By Justin Creech, Belvoir EagleMay 22, 2013
Commuter Connections and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association celebrated cyclists who commute to work daily during Bike to Work Day Friday, with 14,600 local cyclists participating in the event.
Pit stops were set up at 70 different locations throughout Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia for riders to pick up coffee and water, plus a Bike to Work Day hat and t-shirt.
Several people from Fort Belvoir participated in the event, including Elizabeth J. Willis, U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences, survey statistician. She said this was her first time participating in the Bike to Work Day events since coming to Fort Belvoir.
"About 20 members of the Oxon Hill bike club who are retired rode over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge with me," Willis said.
Willis normally begins her commute before the sun rises, leaving from Oxon Hill, Md. Her route takes her over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and along the Mount Vernon trail before bringing her on post.
"The last two or three miles I'm on the road, but the scenery is breath taking," said Willis. "I get here around 7 (a.m.), shower and I'm at my desk by 7:30. (After work) I'm home before it gets dark."
Willis began cycling home from work in January of 2009 after a doctor's appointment at Walter Reed Medical Center made her realize she needed to do something to improve her health. At the time, she was taking several medications for Lupus and Fibromyalgia that caused her weight to reach over 200 pounds.
"I went in to get my blood pressure checked and they had to use the fat lady cuff. Then, the doctor wrote obese white female on my chart," said Willis. "I was like, 'You're right. What am I doing? I'm not making myself healthy.'"
Starting with water aerobics and walking, then moving to cycling, Willis has been off the medication since November of 2009. She began cycling to and from work in November 2012. Her goal when she started training was to be fit, fabulous and 50.
"Some days, when I'm riding and I pass someone going up a hill I'm like, 'I can't believe I feel this great at 50,'" said Willis. "That's what people who don't ride need to learn. People think because they're older they can't have a certain level of fitness but they can. I can outdo most people in their 20's. I didn't believe it was possible before, but it is."
After work Willis stops at each water fountain along the way on Mount Vernon Trail to talk to other riders which allowed her to make new friends.
"It's a social event for me," said Willis. "I'm not in a rush to get home."
Her coworkers worry about her during storms, said Willis, but she always calls or texts them when she gets home so they know she's safe. Her husband recently started riding, though by himself, according to Willis.
"He doesn't ride with me, yet," said Willis. "He thinks I ride too fast."