By Stan Friedman
CHICAGO, IL (June 22, 2011) – Employees biking to work at the central offices of the Evangelical Covenant Church hope their participation in a “bike commuter challenge” will earn them the honor of being one of the greenest companies in Chicago, as well as encourage Covenanters across the denomination to consider commuting by bicycle.
The Active Transportation Alliance in Chicago sponsored the contest last week to promote biking to work. The company with the highest percentage of cycling employees will be named the winner.
Seven people from the Covenant offices participated (6.4 percent of staff), says Kerry Staurseth, strategic giving and stewardship coordinator, and coordinator of the offices’ effort. Several others who normally bike to work were out of town.
Staurseth’s reasons for cycling to work are multifold. “It’s less stressful than driving,” she says. “My route goes through a forest preserve and over a river, which is really pretty, and it’s free exercise.”
“In the past year of biking to work, I’ve saved more than 2000 pounds of carbon, 103 gallons of gas, and $350 dollars in gas, not to mention all the other expenses with car ownership,” says Staurseth.
Most of the cyclists live between four and eight miles away. “It takes almost the same amount of time as driving would take in Chicago,” Staurseth says. “Many days, I get home around the same time as the people who drive from work to the same neighborhood.”
Cycling to work has provided more than a way to stay in shape and cut down on pollution. It also has helped to strengthen relationships and given a new sense of achievement for some.
“A few of us ride pretty regularly, but we don’t necessarily ride together,” says Cathy Norman Peterson, features editor for The Covenant Companion, who bikes more than seventeen miles nearly everyday with little regard for whether it is snowing or raining. At the end of the week, they celebrated over pizza the miles they had logged and their mutual experiences. “We worked off the pizza on the way home.”
One employee who hadn’t ridden in years borrowed a bike so she could participate. “I wanted the exercise,” says Sarah Gonzalez, who bicycled the five miles from her home. Gonzalez, who is the office receptionist, says she plans to make the ride part of her routine.
Staurseth enthusiastically promotes the joys and benefits of cycling to work but acknowledges, “It’s not for everyone. It can be dangerous, so those with reservations shouldn’t feel bad if it’s not a good fit with their personality.”
Other office workers who participated in the weeklong contest were Dave Husby, executive director of Covenant World Relief; Ronna Husby, personal assistant in the Department of World Mission (WM); Joshua Meyers of Covenant Trust Company; Nils Peterson, administrative assistant in the Department of Church Growth and Evangelism, and Baxter Swenson, co-director of missionary personnel for WM.