A few weeks ago, I started getting very interested in bike touring. I like the idea of living my entire life off my bike, even if it’s only for a short time. My brother and I got into mountain biking when we were in our early teens, and he became very much involved in road and mountain biking communities, both in Connecticut and Arizona. He even trained himself and became a bike mechanic. I took a less dedicated approach, but still very much enjoy riding. Now, with my renewed and new interests in biking and bike touring, I found that I’m paying more attention to what people are doing with their bikes. A few weeks ago, my good friend Miss Something of Somethingfound.net found an old bicycle in New York City, completely stripped it down to its bare bones, and refurbished it. She truly made it her own. I asked her about what it’s like to get back on the bike and ride the streets of New York. Read on after the jump.
What got you to start riding a bike in New York, where subways and taxis are so readily available, and probably much safer? I lost my job in June. Taxis are a luxury I can’t afford and at $2.25 a trip, or $89 for the month, I started to resent and avoid the subway. While I do appreciate NYC mass transit and it will remain my primary way to get around, heading out of my neighborhood basically came down to asking myself – Is it worth spending $4.50 (assuming a round trip) to climb up and down stairs, sweat, stand on a stinky platform, transfers, packing into a tin can with a bunch of cranky strangers? I can count how many times I’ve taken a cab or train this Summer and far prefer to walk or bike.
Did you feel in any danger when riding in the city? So far, I’ve actually found myself feeling less terrified then I expected. I had it in my head that I’d be peddling for my life, battling traffic and an obstacle course of maniac drivers. I let the faster riders pass me and keep a slower and cautious pace that I’m comfortable with. I don’t particularly care if I look like a total dork, I watched a bike messenger get hit and killed as a kid, so the whole dodging and weaving through traffic thing is not how I ride. I stop at lights, respect how hard it is to walk and drive in the city as it is, and generally don’t want to create any danger to anyone else. It’s a calculated risk like anything else, but since I’m not looking for a thrill I feel like it minimizes the danger-factor.
How well marked are the bike lanes? This has been the biggest surprise of all. I hadn’t even noticed the bike lanes until I wanted to use them. Turns out, the Mayor’s office, Departments of Transportation, City Planning and Parks and Recreation have been transforming the city right under my nose over the past few years. I was given a free NYC cycling map on my first visit to my local bike shop, which has been really helpful for me as a total beginner. I use this site (NYC Ride The City Bicycle Maps) to map new rides. I’ve not had any trouble finding bike lines (in great abundance) and they’re really easy to follow. Now if we could just get cars to stop parking in them, it would be perfect.
Do you wish there were more bike lanes? I wish there were more lanes in general, but this is NYC. If every road and street could have one, that would be awesome, but not very realistic. Turns out NYC has something like 620 miles of bicycle paths, lanes and routes and more on the way. Now if only there were easier ways to get them on mass transit, or up and down stairs.
Were you harrassed at all by drivers? No more or less than on foot.
Is there an example where a driver was really kind to you as a cyclist? It’s always nice when people take their time and wave you on to go first. That happens a lot, same as in a car. For the most part hitting pedestrians or cyclists while in a car is unpleasant and expensive. Thankfully most people generally seem to avoid that.
What, if anything, is keeping or would keep you from riding to and from work? Personally, I don’t think I’d be much for that, if only for the sweat factor, same reason I have never been one to go to the gym at lunch. Since I live in Brooklyn and am likely to work in Manhattan, it would probably take me 30-60 minutes. Then, there’s the seasonal issue. I made the mistake of trying to ride on ice once and that was all it took to know there will be a good part of the year where biking wouldn’t be much of a viable option for me. Over the past ten years I had many co-workers who did choose to bike to work and the companies where I worked always let us know where bicycle parking was available, the building’s policy on which entrance to use, etc.
How do you feel when you ride your bike? Mentally and physically. I love it. I have always been one to [prefer walking] over getting in a car or subway, but the bike has meant being able to take that a step further and cover more ground faster. I didn’t realize Brooklyn was so hilly before I started riding. It’s both challenging and humbling, but I know I’m getting in better shape. I find the gym boring and actually froze my membership for remainder of the warm weather. It’s motivated me to get out more, so it’s a win-win both mentally and physically.