Image courtesy of Andrew Hinderaker2011 marked my first full year on a bicycle: a journey that began for me in the spring of 2010.
I was significantly overweight and had no idea how to get a fitness routine back into my busy daily life. Eventually, I looked online and realized that the bike lane near my apartment connected all the way to the Queensboro Bridge, which connected to the city and dropped me near my office. After borrowing a friend’s bicycle for one ride, I purchased a bike for myself with my tax return and began riding from my home in Jackson Heights to Midtown Manhattan, alternating days at first until I got strong enough to go both ways in a single day. By the fall of 2010, after only nine months of cycling, I’d lost 30 pounds and ridden the entire 100-mile NYC Century Bike Tour route with Transportation Alternatives.
A few months later, and with more of T.A.’s encouragement, I attended a City Council hearing on bike lanes, and explained my story, hoping that I could counter some of the negative arguments about urban cycling I’d been reading in the newspapers. From that came a weight–loss feature in the Daily News, and a StreetFilms profile coinciding with my reaching a total of 50 pounds lost. This fall I did my first long charity ride: 300 miles from Boston to NYC to raise money for HIV/AIDS services. It took three days on my fully-fendered city bike and was surely a feat that would have been beyond impossible just two years ago.
Even more thrilling than these personal accomplishments is that my small office now has six riders—some daily, some less often—when before there were none. I still cycle almost every day. I ride in rain, heat and snow. I have a MetroCard with me at all times, in case of truly dangerous weather (or a few extra cocktails after work), but most of the time, I’d prefer to ride, and many of my coworkers would too.
No one exists in a vacuum. I can’t tell you how much I’ve benefited from programs offered by T.A., Bike New York and Time’s Up! (they taught me how to fix a flat). And on multiple blogs, websites and Twitter, there exists an amazing community of cyclists in this city. Their dedication to better biking, information distribution and sharing the joy of traveling NYC by bicycle has been invaluable in helping me overcome potential obstacles and keeping me going when things seemed difficult.
I never would have begun my journey if Transportation Alternatives had not been tirelessly working for years to make the streets of New York safer for pedestrians and cyclists, and I certainly wouldn’t have gotten this far.