An Exceptional Commute: A Q & A with Kenji Linane-Booey
What type of commuting do you practice?
“My two main types of commuting are driving myself and biking. I bike almost every day when the weather’s fair. In the summer, I bike at least four times a week. I try to bus, but I recently moved so I have to figure out my new bus route. I was living near downtown so whereas before it was very easy, now it’s not.”
What inspires or motivates you to engage in this type of alternative commuting?
“The main reason I bike is personal. I’m just happier when I start my day outside. I enjoy the act of driving, I don’t enjoy other drivers as much, so I find that when I can throw on some music or just get on my bike and ride along the river, and just kind of enjoy the nature that we have here in Spokane before I get to work, I find myself to be a lot happier. I’m also trying to be more environmentally conscious, and so that’s another big part of why I try to bike more often than not. And part of it is related to health, I don’t always have time to go to the gym or for a run, so if I can at least bike, which is about 6 miles roundtrip for me, I feel a little better.”
How long have you been commuting in this way?
“I’ve always liked the idea of bike commuting. I lived on campus, so I always walked everywhere. If I could, I would actually never drive. I would walk and bike everywhere if I had the time. The only reason I drive is if I have to go somewhere right after work, or if I have appointments off campus, otherwise I’ll be on my bike. I’ve been bike commuting in some fashion for around 6 years. When I was a student and lived off-campus, I had a job at the university and would bike to work in the summer. In my current role at the university, I’ve been bike commuting for the whole time, about 2 years.”
Have you seen any changes in the built environment of Spokane as you have commuted around the city?
“In the past six years, I have seen more bike lanes established. I have heard City Council talk a little bit more about bike commuting, I’ve seen more bike groups in Spokane, there have even been a couple of programs I’ve seen pop up over the past couple years that are encouraging bike and alternate commuting overall. I do think that Spokane is a couple steps behind. One of my largest complaints is the debris that is in bike lanes. Street cleaners will go by and they kind of just push all of the rocks and things that are in the road into the bike lane. That is my largest concern about the bike system in Spokane. I am probably an over-confident bike commuter, I know what my rights are and what I can do and I have my lights and things like that, so I’m not too concerned about where I’m biking, but in Spokane it is illegal to be biking on the sidewalks, and so I’m always on the road. I always worry about blowing a tire because of debris on the shoulder. On a more positive note, the City of Spokane website has an interactive map that allows you to find the best possible route for your commute, which has been a huge asset and might be helpful to other people.”
What support (from friends, family, or coworkers) have you received? On the other hand, have you had people question your decision to commute in this way?
“I have some friends who give me a hard time, just because they can, especially in the summer because I will bike to whatever event I can. I’m biking to restaurants, bars, to events, so I always have a bike bag, bike lock, and helmet. They tease me, but just for fun. My direct supervisor loves that I bike to work. She always asks how my ride went, and understands if I need to take a few minutes to cool down before heading into a meeting.”
What is the biggest challenge you have ever faced as an alternative commuter?
“One challenge is the financial burden to getting started. I have to dress professionally, so I had to plan ahead and figure out what I could do to be a bike commuter but do it in a way that fits the requirements of my job. I invested in a rack for my bike, as well as lights. I decided to put money into my bike to make it into a commuting bike, and so I bought shoes and clips, and those were things I wanted to invest in but when I first started working professionally I really didn’t have the money to do that, which was a hindrance. It took me about a year of slowly adding things to get my bike to where I wanted it to be. Another challenge is all the prep that goes into it. I can’t wake up late and bike to work. I’m an hourly employee, so I would have to stay later in the day and get approval which is also a whole process.”
How have the changing seasons impacted your decision to bike?
“I’m less busy day-to-day in the summer, I just don’t have as many meetings and appointments and things like that outside of the school year. So I definitely ride more in the summer, both because of the weather and my schedule. Other than that, I don’t bike when it’s icy. Besides that, I really enjoy biking in the winter. I get hot when I bike, so the cool air is kind of nice. When I leave work it’s not 95 degrees out, which is also great. I have busy seasons, fall is really busy for me so I’m not here in Spokane a lot. I do international recruitment, so I’m on planes a disgusting amount. That’s another motivation for me to bike, is to offset my carbon footprint from all the flights I have to take for work.”
What do you wish more people knew about biking?
“As a cyclist, I wish people knew that we can’t be on the sidewalks. Not at Gonzaga, of course, but I’ve had people yell at me to get on the sidewalk and get off the road. And I actually have seen that change, I’ve seen the environment around biking get better. I’ve been bike commuting since 2013 when I started as a student, and I’ve seen attitudes shift towards being more friendly to cyclists. For people interested in biking, there are some financial roadblocks, but there are some resources in Spokane, like for instance Spokane C.O.P.S. has a program that provides kids with free bike helmets. I think for me, the bike community was kind of intimidating, but it’s totally ok to hop into R.E.I. and ask them to give you some air for your tires, or even the bike shop here at Gonzaga. I had this idea that you have to be hardcore or you’re not in it, but that’s not true, I think the casual commuter is really important.”
Do you think there is anything Gonzaga could do to get more people involved with carpooling, walking, biking, or riding the bus to work?
“I think the biggest hindrance for people is time. It’s so much easier to just get in your car. As an example, my commute is ten minutes in a car, about 15 minutes by bike, and 40 minutes if I take the bus. Because of where I live, there isn’t a way for me to get here without going into the downtown hub and getting a bus to campus from there. Maybe Gonzaga could advocate for a more robust transit system, as it would also help our students get more involved with the larger community. The students that thrive on our campus are the ones that step out of the campus more often than the average student does, it allows them out of the Gonzaga bubble and to explore the city around us.”
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