Commuter Profile: Jakob Reich

Age: 61

Occupation: Professor at Baruch College, CUNY

How long have you been riding?
I have been commuting by bike on and off for over 15 years.

Where do you commute to?
I commute from Crown Heights to Baruch College. I take Bedford Avenue. It has this great bike lane to Williamsburg (where it becomes a partially-aborted bike lane), then over the Williamsburg Bridge to First Avenue, and up to 26th Street. On the way back, I use the Manhattan Bridge, through Downtown Brooklyn and then on Eastern Parkway back to Crown Heights.

Do a lot of faculty at B Baruch ride bikes to campus?
I don’t see many bikes parked outside Baruch, so I don’t think it’s very common.

What is it about New York C City that makes it so rewarding to bike?
What keeps amazing me about biking in Brooklyn and Manhattan is how efficient and hassle-free it is! No delays. No missed trains. No parking problems! It’s a delight!

It sounds like you bike to places besides the workplace.
Biking is so much more than to get from point A to point B. It gives me freedom to come and go as I wish at any time of day or night. At times it allows me to appreciate the breathtaking beauty of New York, moments like a brilliant sunny morning on the Williamsburg Bridge. Sometimes I have the perfect ride where my energy, my body and my bike are in almost perfect sync and I feel phenomenal at the end. And sometimes it’s a much-needed break from the pressures, the phone calls, the hassles of everyday life. It’s not just the same routine day after day, it’s actually dynamic, it’s alive! It really is a delightful part of the way I live!

Does your family ever ride with you?
No, not everyone in my family bikes. My sons have different schedules. It simply never seems to work out! My family has some concerns about the safety issues, but knows that it is good for me both for my health and spiritual state of mind, and therefore I have their full support.

A mutual friend was telling us about an idea you had for giving free bicycles to newcomers who come here to study the Talmud.
Well, I think that the cost of biking gear generally discourages a beginner, who is not sure if he will stick with it. So a loan program of some sort probably would encourage many more people to try it. Also, inexperienced people need advice on what equipment is proper for them and that is not necessarily so simple to obtain!

Any advice you’d like to share with the thousands of New Yorkers who have just started bike commuting in the last year?
Be vigilant about your safety! Remember: you are the most vulnerable commuter on the road, going at considerable speed without protection.When I bike, I don’t listen to music, my cell phone or other distractions and I try to be focused as much as possible on my ride and the potential dangers around me: car doors opening, cars passing inches from me, cars speeding past me at a turn and cutting me off as I get there, etc. The list goes on and on. Always keep in mind that it is most important to get there safely.

What are some of the things you’d like to change along your route?
The bike lane on Bedford is generally phenomenal, but as I approach Williamsburg there are always delivery trucks temporarily parked in it. This makes for a dangerous situation, because to get around them I have to go into a fast-moving middle car lane. The solution: give heavy and enforced fines for any car standing in a bike lane! And further north, the removed bike lane--it’s pathetic!

Any other streets in need of a bike lane?
When I go up First Avenue where there is a lot of bike traffic, there is no bike lane. We really need one!