May/June 2000, p.16

Commuter of the Month: Melody D'Arnell

Neighborhood: Chelsea
Occupation: Sales and Repair of Antique and Estate Jewelry
Why did you start commuting in New York City?
I had a car, but I lost my license because I had Vermont registration and New York plates. So I started using my bike. That was about 30 years ago.
How does the biking measure up against the car?
I can get where I want quickly. It's cheap-you get a bike for $30 or $50 at a flea market, put $100 into it and you've got a way of getting around. But there's always parking problems.
What kind of bike do you own?
An 18-speed hybrid. I'd like to get a radical frame bike, I'd love to use it for commuting and joy-riding over the countryside. I saw one on sale at my bike shop, so we'll see.
What is your typical riding attire?
I have to meet clients, so I wear suits sometimes. Never jeans or sneakers, I try to look professional. Even when I had a boy's bike I wore a skirt. I don't wear a helmet, I just don't like them. I just hope I won't fall and hurt myself.
Describe your daily commute.
Sometimes it's pleasurable, sometimes its hell. I live on 27th St., work in the Diamond District, and see clients between 65th and 80th Streets. I've had cab drivers slap me, people spit on me, all kinds of things, but usually it's pretty cool. If the sun is shining, I feel good and I'm pretty happy to be on the bike.
I try to do a lot of meditation, to go to another consciousness. Once, a young guy in a decrepit Cadillac drove by and yelled, "You're too old to be riding that bike!" So I turned around, caught up with him and told him what a sorry car he had. He was shocked, "You rode all the way back to say that to me? I'm- I'm s-s-sorry!" I chased that pedestrian who spit at me until she escaped into Madison Square Garden. Nothing and nobody stops me. I'm out there making a living, not bothering anybody. They need to learn respect.
How do your clients react when you show up to appointments on bike?
They commend me, but they think I'm crazy and have a lot of nerve. I think so, too.
A few-worst was on 2nd Avenue. A truck hit me. I was dragged, broke four ribs, had a concussion and was in intensive care. But I got a big insurance settlement.
And you still rode after that?
I couldn't wait to get back on the bike.
Do you use your bicycle for recreation?
Sure. I have a NJ Transit Bike Pass, to go riding on the shore. During the summer I go out to Spring Lake and Long Branch.
What are your favorite NYC cycling haunts?
Riding along the river path on the west side is very pleasant, and it's nice to go riding when they stop the traffic in Central and Prospect Parks-they should do that more.
Any ideas for improvements in NYC bicycling?
I don't know what people are thinking. Manhattan is a very small area with narrow streets. Whoever wants to can come into the city and drive their big cars, big trucks and buses. It's ridiculous. I'd like to see less traffic in Manhattan, something more like in China, where you see millions of bicycles acting as the main way of transporting people. Bicyclists should undergo training to become ready to ride in the city. People don't realize how dangerous it can be.

Read more commuter profiles.