Summer 2003, p.23

Commuter Profile: Zoe Ryder White

Occupation: Kindergarten teacher at PS 116 in East Midtown, Manhattan

T.A. member? Yes

Commute: From Baltic Street between 4th and 5th Avenues in Park Slope, Brooklyn to 33rd Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues in Manhattan. It depends on how late I am! If I'm in a hurry, I go down 4th Avenue to Bergen right on Smith/Jay Streets and then onto the Manhattan Bridge. In Manhattan, I go up 3rd Avenue all the way to school. If I have time, I take the Brooklyn Bridge to the Hudson River Greenway (so much nicer and safer) and then cut across town on 30th Street in Manhattan. More often, though, I take the quicker way.
Bike: A rattly but trusty and beloved Giant Iguana I bought 10 years ago in Minnesota.

Gear: I wear a Winwood helmet and use blinky lights from Planet Bike and one of those fluorescent yellow pants-leg holders.

Parking: I park in the back of the book room at my school. My colleague, Julienne, parks in a little closet in her classroom. I know another teacher who parks her bike behind her easel in the classroom.

How long commuting? A couple of years.

Why started? I started commuting because of my husband, who promotes bicycling in developing countries. Before I knew him and other serious bike commuters, I was scared to ride in the city. I rode in Prospect Park sometimes and in my neighborhood, but almost never in Manhattan. I didn't know about the Hudson River Greenway and other bike lanes either. But once he showed me the ropes, I was converted! I love seeing where I am all along the way, going in and out of neighborhoods and smells, catching bits of conversations at traffic lights.

Attire: Mostly I just wear whatever I am wearing to work.

Weather: I don't ride when it's really freezing out and if it's raining hard because I get lazy about allowing enough time to change my clothes for work (if I were to get drenched), especially since I try to be at work at 7 am.

Response from co-workers: Mostly people are very supportive and think it's a good idea. One other kindergarten teacher, Julienne, has been biking almost every day since we talked about it. A few people have told me they think I am crazy.

Do you think that more of your coworkers would bike to work if the school provided indoor bike parking? Definitely. A few people have mentioned to me that they don't know where to put their bikes, or don't want to leave them outside, and those of us that do ride sort of had to sneak into our own little spots. It was fine with the school that we did that, but it still felt a little sneaky.
I certainly would prefer bike parking. Plus, my bike was always in the way of the book bins in the book room where I parked and it might have been irritating to other teachers.

Best Commute: When I was finishing grad school last summer I sometimes commuted from our house in Brooklyn to Teachers College, on 120th Street and Broadway. It was so beautiful riding up the Hudson River Greenway all the way there in the early morning when it wasn't crowded. I like being so close to the river and not having to stop or slow down or worry about getting run over. I also like the way the city changes as you ride through it from here to there-you get the Brooklyn Bridge in the morning light, then the sun hitting the windows in the financial district and then you follow the river up to Riverside Park where it actually smells like the woods a little bit. In addition, it was long enough to make me feel like I'd gotten some exercise and cleared my head before class.

Worst experience/commute: A few weeks ago a cube truck coming off the Manhattan Bridge on the Brooklyn side nearly squashed me. A van stopped and waved me across that ramp that lets off BQE cars, so I went, but then this cube truck behind the van decided to go around it. It didn't see me and I saw it just in time. I had to brake really fast so I almost launched myself over the handlebars. And then the guy who was driving started yelling at me!

Advice: Don't expect cars to stop, even if they see you.

Riding style: I don't like to take a lot of risks: I don't ride very often in the middle of the street with cars on either side. But I do like to go as fast as my rattly bike will go for as long as I can before stopping!

Memorable reactions: Once on the Manhattan side of the Manhattan Bridge, a Rasta on a bike near me shouted out to me as I went by, "YES! Ride the Manhattan Bridge! Power to the people! This bridge is for the people!" He kept shouting about how the Manhattan Bridge is the "power-to-the-people" bridge.

Read more commuter profiles.