David Backeberg has a hectic schedule. With a full-time job and married with two young children, his day is busy. Besides his work life, he is also responsible for dropping off and picking up his two children at pre-school and even fits in a lunch-time run. He loves to cook and often makes dinner. With such an active schedule, Backeberg is in high-speed mode all day. For most of us, needing a car to quickly facilitate errands and the daily commute is essential. That is not the case for David and his family.
A few years ago while sitting in traffic on his way to work, Backeberg watched as a cyclist rode through all the stopped cars, traveling at his own pace. In that one moment, Backeberg decided to alter his life, starting with his morning commute, which now includes cycling to work daily.
Today, he accumulates over 90 miles a week riding to work. His daily commute includes dropping his daughters off and picking them up at different locations, and the ride to and from his job at 25 Science Park, where he is a senior system administrator for Yale’s ITS Infrastructure Services. In addition to not using a car and being greener, Backeberg feels his quality of life has skyrocketed for the better.
Backeberg said he would feel stressed sitting in heavy traffic and this would affect the start of his workday in a negative manner. He would often arrive to the office angry. The commute home was no better as he often dealt with bumper-to-bumper conditions. All of this started to make him unhappy and he needed to make a positive change.
“I sat in traffic thinking I wish I was doing what he was doing,” Backeberg recalled his thoughts of the bicyclist. “It was not sitting in traffic. It was more about getting to work grumpy and not being happy. My car commute was making me angry. It was hurting my quality of life. I wanted to stop that cycle. I invested in some really nice bikes.”
Deciding to bike to work was a process. Backeberg tested the routes several times in order to verify that his commute would be feasible. “I would try it on the weekend to see how long it would take,” Backeberg said. “I would do it on a Saturday with a stop watch to see the time. From door to door, which includes parking, it was about the same time. At first, I biked only with a completely blue sky and summer day, knowing it was not going to rain. I continued stop-watching it and eventually discovered it was the same time riding and driving when you consider the parking. I was not giving anything up.”
Initially he started biking in 2007. Gas prices were high and Backeberg, who had decided that biking to work was for him, would leave his parked car at home. With the biking came the feeling of freedom and happiness. No longer did Backeberg have to sit on a packed road. Instead, he was clear to move about freely.
Fast forward eight years and now with two children, Backeberg has not altered his way of commuting, instead incorporating his 3-year-old daughter, Vera, and 5-year-old daughter, Lara, into his daily commute.
Living in the Edgewood area of New Haven, Backeberg gets to see much of New Haven as he makes different tours of the city on various days. Wearing weather appropriate clothing and bundling up his kids, he pedals in the heat, rain and cold, but not in the snow.
On Mondays, he has a 9.5 mile morning commute, pedaling under a mile to drop off Lara at kindergarten, then heading to Fair Haven where he drops off Vera for pre-school, then heading to work at Science Park by 9 a.m. For the ride home, these same two routes are done in reverse, but are more time critical as pickups of 5:30 and 6 p.m. cannot be missed.
Going at a rate of approximately 12 miles per hour, Backeberg rides with traffic, making himself visible and thus having a safer commute. “The
kids are not scared,” he said of the commute. “They think of it as normal. I do realize how novel what I do is. But, if we were in Copenhagen or Amsterdam, this is not novel taking kids to school on a bike. We use helmets and I bike in traffic where I am more visible. I put myself where cars belong in hopes of being seen and treated like a car. It is the safest thing.”
Traveling about 100 miles a week by bike, Backeberg has also become more aware of his eating and drinking habits, focusing on a healthy diet.
His bikes allow for the storage of two or three water bottles, which Backeberg drinks proportionately and to stay fueled for his commute and avoid feeling hungry he eats throughout the day.
While Backeberg is not sure how many calories he burns daily, he is sure of the savings from riding his bike, including the cost of gas, less wear and tear on his car and not paying insurance or taxes on a vehicle he may no longer need.
He credits Yale University’s investment in the Y-Bike Program, including installing showers at 25 Science Park and having Yale bikes on location to sign out free of charge as incentives.
“These minimal investments have made a big difference in making this possible for me,” Backeberg said.
“Yale has done a very good job. It gives me a happy feeling knowing this institution cares about bikers as well.”
For more information on biking at Yale, please read http://to.yale.edu/bike.
By Michael Madera, Manager Yale Mail Service
Photos by Lisa M. Maloney, Yale Administration