Commuter Profile: Joseph Montes de Oca
Interviews of FIU students/faculty/staff who commute to FIU.
Joe is a 19-year old student, majoring in Portuguese. He is also second-in-charge of the FIU Bike Repair Service, and relatively active in local bicycle advocacy.
How long have you been commuting by bike?
For about 4 years, maybe a little more.
Why did you start doing it?
It was kind of an independence thing, I would always go further and further from my neighborhood when I was younger till eventually I started making my way to Key Biscayne from my house on 87th Ave. and Coral Way. By the time I was in my sophomore or junior year in high school I figured I should just ride to school instead of depending on someone to take me.
How long is your commute and what it is like?
My commute to FIU is about 3 miles each way. I take 16th straight down from 82nd Ave. till 107th. The road can get kind of tight but I never really feel too threatened by cars. They usually give me enough room for comfort.
What benefits have you gotten from commuting by bike?
I’m sure that I’ve saved hundreds of dollars on gas and I don’t have to worry about exercise because it’s one of the benefits.
What difficulties do you have commuting by bike?
The rain is usually a pain but besides that, cars that drive erratically or pass me too close. Another problem is cars that try to take left turns when I’m coming from the opposite direction, I always make hand gestures at them.
What do your friends/family say when you tell them you use your bike to get to school?
My family is pretty negative about it but they’ve gotten used to it. Lots of people at my job (Publix) will ask me when I’m getting a car but a lot of them are also very positive about it, always telling me that I must save so much money and that I’ll never have to worry about being fit.
What bike(s) do you have?
-Windsor Timeline which I have set up with a rear rack and milk crate. It has 700 x 32 tires to help avoid flats. This is my commuting champion which I have over 3500 miles on since I bought it August 2010.
-Late 80’s Raleigh Technium Scott Tinley Tri-Light with Shimano 600 Components (its missing the front wheel from a crash right now though)
-Windsor Cliff 4500
What complaints do you have about bike accommodations on campus?
I used to complain about bike racks being exposed to the elements, but there are quite a few spots that handle that problem now. I also used to complain about wanting bike pumps but we’ve got them now too. I’d say the only way it could get better is with bike lanes on 112th and 16th street to encourage more people to ride to school.
What tips do you have for your fellow FIU students/employees?Always ride with the flow of traffic, otherwise you’re making yourself invisible to drivers and they WILL hit you. Email David Henderson email@example.com to get a couple of little booklets that will explain how to safely ride on the road. When you are ready to ride on the road, try to keep your speed above 12-15 mph and ride slightly to the left of the white line separating you from the gutter. Some people suggest taking up a whole lane but I think that just pisses people off.
The booklets that Joe is referring to are available for reading online. One is called "Florida Bicycling Street Smarts" and is available here, and the second is called "Florida Bicycle Law Enforcement Guide", and is available as a PDF file here.
We appreciate and thank Joe for the time he has taken to answer these questions and share his experiences. Do you want to share your experience riding to school? Contact me and I'll let you know how you can get featured on the site.