Jesse the Human Engine
Jesse and Angie Ross and their two daughters are a one-car family. In January, they traded their SUV for an SUB. The family rides bikes to the store, church and for family fun.
Jesse’s vehicle is a Madsen Bucket bike. I asked him how he chose the Madsen. “We were looking at the Xtracycle and the Yuba Mundo when we came across it on Google.” The price was good and the bucket holds a lot of stuff, plus has seats and seat belts for kids. He’s done some work on it and plans to do more mechanical tweaking, but he really likes it. He uses it to bring their two daughters home from daycare/preschool every day, and to haul mind-boggling loads from Costco and Home Depot.
Robert Seidler and I had the pleasure of joining Jesse for his commute home on Monday. We met him at Colonial High School, where he teaches. Getting to Colonial High was a challenge. It’s a poster child for the metro area’s lack of connectivity—isolated from anything resembling a useful grid in the southeastern corner of Colonial Dr. (SR50) and Semoran Blvd. (SR436).
The kind of teacher you never forget
Mr. Ross is teaching more than high school English. His Madsen sits on display in front of his classroom every day—a silent symbol of freedom and possibilities. His enthusiasm for utility cycling is infectious. It can’t help but make a positive impact on his students.
“I have such a great life!”
Jesse rides to work early in the morning, enjoying an exhilarating workout. He showers at school, parks his bike in his classroom and begins his workday happy and refreshed. Later in the morning, Angie drops one daughter off at her nearby school and the other at the high school’s daycare, which happens to be right outside Jesse’s classroom window.
After school, Jesse does a quick change into shorts and a T-shirt, picks up 2-year-old Vivi, and rides to 5-year-old Sofie’s school. We rode past the endless line of idling cars, went right into the walk-in entrance, picked up Sofie and then rode past the rest of the line (until we got to the parking lot where it was more prudent to queue up for the exit).
The girls are adorable and clearly love this form of transportation! As we rode away from the preschool, Sofie extolled the benefits of human transportation.
I was most curious to see how Jesse solved the connectivity problem. Robert and I had quite an adventure getting there (a topic for its own post). I have a hard time getting out of the Home Depot on that corner with a car! To go north, as Jesse does, the connectivity issue could be solved with a traffic light at Tucker Ave. and SR50 (it’s nearly impossible to cross there without one, even in a car). You can see his solution here.
Jesse has discovered the power of gaps. He uses an eastbound gap to cross to the median (which, at the moment, is a dirt construction zone). He then waits for a gap in the westbound lanes, turns left and controls the right lane for 450 feet and turns right onto a quiet street. (He uses 436 on his way to work and tried it with the girls, but they didn’t like it — it’s hot, loud and the cars kick up construction dirt.)
A few cars caught up and passed us courteously in the left lane as we rode on Colonial. Another waited behind in the right lane, to make a right turn at the street just beyond where we turned. Jesse noted that drivers seem extra careful and considerate when the girls are in the bucket. Every one we encountered was patient and considerate. When we were waiting for the light at Old Cheney and 436, the driver of a minivan behind us leaned out and chatted with me for a moment about how cute the girls are and gave Jesse a big thumbs-up.
A community amenity
Jesse handles himself like a pro in traffic. He’s benefited from watching Dual Chase videos. But a wonderful feature of his commute is that most of it is on the Cady Way trail. In May, he and Angie bought a house in Winter Park near the trail. Imagine taking your kids for a ride on the trail on the way home from work!
Not just quality of life, an entirely different kind of life
Jesse never liked driving a car. It made him feel stressed out, impatient and bored — just trying to get there and being obstructed by all the other motorists just trying to get there. He’s discovered that biking to work not only increases his enjoyment of the journey, it actually saves him time!
“No matter what, I never got out of the house in less than an hour,” he says of when he used to drive to work. Then he had to sit in traffic in his car. Now he gets up, makes coffee, loads the bike, fills the travel mug and is out the door in 15 minutes. It takes him 25 minutes to get to work and 15 minutes to shower, shave and change. So, “in less time than it used to take me to get out the door, I’ve had my coffee, a good workout, a shower and I’m at work and feeling great!”
He’s getting quality time with his daughters from the moment he gets off work and he has the freedom and satisfaction of not being dependent on a car with all its associated stresses. That is a different kind of life.
“I am an Engine”
That’s the title of a beautiful poem he is writing for his daughters. He read a few verses of for Robert and me and hope he’ll share it with you here when it is finished.
Jesse is not just the engine of his vehicle, he’s an engine of the changing traffic culture.