Through rain, wind and snow, associate professor of biological studies Julian Shepherd has been biking around Binghamton since 1975.
Last month Shepherd received the Supercommuter award from Planet Bike, a national bike manufacturing company.
The Planet Bike website defines a supercommuter as a person who “rides through every season, in all types of weather, day and night.”
Shepherd said he has been commuting by bike since his graduate school days in Boston during the 1960s.
“I was not a rich student,” Shepherd said. “It was convenient to ride a bike; definitely easier to ride than to drive.”
Shepherd said he rarely uses other forms of transportation besides his bicycle.
“There are very few instances when I do not bike,” Shepherd said. “When it is cold, I just dress up more. In the rain, I put on a raincoat. When it snows, the streets are cleared pretty efficiently and often. I only did not ride five times last year. I take the bus when it gets too crazy.”
Three years ago, Binghamton experienced a heavy snowfall and Shepherd got creative with his commute to work.
“There was no way I could ride my bike,” Shepherd said. “Since I live on the south side of Binghamton and the University is on the south side of Vestal, I decided to ski over the hills. It was not something I do often, it was something special.”
Shepherd said he was honored to win the award, and hopes it helps others realize the importance of cycling and environmental conservation.
“I’m very glad because I think it’s very nice to promote commuter bicycling locally, more people can save the environment, cut down on emissions and their carbon footprint,” Shepherd said.
Professor Matthew Johnson, an associate professor of psychology, saw Shepherd riding his bike to work, and nominated Shepherd for the award out of admiration for his seven-mile daily commute.
“I don’t know Professor Shepherd well but I have admired his dedication to environmentalism for a long time,” Johnson said. “I met him because he passes my house on his commute each day.”
Johnson said Shepherd was inspiring and deserved to be recognized for his dedication to cycling.
“I read some commute by bike blogs and I thought Professor Shepherd is as inspirational as the people they are writing about,” Johnson said. “So, when I heard about the award from Planet Bike, I thought he would be very likely to get it.”
Shepherd’s longtime riding partner, Richard Andrus, an associate professor of environmental studies and biological sciences, said he is amazed by the lengths Shepherd is willing to travel by bicycle.
“We have been doing a bird census together for about 20 years,” Andrus wrote in an email to Pipe Dream. “The census involves finding as many bird species as we can find in Broome County in one day. This typically involves a lot of driving to get to different habitats and find different birds. One year for some reason I couldn’t go and so he did the census alone riding his bike all over the county! He probably rode 60-70 miles and still found as many birds as we usually find driving!”
Shepherd said he cycles for personal enjoyment as well as for exercise, in addition to the environmental benefits.
“Firstly, it is a way for me to personally reduce my environmental footprint,” Shepherd said. “Secondly, I get exercise out of it, useful exercise not just generating heat. Lastly, I am a naturalist. I appreciate nature when riding like listening to the birds; I embrace it.”
Connie Woodman, a graduate student who studies with Shepherd, said she met Shepherd when he helped fix her bike after last year’s flood. Like Johnson, Woodman has seen Shepherd riding his bike to and from campus.
“On the road to university every day, I see Dr. Shepherd riding his bike. He would say to me, ‘Have you made any commitments to reducing your dependence on a car?’ He’s a legitimate super commuter,” Woodman said.
Woodman said Shepherd inspired her begin walking to reduce her environmental emissions.
“Now when I go to a supermarket anywhere within three miles from my home I do not take my car,” Woodman said. “One time on the way home, myself and my significant other got caught in a sudden rainstorm and we could not help but laugh. Being outside and close to nature, it all goes with driving less.”