of nitrogen, 25 pounds of hydrocarbons and 62 pounds of particulates.

That much gasoline requires 10 barrels of crude, he said.

But the sweetest payoff may be the money. Last year, he saved $2,170.23.

SRTC seeks committee members

The Spokane Regional Transportation Council is asking for help from the public in forming a new Transportation Advisory Committee.

SRTC is looking for a variety of people with an appreciation of laws governing transportation and land-use planning. Appointees will serve on three-year staggered terms on a 13-member committee.

For more information and to apply, go to srtc.org or call (509) 343-6370. Deadline for applications is Feb. 19.


There are four comments on this story. Click here to view comments >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email