January/February 1997, p.10

Commuter of the Month: Cathy Wassylenko

Occupation: Scenic designer and painter
Neighborhood: Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
Commuting history: About twelve years. I'd been riding recreationally, and other cyclist friends urged me to take the plunge and cross over into Manhattan. I'd always believed that riding there was safer on the weekends, but I soon came to realize that weekday drivers are, if nothing else, more used to bikes than the Sunday drivers. 
T.A. member since:
Also twelve years
Current commute: Over the Brooklyn Bridge and over to the west side to the 20's or the 50's, depending on where I have to work. It usually takes me from 35 to 45 minutes, no more.
Bike: A 10-year-old Nashbar road bike, doctored up a bit with a Brooks saddle and a rack-nothing flashy.
Helmet: Never. I enjoy the freedom of my head. I don't even wear a hat in winter. I also think that if I were to be hit by a car (it's happened twice already), it's not my head that gets injured.
Locking: If I must lock outside, I just use one U-lock. The road bike doesn't appeal to thieves, so I'm not really worried
about it. Once, my husband and I went the flea market on 25th Street and we locked our bikes together with one lock. When we came back, someone had stolen his mountain bike-and left my old road bike alone! Bikes stolen: Two mountain bikes. Both had been locked outside with just one U- lock. But in one case, the thief unscrewed the pole from the sidewalk and stole the bike with the lock intact.
Advice: Before you start commuting, get lots of practice on your bike. You should be a safe and competent cyclist. Take it easy, especially at first, and don't take any chances, given the erratic behavior of drivers and pedestrians.
Weather: I don't ride in the rain or snow, unless I get stuck at work and need to get home.
Worst story: I was hit by a drunk driver who ran a red light in Brooklyn. When I told the police where the driver had gone-she had scurried into a large apartment building-they told me that they couldn't go in there, it would be impossible to find her. The license plate on the car was just numbers scrawled on a piece of cardboard. And of course, when I tracked down the owner (who wasn't the driver), he had no insurance. At least I'm here today to talk about it.
Reasons for riding: I love not being down under. I think of riding as a very social, interactive way to get around. I get to see a lot, meet lots of people, and get exercise for free. All in all it's a good deal. After a day's work-even with my physically demanding job-I find hopping on my bike uplifting. There's no, better way to end the day.

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