Commuter Profile: Doria Tenca

How old are you? I’m 78.

And you were born and raised in the city? Absolutely. I grew up on 77th Street.

When did you start biking? I started to bike when I was a kid. I rode in Central Park. When I went to City College, I brought my bike there, but something was broken so I never really unpacked it. I started riding again regularly in the 1960s. Maybe 1963. I worked as a computer programmer and rode to my office. People thought I was such a kook. My aunt said she didn’t want to know me when I was on my bike.

How long have you been a T.A. member? I’ve been a member since just about when T.A. started, but there’s more backstory. In the 1960s, biking to work, I thought it was me against the world, but one day someone put a flier on my desk—it was 1970. It was a flier for a group called Bike for a Better City, and it said there would be a rally at 59th Street by the Plaza Hotel to bike to work and to raise awareness about bikes and bike lanes. I went there and saw a thousand cyclists. It was the first thing on the six o’clock news that night. After that, we’d meet every Thursday and bike to work together. I started to volunteer—I sold buttons and stickers. It was popular for a while but the numbers started to dwindle and a few years later, there were just three of us on Thursday mornings. One of them was Roger Herz [another longtime T.A. member]. He told me about a new group called Transportation Alternatives. That’s when I joined. Maybe it was 1975.

Over the years, you’ve volunteered a lot. What have you done with T.A.? In the late 1970s, we started pushing to get cars out of Central Park. I collected a lot of petition signatures. I’d walk around, stop people, ask people by the tennis courts. I always had my clipboard. I’ve also been to lots of mailing parties and attended tons of great T.A. events over the years.

What keeps you engaged? I believe in T.A.’s work, and I’ve seen firsthand how impactful it is. I remember when cabs would literally run you off the road and when the idea of a car-free Central Park or a pedestrian plaza or even a bike lane was unthinkable. This city has changed because of T.A. and that means it has changed because of T.A. members.

Image courtesy of Cassandra Giraldo

You recently made a very generous contribution to T.A. Can you tell me what prompted you to give? Well, I believe in supporting causes I care about. That’s why I gave to T.A., but I was able to give because I was hit and injured by a truck while crossing East 96th Street a few years ago. I was in the crosswalk with the light and a truck hit me and knocked me down. I received a settlement and used that to establish a charitable gift annuity with both Transportation Alternatives and the Central Park Conservancy, another organization that is close to my heart. The gift annuity is good for me and good for T.A.

Well, thank you for your gift and for supporting T.A. for so many years. I have one more question: Can you tell me about that tee-shirt? It’s maybe the last of the first T.A. tee-shirts — an original from 1975. I only wear it on special occasions. I like the One Less Car tee-shirts, too — because I don’t like cars much—but this old one is my favorite.