Thanks to Bike Fed member Sandie Pendleton for this report on this year’s commuter challenge race in the Milwaukee area, organized by the Greater Shorewood Bikers.
Rider Ward Fowler, biking for Team Colectivo Coffee and bike commuters everywhere, beat legendary race car driver David Hobbs today, in The Great Milwaukee 2014 “Rider vs. Driver” Commuter Challenge. Fowler covered the roughly five mile distance from Whitefish Bay to Downtown Milwaukee in a time of 12:25, closely followed by Hobbs, who finished just 10 seconds after Fowler, with a time of 12:35.
Both participants made a $500 charitable wager that he would cover the course in the fastest time, so technically, the driver lost the wager. (Each time this event has been held in the Milwaukee area, the cyclist has won.)
The Rider vs. Driver Commuter Challenge is organized by Greater Shorewood Bikers and the Wisconsin Bike Fed as part of National Bike to Work Week to make the point that driving a car is not necessarily the fastest, healthiest, and greenest way to get to work.
According to Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director of the Wisconsin Bike Fed “We want to thank David Hobbs for being the driver today, and despite being edged out for the win by Ward on his bicycle, thanks to the participants generosity, both charities will benefit, as will those who hear about this event and decide to try biking to work.”
Since he lost the wager, Hobbs will be making a $500 donation to his charity of choice, the Sojourner Family Peace Center. Despite Fowler’s having won the bet, after the race, Fowler announced he still intends to make a $500 donation to his designated charity (Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee).
Said Hobbs, post-race: “I have let down race fans everywhere, I know, and they may revoke my car dealership and my membership in the Motorsports Hall of Fame, but my participation has benefitted two excellent charities that do good work in this area, so I’m not terribly let down by the outcome.”
“That, and I’m pretty sure the cyclists rigged this whole thing from the outset.”
According to Fowler: “Every prior Milwaukee commuter challenge has been won by the cyclist. My goal was to keep that streak going, and I’m happy and relieved to see we achieved that goal, even if it was almost a tie.”
Sources on the Oak Leaf Trail report that Fowler, apparently by coincidence, on his way downtown met up with members of the Colectivo Mountain Biking team and other cyclists, and they were last seen making good time down the OLT drafting for each other. “I learned that watching NASCAR,” said Fowler.
“We are going to invite Hobbs back to be the driver next year,” said race organizer Sandie Pendleton, of Greater Shorewood Bikers, “what the Washington Generals are to professional basketball, we hope David Hobbs will become to bike vs. car races.”
According to Dave Waters, M.D., Bike Fed Board Member and medical advisor to the event, “we’ve had no reports of performance enhancing drugs used by either participants, so the results are official.”
“Seriously, though, my involvement in this event was primarily to encourage people to consider biking more, as it’s an enjoyable and practical way for kids (and adults) to increase physical activity, which can play an important role in preventing or controlling many types of health problems that beset many Americans, like obesity or diabetes.”
“Cycling is an affordable and effective tool that our communities can utilize to encourage healthy lifestyles for our residents. As the rate of bike commuting and cycling is growing, we hope every community makes the most of every new development to promote cycling and walking as part of their planning procedure.”
While commuting by bike all the way to work may not in every case be the fastest way to get to work, numerous studies have indicated the benefits of biking to overall-happiness, individual health, the environment, and the Wisconsin economy.
“Increase happiness, lose weight, save money, help the environment, improve your community — there are lots of reasons why cycling is a good choice for getting to work, or for taking short trips that you might otherwise use a car for,” said Pendleton.
As to which is more enjoyable, a recent study of commuters in Montreal indicated that cyclists were far more satisfied with their commute than drivers (or those who took transit), even in winter.
Bike commuting is a great way to lose weight, as it incorporates physical activity into a daily routine; studies too have indicated that over time, people who regularly commute by car tend to gain more weight than those who do not, even if the drivers are physically active at other times.
As to the environmental effects of car commuting, the transportation sector is responsible for 71% of all U.S. petroleum use, and more CO2 is emitted by the United States’ transportation sector than any other nation’s entire economy, except for China’s.
Cycling benefits the Wisconsin economy, as Wisconsin is the capital of the bicycle industry in the U.S., home to such well-known brands as Trek, Pacific Bicycle, Saris, Huffy and Schwinn. A 2010 study estimated that the economic impact of bicycles in Wisconsin is close to a billion dollars per year
As to the health costs associated with high rates of auto use, at least one study has concluded that if residents of Milwaukee replaced even 20 percent of their short car trips with bicycle rides, the result would be a “substantial reduction” in health problems and the corresponding costs, potentially saving the Milwaukee-area over $200 million in healthcare costs.
The rules of the Commuter Challenge event were simple. The rider and the driver met for a cup of coffee at Colectivo Coffee Shorewood. Upon the sounding of the starting horn, each departed, Hobbs in a car, and Fowler on a bike, to see how long it took each to commute from the Whitefish Bay/Shorewood border, to downtown Milwaukee (an approximately 5 mile distance). Fowler chose to make his way downtown following the Eastside Oak Leaf Trail, one of the best and most beautiful urban bike trails in the country. Hobbs chose to make his way downtown on Lake Drive and Lincoln Memorial Drive. Both participants were required to comply with all traffic regulations (and each was followed by a member of the Shorewood P.D. to help ensure that occurred). The finish line was the statue at the Eastern-most end of Wisconsin Avenue (“The Calling” statue, by Mark di Suvero, a/k/a the “Sunburst”).
About David Hobbs: David Hobbs is a legendary race car driver, having raced twenty times in the 24 Hours of Le Mans Race. He also raced at the Indianapolis 500, among many other world-class races. Mr. Hobbs was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2009. In addition, he’s a successful Milwaukee-area businessman, philanthropist, and race commentator for such networks as the Speed Channel, CBS, NBC, and NBC Sports Network. He was the voice of “David Hobbscap” in the 2011 Disney’s Cars 2. His son Greg Hobbs, and his grandson Andrew Hobbs have also raced professionally. David Hobbs Honda is a sponsor of local Olympian, cyclist and American triathlete Gwen Jorgensen.
About Ward Fowler: Ward Fowler is one of the three original founders of Colectivo Coffee. With 15 Milwaukee area locations, Colectivo is known for its award winning coffee and its support of community projects and organizations. Complex City Guide named Colectivo one of the best coffee roasters in the U.S. in 2013. Colectivo has been recognized by the EPA for its extensive efforts in expanding green power awareness. It has been a leader in the Milwaukee area in supporting cycling, and making its business bike friendly. Colectivo sponsors the Colectivo Coffee Been Classic bike race and the Colectivo Mountain Bike Race Team.