Not all journeys to work are created equal. The stereotypical image that comes to mind is a frustrated business person trying not to spill coffee all over the console while they swerve to avoid an erratic driver. This is not what everyone’s morning looks like, though. What if you started the day with a two-hour dose of your favorite hobby, crossing a mountain range and accomplishing all that by the power of your own steam? Just a day in the life of PhD Annelie Rugg, who powers through the San Fernando Valley by bicycle every morning on her way to UCLA. And bike commuting in this kind of place means you definitely stand out.
Rugg, who is director and humanities CIO for the Center for Digital Humanities, is one of the thousands of cyclists helping to unclog the streets and spread the word of the commuting lifestyle. Starting her career at UCLA as a graduate student in 1994, she has been on the staff since 2011 and has never held a parking pass. Every morning she makes the journey by virtue of her own two legs, typically completing the 22-mile trek from her home in the West Valley in just over two hours.
With a philosophy dominated by the fact that if you love something, you should take every opportunity to do it, she decided to make her bike a major part of her life. Instead of setting aside all this time for recreational activities and cycling clubs, she figured making it a part of her daily routine would be the best way to make sure she got a good dose of her favorite sport. The whole feeling about bike commuting is that you don’t have to wait for the weekend to get that wonderful feeling that only cycling can provide.
A huge enthusiast for the benefits this lifestyle choice provides her, she claims that the positivity generated by it seems to extend to those around her. For the most part, she doesn’t even get too much trouble from motorists on the road. Despite a honk or two when someone is clearly having a bad morning, she generally feels respected and safe alongside her motor-powered companions.
Of course, motorists are only one of the challenges that a commuter must confront. Even for an experienced cyclist, a 22-mile journey is no easy feat, and some days are inevitably harder than others. Rugg admits that some mornings she really has to talk herself into it, especially in the winter months when it’s still pitch-dark outside and she knows how cold it is going to be. Once she’s out there, though, she’s committed and gets by on the knowledge that as soon as she starts climbing that hill, her body will warm up and she’ll have the personal satisfaction of having accomplished that on her bike. For her, the psychological benefits always outweigh the obstacles.
Rugg’s relationship with cycling has undergone a variety of transformations. She got into it a few years after college and found she had a natural knack for the sport, to the point that she began attending national team training camps. She even tried out for the ’92 Olympic trials and was actually an alternate, having placed in the top 10. She would continue racing on and off until 2000, when she was pleased with the news that her first child was on the way. She said that following the birth of her daughter, her competitive spirit was diminished, as her energy was understandably devoted elsewhere.
Rugg notes that the real evolution in her relationship with cycling has been in her attitude. Starting off as a racer, she wanted to get everywhere as fast as possible and was easily annoyed by traffic and stop lights that would force her to slow down. Now that she is in community mode, though, she has built traffic and stop lights into the experience. That being said, she admits that old habits die hard, and from time to time she can’t resist holding a little secret race with a passing bus.
She is also grateful for the support she’s received from her co-workers, stating that everyone around the office is encouraging and acknowledges the fact that it adds a sense of youthfulness and vitality to the environment. She’s even inspired a few others to follow suit and now has fellow commuters on board. Who can blame them? Showing up at work every morning fresh off a cycling induced buzz, we’re sure Rugg produces more than her fair share of positive vibes around the campus. And what about you, are you a part of the commuting community? Share your story here.