Dr. Jason Aufdenberg rides his bike to work every day. (Credit: David Massey)

Bike Commuting Energizes Embry-Riddle Associate Professor

On the back of Dr. Jason Aufdenberg’s long-tail cargo bicycle is everything he needs if he breaks down, experiences heavy rain or other unexpected events. From a pump, tubes, patches, first-aid kit and ponchos, the “trunk,” as he calls it, on his hybrid mountain and road bike can even hold four bags of groceries.

The associate professor of Physics and Astronomy and undergraduate program coordinator for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Daytona Beach Campus has never owned a car. He doesn’t even have a driver’s license.

Dr. Aufdenberg has spent all his life commuting by bicycle, whether as a child growing up in a small town in northern Idaho or as a college student and professor. The now 48-year-old had a learner’s permit as a teen, but quickly decided being behind the wheel was not for him. Later, his passion and advocacy grew toward protecting the environment.

Serving on various bike and environmental committees in the community, he’s encouraging others as well as students, staff and faculty at Embry-Riddle to commute by bike to reduce global warming.

“Not only do bikes promote active transportation and a healthy way to get around, they do not produce carbon emissions. They run essentially on peanut butter sandwiches – you just have to fuel up yourself,” Dr. Aufdenberg said. “Trying to use your car less means you are getting more exercise, which everyone needs. In addition to being energetic, you get a nice refreshing ride and you get from A to B.”

He’s leading the Feb. 20 Bicycle Fest on campus for students, faculty and staff as part of “Not so Noisy” Bike Week from Feb. 19-24. Embry-Riddle has partnered with the Florida Department of Transportation’s reThink Your CommuteTM program to promote bike safety and active transportation. The week culminates on Feb. 24 with a 6.5 mile slow-paced bike ride that will begin and end at Bethune-Cookman University while traveling to Embry-Riddle and Daytona State College.

The Embry-Riddle Bicycle Fest on the West Lawn from 1 to 4 p.m. includes an opportunity for students, staff and faculty to be professionally fitted with a free bicycle helmet, receive free bike lights, enter to win a free bicycle-lights-and-lock, as well as get information about FDOT's Alert Today Alive Tomorrow campaign and the River to Sea Transportation Planning Organization, which Aufdenberg is a member. A local bike shop will also be on campus to provide free safety bike checks.

He points out that Embry-Riddle’s cultural heritage is tied to bicycles, with the Wright Brothers selling and designing bicycles before developing their Flyer in 1903.

Dr. Aufdenberg and Ted Wendler, who both serve on the River to Sea TPO Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee, will also hand out USB bike lights to those who ride their bicycles to the corner of Clyde Morris and Aerospace Boulevard on Feb. 22 starting at 6:30 p.m.  

Dr. Aufdenberg is appointed by the county to the River to Sea TPO Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee, which works to improve connectivity and ease of walking and biking. He also is on the board of the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop Alliance, a non-profit that supports, advocates, enhances and protects the multi-use loop trail under construction through the Southeast.

Serving on the Parking Committee at Embry-Riddle and the Faculty Green Initiative Committee, Dr. Aufdenberg said transportation made up 28 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. based on 2016 figures from the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Not only can biking reduce emissions, it can free up parking, it’s healthy and it saves money, he said, adding that owning a car costs on average about $8,000 a year.

Dr. Aufdenberg, who also has a fold-up bike that fits in a suitcase that he takes when he flies, biked about 1,500 miles last year or the equivalent of the length of Alaska.

Since moving to Daytona Beach in 2006, he bikes three miles a day round trip to campus; up to 16 miles round trip for groceries and occasionally takes 20-mile bike rides throughout Daytona Beach on weekends. He’s developing a free app that will show the best routes throughout the city to and from Embry-Riddle from various directions. It will include such tips as which roads have a bike lane, the least amount of cars and low-stress connections.

“You come to work energized. You are awake and alert,” Dr. Aufdenberg said. “When you are on a bicycle you also get this awesome panoramic view. You can hear and see everything. You are not in a box with windows. If you see someone you know walking, it’s easier to stop and talk.”

Additional bike racks have been added the past year at Embry-Riddle and a free bicycle transportation safety class is being planned for this year as in the past.

Dr. Bob Fleck, emeritus professor of Physics and Astronomy at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus, has ridden a bicycle to Embry-Riddle for 39 years. He was involved last year with the bicycle fest, sharing his adventures with long-distance cycling.

“I ride for my health and for my bank account, but mainly for the planet,” Dr. Fleck said.

He hopes increased awareness will also lead to motorists being more considerate of those on bicycles.

For more information on the Feb. 24 community event and bike ride, visit BikeWeek.org.

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Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the world’s largest, fully accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace, is a nonprofit, independent institution offering more than 80 baccalaureate, master’s and Ph.D. degree programs in its colleges of Arts & Sciences, Aviation, Business, Engineering and Security & Intelligence. Embry-Riddle educates students at residential campuses in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Prescott, Ariz., through the Worldwide Campus with more than 125 locations in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and through online programs. The university is a major research center, seeking solutions to real-world problems in partnership with the aerospace industry, other universities and government agencies. For more information, visit erau.edu, follow us on Twitter (@EmbryRiddle) and facebook.com/EmbryRiddleUniversity, and find expert videos at YouTube.com/EmbryRiddleUniv.