Spotlight: Tour de Ann Arbor
While other people are worrying about the lack of parking around campus, rising gas costs and overcrowded roads, Riin Gill is busy pedaling her worries away on a red GT Windstream comfort bike.
Gill, head of interlibrary loans at the Taubman Medical Library, has been a full-time bike commuter since April 2001.
"I started because I began looking around and seeing other cyclists. They weren't polluting and I was," she says. "I didn't want to pollute anymore."
The 4.5-mile, 30-minute commute to campus from her Ann Arbor home is not the only journey her bike makes. Gill gave up driving completely, selling her car a year and a half ago, and now bikes everywhere she needs to go.
"By the time I sold my car I was only using it once a month, and I decided financially it was silly to keep it," she says.
Her longest ride takes an hour and 45 minutes each way to Chelsea, where she is active in the Spinners' Flock, a guild to promote and educate hand spinners.
While some people may look at it as an inconvenience, Gill sees her bike riding as an escape.
"I have gained peace of mind," she says. "When I was driving a car I felt guilty. I was sitting in traffic looking around and thinking, this isn't right. I'm polluting and wasting resources.' If doing something makes me feel guilty, I shouldn't be doing it."
She has attached wire baskets to her bike to carry things such as groceries, and has a bike trailer to haul heavier purchases, such as a 40-pound bag of sunflower seeds for the birds in her garden.
"I really haven't had to give up anything without a car," says Gill, who has worked at U-M since 1998.
Gill predicts she could never go back to commuting in an automobile, and she has a beef with the behavior of some drivers toward her biking. "People yell at me to get on the sidewalk when I have the same legal right to be on the street as they do," she says.
Gill hopes to put her biking prowess to use someday on a trip across the country.
Her commute has given Gill a chance to appreciate and enjoy her surroundings more. One of her favorite places to ride is Olivia Street, a quiet road just south of campus, with its variety of trees and wildlife.
"I see a lot more than I see in a car," she says. "I experience nature more and I can feel the air on my face."