Spring 2003, p.23

Commuter Profile: Sarah Oakes
Winner of the 2003 Bike Week NYC Commuter Race

Sarah Oakes beat a straphanger and taxi rider in T.A.'s 2003 Bike Week NYC Commuter Race by making it from Junior's in Downtown Brooklyn to Columbus Circle in Manhattan in 29 minutes. Sarah trains year round for this competition as a daily bike commuter.

Occupation: Project Coordinator at Certified Construction, a General Contractor in Manhattan
T.A. member? Yes, since summer 2002
Commute: Williamsburg, Brooklyn to west Midtown Manhattan. I usually ride down to the Williamsburg Bridge, across Delancey, Prince and/or Houston to the West Side Greenway. From there it's a straight shot to my office on 51st and 12th Avenue. It's 30 minutes door to door.
Bike: Trek 7200 Hybrid
Gear: Helmet (ALWAYS!), bike gloves, glasses, blinking lights at night.
How long commuting? On and off since 1992.
Why started? I grew up biking and running around the city. In 1992, I started commuting on rollerblades from the East Village to my job in the World Financial Center. I switched to a bike when my commute became longer, because I was getting too sweaty on blades. Unfortunately my bike got stolen and I didn't buy another good commuting bike for a year. When I started working at my current job two years ago, on 12th Avenue and 51st Street, I hated the train commute. I never have time to go to the gym, so this way I get my workout and commute all in one!
Attire: Bike shorts (with leggings over in the cooler weather), layers and something loud and bright. I roll up my work clothes and carry them in a backpack, and keep a couple pairs of shoes at work.
Weather: I stopped biking after Thanksgiving and just started up again recently. I don't feel safe riding in the snow. Unfortunately it was a very long winter. But spring is here, and I couldn't be happier!
Why I love bike commuting: It's fun to come across other bikers and bond. I love the feeling of cruising over the beautiful Willy-B early in the morning while the city's just waking up. So free and exciting.
Worst experience/commute: Road hogs. When cars try and squeeze me out, I just take up an entire lane to myself. Delancey Street is the worst. I find that when cars feel you meshing with the traffic, signaling and following the rules, they don't mind bikes. It's the bad bikers who scare pedestrians and run red lights at big intersections who give other bikers a bad rap.
Advice: If you share the road and be safe (wear a helmet, brightly colored clothes, lights, obey traffic rules), it's so much more fun! Always announce yourself as you're passing fellow bikers and pedestrians. I find that not only is it safe and polite, but people respond well and appreciate it.
Lock: I use one of those massive Kryptonite chains.
Parking: At work I can bring it in the building and keep it in the shop downstairs.
Memorable reactions: After a hot summer commute on my rollerblades coming into the suited-environment of Merrill Lynch in the World Financial Center, a woman was looking me up and down in disgust in the elevator. She asked me something about my working in "those clothes" (I guess I was wearing as little as possible in the steamy weather). I responded that no, I go upstairs to the bathroom, strip down, wipe myself down with wet paper towels and change into clean clothes that I carry with me. I'll never forget the shock on her face--it was priceless.

Read more commuter profiles.