Summer 1999, p.13

Commuter of the Month: "Fireman" Nick Malter

Age: 34
Occupation: Firefighter, Engine Company 249, Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn
Neighborhood: Windsor Terrace
T.A. Member Since: 1993
Years Commuting: 20, & cycling for 30 years
Daily Commute: Four miles roundtrip, all year round. During the summer, I wear FDNY regulation blue shorts, a shirt and low-top Converse sneakers. I strap my fireproof gear and firefighting helmet to the rear rack of my bike, and during the winter I wear them. It's warm!
Bike: Bridgestone MB-S mountain bike, bought used at a police auction.
What do your fellow firefighters think? It's a novelty because I'm particularly hard-core about it. There are other firemen who bike to work, although the majority of firemen live outside of the city.
Biking on the job: I am assigned to one particular firehouse, but occasionally you have to "take a detail." When that happens, I get on my bike with my firefighting gear and ride to a different firehouse. Occasionally you have to show up at the Fire Academy as well, so I ride my bike there.
How 'bout weekend riding? At the most I have four trips to work per week and I live two miles from my firehouse, so I still have some motivation to ride on the weekend. I visit my parents on the Upper West Side every week. When I go riding for fun, I take my 1 1/2-year-old son, Teddy, and try to stick to the greenways for safety.
What improvements have you noticed? There's been good progress this year with the reduction of the car hours [in Prospect Park]. I guess that closing it totally would be nicer, but I can tolerate two hours of traffic per rush hour. I'm also pleased they closed an entrance to the park at 16th Street, so it is now just an exit.
What raises your ire as cyclist? The New York Post's "ghostwriter" recently wrote about the State bill to let the City lower the speed limit. To prove that this was, in his opinion, stupid, he drove around the city at 15 mph and found that it was a harrowing experience. Of course, he blames the slow driving for his experience, instead of the hundreds of speeding and reckless drivers. Then he claims that speed humps are bad because they are an obstacle to emergency vehicles. Well, I drive emergency vehicles every day, and I am completely in favor of speed humps. Speed humps do not affect emergency response times in any way.
Is cycling in the city too dangerous? Being a fireman, I respond to a lot of car accidents. It really reminds you of how many accidents there are. All the time, especially in the summer, we see crashes involving cyclists and pedestrians being hit by cars. I've never been in an accident, but I try not to be too cavalier about it, because I know it's just luck.
Will you keep riding? Definitely - it's kind of ingrained in me. The benefits of it outweigh the danger. The ride to and from work is the highlight of my day.

Read more commuter profiles.