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Bicycling barristers

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For the past three years, Brett Miller has been riding his bicycle to and from work – a round trip of 44 miles. “At first, it was just to see if I could do it,” he said.

Miller, a partner at Bingham McHale in Indianapolis, generally leaves his house around 5:15 a.m. From his Geist neighborhood northeast of Indianapolis, he winds his way down paths and roads to his downtown office in about an hour. After handing off his bike to the parking garage valet, he hits the showers, exchanging bike clothes for work clothes before the workday begins.

biking Indianapolis attorney Howard Cohen leads a 21-mile group ride on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Cohen, 58, calls his Cervélo bicycle a “pretty heavy-duty serious bike for an old guy like me.” (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Miller, 52, is among a growing number of attorneys who are leaving their cars at home and biking to their daily destinations. Some are new to cycling, and some have been riding for decades. But what they all have in common is a desire to stay in shape.

Fitness and fresh air

Miller said he used to run regularly for exercise, but over time, his knees began to deteriorate.

“Guys that were like me, that ran, are getting old,” Miller said. He said that cycling allows him to get a great workout without doing further damage to his knees. “I run maybe once a quarter now.”

Goshen attorney Joseph Lehman ran competitively when he was younger. He ran in the first Honolulu Marathon in 1974 and has competed in the Boston, New York and Chicago marathons. Lehman, 61, still jogs about seven miles every morning before he hops on his bike for his 10-minute commute to work.

Lehman bikes at a leisurely pace along the Mill Race Trail to get to his solo office. He calls the trail and its view of the canal “the best part of Goshen.”

“I think it’s so important to get out of cars and outside,” Lehman said.

Greenwood attorney Tim Riffle used to get his outdoor time as a coach for his son’s Little League Baseball team. But once his son started middle school and gave up Little League, “I found I had 15 to 20 hours a week I wasn’t spending on extracurricular sports,” he said. So Riffle decided that he would stay active by riding to his downtown office – a round trip of about 28 miles.

Fort Wayne attorney Charles Bash, 61, said he covers about 20 to 25 miles during an average warm-weather ride. His first 100-mile ride – or “century,” in bicycle terminology – was in 1976. “I did at least one century a year for 33 years after that,” he said.

Bash had heart surgery in 2009 and said he noticed he lost a lot of strength after the operation. Even so, he logged 5,217 total miles outdoors in 2010, and he plans to ride another century sometime this year.

Joining the bike-to-work movement, Hans Steck began riding to work about three or four years ago as part of a long-term overall fitness plan.

“It’s great for two reasons: you get a good deal of exercise commuting back and forth, and it helps me lower the carbon footprint that I’m putting out there.”

Steck, a partner at Bingham McHale in Indianapolis, said since he began exercising regularly eight years ago, he’s lost between 85 and 90 pounds. Cycling, he explained, is one component of his overall fitness plan.

Logistics

Riffle, a partner at Barnes & Thornburg’s Indianapolis office, said the firm provides lockers and shower facilities in the building’s workout room. He keeps a couple of changes of clothes downtown and swaps his briefcase for a backpack on days he rides.

Bingham McHale also offers showers along with secure valet parking for bicycles. That has made the decision to commute to the downtown office via bicycle more convenient for at least 10 of the firm’s attorneys.

Miller rides almost year-round, unless snow and ice make commuting impossible. Typically, he doesn’t ride to work if the temperature drops below 20 degrees, but he said the technological advances in cycling gear can make cold temperatures bearable. “In other words, buy a good jacket,” he said.

Miller said if he rides his bike to work and needs to leave the office midday to meet with a client, he may ask to borrow a car from a colleague. But, he said, his clients tend to appreciate his commitment to cycling, and if they know he rode to work, they may offer to come to his office.

Lehman, however, can often be seen pedaling through the streets of Goshen during the workday.

“I’ll go out in my work clothes during the day, in my long pants,” Lehman said. “For an office person, it’s great to get away from the office during the workday.”

Networking

biking Bryan Collins (left) and Brett Miller (right), partners at Bingham McHale, make use of the building’s valet bicycle parking. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Howard Cohen, member attorney at Frost Brown Todd’s Indianapolis office, leads a 21-mile group ride on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. He lives in downtown Indianapolis and thought he’d enjoy getting a group together that would ride from downtown, to the northeast side, and back to the starting point. “I also do it to force myself to ride,” he said.

Other attorneys sometimes join Cohen’s group – Miller may ride along with them on his way home. Although, Miller explained that he typically combines a little business with pleasure – riding to work with one client and home with another.

Cohen observed that cycling gives lawyers a chance to interact with their clients in a new way.

“Obviously, when we were younger, the thing that people did was play golf with clients … and I think some of us have done that with cycling,” Cohen said. “Both have a little social aspect to it.”

He said that once a year, he goes on an out-of-state bike retreat with business associates. “It’s the kind of thing that people used to do only with golf,” he said.

Miller has ridden with many different groups throughout Indianapolis and in doing so has broadened his network of social and business contacts.

“There’s a lot of collegiality to riding,” Miller said.

The big rides

Many serious cyclists in Indiana have participated in some of the state’s large annual rides like the Hilly Hundred and Ride across Indiana (RAIN). RAIN cyclists start the day in Terre Haute and ride 160 miles to Richmond. In 2007, Miller finished the RAIN in 7 hours and 43 minutes – the 97th finisher in a field of 1,002.

Riffle said he has ridden the Hilly Hundred. “But generally, I’m a solo kind of guy,” he said.

Bash used to participate in the Hilly Hundred, but he stopped years ago, due to safety concerns.

“It’s not that tough,” Bash said about the three-day ride. But he said inexperienced cyclists often rode recklessly, with little regard for the possibility of car traffic on the roads. “They go down there and pretend to be Lance Armstrong without knowing what they’re doing.”

He said he and his wife participate in the PALM (Pedal across Lower Michigan) event, which covers about 280 miles in six days. They also ride in Michigan’s annual Shoreline West Bicycle Tour, which offers riders the option of covering 500 miles in nine days, 343 miles in six days, or 160 miles in three days. Bash rides the nine-day course, and his wife joins him to ride the last three days.

For those interested, Bash added, tours in varying price ranges exist.

Extreme biking

This June, Steck plans to participate in his second consecutive The Denver Post Ride the Rockies tour. Riders cover 412 miles and 22,000 feet of vertical ascent over six days as they weave through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, from Crested Butte to Georgetown.

Miller has been on a similar adventure, riding in seven days from Durango, Colo., to Moab, Utah. The rugged trail covers 215 miles of secondary dirt roads. Steep ascents and rapid changes in temperature challenge riders, who camp each night in modular units installed by San Juan Hut Systems. The company offers similarly remote and challenging adventures for hikers, skiers, horseback riders, and hunters.

“I’ve done rides just about everywhere,” Miller said. He plans to take his GT mountain bike back to Crested Butte in August for another seven-day trip.

Closer to home, Riffle routinely rides his bike from Greenwood to Bloomington on weekends – about a three-hour trip, he said. And it was there last year that Riffle discovered a city street can be just as deadly as a slippery mountain pass.

At about 9 a.m. on May 19, 2010, Riffle said he “had an unfortunate incident with a pickup driver.” An inattentive truck driver veered off the road and struck Riffle on his bicycle. The accident was the same day as the Ride of Silence, when cyclists around the country ride in memory of those who have been killed or injured while riding.

“I wound up missing 12 days of work – I had a crushed vertebrae in my spine,” he said. Doctors put 14 screws in his back to repair the damage.

But two months later, he bought a new bike, climbed back on, and he still rides regularly.

“I guess I would say be careful, and it would be nice if we had any painted bike lines south of Washington Street,” he added.

And it looks like Riffle may get his wish. On April 18, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard announced that in May, construction will begin on 35.52 miles of new bike lanes, which his office says will extend from “county line to county line.”•

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  1. No second amendment, pro life, pro traditional marriage, reagan or trump tshirts will be sold either. And you cannot draw Mohammed even in your own notebook. And you must wear a helmet at all times while at the fair. And no lawyer jokes can be told except in the designated protest area. And next year no crucifixes, since they are uber offensive to all but Catholics. Have a nice bland day here in the Lego movie. Remember ... Everything is awesome comrades.

  2. Thank you for this post . I just bought a LG External DVD It came with Cyber pwr 2 go . It would not play on Lenovo Idea pad w/8.1 . Your recommended free VLC worked great .

  3. All these sites putting up all the crap they do making Brent Look like A Monster like he's not a good person . First off th fight actually started not because of Brent but because of one of his friends then when the fight popped off his friend ran like a coward which left Brent to fend for himself .It IS NOT a crime to defend yourself 3 of them and 1 of him . just so happened he was a better fighter. I'm Brent s wife so I know him personally and up close . He's a very caring kind loving man . He's not abusive in any way . He is a loving father and really shouldn't be where he is not for self defense . Now because of one of his stupid friends trying to show off and turning out to be nothing but a coward and leaving Brent to be jumped by 3 men not only is Brent suffering but Me his wife , his kids abd step kidshis mom and brother his family is left to live without him abd suffering in more ways then one . that man was and still is my smile ....he's the one real thing I've ever had in my life .....f@#@ You Lafayette court system . Learn to do your jobs right he maybe should have gotten that year for misdemeanor battery but that s it . not one person can stand to me and tell me if u we're in a fight facing 3 men and u just by yourself u wouldn't fight back that you wouldn't do everything u could to walk away to ur family ur kids That's what Brent is guilty of trying to defend himself against 3 men he wanted to go home tohisfamily worse then they did he just happened to be a better fighter and he got the best of th others . what would you do ? Stand there lay there and be stomped and beaten or would u give it everything u got and fight back ? I'd of done the same only I'm so smallid of probably shot or stabbed or picked up something to use as a weapon . if it was me or them I'd do everything I could to make sure I was going to live that I would make it hone to see my kids and husband . I Love You Brent Anthony Forever & Always .....Soul 1 baby

  4. Good points, although this man did have a dog in the legal fight as that it was his mother on trial ... and he a dependent. As for parking spaces, handicap spots for pregnant women sure makes sense to me ... er, I mean pregnant men or women. (Please, I meant to include pregnant men the first time, not Room 101 again, please not Room 101 again. I love BB)

  5. I have no doubt that the ADA and related laws provide that many disabilities must be addressed. The question, however, is "by whom?" Many people get dealt bad cards by life. Some are deaf. Some are blind. Some are crippled. Why is it the business of the state to "collectivize" these problems and to force those who are NOT so afflicted to pay for those who are? The fact that this litigant was a mere spectator and not a party is chilling. What happens when somebody who speaks only East Bazurkistanish wants a translator so that he can "understand" the proceedings in a case in which he has NO interest? Do I and all other taxpayers have to cough up? It would seem so. ADA should be amended to provide a simple rule: "Your handicap, YOUR problem". This would apply particularly to handicapped parking spaces, where it seems that if the "handicap" is an ingrown toenail, the government comes rushing in to assist the poor downtrodden victim. I would grant wounded vets (IED victims come to mind in particular) a pass on this.. but others? Nope.

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