For some Penn Arts and Sciences professors, the commute to campus is an adventure. Paul Sniegowski, Professor of Biology and Stephen A. Levin Family Dean of the College, rides his bike through the Heinz Wildlife Refuge. Michael Leja, James and Nan Wagner Farquhar Professor of History of Art, rides along a dirt trail before catching the regional rail. Ann Moyer, Associate Professor of History, navigates the city on a bicycle from her graduate school days.
These cycling scholars are part of a growing cohort of Penn faculty and staff who commute by bike. Through the Bike Commuter Expense Reimbursement Program, Penn offers reimbursements for eligible expenses, including bike purchases, accessories, safety gear, maintenance, parking, and commercial storage costs. In fact, this support is award-winning. In 2017, the University received the Bike-Phriendly Business Award from the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and the Clean Air Commute Employer of the Year from Philadelphia’s Clean Air Council.
Below, read about the two-wheeled commutes of Arts and Science faculty members.
PAUL SNIEGOWSKI, Stephen A. Levin Family Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Biology
Route: SWARTHMORE, PA to LEIDY LABORATORY, VIA JOHN HEINZ NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
DAVID BARNES, Associate Professor of History and Sociology of Science
Route: POWELTON VILLAGE to CLAUDIA COHEN HAUL, VIA DETOUR AROUND FALLS BRIDGE
Barnes has commuted by bike for 22 years. Despite some unpleasant incidents—including a run-in with a spooked Great Dane who darted into the street—he calls it one of the best decisions he has ever made. “It is my exercise and my psychotherapy. It starts my day on the right foot and purges my frustrations.” He used to bike to campus from Bala Cynwyd, but now he lives in nearby Powelton Village. “I’m addicted to the longer commute,” he says. So, each morning, he adds a 10-mile loop out to Falls Bridge, which spans the Schuylkill River in Fairmount Park.
Barnes is an advocate for bike safety and policies that facilitate commuting by bike at Penn. To that end, he formed a group called Penn Bike Commuters, which aims to reach faculty and staff interested in sharing commuting tips and advocating for the bike commuter benefits established by Congress in 2009. He had a hand in Penn’s growing benefits program for bike commuters and is happy to see membership in Penn Bike Commuters continue to grow under the leadership of Sadie Robinson, a staff member in the Department of Genetics in the Perelman School of Medicine.
ANN E. MOYER, Associate Professor of History
Route: QUEEN VILLAGE to COLLEGE HALL, VIA SOUTH STREET BRIDGE
Moyer commutes from Queen Village, riding her trusty Raleigh Record Ace. She’s had it since the ‘80s, when she purchased it in her graduate school days at the University of Michigan. “It still has its registration sticker from Ann Arbor,” she says.
On her bicycle, Moyer is an observer. “My route takes me through several neighborhoods," she says. “I get to watch children going to school, people walking dogs, people waiting to buy bagels. I see contractors renovating old houses and building new ones. It is a wonderful way to start and end the day, from the Delaware to the Schuylkill and back.”
SUSAN SAUVÉ MEYER, Professor of Philosophy
Route: SWARTHMORE, PA to CLAUDIA COHEN HALL, VIA "BICYCLIST'S" BALTIMORE PIKE
Meyer started biking to Penn 10 years ago, when she realized an injury meant her running days were over. She’s learned to navigate the challenges of urban and suburban biking—from low light in her neighborhood to heavy traffic and trolley tracks in the city—and loves her hour-long commute from Swarthmore. She’s even learned not to mind when other bikers pass her on the street—“they’re probably younger, and on lighter bikes,” she laughs. She offers this tip to fellow bikers: “Get a collection of gloves for all seasons. Your hands get cold before any other part of you.”
MICHAEL LEJA, James and Nan Wagner Farquhar Professor of History of Art
Route: LANDENBERG, PA to JAFFE HISTORY OF ART BUILDING, VIA WHITE CLAY CREEK AND REGIONAL RAIL
Leja lives near the University of Delaware, but manages a partial bike commute three days a week. “Sounds pretty crazy, I know,” he admits. “Most of my route goes through the White Clay Creek in Pennsylvania and Delaware. Part of it is the Peltier road, a dirt trail with a railroad bed running alongside a creek.” After that 12 mile ride, he hops aboard the regional rail in Newark. “The whole trip takes almost three hours—but I get a good workout, and lots of work done on the train,” he adds. Icy roads are the only thing that keep him from this ritual.
DORIS WAGNER, Professor of Biology
Route: RITTENHOUSE SQUARE to LYNCH LABORATORY, VIA SOUTH STREET BRIDGE
Wagner and biking go way back. “I grew up in a very small town in rural Germany close to the French border,” she says. “My family’s weekend outings consisted of bike rides together in the German and French countryside. I loved those rides.” She’s always seen biking as a combination of pleasurable and practical. “When I was little, not that many people had cars. Many did their shopping on bikes very similar to the Dutch cargo bike I now use for my short commute to Penn. This is where my love for these heavy but versatile bikes came from.” These days, Wagner commutes from Rittenhouse Square and enjoys when academic conferences take her to bike-friendly cities—favorites have been Gyeongju and Jeju Island, South Korea, and Valencia, Spain.
PONZY LU, Professor of Chemistry
Route: BALA CYNWYD, PA to CHEMISTRY LABORATORIES, VIA FAIRMOUNT PARK
Lu’s commute from Bala Cynwyd is a leisurely jaunt compared to his past cycling trips. In 1995, Lu and his daughter, Kristina, C'97, V'01, biked 3,200 miles from Santa Monica Pier to the Mall in Washington, D.C. They were invited on the trip by a fellow academic planning the trip with his own daughter. “You don't meet crazy people like that every day, so you have to seize the moment," says Lu. Now, he enjoys the financial and environmental benefits of being a bicycle commuter.