Reducing Their Carbon Footprint through Cycling
October 2, 2019
In honor of National Walk and Bike to School Day, Student Ambassador Kaho interviews two USC Chan faculty, Drs. Camille Dieterle and Cheryl Vigen, who regularly bike to the university.
What made you want to start biking to work?
Dieterle: I started biking around the University of Georgia (UGA) campus where I was an undergraduate because the campus was so big I couldn’t get to class on time any other way. I immediately loved it and have bike commuted ever since. Through the years I’ve noticed that consistent exercise makes me much much happier and more energetic, so it has become a staple for my self-care.
Vigen: I do it for lots of reasons — my health, the health of the environment, cost savings.
How long have you been biking to work?
Dieterle: Technically I started bike commuting to elementary school in 3rd grade! I biked consistently in undergrad, and in various cities I’ve lived in since (Atlanta, Athens, GA, New York City and now LA). I started biking to USC as a graduate student in 2005 and have ever since.
Vigen: About 12 years.
Were you an experienced cyclist before deciding to use it to get to work?
Vigen: Yes, I was inured to the LA traffic long ago. It took a while for me to find a nice route in to work, and I suppose I had a little more tolerance for the effort than most people would have because of my prior experience. Many people, clearly concerned about safety, ask me what route I take. Bike safety is a constant concern, but I think I have found a route that is basically safe as well as being pleasant.
What’s your favorite part about it?
Dieterle: I am addicted to exercise and love all of the mood lifting and endorphin benefits. I LOVE the environmental benefits—that I am not contributing to global warming in my commute. I love that I don’t have to deal with parking! I love having legs of steel! 😊 And, it’s just way more fun that sitting in traffic.
Vigen: Exercising outdoors. I hate riding on a stationary bike. You get so sweaty and it’s boring. Riding outdoors, you make your own breeze and even in hot weather the ride is pleasant.
Did you face any difficulties when switching to biking as your mode of transportation?
Dieterle: Getting the bag, clothing and hair just right has taken some trial and error.
Vigen: Securing your bike is a serious issue. I used to lock my bicycle in racks outside, but once, someone apparently tried to break my lock with a hammer. The lock held, but the person didn’t have very good aim with the hammer, and my bike was ruined. Now I always take my bike in to my office with me.
Any tips for someone that may want to start biking to work?
Dieterle: Spend some time choosing your route and experiment until you find your favorite streets. Route is everything in terms of safety and overall enjoyment. Allow yourself more time than you think the first few days to get the hang of things. If you’re buying a bike test ride a few different types to find what styles and features you prefer.
Vigen: You don’t have to bike the whole way. I live about 15 miles from HSC and sometimes I just don’t feel like riding that whole way. So I put my bike in my car and park at the Rose Bowl, or somewhere else along my route, and bike from there. There are plenty of places within an easy bike ride of campus where you can park for free. You can start with a short bike ride and then increase the distance if you like the experience.