Tiffany Schmidt has been commuting by bike for nearly ten years. She loves the community of bicyclists who she says are united in seeking better health, less traffic congestion, and a better planet. There’s nothing—not even a concussion she suffered last summer—that can keep her from commuting by bike.
Her journey as a commuter started in Aurora, CO, where she biked a steep 5-mile path to work. When she moved to San Jose, her commute changed to a 7.3-mile ride along the yet-to-be-paved Guadalupe River Trail and now is a “luxurious” 5 miles over Hedding Street and the paved Guadalupe River Trail.
“I feel like I never want to move or switch jobs because I love this commute,” Tiffany wrote in an email.
Tiffany started commuting by bike to avoid paying high gas prices in 2008. She and some coworkers began riding to work together, and after that, she was hooked.
“After a while it has become my identity,” she said. “‘I’m a bicycle commuter’ or ‘I ride my bike to work’ are phrases I use frequently.”
On July 31, 2017, Tiffany was playing softball when a ball smashed into her left temple. She thought she was fine, but when she tried to stand up, she was nauseous, dizzy, and definitely not okay.
Tiffany spent two weeks bedridden in a dark room while she recovered. Then, she spent two weeks working part time before transitioning back into working full time.
“I couldn’t workout or do anything intense for a couple of months,” she said. “It was terrible for an active person.”
When Tiffany met with a neurologist to get permission to go back to work, she said she missed riding her bike. The neurologist gave Tiffany permission to ride as long as she didn’t let her heart rate rise above 120 beats per minute.
“I couldn’t get home from that appointment quick enough to get to my bike,” Tiffany said. “After two weeks of doing nothing, I have never been so happy to get on my bicycle even if I had to ride absurdly slow. It sounds weird, but that first little trial ride was one of the happiest days of my life even though I only rode about two miles. It felt like I was human again.”
Driving to work made Tiffany nauseous. Her first attempt to ride to work left her overexerted. She turned to using light rail to commute and spent her spare time slowly riding her bike, a little bit more each ride, until she was finally able to ride to work again in October. Tiffany swears she’ll never take riding her bike for granted again!
She stays motivated by writing down her excuse for not riding her bike on her calendar. Her calendar displays all 12 months on one page, so she has to look at her excuse for the rest of the year.
“After two to three weeks, looking back on a poor excuse, you don’t really use that one in the future,” she said.
Another great motivator is her health. Tiffany’s younger brother nearly died of end-stage heart failure several years ago. While exercise wouldn’t have prevented her brother’s heart failure, it would have saved many of the people she saw recovering in the ICU with her brother.
Tiffany is a true example of how wonderful commuting by bike can be for the body and soul, and how any mental block to bicycling can be overcome with enough determination. Thank you for sharing your story, Tiffany!