An Exceptional Commute Q&A with Satish Shrestha

August 10, 2020

What does your commute look like?

“In the last three years, I have moved multiple times, which has impacted my commute a little bit. Now, I live on the South Hill, which is just about 4 miles south of campus. My goal is to ride my bike at least once a week, if not more. This time of year is the time when I would be riding my bike to work more frequently. There are certain times, like December, January, and even February, when commuting on a bike is not as safe. I know a couple of people who do that. Some people are able to do that, based on their distance from campus. Because I live up on the hill, coming down that hill...So, my commute to work on a bike is very reliant on the season. I think the biggest determinant is, do I have any appointments outside of campus in the middle of the day? If not, then that is my biggest motivation to ride my bike. If there is an appointment, let’s say a doctor’s appointment or any appointment outside of work during work hours, on those days, I drive. And just to make myself feel better, I drive a Prius so I don’t feel as bad about burning fossil fuels. I don’t ride my bike to work every day, but I try my best depending on what my day looks like. That determines my decision to ride or not to ride my bike.”

When did you start biking?

“I bought my first car only three years ago. Prior to that, biking was my only mode of transportation. Also, my proximity to work three years ago was very close to campus. Which was partly a strategic decision- if I lived close to campus, I would most likely not need to own a vehicle.”

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?

“Most of my friends and colleagues, when I got to know them for the first time, most of the introductions involved my bike. I would either go see them on my bike or they would see me riding my bike. In some ways, for better or for worse, my identity around Gonzaga is tied to the activity of biking. I have never been discouraged by anyone, and I feel like I do get a lot of support. Let’s say, if I were to get a flat tire in the middle of the street, I can always call one of my friends or one of my colleagues and they are always willing to give me a ride back. There isn’t anyone saying ‘Oh why would you ride a bike?’”

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

“I think the biggest challenge is the culture. If there were more people riding bikes, I think drivers would be more bike-friendly, or they would pay more attention to bikers. I mean, biking is an adventurous activity in some ways. It can be an act of adventure, you know, riding down a slushy hill! It is only as safe as the drivers around me. I would say, for me, the culture that is so car-centric is probably the biggest thing that discourages me from riding my bike when I decide not to ride it.”

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

“In the winter I do ride my bike, I just don’t ride it to work. I have one of those Fat Tire bikes, so in the winter I love riding that bike around town, but not to work. I have done it a few times but it’s just not convenient.”

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

“I think the Office of Sustainability has been doing an excellent job. I’m pretty happy with everything they’ve been doing. The only thing I could recommend would you know Gonzaga’s benefit website? On that benefits website, there are these challenges. Right now, there is a challenge called ‘Mount Everest.’ It keeps a log of every mile someone walks, and whoever walks the most miles in a given time becomes a winner. So I wonder if it would be possible to create a challenge like that for people to bike and to encourage people to think about biking more by incentivizing them with a small reward. That would be one, and the second would be for people who are already riding their bikes on and off. Maybe some kind of reward system where Gonzaga has deals with bike shops in town so that an association with Gonzaga would give some level of discount on services and parts. A good example would be, if I show my Gonzaga ID at Jiffy Lube they give you a 20% discount, but you know that’s supporting our car-centric culture. But if Gonzaga had a similar thing with REI or Bike Hub, or any of the bike shops in town, that would incentivize people.”

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

“I don’t know if it’s a word of advice, but I really, really enjoy reducing my waste. During this pandemic, I have picked up on this new skill of carpentry. I have been collecting scrap wood and making new things out of it. Things like desks and tables and spice racks and things like that. I find it really fun to convert some waste into something useful. I think I take a lot of pride in extending the life of an object beyond its expiration date. Culturally, we look at the expiration date of something and if it is expired we just toss it. You buy a coffee maker and maybe there is a simple issue- maybe a calcium build-up in the coffee maker, but you don’t try to fix it, you just toss it and buy a new one.”