Thursday, May 22, 2014

Pedal to the Grindstone: Biking to Work

Bike to Work Day, held in New York on May 16th (last Friday), is a celebration of the bike being an environmental and wallet-friendly option for commuting from your home to your work place.  In honor of this event we had a Q&A session with Laura Solis from Bike New York about traveling via bicycle. Here’s what she said!

 If I live, let’s say 5 miles from my job, how long would it take me to get there? 
 That depends on a few factors. I used to live 5 miles away from my last job. The commute using public transportation would involve either 2 buses and the train or 3 buses and it’d take me just over an hour to get there. When I started riding my bike, it took me roughly 30 minutes on a day when I was being mindful not to break into a sweat. There was this one time it took me only 19 minutes, but I never did quite repeat that great timing. 

Do you remember the first time you biked to work?
The first day I tried it out I actually did it on my day off so that there wasn’t any pressure to get there “on time”. I went on a Sunday morning when traffic would be presumably lightest and I timed myself. I don’t remember what my time was, but I remember giving myself and hour and a half and I had planned 3 rest-stops, including a coffee shop along the way. Whenever I think back to that day, I remember how over prepared I was, how much I had overestimated what 5 miles really felt like, and how I had underestimated myself tremendously.  In the end, I only stopped once, and it was to pat myself on the back and tag a swig of water.

Clearly, biking is a great workout for your legs, but does it tone the jiggle anywhere else?
Biking is a tremendous workout, you will have buns of steel in no time and your abs/core will love you forevermore.

Are there any other benefits to biking besides the workout?
I will say that the money I save on transportation I spend on food to keep me fueled. And the saying “you are what you eat”, couldn’t be more true than when you are riding a bike. If I eat a bacon cheddar burger with fries and a shake before a bike ride, I ride like I just ate a bacon cheddar burger with fries and a shake. The bigger the variety of colors on my plate (not including condiments!) and range of food groups, the more vibrant I feel on my bike.

Ok, this may be a little personal but what about the, well, smell? Any tips?
Hygiene in general is a really big deal to me, whether or not I’m on my bike. With that said, I quickly learned how to ride so that I didn’t break into a sweat, but I also learned what was the best way to get rid of the smell of NYC streets that will latch on to your body if you’re riding through traffic. I stocked up on sun dresses when I started riding a bike because there is NOTHING, like riding a bike in a skirt or a dress. The sheer ventilation that you get in all the necessary places will have you smiling up and down the road. I am more concerned with dirt, which is attracted to you if you are wearing lotion, sunscreen in particular. To remove the grime, which usually only accumulates on a ride greater than 5 miles, I use Action Wipes. Action Wipes are amazing! They remove any evidence of your having been active in a matter of minutes, and it does so using all natural ingredients, without drying your skin while leaving you feeling clean and fresh. They also don’t leave any lint behind, which baby wipes often do, and they’re the perfect texture for sloughing off the grease that will one day end up on your leg.

What are the safest routes in the Bronx? Is there somewhere I can find this information?
The Bronx has a great number of greenways (paths surrounded by greenery) as a result of being the greenest borough! Many folks feel really safe along the greenways because the interaction with traffic is very limited. We’ve got the Bronx River Greenway, Mosholu Parkway Greenway, the Hutchinson River Greenway, and the Pelham Parkway Greenway.  Have you checked out the 2014 NYC Bike Map?!!! The promising green dotted lines indicate forthcoming “potential” bike lanes, including an extension of the existing Hudson River Greenway, which currently ends in Inwood Hill Park in Manhattan, but looks to make its way up to Riverdale. There are also lots of green dots along the Bronx Harlem River Greenway as well! In addition to the Bike Map, ridethecity (website and app), maps out direct, safe and safer routes, respectively. They are still one of my most used #bikenyc resources.

Bike lanes are great, but being safe has a lot to do with feeling safe and feeling safe often comes with knowledge which leads to confidence. You can get this sort of knowledge, and subsequent confidence, by attending free Bike New York Street Skills Class and Street Skills Ride. Honestly, it’s where I picked up most of my tips and tricks, or rather advice and instruction. As much as I love the greenways, and hope for more bike lanes in the Bronx, the existing ones are not currently conducive to an efficient commute for me, so you’ll most often see me on the road, safely alongside the cars, without a bike lane.

If I wanted to take a class to learn more about biking in NYC or find a group to ride with, how could I do that?  
Visit to learn more about biking safely and confidently in NYC for free. We have free classes throughout the five boroughs. Our Community Bike Education Center in the Bronx is located in the southwest playground of Van Cortlandt Park.

If you want to ride with a group, I’d recommend our very own Bike Path Cruise Rides. You can also check out the list of bike clubs on our website. A few of my favorites include Social Cycling NYC, NYC Biketrain and InTandem. They are all filled with good people who are very welcoming to new and experienced cyclists. 

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