Volunteer Profile: Stephanie Clarke


Where are you from? I was born and raised in Co-op City in the Bronx, and I still live there. I have my own place now.

What do you do? I’m an actress.

What got you involved in T.A.’s fight for safe and sustainable streets? I became interested in this type of activism after meeting a T.A. volunteer named Mel Rodriguez. He changed my whole perspective on riding my bike and the way people can get around the city. He introduced me to T.A., and he’s the reason I’m doing a lot of what I’m doing now. Mel is the best, and he and his family have become good friends.

So what did Mel show you? I guess I always knew that biking could be more than just exercise, but until I rode with Mel from Co-op City to Summer Streets back in 2007, I really didn’t understand that it was a way of getting around more than just my neighborhood. I’ve been traveling through New York my entire life, but on that bike ride I saw parts of the city that I’d always sort of skipped or ignored on the bus or subway. It was really special.

And after that ride? After that ride, I realized I could bike all over the place, and I also realized I wanted to share that with other people and help make it easier to bike.

Do you think the city has changed with you? It seems like there are way more cyclists now than there were back then. The City’s ‘if you build it, they will come’ approach has really worked. I know in Co-op City there are a lot more people who bike, and there are a lot more people who commute by bike when they can.

Your part of the Bronx just got a bunch of new bike lanes. How did that come about? It was a grassroots effort. We petitioned at community events, brought a plan to local stakeholders, did our best to educate people and stuck by our principles.

Were you surprised with your neighbors’ responses? I was struck by a lot of people’s impulse to frame things in the negative: It’s all about taking away space from cars. But really what bike lanes and traffic calming do is give more space to people so their lives can be better. I’m all for helping people. I’m all for the positive.

 

Stephanie has been a T.A. member since 2009.
Image courtesy of Stephanie Clarke


What has your experience as a T.A. volunteer been like? I definitely feel like I’ve become a part of a community. There are tons of social benefits. I love meeting new people and making new friends. I love mixing the physical and the social. I’m doing things I never would have done. It’s a comfortable and safe environment. It’s not a bar. It’s active and fun and self-selecting in the best way. And I love the visual of a ton of bikes on a street. The whole thing is empowering. I feel stronger on my bicycle.

What would you like to see happen in your community and your city in the next five years? In the city, I hope the gains we’ve made are built upon even more: more lanes, more connectivity, more people on bikes. We’ve got the momentum. I really hope that continues.

In my community, I want to get to Queens on my bike. You know, I can see Queens from my window, but I practically have to ride to Manhattan to bike there. Whether it’s a path on the Throggs Neck or Whitestone Bridge or a bus with a rack for my bike, I’d like a way to get to Queens.