Local man walks his own path

IBM employee gets to work without a car every day

By Ben Moger-Williams
Observer staff

Paul Bouchard doesn’t have to scrape off his car in the morning or wait for the heat to kick in. That’s because every day for the last two years, Bouchard has made the 7-mile round trip to work under his own power.

In these days of rising fuel prices and greenhouse gases, it seems like a sound environmental decision, but while Bouchard says the environment is important to him, that is not his main motivator.

“The reason why I do it is because it’s healthy,” the 54-year-old Williston resident said. “I think the older I get the more I need some kind of challenge I can do.”

The supply chain advisory planner said he has been biking from his Lamplite Acres home to IBM in Essex Junction for many years, but always drove between December and April because the frozen roads were not suitable for biking. But two years ago he made the decision to walk during those months, and made the total commitment to not use a car for work at all.

Bouchard and his wife, Carol, both own cars, and he said he drives to the grocery store and other places, just not to work. Carol, who works as a part-time nurse at Pediatric Medicine in South Burlington, and as secretary for the Methodist Church district superintendent, does drive to work.

“I don’t try to put my lifestyle on her,” he said.

While he says his top goal is fitness, Bouchard recognizes the environmental benefits of cutting down on driving time.

“I wish that I were more disciplined and didn’t need a car, period,” he said. “But I think the lifestyles that we’re in, it’s very difficult to be completely removed, so you try and do the next best thing, which is reduce.”

The former runner said he figures he saves about 75 gallons of gasoline a year by not driving a car to work every day.

“In itself it isn’t a whole lot, but I like to think you pass the philosophy around,” he said. “You can’t do it all yourself.”

In January, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released revised health guidelines for Americans, which recommended 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise a day.

Bouchard estimates his winter walk takes about 40 minutes each way on a good day, and up to an hour and a half on a really bad weather day.

He said he tried going to a gym for about a year, but found that walking and biking were preferable.

“It’s a discipline that I wasn’t very good at,” Bouchard said of working out at the gym. “(Walking) is easier, I’ve got to get to work; got to get home, so it’s really good.”

His commitment has also affected other people in his office, he said.

“Other people have jumped on at work,” he said. “They’ll maybe come in twice a week during the summer, mostly biking.”

Like any commuter, Bouchard faces numerous hazards on his daily trek to work.

A month ago, while riding home during a sudden snowstorm, Bouchard had what he calls his “first meeting with a car.”

Bouchard was riding home from Essex when a car stuck his bike’s rear tire and he fell to the ground.

“My first reaction was ‘Boy, I’m really upset. Why don’t people see me on a bike?’” he said. “I actually feel a little apologetic to the woman because she came out and she says ‘I didn’t see you,’ and I said something like ‘Yeah, I noticed.’ I wish I was a little more polite.”

He said when he bikes to work, the going is usually fairly easy up until the recreational path ends at James Brown Drive, and he has to cross Vermont Route 2A.

“Truckers are better than cars,” he said, “I can sit there for a couple of minutes before somebody lets me by.”

Bouchard said his family, which includes his wife and three adult children Kim, Sara and Nick, all probably think he is a little crazy, but he will continue to walk, bike or otherwise challenge himself in his daily journey to IBM.

“I’m thinking about doing snowshoes this year, and kind of giving it a different twist,” he said.