Sustainability is about ecology, economy and equity.- Ralph Bicknese

Bike-to-Work Profile: Patrick McDonald

patrick-mcdonaldA Professor of Philosophy at SPU, Dr. Patrick McDonald spent much of his adult life navigating the streets and hills of Seattle by bicycle.

McDonald recounted how he “wrecked” his father’s car at age 16, and got kicked off his parents’ automobile insurance nine months later. Unable to afford a car of his own, McDonald rode his bike to work all through his senior year of high school. He continued the habit during his college years at Seattle University, making it five consecutive years without driving.

Eleven years later, he still bikes almost every day.

Though he actively participates in Bike-to-Work Month every year, biking remains McDonald’s main avenue of transportation year-round. His family does own two cars, but he said that “they are both spoken for,” leaving biking as his only option.

His route starts in Ballard, three miles away from the SPU campus. He says that it usually takes him 15 minutes to bike to work, and  20 minutes to bike back home (which goes uphill).

McDonald says that he likes the flexibility, exercise, and stress relief that his cycling commute gives. He also enjoys experiencing the city from a bike seat, which provides a unique perspective to our area. “It’s an interesting space to think and reflect,” he said. Taking the time and action to cycle gives McDonald “new thought patterns” that he otherwise wouldn’t come up with.

But just as important as personal enjoyment, McDonald takes his effects on the environment seriously. “I bike in part to prevent releasing more fossil fuels into the atmosphere and contributing to the destructive car culture,” he said. Though he is genuinely impassioned by his stewardship, McDonald also gets personal satisfaction from his bicycling efforts: “I really do enjoy it.”

However, McDonald warns other cyclists to beware of traffic. “Just today I had three near-misses, and had to slam on the breaks,” he said. He further cautions awareness: “everyone who is on the road needs to pay attention.” To other bikers specifically, he councils, “you have a responsibility for your own safety. You can’t assume that cars are going to look out for you.”

McDonald protects his own safety by avoiding heavily trafficked areas and uncontrolled intersections, which can prove quite dangerous if one is inattentive. And he urges others to do the same: “Be proactive about finding streets and routes where you can get away from traffic, and be cautious at intersections.”

McDonald also wears bright orange rain gear that his wife gave him so others will see him better.

Despite his gear, McDonald maintains that such trappings aren’t necessary. “You don’t have to look like a cyclist,” he states, following that the best clothing is “Whatever works for you as a cyclist that allows you to be functional.” But he also admits to the usefulness of protective clothing during rainy days. His philosophy for handling the elements: “There is no bad weather; only bad gear.

Beyond his safety warnings, Prof. McDonald wants people to overcome any fear or anxiety they may have about cycling. His message for all every reader: “Don’t be scared. You can do it.

Next Profile: Professor Jobe Korb-Nice


Author: Sara Kenning

Sustainability Assistant at Seattle Pacific University's Office of Facility and Project Management

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