When it comes to trying to encourage commuters to ditch the car and ride a bike to work, it helps having an advocate in the Governor’s office who bikes to work from time to time.
Governor Markell says he takes a bike to work when he can, “I generally take the long way around, to try to avoid some of the tougher areas.” For Markell, his enjoyment of biking came after realizing he wasn’t cut out for running. That was a lesson learned when he competed in the Philadelphia Distance Run, a half-marathon, in 1996.
“During the entire race, I passed a total of five people. Four of them were walking, and one was getting CPR. It was not a fun experience for me,” Markell says. “I’m really not a runner and so biking is just great exercise, and it’s also a fantastic way of seeing places. I love biking in Delaware.”
He’s toured the state on a bike a number of times, and even taken his family on biking vacations to Washington state, the Canadian Rockies, and even Prince Edward Island. “I want more and more people to come to Delaware to enjoy the same kinds of opportunities.”
He was criticized by some for plans announced in the State of the State Address this year to spend $13 million on bike trails and improved bike routes in Delaware. But for Markell, high quality trail and bike routes are a part of economic development. “The kinds of companies that we want to expand in Delaware, they want to be able to recruit the best possible talent. And the best possible talent generally wants a nice life style. So if they know that there are great places that they can go with their families on the weekend and ride and walk and hike, that’s all good.”
So does the Governor think about public policy while riding around? Not really. He enjoys the therapeutic affects of physical activity in the great outdoors. “I love the wind going past, for me it’s a form of relaxation. Sometimes I’ll get some good ideas out there.”
Today’s National Bike to Work day is the culmination of a week-long effort to convince people that biking can be a viable alternative to get to work. It’s also the start of a celebration of cycling in Delaware with the Wilmington Grand Prix.