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Building a Culture of Cycling with Bike Pensacola: Susan Bleiler

Interview by Dakota Parks for Bike Pensacola

I grew up in the Washington, DC area in Northern Virginia, but my father was an officer in the Navy and got transferred to Pensacola, so I followed my family down and finished college here. I wanted to be a lawyer from the time I was 13 or 14—maybe it was the oldest child syndrome, trying to follow in your parent’s footsteps. My dad started law school and was not able to finish, but it was something I always wanted to do. After working as an attorney, public defender, and prosecutor for several years, I went back to get a theology degree and got my Master of Divinity degree. Now, I’m assisting my husband at his firm, The Law Offices of Sellers, Skievaski, Kuder, and Smith. We’ve been married since 1986, and I have two stepsons, Tim and Brian, who are grown men now. They both had bikes as kids and rode, but we didn’t really ride back then.

There was a chunk of time where we stopped riding our bikes. We were busy with work and trying to be involved in their lives, but for the last 20 years or so, biking has been really important to staying healthy. As you get older, you find that health is a big deal. Riding a bike has definitely changed my life and made me healthier. It’s great cardiovascular exercise, and it makes you more aware of the people around you. Since the onset of the pandemic and Hurricane Sally knocking the Pensacola Bay Bridge out, my husband and I have been working remotely, but we go into the office to meet with clients. When our firm was based on 12th Avenue in Pensacola, I used to catch the bus from Gulf Breeze across the bridge to the Civic Center and ride my bike to work. I did that pretty frequently. Now, when the weather is cool, I’ll still occasionally load the bike on the bus and ride to work downtown. It gives me an opportunity to get some exercise, and I love meeting new people on the bus. It really broadened my perspective on the community and who lives here in Pensacola. The only problem is that the bus only has a bike rack big enough for two bikes, and sometimes you have to wait for another bus if there are two bikers on there already. Mainly, my husband and I have been getting up early in the morning and enjoying the new bike path in Gulf Breeze proper. We get up at 6am with our helmets and lights on the bikes, and it’s really quite nice. I love feeling the breeze and hearing the birds—anything that gets me out into nature. Riding a bike gives me a sense of freedom and gets the creative juices going. It helps me think about things, and I always come home refreshed and energized. We both have electric assist bikes that help us go longer distances. We live in an area that is so conducive to bike riding, and it helps the environment. As I’ve become more aware of climate change and global warming, I’ve become concerned with the changes we need to make as a culture to accommodate the changes that are happening to our atmosphere on our planet. I know I’m just one person riding a bike, and it doesn’t amount to much, but I hope that maybe I can inspire others who see a white-haired lady on a bicycle to get out and ride a bike. If you’re in a position to do so, ride your bike to work or let your kids ride their bikes to school. I’ve also traveled to Europe and been to places like Holland, where everyone rides a bike. It’s so ecofriendly and convenient. I think our city government needs to continue to make biking a priority and ensuring it’s safe for everyone. We live in a commuter society, and I think you have to change the culture around biking and encourage younger people to use their bikes as a means of transportation.


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