Mary O’Rourke Commutes to the University of Utah

Mary O'Rourke is a physician's assistant at the U of U who commutes most of the
Mary O’Rourke is a physician’s assistant at the U of U who commutes most of the

By Ashley Patterson

Mary O’Rourke is a Physician’s Assistant in the Department of Gastroenterology at the University of Utah and in spite of the free transit pass that she receives as a U of U employee, Mary mounts her trusty steed to get to work most every day between mid-February and mid-November. Why does she do it? Her motivation is pretty simple, “I do it for the exercise and for the environment, and quite honestly, I can get to my office from my house in Sugarhouse quicker by bike than by car.” If that doesn’t get people on their bikes, it’s hard to figure out what will.

Mary’s ride is about 4 miles each way and to make sure that the people who aren’t enjoying their bikes see her she’s decked out with a neon yellow jacket with reflective piping on the sleeves, lights on the front and rear of her bike and clip-on, blinking red lights on her panniers. It is hard to miss her as she pedals in the early morning or evening when the light is dim, and the lights and reflectors help her feel more secure when it’s dark. These also allow her to ride to evening social events, where her famously-cheery demeanor always inspires her friends to ride their bikes as well.

While Mary is one of the most optimistic people on the planet, like most bike commuters, she does experience some struggles with getting on her bike from time to time and Mary admits that when it’s cold and dark, it’s harder to get excited to ride. “Laziness is my biggest struggle”, she says, and “It can be pretty enticing to hop in my car on a dark morning when the temperature is below freezing.” She does indeed commute less frequently in the full winter months of mid-November or so until mid-February, but unlike many folks, she’s actually not impacted as much by the pollution of our winter inversion but rather by potentially-slippery road conditions.

Mary finds that organization is key to her daily bike commuting. “There’s not a readily accessible shower at work that I can use so I just take a little time when I arrive to clean up and change into my work clothes. I get my clothes packed the night before as I have to be at work pretty early and I do have to leave a few minutes earlier in order to ride my bike because of the clothing logistics. However, I’d rather spend my time doing that and pedaling to work rather than looking for a parking space on campus.”

Commuting by bike has become a way of life for Mary over the past decade or so. “I love getting out in the morning when it’s still quiet in the city. I ride uphill on the way to work, which feels great and is a good way to start the day. Then, at the end of the day, I have a downhill cruise home, which can be a great unwind after a long day at work.”

Her words of advice for aspiring commuters: “I had to get over the hump of thinking that I could really get to work on time, carry the things I need for the work day and be presentable at work. After I’d done it a couple of times it just became my routine and I started to feel guilty when I jumped in the car.”

Whether your motivation is guilt, joy or lack of choice, why not join Mary each morning in pedaling your bike to work?

If you have a suggestion for a commuter profile, have a commuter question, or other comments, please send it to [email protected].

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