Summer 2000, p.20

Commuter of the Month
Stephen Balser

Neighborhood: Park Slope
Occupation: Owner "Art in Construction," an interior installations company
How long is your commute?
My commute takes about a half hour. It's six miles. Then once I'm in town, I'll go from job to job on my bike. That takes me from uptown, down to Battery Park, sometimes 40 miles in a day.
Why do you bike?
It's quick! I can get to eight or ten job sites in the time it would take me to get to one by train or car. It's fun too.
Favorite biking season?
The winter- I love the cold. I had a blast this year! I remember once during the snow, I wasn't alone but there were only two or three other tracks on the Brooklyn Bridge. It was great.
What kind of bike do you ride?
Dual suspension, downhill mountain bike. I got it last summer after I had been out West and rented one. It's really comfortable on bumps. I also have a hybrid land cruiser that I take around the city with me.
How do you lock up?
With a Kryptonite U-Lock. When I go to job sites, I park the bike on the street. While I'm in the office, it's here with me. And at night, it sits in my living room at home.
Have you ever had any bikes stolen?
Two weeks ago, my twenty-year old junker was taken because I forgot the key in it. That was the first one, and mostly I'm pleased because my track record has been so good.
How would you describe your riding style?
Fast and pretty aggressive. It gets me around.
Any crashes?
During the first couple of weeks that I rode, I made the big mistake of going the wrong way down a one-way street. Somebody was pulling out of a parking spot. They were just looking over their shoulder, and when they thought the coast was clear, they floored it. I hit the breaks, but I guess I hit the front brake too hard, because I flipped over. After doing a somersault, I landed on my back, pretty much right under the car. But I wear a helmet all the time, so luckily I was fine.
What do you do for leisure biking?
I ride laps around Prospect Park. Mostly, I love to mountain bike, but it's hard to get away. My favorite mountain biking spot is in Hartford, Connecticut. The web has been a wonderful resource for trail listings.
What about traffic tickets?
Yes, one for not being in the bike lane on 5th Avenue and 14th Street. I knew I hadn't gone through a red light, so I couldn't imagine why the cop was stopping me. Apparently there's a law that if there is a bike lane, you're supposed to use it. If there isn't one, then you're on your own. At least the cop was nice.
Who's the bike companion?
Slater, my dog. I started bringing him to work with me because there was no one at home to take care of him during the day. He has been commuting with me for two years. The first day, he did try to jump out while I was crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. But I rigged it so that my backpack closes around his shoulders. He's secure, but his head sticks out so he can see what's going on. I also take him mountain biking with me; he runs along side of me and can do about 15 miles. He loves it! My wife, Shawn, commuted with me recently-she was a little overwhelmed by the traffic but I think she'll try it again.

Read more commuter profiles.