Spring 2005, p.25

Commuter Profile
Barbara Hertel

Barbara Hertel fights crime and avoids traffic on her daily commute.
Barbara Hertel fights crime and avoids traffic on her daily commute.

Age: 47

Occupation: Director of Administration, The Battery Conservancy – the organization busily rebuilding The Battery (Historic Battery Park)

Are you a T.A. member? Yes

Where do you commute to/from? Williamsburg, Brooklyn to near South Ferry, Manhattan

What is your route? To work I ride over bumpy Williamsburg Bridge, cut over to Chinatown then down to Water Street and ride all the way down. On the way home I take the East River Greenway to Clinton then over the Williamsburg Bridge and bump my way to Grand Street heading east to Graham Avenue.

What kind of bike do you have? Trek 800 Sport What kinds of gear do you use? Helmet, back light, (I need to replace front light, the Williamsburg Bridge’s expansion joint bumps killed it) and a very bright vest that I received during Bike Month years ago.

How long have you been commuting? 23 years

Why did you start commuting by bike? I love being outside and the sense of independence one gets from biking; besides, it’s fun. Sometimes I enjoy that I get to yell (at car drivers mostly) and sing – I make up a lot of silly songs.

What do you wear when you bike to work? Since my commute isn’t too far, I can wear regular pants or bike shorts with a skirt and some kind a top; in the winter, I wear capilene long underwear everywhere and change at work.

Do you ride in all weather? No, I’ll only ride if it’s above 30 degrees; no ice and not raining in the morning.

What kind of response do you get from co-workers? They think I’m brave.

What are some memorable experiences? In the late 1980’s when the old Williamsburg Bridge was hardly used, I was riding on the path to my home in Brooklyn. As I came to the crest of the bridge two men jumped in front of me. The one with a large stick raised up demanded my bike. Stopping I said “OK,” then he yelped “Give me your money!” I had a fanny pack on, as I tried to wrestle some cash out he shouted “Give me your wallet!”

“It has my IDs in it!”

“I’ll mail ‘em back!”

“Yeah right,” I said and flipped out a $20. I jumped off my bike and one of them got on, fortunately the bag I had lashed on the back was sliding off (as usual), so I grabbed it. The bungy cords stretched and stretched until they snapped loose. I watched the frayed bungies sway from the back rack as they rode away. No sooner had I started on my way home when a cyclist tells me that my bike is on the roadway of the Manhattan approach. I ran back. Luckily my pal Darius was riding up the path. We found the bike below, the back axle tightly wrapped with the bungies making it immovable and saving my bike from the thieves. By the way, the police did catch him; he had robbed about 6 others on the bridge.

Best commute: From Brooklyn to Central Park West and 107th Street, Manhattan with half the ride in Central Park—cars really don’t belong there. It got me in shape for the NYC Century Bike Tour that year!

Worst experience/commute: Taking a break at work and finding that someone had stolen my beloved bike Fluffy.

Advice for new bicycle commuters: Get good locks; use hand signals to show turns; say something when you pass other cyclists and don’t ride close to parked cars. You have every right to be on the road.

Where do you park your bike? Inside our office now.

What’s your riding style? Somewhat fast, assertive and courteous.

What’s the most memorable reaction you’ve gotten on your bike? When a taxi tried to run me down I yelled at him that I have every right to be on the road!!! I made my escape through the snarled traffic.