Biking For More Than Her Health

We all know regular exercise is an important part of being healthy – getting more is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions after all – but most of us also complain about not having enough time in the day to incorporate it into our routine because of a job or errands. So why not make exercising part of going to work and running errands?

Published January 3, 2008 by Midlothian Exchange
By Sara Gray

We all know regular exercise is an important part of being healthy – getting more is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions after all – but most of us also complain about not having enough time in the day to incorporate it into our routine because of a job or errands. So why not make exercising part of going to work and running errands? That’s exactly what Midlothian resident Polly Stephens, M.D., has done, and she’s loving every minute of her morning and afternoon commutes.

“I find cycling energizing,” Stephens said. “I get to work or home from work and feel energetic. When I drive I feel lethargic. I like to incorporate exercise into my daily routine.”

Stephens bikes from her home off Winterfield Road to St. Francis Medical Center nearly every day which takes about 20-25 minutes. She says she bikes in most weather except rain and ice. Heat and cold are not usually problems.

For Stephens, who grew up in Botswana and Washington, D.C., biking is a natural choice for commuting.

“I grew up riding my bike to school, friends’ houses and all around town,” Stephens recalled. “Granted it was the tiny town of Gaborone, Botswana but we moved from there to Washington, D.C., when I was 12-years-old and then I could get to the National Zoo, the Smithsonian museums and anti-Nuke protests on the Mall. I preferred to cycle to school because of the freedom it gave me. I didn’t have to rush to catch the bus. I could stay after school for sports or visit friends on the way home.”

Biking around a small town is one thing but biking in traffic around Washington, D.C., and in the Richmond area is another thing entirely. Which begs the question: how safe is bicycle commuting?

“Bicycles belong on the road and I follow the rules of the road. And a little luck goes a long way,” Stephens said. “I find motorists very pleasant and courteous. Occasionally someone will get right behind me and honk, which can be unnerving. It is usually a…driver who thinks I need to know he or she is about to pass me.”

Stephens, who began cycling at the age of 5 with her brothers and sisters, has gotten her own family in the mix as well. Her oldest son, Eli, biked to school at Trinity Episcopal until he got his drivers license; she and her daughter Amelia just completed their third tour in the annual Multiple Sclerosis bike ride to Williamsburg this year; occasionally she has company on her daily ride as far as Midlothian Middle School where her youngest son Noah stops for school; and she and her husband are regulars on the local bike trails on the weekends.

And if that doesn’t make you believe the family loves biking, just take a peak in their garage. Stephens, herself, converted a 15-plus year old Gary Fisher mountain bike for her daily commute, adding upright handlebars, a comfortable seat, a bell and a rack for her pannier, plus she owns a Bianchi road bike. In addition the team has two tandem bikes, mountain bikes and a unicycle.

“I love riding my bicycle,” Stephens said. “How did driving come to be considered the only useful mode of transportation? Part of a national bicycle route that runs from Florida to Maine [runs through this area.]

“Obviously, it is not practical for everybody to cycle to work,” she continued. “When I worked in the west end, I could only cycle in once a week, but now I am lucky enough to be close to work, and I typically have to drive only once a week when I go to Mechanicsville.”