Commute Stories: Sean Whelan

Sean Whelan on his bike with the George Washington Bridge in the background

Sean Whelan (Associate Director, Commissioning, Columbia University Facilities & Operations) commutes via e-bike from Haworth, NJ to the Studebaker building on Columbia’s Manhattanville Campus.

Sean started his electric bike commute in July 2022, about 15 miles each way from his home in Haworth, NJ. Sean says he enjoys the consistent commute time every day.

“No matter how bad the traffic is, I can e-bike in roughly the same time,” Sean said. “It takes me 48 to 52 minutes on an e-bike, or 40 to 80 minutes in a car depending on traffic. Not paying for gas, wear and tear on my car, bridge tolls, or parking makes an e-bike commute a good deal.” 

Sean also enjoys the exercise that comes with pedaling the entire way but notes that the electric pedal assist is enough to eliminate the need for a shower when he gets to work, especially when it’s cool in the morning. 

“If I took a regular bike, I’d be completely wiped out by the time I got to work, so it helps a ton going up the steep hills,” Sean said.

In New Jersey, Sean selects roads with predictable, light traffic patterns and a wide shoulder. Once he gets into the city, he immediately heads down to the Hudson River Greenway to stay off the street. 

“I wear a helmet, have high visibility paniers (to carry a change of clothes and laptop), and front/rear lights for safety. I also run a camera on my handlebars; you never know what you might capture.”

From mid-November to mid-January when visibility is poor due to the shortening daylight hours, or when there are significant weather disruptions, Sean leaves the e-bike at home and drives in. He tries not to let cold weather alone stop the commute, however. 

“If layered up, I find it comfortable enough to have a good ride down to about 25 degrees,” Sean said. “Overall, I opt for e-biking about 50% of my total commutes.”

Sean’s e-bike was an investment that defrays about $3,000 of commuting costs per year.