“If I’m going to talk to people about sustainability and reducing emissions I need to walk the walk.”
That’s how Pete Westlake explains his decision to do the unthinkable for most American commuters: Ditch the car. Westlake made the bold move in early March as a proof point of the environmental values he espouses in overseeing OUC’s Smart Cities initiatives as manager of Customer Strategic Projects & Finance, Strategy & Emerging Technology.
Mobility being a large part of the Smart Cities concept, Westlake investigates sustainable travel options for moving people from Point A to Point B. “Mass transit, biking, ride share, walking, etc. — all of these are something I need to study so I can see where the pain points are for adoption,” he says. “Ditching my car was part of that plan.”
So Westlake sold his 2014 Ford C-Max hybrid. “I got rid of the crutch. It was an easy decision to make, but regrettable afterwards because it’s tough to get around and run errands on a bike.”
But he’s not totally carless; his wife’s Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid is available on weekends and evenings. If not, there’s always ride sharing.
Westlake originally began his environmentally sensitive commute on bike in January, but congested city streets without bike lanes persuaded him to rethink how he would navigate the 7.2-mile roundtrip from College Park. “Orlando is not bike-commuter ready yet,” he says. “The city is taking steps to be more bike friendly but if I didn’t live near a SunRail line this commute would not be possible.”
Westlake’s revised route takes him 1 mile on bike to AdventHealth Orlando where he catches SunRail to Church Street Station, with a short pedal-power ride delivering him to OUC. Total commute time: 25 minutes. Total bike-train commuting costs: $56 for a monthly SunRail pass with OUC’s 25 percent cost-sharing incentive.
Commuting to work is even less expensive and time consuming for Denzel Belcher, Commercial Service Representative I. He either walks or rents a Lime-E electric bike, the bright green bicycles that are as ubiquitous on Orlando sidewalks as parking meters.
“There’s always a Lime bike in my neighborhood I can use to get around,” says Belcher, who lives only a few blocks from Reliable Plaza.
Belcher’s lack of car ownership has less do with his environmental concerns than his practicality. Besides, his partner has a car he can borrow.
“I can walk to work in seven minutes and 34 seconds,” he says. “On bike, it takes me three minutes and 30 seconds and costs $3.50 roundtrip. It’s so convenient for me to not own a car.”