Biking for the Body, Mind and Environment

On the surface, suburbanite and chief regulatory counsel Jim Keller and city-dweller and manager of corporate sustainability Benson Gabler may not have much in common.  What they do share, however, is a passion for biking.  

PITTSBURGH – Jim Keller started biking to work in 1977 when he lived in Alexandria, Va., and worked for the Federal Reserve Board. Persuaded by a colleague, Jim purchased a road bike and began riding to work nearly every day. Washington, D.C.’s milder winters and flat terrain made it easy for Jim to bike almost all year, which he did to both commute and exercise.

“I’m not the most disciplined person - I used to join gyms only to leave them a few months later.  Biking works well for my personality and helps me clear my head.”

When Jim moved to Pittsburgh in 1997 to work as PNC’s chief regulatory counsel, he and his wife bought a home at the top of a steep hill in Fox Chapel, a suburb located 12 miles north of the city. To avoid the uphill ride on his way home from work and so that he can rely on public transportation if it rains or snows in the evening, Jim drives to a local Park and Ride, where he parks his car and starts his ride into downtown. 

“Fortunately, I discovered a scenic route that is essentially traffic-free and allows me to ride along the river. I have a strong bicycle headlight so that I can ride home after dark.”

Morning Commute: Ride and Shine

Benson Gabler became interested in biking in Hamburg, Germany, where he lived after graduating from college. Many Germans, including the CEO of the company where he worked, commuted by bike. While there may not be as many cyclists in Pittsburgh as there are in Hamburg, Benson is now one of them thanks to his experience abroad.  He enjoys the exercise and how biking makes him feel more awake, especially when commuting to work in the morning.

“Half of my route to work is on a trail along the river. Not only is it safer than biking on the street, but it’s more scenic and peaceful.”

As PNC’s manager of corporate sustainability, Benson truly walks, or pedals, the talk. While he has a car and frequently uses public transportation, he prefers to bike whenever and wherever he can. Doing so allows him to exercise while reducing his carbon footprint, which benefits the environment.

Benson Gabler (left) and Jim Keller on the Roberto Clemente bridge in downtown Pittsburgh

As part of its effort to make it more convenient for employees to bike to work, PNC has installed bike racks at nearly all PNC bank branches and office buildings that have 40 or more employees.  In Pittsburgh, The Tower at PNC Plaza, PNC’s new global headquarters, will feature indoor racks for 134 bikes, as well as showers and locker rooms.  These resources will be available to all PNC employees in the downtown area, where the city has added bike lanes to a main street, Penn Avenue, and the Roberto Clemente Bridge.

“Pittsburgh is still among U.S. cities working to improve air quality. While transportation is just one factor, it has the potential to significantly impact our pollution levels," Benson said. "The more people begin commuting by bike or taking public transportation, the sooner our city will have cleaner air.”

Benson Gabler (left) and Jim Keller bike along the Allegheny River in downtown Pittsburgh. 

If PNC employees bike to work or have customers who bike, they can ask their property manager to install a bike rack outside their branch or office location,” said Benson Gabler, manager of corporate sustainability. “In our communities, we need to make it easier and safer for more people to bike to work.