Commute Stories: Lauren Kelly

Lauren Kelly with her bike

Lauren Kelly, Senior Project Manager for Safety and Regulatory Affairs with the Environmental Health and Safety Department, commutes by bike from northern New Jersey.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lauren was looking for an alternative to mass transit for her commute to Columbia from northern New Jersey. She began riding her bike through Fort Lee and over the George Washington Bridge to her office on the Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) campus a few days per week.

“Taking the train the whole way was unsustainable,” Lauren said. “With COVID, it was also less safe and actually took much longer than my bike trips did. Biking was my fastest way into the city.”

Some days, Lauren said, biking from Ramsey, NJ where she lives was even faster than driving – not to mention the added benefits of exercise, fresh air, and the avoided greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Lauren worked with her supervisor to get a bike rack installed inside their office building, which added another layer of convenience and safety. This also helped Lauren convince some of her colleagues to join her in choosing an active, sustainable commute.

“Some of my colleagues bike to work, others walk, and some even skateboard!” Lauren said.

Lauren bikes to work when the weather permits, and when she can have enough daylight both in the morning and evening. During the colder months when the sun sets early, she wears a reflective vest while running a portion of her commute from Englewood to make sure she’s visible to drivers. Starting at the end of June in 2021, Lauren has since biked at least a portion of her commute a total of 232 times!

For others who are interested in taking on a bike commute, Lauren recommends using proper safety equipment like a helmet, fluorescent reflectors, and bright clothing. She also made sure to install a headlight and taillight on her bike (required by law) and she always follows the official bike paths – never riding on the sidewalk or against traffic. Lauren uses a backpack to bring a change of clothes and workday essentials along for the ride, and on days where she needs to carry more things to and from work, she takes Columbia’s Fort Lee/George Washington Bridge shuttle bus.