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Challenge Profile: 'Michael on a Bicycle' Surpasses 20,000 Miles
Michael Schwaid, or 'Michael on a Bicycle,' has been commuting up to a couple dozen miles each way on his bike for more than a decade. On his Litespeed road bike, he has slowly seen more and more bicyclists joining him on the road during commuting hours.
Michael, a resident of Odessa, Fla., just north of Tampa, has been tracking his rides for years now, and he recently surpassed 20,000 commuting miles on his bike. His commute is about 30 miles each way to his job at the Clearwater Courthouse. He's brought this dedication to the 2013 National Bike Challenge, participating for the second year in a row.
I caught up with Michael this week to talk about his huge accomplishments and his passion for two-wheeled travel.
What inspired you to participate in the National Bike Challenge?
What drew me to it was the hope that we can document that bicycles are used more than just going around the block. That bicycles are viable form of transportation and local governments should understand that and make accommodates for that through facilities. I commute every day -- 25 miles in each direction. I don't think there are that many people that drive that one way -- shows bicycles can do that.
What drives you to commute by bike?
To save money, to be more green, to hopefully cut down on traffic. I want to show there are other alternatives to a car. I also live in Hillsborough County, which is one of the most dangerous places for bicyclists in the country. I've seen a huge difference since 2008 -- back then I used to take different routes every time just to keep it different. Now, I have very few problems with motorists. The more people we can get out there riding, the safer it'll be and we will knock down these terrible death rates. That's what I hope the most from the National Bike Challenge -- even the people who don't continue to bike, at least now they can see it from that perspective so when they get back in that car they will know what it was like to get honked at by a car and won't do it.
What would you tell someone who is interested in the Challenge but is unsure about getting on a bike?
To me, what I think is great about the challenge, especially to average individuals, is it provides motivation. You get to see what similar people are doing. You see someone two miles in front of you, and you say, "I need two more miles and I can pass that person." It provides a great motivation for peole to get out and ride. And as motorists see more bicyclists out there, they learn how to deal with them.
How did you become so passionate about bicycling?
I grew up in New York City, and I was involved in the formation of the New York City Bike Patrol. We patrolled Central Park, Prospect Park, Riverside Park and others. We were the eyes and ears of the police. Part of our duties were traffic control and making sure that cars stayed out of the park. We were there for safety and to assist bicyclists. I did that until I finished high school, and I've been riding most of my life.
What do you love most about bicycling?
You get a rush every time. You're pushing yourself faster than you could walk, so there is a certain thrill of speed. Personally I love the exercising thing of it -- when I get home I'm done, I've gone 50 miles. Since May 2008, I've gone 20,003 miles, spent 1,081 hours, 1 minute and 17 seconds on my bike. My average pace has been 18.5 mph and I've burned 1,288,530 calories commuting!