Downtown Concierge

Choosing Alternative Transportation: Part II


Downtown Matters Newsletter


Downtown Columbus

Like eating green veggies and running a 5K, choosing alternate transportation is something that's good for you (and the community), which people often find a daunting prospect. But when one talks to people who have made the switch, many of the obstacles seem to fall by the wayside.

Paul Westrick, On Two Wheels or Two Feet

Paul Westrick, owner of Zer0z, the minimalist wallet store on Gay Street, has been biking to work downtown for years. A former runner, Westrick started cycling for fitness and then tried it as a mode of transportation. Westrick relishes getting to work from Clintonville via the Olentangy bike trail

"It brings me a lot of peace to ride my bike along the river to work," said Westrick. "I arrive at work in a very different mental state.

Westrick admits that many people find the idea of riding to work daunting. But he insists that it's worth giving a try for several days.

"All of a sudden, it becomes more than just a way to get to work," added Westrick. "Trying it a few times can make it click in. You don't miss the traffic or the stress of your commute, and you find a new state of mind."

Westrick offers (and encourages other cyclists to offer) to mentor someone who is considering biking to work. He believes that offering to ride together or be a sounding board can help someone on the fence become more comfortable with the prospect.

There are practical considerations to becoming a bike commuter, such as finding a bike and getting some cold and wet weather gear (though Westrick's bike is from the 90's and he puts plastic bags on his shoes), but there are very practical benefits of the decision as well. Westrick notes that he loves saving $150 per month on parking, saving lots of money in gas and wear on his car, not getting parking tickets, and not sitting in traffic or dealing with aggressive drivers. Plus riders get their workout in without having to join a gym.

Some who try biking may confine their choice to the warm weather months, but Westrick has biked year around for the last several years. He explained that the weather gets colder in small increments, so he just adjusts. It’s a process of adaptation. This winter has proven especially challenging with all the snow and ice, so Westrick has walked in from Clintonville on days that were too icy for cycling.

“No bad weather outweighs the feeling I get from being outdoors,” he explained.

He so enjoyed his walks that he plans to continue walking one or two days per week, in addition to cycling.

Westrick is excited about the alternative transportation options that are springing up downtown, many of which make the decision to bike to work easier. One day he was walking in to work and received a phone call that he needed to get to the store immediately. He was able to pull up the Car2Go app on his phone, locate a car and drive the rest of the way there.

“There are solutions to almost any problem that arises,” he insisted. “You can use Car2Go, CoGo Bike Share, put your bike on the bike racks on the COTA buses, or even ask someone for a ride.”

Many office buildings are now offering bike storage and some even have showers available for bike commuters. Westrick belongs to the Y and can clean up there or at his store.

Westrick knows that biking to work won’t work for everyone, but hopes more people will give it a try.  He recommends trying the route on a weekend just to see that it can be done without the added stress of actually having to work.

“Just give it a try,” he said. “You will lose the stress of traffic and parking and gain time for yourself to improve your physical and mental state.”

Marc Conte (see his story in Choosing Alternative Transportation, Part I) and Westrick are just two of many who have adopted alternate modes of commuting downtown. There are so many options available to make it an appealing option. CCSID wants to do all it can to encourage this trend. The SID is meeting with human resource managers at various downtown companies to ensure they are aware of the breadth of commuting options available to downtown workers, as well as encouraging companies that offer a parking benefit to offer a comparable transit benefit. Companies are encouraged to reach out to the SID to have staff meet with HR managers or employees to review commuting options.