An Exceptional Commute: Q&A with Kyle Shimabuku


December 05, 2019

What inspires or motivates you to engage in this type of alternative commuting?

“What inspires me is that I see it as one of these low-hanging fruit items to address environmental challenges, because of course it’s better than car commuting, in terms of CO 2 emissions and pollution. I also get some exercise in my busy schedule, which can be difficult to otherwise fit in. It definitely saves a lot of money on gas, car insurance, it even allows us to have just one car for my family.”

How long have you been commuting in this way?

“I started bike commuting about ten years ago. That started out as just a few days a week and then about a year into it, it became at least 90% of the commutes I would take. That has stayed true for most of those years. There was a year and a half period of time where neither my wife or I had a car, so it became all of the commuting we did. She is also a big bike-commuter, and has been doing so for about ten years as well.”

What support (from family, friends, coworkers) have you received? On the other hand, have you had people be concerned or question your decision to commute in this way?

“I personally have not received any negative feedback from anyone. There has been a little bit of concern from my mom, regarding safety. I was a little concerned, because I bike my son to school, so that makes me a little more nervous about potentially falling with him on the bike, but when we moved to Spokane we were very intentional about where we lived so we would have a safe bike commute. Now, all of my bike-commute is on separated paths, or there are short sections where I go on the sidewalk. I actually feel more confident in this, as I step back and reflect on the worst-case scenario, that we might fall on a bike path, I feel a lot safer with that than taking him on the freeway everyday and getting into a high-speed car crash. I feel safer about that, and when I’ve explained that to my mom, she agrees.”

What is the biggest challenge you have ever faced as an alternate commuter?

“Snow and ice. Particularly when it was cold, I would have to wear more clothes, so the cold wasn’t a factor, but I would get sweaty under all those layers. Once I got an e-bike, that has pretty much taken away all that discomfort. The only challenge for me now is snow and ice. I just got this e-bike in August, and it has been a life-changer. My commute before was flat, so having my son was not an issue, but now my commute is more hilly, so that was the first reason I used to justify getting an e-bike. Now, I don’t have to shower when I get in to work, which saves me time. I think an e-bike can address a lot of challenges people associate with bike commuting, except maybe snow and ice!”

How has your e-bike changed your commute?

“With the e-bike, I don’t notice my son’s weight being there at all. It really makes it a true car replacement, because I can load him on it and load really heavy bags on it. I can bike as hard or as little as I want. If I want to get more exercise, I can turn down the level of assist, or if I’m really tired or don’t want to be sweaty, I can go without putting in much effort. It makes it so that if you don’t want to be sweaty on your way to work but you want to burn off some steam at the end of the day, you can tailor it to whatever you want."

How have the changing seasons impacted your decision to bike commute?

“Because I often have my son on the back of my bike, I do back off when it starts to get snowy or icy. Lower temperatures or rain, things like that, don’t affect me anymore. I really enjoy biking now. It’s become a nice time to be outside. I actually prefer to be outside in the rain or cold when it’s raining, in comparison to being inside a car. That was something I discovered after I started bike commuting. When I didn’t bike because the weather was unpleasant, I realized that I enjoyed driving in the dry car less than I did biking in a little bit of rain. You just need a little bit of gear, waterproof pants and a jacket, and it won’t really affect you.”

What do you wish more people knew about biking?

“I just think it improves every aspect of life. It’s easier on your pocketbook. You get exercise. You have more time outside and not inside a car, which I think will make people happier than they realize.”

Do you think there is anything that Gonzaga could do to get more individuals involved with biking?

“I think more bike infrastructure around the campus is always good, or thinking about access points to campus from bike routes. In particular, there’s not a great access point to the western side of campus from the Centennial Trail. If there could be more access points from the Centennial Trail up to campus, that would be helpful. There used to be a gravel path behind Herak, but now, because of construction, it’s blocked off.”

Any final thoughts or words of wisdom you want people to know, whether about biking or life in general?

“To people who are thinking about it, I would say, start out slow. Don’t go all or nothing, see what works for you- if you notice that you’re a little bit happier during the day, it might be because you biked in. I would research two things. One, run the numbers on what it means for finances. Not having to pay for as much gas, maybe having one less car to pay insurance and registration on. Second, spend a little time researching the safest route. You might be surprised that there are ways you can feel very safe, especially considering the alternative is driving on a major freeway.”

If you or someone you know commutes to Gonzaga in an interesting way, we want to know about it! Send an email to troxell@gonzaga.edu and you might be featured in a future profile!