By Ashley Patterson
Sheldon Smith’s job involves encouraging people to exercise. As the Clinical Research Coordinator at the Skeletal Muscle, Exercise Research Facility Lab in Research Park at the University of Utah, Sheldon wants all of us to incorporate exercise into our daily lives. In order to set an example for her patients and co-workers, she rides her bike to work 2-3 times per week year round.
Like many people, Sheldon’s life is busy and she rides her bike to work in order to sneak some exercise in during the week. Her commute is about three miles each way from her house near Highland High up to the University. She laments the lack of bike accommodations for cyclists in Research Park. “There’s not a shower available in my building for commuters to use and bike lanes in Research Park are pretty scarce,” but she perseveres because she loves saving money on gas and the increased mobility of a bicycle versus a car in the University region. “I can get home faster on my bike than in my car and the parking situation is challenging at the University. As a University employee, I also get a free transit pass but have to pay for parking, so it’s encouragement to ride.”
While facilities in Research Park may be lacking, Sheldon is grateful to Salt Lake City for the increase in bike lanes over the past few years. She feels safe on her bike in most areas around the City due to the large number of cyclists in the area and the increased focus on bikes over the past decade or so. She credits a couple of women friends with getting her on her bike originally and now it has become a habit. “More racks, bike lanes and “Share the Road” signs are popping up all over. I see more commuters than when I started commuting about 8 years ago and it makes me feel great. I love the sense of a growing cycling community in this city.”
Sheldon brings a clean shirt to work to change into when she arrives. She has embraced “skorts” the past couple of years as she’s noticed many drivers slow down a bit and definitely notice her when she’s wearing a skort. “People pay attention to you when you have a skirt on and are riding a bike. They stop. They slow down.” This could be the best safety tip I’ve heard all year!
Sheldon also rides recreationally, both on roads and trails, and feels that helps her to feel comfortable commuting. She feels it is important to be predictable, visible, to follow traffic laws and to use hand signals. “I try to act like I’m driving a car when riding my bike,” she says.
When asked if she gets on her soapbox to encourage her co-workers and patients to adopt a bike commuting habit, Sheldon replies, “I try to set an example but I don’t feel comfortable telling people what they should do. I just know it really works for me.”
So keep your eyes peeled for a skort-clad woman peddling up to Research Park and give her a little extra room when you see her!