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The Source

Q&A with Matthew West

August 27, 2009

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September is historically the second-driest month of the year in Oregon and Southwest Washington, which makes it a great time to sign up for the 2009 Bike Commute Challenge. To gear up for the challenge, the Source sat down with Matthew West, network and systems administrator and avid bicyclist. Please contact Matthew at extension 7251 or e-mail mwest@lclark.edu for more information.

How did you get involved with the September Bike Commute Challenge for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance?

Portland is a biker’s paradise, so I decided to start biking to work once I realized it was really plausible.  Both the environmental and physical benefits of integrating biking into my daily life was so great, I decided to actively participate in the BTA’s Bike Commute Challenge.  Seeing my bike commutes in writing really made me want to do it more.  After participating and advocating for the Challenge on campus, the Transportation and Parking staff asked me if I wanted to be the “captain” of the Lewis & Clark team.  It’s been a great experience.  A bunch of us even rode down to the after-party this year!

What do you enjoy most about biking?

Personally, my favorite part about biking is the hour or so of solitude I get during biking to and from work.  No phones, no e-mails, no music.  Just the road and my thoughts.  Of course, I enjoy the physical and environmental benefits it provides.  As well, biking my daughter to preschool and continuing on to work just makes me feel like I am actually doing my part in curbing my older practice of using a car every day.

Do you feel that Portland is doing its part in maintaining a bike-friendly community?

There are so many ways that Portland fosters their biking community, it’s hard to know where to start.  When I started biking a few years ago, most of the commuters were men on custom road cycles.  To many, biking on the roads wasn’t very welcoming.  The community recognized this and started promoting “Bike Fridays” and hosting more bicycle safety courses geared towards beginners.  Now I see a much more diverse population biking.  All ages, all types of people, and all types of bikes.  I’ve even heard that we might start a public bike system like Paris, The Twin Cities, and Montreal.

When did you first become interested in sustainability?

Growing up in the South, sustainability was not a buzzword I heard at all.  Recycling, though, was first introduced to me in grade school, and I’ve continued the practice throughout my entire life.  I went to a very liberal midwestern liberal arts college, and most of my friends were from other more progressive parts of the country.  That’s where I really learned what sustainability meant.  I had no idea that meat took more resources to create and had more impact on our environment than raising vegetables, for example.  College is where I started to examine my day-to-day practices and worked on integrating more sustainable ways of living into my life.

In what ways do you practice sustainability in your life?

Integrating sustainable practices in your life doesn’t have to be monumental.  I have slowly been changing my lifestyle to lower my impact on the planet: consume less, reduce, reuse, recycle, compost, drive less, install compact fluorescent lights, watch water usage, don’t let the TV stay on, eat whole foods, buy sustainable power, etc.  Many people are caught up with “bigger” sustainable practices such as: driving a Prius, LEED certification, self-composting toilets, solar powered electrical systems, and living off the grid.  Those are all great things, but they take more money and time to provide a benefit.  I’m all about being sustainable on a personal and maintainable level.  Trying not to sound too cliché: If we all do a little to help, we’ll start to see a large impact on our lives and those that live around us.