Audrey Huang has a simple philosophy when it comes to
her morning commute. "I have legs that
work," Huang says. "I might as well use them."
Huang, a senior media relations representative for
Johns Hopkins Medicine, bikes to work
nearly every day from her home in Charles Village to her
office in the Bond Street Wharf building in
She rides the five miles on most days — well, so
long as it's above 40 degrees and below 90
degrees, and not raining too heavily. Otherwise, she takes
Johns Hopkins shuttles. On rare occasions,
she drives in.
Huang is just one of a seemingly growing number of JHU
employees who bike, walk or, in the
case of at least one employee, drive an electric car to
While it's unclear how many Johns Hopkins employees go
the gasless route on their commute,
the high prices of gas and parking, and a concern for the
environment, appear to be pushing the
Huang says her motivations for using a bike are many.
"[Vehicle emissions are] bad for the
environment, gas is expensive, and parking is another cost
I'd rather not pay because I don't really
have to," she says. Huang says that the calories burned are
a benefit, too, but not a primary motivator,
as she keeps active in lots of ways.
She's been working in Fells Point for more than two
years, cycling off and on the whole time.
Her route takes her down Greenmount Avenue and into
downtown. She says it's not as treacherous as
one would think, although she has had a couple of near
collisions with pedestrians and cars.
Audrey Huang makes the five-mile trip
from her Charles Village home to her Fells Point office on two
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS
She makes every effort to be noticed. She wears bike
shorts, "a really obnoxious day-glo yellow
cycling jacket," a bike helmet, shades and, in cool
weather, gloves. She crams a change of clothes into
a Timbuk2 bag that she totes along.
Jim Miller, another bike commuter, used to pack his
clothes, but now he has a full closet of
work attire waiting in his office.
Miller, director of design and construction for the Office of
Facilities Management at
Homewood, treks nearly five miles each way on his commute.
Miller, who lives in Towson, describes
himself as a lifelong biker, ever since the days of his
first paper route.
He rides an 18-speed cyclo-cross road bike with a
small seat and drop handlebars. He's
outfitted his "commuter" bike with lights, beefy tires,
fenders, panniers (attached bags) and a rack.
Miller is the quintessential bike rider who dresses the
part. His typical garb is spandex pants, a Tour
de France bike shirt and an aerodynamic helmet.
He's comfortable with his mode of transportation and
the distance he travels, but he
recognizes that traveling down York Road in rush hour is
"not for the faint of heart."
He owns a car and estimates that he drives six times a
year, when he absolutely needs to go
somewhere after work.
His morning commute is pretty much all downhill. "The
ride in is much more leisurely. I really
don't sweat too much," he says. "Well, I haven't heard any
Of course, what goes down must go up. He estimates he
burns 110 calories coming in and 350 on
his return trip.
When asked why he rides, Miller says it's his love of
"I like the exercise and the sustainability side of
it," he says. "Honestly, I'd much rather be on a
bike than in a car. I feel like you are more in control."
Except in an ice storm, he adds.
Jason Eisner, an associate professor of computer science in the
School of Engineering, bikes to
Homewood every day from his home in the northeast corner of
the Guilford neighborhood. He moved
to the area six years ago and commuted on bike from day
one. He estimates he travels 2.5 miles
Like many bikers interviewed for this article, Eisner
rides rain or shine but stops short of riding
in instances of ice and heavy snow. He also leaves the bike
at home and drives in on days when he has
appointments or errands to run after work.
Eisner says he loves his commute and the money he
saves. "I also just like to get outside," he
says, "and it's a nice way to start the day."
Jay Rubin, administrative secretary to the
university's board of
trustees, goes gasless too — in
his electric car.
Rubin, who lives three miles from the Homewood campus,
took the bus for eight years but
eventually grew weary of unreliable mass transit. He tried
going the bike route, too, but lamented the
lack of shower facilities on campus. Last year he looked
into electric cars and was happy to discover
that Maryland had become the 25th state to allow them on
One vehicle maker, American Electric, invited Rubin to
give their new Kurrent car a test run. He
flew out to Washington state, fell in love with the vehicle
and had it shipped across the country.
The Kurrent plugs into any standard three-pronged
household 110-volt outlet and gets between
15 and 20 miles per charge. He loves the greenness and ease
of upkeep. "It's nonpolluting. I never have
to visit a gas station except to put air in the tires. It's
just very low maintenance," he says. "I keep
the tires inflated, wash the windows, and that's about it.
There is no transmission, and it's as easy to
operate as a bicycle — and I'm shielded from the
The diminutive vehicle seemingly could fit in the
glove compartment of a Hummer. It's 92 inches
long, 50 inches wide and comes equipped with a radio, a
small trunk, heater and defroster. Air
conditioning? "That's when I roll the windows down," Rubin
says with a grin.
He admits his ride does turn heads. "Everyone stares
and goes, 'What is that?'" he says. "When
I'm stopped at an intersection, men often roll down the
window and scream, 'How much does it cost?'
Women ask, 'Is there trunk space?'"
Any cons? Rubin says some people grumble when his
small car takes up a standard-sized parking
space. And he can go only 25 miles per hour, so he can't
take it on the highway. "But now I'm used to
driving slow," he says. "You live longer that way."
Leana Pitkevits-Houser uses no wheels at all to get to
Pitkevits-Houser, a program administrator in the
Center for a Livable
Future, walks to the
School of Public Health nearly each day from her home in
the Canton neighborhood. She often cuts
through Patterson Park on her two-mile journey.
She started walking three years ago, and although she
owns a car, never considered driving in
each day. "I just prefer walking. It's a nice walk through
the park. I have a pretty set route. I've
figured out where it's shady, which is important on hot
Pitkevits-Houser says she appreciates the
environmental and personal benefits.
"I often have my best thoughts and ideas on my walk
into work. It's a great time to think, or
just zone out if I want to," she says. "I also have great
interaction with the people in the park, those
pushing children in strollers or others out walking their
dog. It's really nice, and good exercise. I was
able to quit the gym."
She admits her shoes wear out faster, but it's worth
Alan Stone, a professor in the Department of
Geography and Environmental Engineering, walks
35 minutes to work each day from his home in Tuxedo Park,
located north of the Homewood campus.
Alan Stone walks rain or shine —
and chooses a different route for each trip.
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS
Unlike Pitkevits-Houser, his route is anything but
set. "I try to walk a different route each way
so I don't get bored," he says. He often walks along the
Stoney Run, except when it's been raining a
lot. "I don't want to fall in," he jokes. Some days he aims
for every hill and staircase he can find to
ratchet up the difficulty level.
Stone has been walking to work for eight years. He,
too, used to take the bus but discovered he
got home earlier if he simply walked. The increase in
on-campus parking costs was another incentive.
"The main thing for me is that walking clears out my
mind," Stone says. "I know exactly what I
want to type out and do when I get into the office. I also
love being outside."
Stone often takes routes where he doesn't have to
worry about cars, although when he crosses
Cold Spring Lane, he has to have his wits about him.
He wears hiking shoes on his walk and then changes to
his trademark sandals when he gets into
When it snows, Stone sometimes throws on a pair of
cross-country skis, a pastime that got him
featured in The Baltimore Sun.
Stone tried a bike but decided it was too dangerous
for him. "There's always the chance of a car
door opening," he says.
What does he encounter on his walk? Well, lots of dog
walkers and, oddly, the occasional bit of
discarded foreign currency. He also once saw a student
calmly pick up a black snake and walk away with
it, and one day he found the pressure weight for a pressure
cooker. "I was puzzled. Did the pressure
really build up that much that it got shot across town?" he
He walks rain or shine and in the summer sometimes
carries along a large plastic bucket with
edibles from his garden to share.
He enjoys not having to deal with a car, and the
weather doesn't deter him. "Web access to
Doppler radar lets me avoid heavy downpours. With light
rain and snow, just dress appropriately. It's
not an issue."
Gregory Hager, a professor of computer science, bikes
into Homewood from Roland Park,
roughly two miles from campus. Prior to joining Johns
Hopkins in 1999, Hager worked at Yale
University, where he also biked.
He rides a mountain bike, "nothing too fancy." His
wife also bikes to work, and the family has
only one car. They often use one of the Zipcars located on
campus. "There are some rare occasions
when I drive in with my car, mostly in the winter, like
when there's black ice out there." Snow? No
problem. He has the tires to handle the conditions and
comes in wearing ski goggles.
As for safety, he says that crossing University
Parkway does have its sketchy moments. The
most dangerous part of his route, though, is the entrance
to campus near the ROTC building. "It's a bit
of a blind curve."
The Center for a
Livable Future is currently wrapping up a series of
focus groups at the
Bloomberg School of Public Health to learn more about how
people commute to work — specifically,
biking, walking, carpooling and mass transit — and
how the school can make their options easier and
The focus groups were a follow-up to a commuter survey
that was sent out to Public Health
faculty, staff and students in May.
Pitkevits-Houser says the survey shows that people
want to use more eco-friendly commuting
options but that there are some resources that are needed,
such as knowledge of safe routes for
biking and walking, flexibility of work schedules, access
to showers and a database to help people find
"Some of those things we can provide, like info about
safe routes and a database for carpoolers,
while others will require support from the university
and/or state," she says. "We are very hopeful
that these options will become easier and more appealing in
Get your bike gloves on.