By Christine Galeone, Contributing Writer
Westborough – In 1979, Robert Nolan was living in Connecticut and working at Aetna in Hartford. He took the bus to work every day. But he didn’t enjoy doing so. Then, a co-worker who took the same bus suggested that they both start biking to Aetna, instead. Nolan said something just “clicked.” He stopped taking the bus and started borrowing the bike he had given his wife for Christmas.
Since then, he has frequently used a bike to commute to the jobs he’s had. That includes the one he just retired from at the end of May. For the past 12 years, the recently retired vice president of corporate and marketing communications at Fallon Health rode his bike between 2,990 miles and 3,380 miles each year, commuting from his home in Westborough to Worcester.
After thousands of miles of bike commuting for nearly 40 years, he’s discovered the benefits it brings.
“It builds exercise into my day, and it’s helping the environment in some small way,” Nolan said, adding that he also appreciated the quality time it gave him to think about the important things in life. “It’s been very good for me on that front as well.”
But despite the benefits, Nolan admitted that bike commuting can be dangerous. He confided that his wife is relieved that he’s now retired. He said that because she worried about his safety, he would text her every day when he arrived at Fallon, and he would text her again when he was leaving the building.
Nolan, who has had some “close calls” and blown out tires while commuting – additionally made sure that he was aware of his surroundings. He also invested in quality lighting equipment and reflective gear and clothing.
“I’m probably more seen at night than during the day,” said Nolan. “Everyone’s in a hurry. Being seen and arriving safely is my biggest challenge.”
Attorney Geoffrey Spofford, a fellow Westborough resident and avid biker, became friends with Nolan while Spofford commuted to his law office in Worcester. He’s not only been impressed with Nolan’s endurance and his admirable attention to safety, but also by his thoughtfulness and concern for other bicyclists, drivers and others.
“No one was a better conversationalist out on the road than Bob,” said Spofford, noting that he frequently saw Nolan take the time to be kind and friendly to others. “He’s just genuinely a great guy.”
Nolan has also participated in charity rides. He rode in the Valley Friendship Tour last year and the previous year, to support Alternatives – an organization that serves people with developmental and mental disabilities. He’s also hoping to participate in rides that benefit Habitat for Humanity and the Barnstable Land Trust.
And while he appreciated the support of Fallon – which he said is a “great company with great people” – he’s looking forward to retirement. He intends to travel with his family, accompanying his wife on rail trail rides on Cape Cod, where they have a home they’re moving to, and exploring new cycling adventures – including a possible trip across the United States. With a new road bike, he’s prepared for anything.
“That’s going to open up a whole new world to me now that I’m retired,” he said.