Hot on the bike trail — even in cold of winter

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  • Photos by LOREN BENOIT/Press Jamie Morgan rides her bike past The Exchange on Locust Avenue as she commutes to a Coeur díAlene economic development meeting Tuesday morning. She has been biking to all of her appointments and errands for 14 straight months and has no plans to stop.

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    Coeur díAlene resident Jamie Morgan has commuted to work, grocery stores and meetings with friends via her bike for the past 14 months to help her plan ahead, slow down, create bicycle awareness and stay healthy.

  • Photos by LOREN BENOIT/Press Jamie Morgan rides her bike past The Exchange on Locust Avenue as she commutes to a Coeur díAlene economic development meeting Tuesday morning. She has been biking to all of her appointments and errands for 14 straight months and has no plans to stop.

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    Coeur díAlene resident Jamie Morgan has commuted to work, grocery stores and meetings with friends via her bike for the past 14 months to help her plan ahead, slow down, create bicycle awareness and stay healthy.

By BRIAN WALKER

Staff Writer

COEUR d'ALENE ó Next time you cringe over trekking to your car in all this snow and ice or navigating our narrower roads on four wheels, put yourself in Jamie Morgan's pedals.

The Coeur d'Alene 48-year-old committed 14 months ago to ride her bikes everywhere ó not just when bike lanes are clear, she doesn't feel like getting honked or yelled at, the weather cooperates or when she feels like a workout.

And that mission hasn't wavered, even during this month's record snowfall.

"If I'm advocating for more trails and bike lanes, then I'd better be using them," she said. "I love it. I'd rather be riding than driving, and I don't plan to stop."

Morgan and husband Tom Morgan are two of the forces behind the Lake City Bicycle Collective nonprofit that repairs and donates bicycles to people in need.

Jamie has pedaled more than 3,000 miles over the past 14 months, lost 13 pounds and developed some newfound feelings along the way.

"When I get into a car now I can get claustrophobic because I'm so used to hearing and seeing everything around me," she said with a laugh.

She said this month by far has been the biggest challenge. Itís presented the greatest need to find alternative routes since she began her venture.

Jamie said she uses people's curiosity and questions about why she's pedaling on icy roads as a bridge to start a bicycle education conversation.

"You don't have to have special clothes to ride," she said, donning jeans and a leather jacket on Monday afternoon after pedaling on her seven-speed Mongoose with fat tires to appointments with her job at the Small Business Development Center.

"I'm not saying that you have to ditch your car, but consider riding your bike for short trips. It's good for the environment and it's good for your health. I tell people that I love to eat and drink wine, and I'm not going to stop doing that. I don't go to a gym, so this is my alternative."

Jamie said societal issues are also at the heart of her mission, so she wants to be a visible reminder of biking as an alternative to driving.

"The health of our country is in decline, especially with kids," she said. "As a community, because we're in our cars so much, we're not saying hello to our neighbors as often."

Jamie said slowing life down is another theme in her online posts about bicycling.

"I have to plan to leave earlier and spend longer on the bicycle than I would if I was driving somewhere," she said. "It forces me to slow down and reflect a bit."

Jamie said she has been far from the only bicyclist on the roads during this harsh weather as she sees someone else pedaling every day. But the longevity and steadfastness of her cause are special, said Hayden's Nancy Lowery, a friend of Jamie's who coaches runners and triathletes.

"I'm enormously jealous that Jamie has been able to do this for more than a full year," Lowery said. "I admire her so much for the dedication she has both as a personal goal and to inspire others."

Lowery said it's sad that fast-paced society's desire for instant gratification has often superseded the safety of pedestrians.

"Driving is a privilege, not a right," said Lowery, who recently had a scare involving a truck driver while she was running and whose son suffered serious injuries while cycling in Seattle.

Tom said he's both proud and nervous about his wife's commitment.

"We've had horribly low temperatures and, with all of that snow, I've asked her several times, 'Do you want me to give you a ride?'" he said. "Her response is always, 'No, I'm riding my bike.'

"I know the city does its best to keep snow pushed off the streets, but they're plowing for cars, not that extra 3 feet in bike lanes. She's right in traffic and drivers don't always have much patience for people on bikes. It concerns me that cars whiz by her elbow, but she's never been one to quit when things get difficult."

Jamie said that when bike lanes are not open, city code allows for her to ride in traffic. Following through with that has generated the full gamut of responses from passersby from honks to hand signals, she said.

"Some will indicate that I need to get out of their way, and I'll just wave," she said, adding that others are more patient about passing, following and sharing the road. "I need to be as far to the right as I can, but drivers need to treat me like I'm a slow-moving vehicle."

Jamie said she has only crashed once while navigating the city streets.

Last winter she crashed at 11th Street and Sherman Avenue on black ice, but was not hurt.

Jamie admits there have been times when she has considered calling it quits on so much pedaling.

"I was riding out to Rathdrum and I was questioning whether I really wanted to be doing this, but I then heard another bicyclist and his exact words to me were, 'Don't give up,'" she said.

Bicycle awareness also keeps her on track.

"Once I'm out there, it feels so good," she said. "It's a sense of accomplishment even when it feels like your nose is going to fall off because it's so cold."

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