May 3-9, 2002
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Pedalin’ professor weaned himself from his wheels

Letters -- letter from Eugenio Schettini
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Graduate assistants receive teaching awards
Summer camps to keep kids busy
Politics 101: Gov. Warner addresses students

Pedalin’ professor weaned himself from his wheels

By Dan Heuchert

Every day is Give Air a Brake Day for Leonard Schoppa.

While those of us who drive otherwise-empty cars to work each day are being invited to seek alternate ways to work on May 8, Schoppa, a politics professor, will do what he always does: hop on his bike and pedal the two miles from his home near Rugby Avenue to his Cabell Hall office.

That’s not what he has always done. Despite “biking everywhere” in graduate school and being exposed to one of the world’s great cycling societies while researching in Japan, his area of scholarly interest, Schoppa admits he used to drive to work every day.

Even when he started pedal-pumping, he didn’t quite commit to doing it all the time. He clung to his parking permit for years. What if it rained? Or was cold? How about those days when he had to drop his daughter at preschool? Or had to fly out of town after work? And that nasty Rugby Avenue hill?

“When you switch from driving to biking, it’s kind of like giving up smoking,” he said. “It’s hard to do cold turkey. If you phase it down, it’s easier.”

One by one, the questions were answered. He rides a city bus in bad weather. He bought a bike trailer for his daughter. An 18-speed bike helps smooth the hilly terrain. And the days he really does need a car are rare enough that they just don’t justify the expense of keeping the permit.

The benefits went beyond not having to pay for gas and parking.

“One was just the attractiveness of being able to ride through such pretty residential streets between my home and the office,” he said. “It was also a way to make sure I get a certain amount of exercise each day. And it’s good for the environment.”

Biking isn’t for everyone, he admits. There are an increasing number of bike lanes in town, but Schoppa says he would like to see even more, perhaps along railroad tracks, which tend to be more level.

“The college towns that are really into biking tend to be flatter than Charlottesville,” he said.


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