Volunteer Profile: Paul Schreiber

Image Courtesy Andrew Hinderaker

How did you get involved with T.A.? I’d been involved with bike advocacy in the past, and when I moved here from Toronto 18 months ago, I saw a copy of Reclaim at a friend’s house. I think I signed up online that night.

Since becoming a member, what have you done with T.A.? I’ve ridden the NYC Century Bike Tour twice, and I’ve attended a few Brooklyn Activist Committee meetings, and I’ve been to a volunteer night at the office and done a bike/pedestrian count. I also raised money for T.A. through Climate Ride.

What’s that? Climate Ride is a non-profit that raises money for environmental causes by hosting long-distance bike rides. I rode from New York to Washington, D.C. and raised more than $9,000 from 210 donors. Half of that went to T.A. and the other half went to 350.org.

That’s some serious fundraising. I’ve done this kind of thing twice before, but I’ve never raised so much. I think people responded to the organizations, and I think my tactics have improved.

What worked so well? Three things: I asked a lot of people; I asked with a specific figure in mind; and I had a lot of personal conversations.

That must have been fun. It was. It was a great way to catch up with old friends. I talked to a guy I hadn’t spoken with in years for 45 minutes one night. Another friend I called told me he just lost his job, so he couldn’t help, but I sent him a few job listings the next day.
What do you do? I’m a software engineer. I work for the Avaaz Foundation, which does online advocacy. We’ve got 27 million members, staff in 20 countries and operate in 17 languages. We do campaigns on women’s rights, human rights, climate and democracy.

Do you have any thoughts about the relationship between technology and cycling? I’ve been thinking about two things lately: measurement and navigation. There’s the quantified-self stuff, like FitBit or Strava, that keeps you motivated or competing. And on the navigation side, there’s Google maps and technologies like Hammerhead that help people get on their bike and go.

Before moving to New York, you spent a decade in the Bay Area. How does that bike scene stack up to New York’s? Until recently, San Francisco’s efforts to improve bike infrastructure were stymied by this ridiculous lawsuit, so they’re a few years behind New York in terms of the built environment. In terms of bike culture, I think Citi Bike has gotten a lot more “regular people” on bikes in New York, which is great. I imagine that’ll happen with bike share in the Bay Area too, but right now New York is ahead.

What about the hills? You can always ride around them. But you do get used to them. I lived on a big hill and rode up it every day on the way home from work. It was definitely good training for Climate Ride. While I’m not a fast rider, I can climb, and sometimes passed people going uphill.