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“Sojourner experiences” give student passion for cycling

Contributor

Published: Thursday, July 12, 2012

Updated: Friday, July 13, 2012 12:07

Wyatt

Photo by Kelsey Stewart/The Gateway

UNO student Wyatt Stebbins has been riding a bike as his main source of transportation for years.

 

Riding a bike is like being at the zoo. At least, that’s what it feels like for Wyatt Stebbins. 
When Stebbins was living in Honolulu, he loved riding his bike home during rush hour. 
“It’s much fun because there are all these cars, and they’re just stuck in place,” Stebbins said. “The only thing I can compare it to is like when you go to the zoo and you see the lion or the bears or the elephant right behind the glass. You’re just like, ‘Wow. That’s so close and it has so much potential, but I’m right next to it.’”
Stebbins, 27, has lived throughout the United States and in South America. Throughout his travels, he has been using a bike as transportation.
Stebbins is a high school math teacher, but isn’t currently teaching. Instead, he’s taking science prerequisites at UNO before applying to physician assistant school. He currently works at the Bellevue Medical Center and at an ambulance station. 
Stebbins, originally from Gothenburg, Neb., started cycling as a mode of transportation when he moved to Lincoln for college. He only recently bought a car for work purposes. 
“I didn’t have a car for quite a few years,” Stebbins said. “My first job here was driving an ambulance, so I was on call. It was a necessity of the job.” 
Stebbins moved to Honolulu, where his mother lived, when he finished his degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 
In Honolulu, Stebbins split his time between a soup kitchen in the mornings and a bicycle co-op in the afternoon. Bicycle co-ops are non-profit organizations where people donate both bicycles and time. They also do outreach events. 
“It serves people who need a bicycle and don’t have the means to get one,” Stebbins said.
After his time in Hawaii, Stebbins seized an opportunity to move to Latin America.
“I originally went as a volunteer, and different opportunities came up. I lived in various places for various times in South America,” Stebbins said. 
Riding in South America was fun and friendly--depending on where you were, Stebbins said. 
“If it’s in a rural setting, it’s a lot more common to see bikes on the highways,” Stebbins said. “Within the city, in general, they’re more aggressive with honking the horn and stuff like that.” 
Stebbins continued his “sojourner experience” on a small island outside of Vancouver. He wanted to live in the Pacific Northwest and found a small institute to study philosophy and church history.
“It was good for a season, and now I’m in Omaha, in school, and riding my bike,” Stebbins said.
Stebbins moved to Omaha in August and quickly found his cycling niche. He found a job doing maintenance on B-cycle bicycles. 
B-cycle is a large-scale bike sharing program that keeps track of the distance traveled and calories burned on each ride. Cyclists can pick up a B-cycle at any of the five locations throughout the city, ride and return their B-cycle to any station. 
“I commute every day, so I’m not going to get a B-cycle,” Stebbins said. “But for the people from out of town, people down in Aksarben for the weekend or Farmer’s Market and want to ride the trail or on a lunch break, I think it’s great that they can have a bike right there, be outside, have fun and not have to worry about it.”
Stebbins works at a bicycle co-op and sees a lot of neighborhood kids and adults coming in for bicycle help. 
“We’ll help them fix their bike so they learn about bikes and bike safety,” Stebbins said. “It’s kind of an empowering sort of thing.”
Cycling still has its challenges for Stebbins, even with all of his cycling experience.
“At the end of the day, I’ll be the first to admit that oftentimes it’s a lot easier to hop in your car, flip on the AC and drive someplace,” Stebbins said. “I’m not going to argue that. You win.”  
Commuting takes planning—it can be a challenge to coordinate commuting on a bicycle. 
“It requires you to be a little more thoughtful in your day--planning out where you’re going to go and what you’re going to do,” Stebbins said. 
Not only does Stebbins have to plan his daily routine and commute, he also had to plan his living arrangements based on his bicycle commute. 
Drivers prove to be a daily challenge for Stebbins. He is “encouraged” to ride on the sidewalk by car commuters. 
“I ride on Leavenworth and there’s enough room for me to ride on the side and for them to drive in their lane,” Stebbins said. “We can share the road.”
Stebbins is no stranger to being hit by cars. He’s never received any serious injuries, but it confirms his stance on bicycle safety. Stebbins always wears a helmet when cycling. 
“Why wouldn’t you wear a helmet? If you’re so vain that you’re worried about your appearance, then you’re probably not going to be riding a bike,” Stebbins said. 
Wearing a helmet isn’t just to protect from cars, but also from bumps and cracks in the road and sidewalk. Bike safety isn’t something to be risked. 
Stebbins follows the same rules of the road as drivers of cars do when he’s riding his bicycle. He rides differently in Omaha than he does in other, larger cities. 
“If I’m in a bigger city, I’m going to weave in and out of traffic. Here in Omaha it’s not really a big deal,” Stebbins said. 
 Stebbins rides his bike in all kinds of weather and doesn’t have special gear to help him. He wears regular clothes and layers accordingly. 
“As far as weather goes, it’s a gradual change,” Stebbins said. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, I went from riding in the summer to negative 10 degrees.’”
Cycling offers both physical and mental advantages and even more, it’s an inexpensive mode of transportation. 
As opposed to people who drive to the gym, Stebbins gets a free workout. In addition to not paying gym fees, he doesn’t have to pay for maintenance on his bicycle. 
Stebbins would encourage other students to ride bicycles to campus once in awhile. 
“People have this mindset that if you ride your bike to campus, you have to ride every day,” Stebbins said.
Stebbins said he isn’t opposed to cars. He sees their purpose and even owns one, but he enjoys commuting on his bicycle. 
“I feel bad for people who drive their cars because you’re sitting in your car for however long and it’s like, you might as well get to be outside, see the animals and feel the wind.”

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