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Omaha Magazine

Putting a New Spin on the Daily Commute

May 27, 2021 02:09PM ● By Katrina Markel
three alley poyner employees pose with bikes

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

Wellness and fitness are values woven throughout the company culture at Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture, a design firm headquartered in north downtown Omaha. Bicycling, in particular, is ingrained in the company ethos. 

“I guess it all roots from Michael Alley’s love for biking and how he’s just gotten more people to do it and join his craziness,” said architectural designer Sarah Schneider. 

Alley is one of the company founders and a passionate cyclist.

“He actually gave up a car to cycle to work and he cycles year-round,” said Erin Giannangelo, a photographer on the firm’s marketing team.

Schneider and Giannangelo, along with historic preservation specialist Caitlin Benton, form a trio of women cyclists at the center of the APMA cycling tradition. 

“It’s always open to anyone, but I guess Erin, Caitlin, and I are the usual three,” Schneider said.

It’s not uncommon for “the usual three” to commute on their bikes. 

“People are encouraged to ride bikes if they want to. We have facilities for people to shower and do all of that if they want to ride in,” Benton said. 

An Omaha native, Benton started bicycling while attending college in Chicago. In 2013, she moved back to the city following graduate school at Cornell University in upstate New York.  She didn’t have a car for the first year and would sometimes borrow her sister’s car, but “to get to work I was mostly riding my bike.”

“It’s a great vehicle to get around. You can cover ground and see your surroundings in a whole new way. You build a sense of community when routinely biking by businesses and your neighbors. It’s also wonderful exercise, social, and rewarding,” said Giannangelo, another Omaha native who first started cycling as a student at Colorado
State University. 

Schneider, who is from Norfolk, Virginia, also started biking in college as a way to get across the Iowa State University campus in Ames.

“I try to bike [to work] as much as possible. I only live like a mile away, so it’s super silly to get in my car,” Schneider said. 

All three women participate in cycling events with coworkers, including the Corporate Cycling Challenge, National Bike to Work Day, and the Taco Ride, a weekly gathering that travels along the Wabash Trace from Council Bluffs to Mineola, Iowa, and back. The firm also has its own informal ride dubbed “ROMAHOAK” because the peloton starts at the Omaha office and bikes more than 50 miles to its Red Oak, Iowa, office. The women all mentioned that the ROMAHOAK ride isn’t competitive and cyclists of all levels are welcome to participate. 

“I met my husband [Robbie Benton] for the first time because he did one of the ROMAHOAK   rides that we opened up to the public,” said Benton, who now cycles regularly with her husband and their 4-year-old son. 

This spring, Giannangelo was a driving force behind a fitness challenge in which the staff combined its cycling, running, and walking miles to virtually travel across the United States.  Firm partner Martin Kluck has been known to lead cycling tours of the company’s projects at historic,
downtown buildings. 

“Biking is a fantastic way to meet people and have time for meaningful dialogue. ROMAHOAK is a great example of team bonding,” Giannangelo said. 

Schneider started as a student intern with the firm and said that the bicycling culture was part of what attracted her to the company. She thought, “I’ll be able to bike all the time and I won’t have to bike alone.”

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This article originally appeared in the June 2021 issue of B2B Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

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