Duke Employee Swaps Car For Bicycle

Steve Hinkle chooses to commute by bike for one year

Steve Hinkle rides his new bike during the Tour de Fat event June 25.

Steve Hinkle is an avid bicyclist, riding up to 100 miles a week. Starting this month, he'll take his dedication to a whole new level.

Hinkle, a chaplain with Duke Chapel's InterVarsity graduate and faculty ministries, traded in his roughly 200,000-mile 1992 Toyota Corolla for a custom-made commuter bike from Black Sheep Bikes of Fort Collins, Colo. The swap was part of the "Tour de Fat," a country-wide traveling bike event that made its first stop in Durham on June 25. Hinkle volunteered himself to trade in his car by submitting a video on the "Tour de Fat" Facebook page and has pledged to not drive a car - barring a serious emergency - for one year.

"Fossil fuels are such a scarce resource, I thought anything we can do to use less would be a good thing," Hinkle said. "I've been thinking about turning in my Duke parking permit, so when I saw this opportunity, I thought it would be a great adventure and a platform to promote bike use around Duke and Durham."

During the Tour de Fat event, which was hosted by New Belgium Brewing Company at the American Tobacco Campus, Hinkle was announced as the car-bike swap winner and brought on stage for a handshake "gentleman's agreement" to not drive himself around until July 2012. He said he'd only get behind a wheel by himself if he had a medical or family emergency and pledged his effort by creating an on-the-spot haiku poem at the event: "Ride my bike all year/No more gas power for me/Leg power only."

Now instead of parking his car in the Green Zone Lot on Chapel Drive, Hinkle is riding his $3,000 bike door-to-door from his home on Cole Mill Road in Durham to the bike racks right outside Duke Chapel. Because of the convenience of where he now parks his bike, Hinkle said his commute to work is about five minutes shorter than when he drove.

The toughest part of switching to all-bike commuting isn't getting sweaty or spending more time planning trips, Hinkle said - it'll be running errands. He said he can throw a few grocery items into his waterproof backpack, but he'll need to make smaller, more frequent trips to the store instead of loading up his car for one big shopping trip.

"I've asked him not to be obsessive and ask for help if he needs it," said Hinkle's wife, Christi. "I'm really proud of him taking on this kind of challenge because I think he simply has a strong belief in promoting better ways of commuting."

During his year-long bike commuting effort, Hinkle will use Twitter to share his thoughts, experiences and humorous musings on relying on a bike as a sole means of transportation. Hinkle can be followed at twitter.com/shinkleatduke.

"Riding a bike to Duke adds value to the overall community because it cuts down traffic and saves parking spaces," Hinkle said. "I like being on a bike so I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes."