Commuter Profile: Michal Morrison-Kerr

There's a cyclist in the science lab

by Karly Siroky
Commute Options Specialist, Pierce Transit

“When the gas prices got over $2 a gallon I decided that I was going to try biking to work,” Michal explained. “The first time I rode to work I said, ‘What was I thinking?’ And it’s gotten easier and better since.”

Michal Morrison-Kerr is the biology stores coordinator for Puget Sound and has been riding her bike to work for the past six years. Her commute is 20 miles round trip. From a campus where 26 percent of employees live within one mile of their worksite, yet more than 75 percent of all employees drive alone to work every day, Michal represents a small but determined percentage that chooses to leave its cars at home in lieu of a more adventurous commute.

During our interview I learned several new things: that biking to work can lower your car insurance rates, that many stores will let you park your bike inside the store, and that you don’t need liquids to autoclave. (The last factoid came from an interruption during our interview where a student needed Michal’s assistance).

Michal bikes to work almost every day, and says her health has significantly improved. “I’m not taking any prescription medications at all anymore,” she shared, “whereas before they wanted me to take something to reduce my cholesterol.” Studies show that the average person loses 13 lbs. their first year of bike commuting, and it’s obvious Michal has no problem maintaining a healthy weight.

However, that doesn’t mean she’s impervious to harm. About a year ago, Michal was involved in a very serious bike accident. “It was very typical. You’re going down the road, the motorist is going to make a right-hand turn, thinks you’re not going that fast and turned right in front of me. I was in the hospital for two and a half days.”

Michael was hit by an unlicensed, uninsured motorist, and has had a long recovery. But what did she do with her settlement? She turned right around and bought a new bike.

“If I bought a bike—you know a $1,200/$1,300 commuter bike—and that’s all I had, and I maintained it, absolutely, I would save money,” Michal explained. “But because I race, I compete, I bought more expensive bikes.”

When I asked Michal how much money she saves commuting by bike she answered, “Not one penny. But that’s because of the bikes I’ve bought.” Her rainy-day bike, which was parked just inside the door to her office, cost her upwards of $4,000. You can only imagine what her racing bike is worth.

Although Michal chooses to commute and compete, she is a firm believer in cycling for everyone—not just the hardcore rider. “If you’re stressed and depressed, go out and ride a bike,” she suggests. “If I leave work frustrated and stressed out, by the time I get home I’m not because I’ve already solved all the world’s problems by thinking about all that stuff on my ride home.”

Michal’s tips for a successful bike commute experience:

  1. Obey traffic laws and use hand signals
  2. Never ride against traffic
  3. Always wear a helmet (Michal’s doctor said that wearing a helmet saved her life)
  4. Take the back roads or roads with bike lanes
  5. Wear bright colors and reflective gear
  6. Never flip off a motorist, no matter how rude they are

Resources for bicycling in Tacoma-Pierce County

Pierce Trips: Log your rides here and you'll be entered to win prizes!

Pierce Trips Bicycle Page: The most comprehensive resource for bicycling in Pierce County.

RideShareOnline: Register here to find a bike buddy.

Tacoma Women's Bicycle Club: Promoting bicycling in Tacoma since 1888