By Steve Young

Nine years ago, I relocated from Pennsylvania to Maryland to begin my new job with the University of Maryland (UMD). I’m an academic advisor, and, as such, I’m also a  course scheduling connoisseur, a GPA repair technician and a graduation requirement guru. No one ever says that they want to become an academic advisor when they grow up. It’s just one of those careers that you kind of stumble into.

I remember how excited I was to move to the DC area. I was intrigued to have such easy access to restaurants, stores, and, well, traffic. In Pennsylvania, my bright orange TREK 3600 mountain bike owned the road, but I had a good cry when the reality of biking in College Park set in. I wondered how I’d survive biking among the wall-to-wall cars. I forced myself to adapt to the traffic tremors that accompanied my morning commute. 

My adaptation and integration into the university and College Park communities was rather seamless, once I let go of a few horse-and-buggy memories from my childhood in Pennsylvania Dutch country. But It wasn’t until I stumbled into Bike to Work Day that my wheels really began to turn about an alternative, economically friendly means of commuting. (If you aren’t familiar with Bike to Work Day, it’s an annual event in mid- to late-May designed to convert casual bicyclists like me into daily commuting cyclists.) I recall how inspiring it was to meet adults of all ages, cultures and fitness levels who were committed to decreasing traffic congestion on the city’s streets, even if it was just for one day. This was the impetus I needed to get my commute back on course. The following Monday, I cancelled my campus parking, and my new life as a green commuter was born. 

I define a green commuter as anyone whose primary means of getting around doesn’t include a mechanical engine. Regardless of how one defines it, green commuting has one essential goal: fewer cars on the road.

For me, green commuting means taking a solid oath that I will not use any engine-powered transportation to get to work. Yep, no planes, trains, or automobiles for this guy! My battery or engine, depending how you look at it, is my legs. I am fortunate in that I live in North College Park, just three miles from campus, so I can alternate between biking and walking to work. Yes, there are days when I wake up and don’t feel like putting one foot in front of the other to make the trek into campus. It’s too hot. It’s too cold. But I keep my tank top and pair of thermal underoos handy.    

As a green commuter, I get to experience the College Park through a multitude of lenses and landscapes. My trips up and down the Route 1 Corridor give me a sneak peek at our changing city. I’ve observed firsthand the countless number of new hotels popping up. I can tell you about seesawing gas prices and where to go for the best deal on unleaded — not that I drive much. And for all you foodies out there, let’s talk about patio dining, now that summer’s on the way in and restaurants are starting to reopen. As a walking warrior, I get to stop, look, listen and consume all the greatness that College Park has to offer. 

Interested in becoming a green commuter? Here are some resources to help get you started (Due to COVID-19, some of these services may be temporarily suspended or limited):