Winter 1999-2000, p.20

Commuter of the Month: Frederica Johnson

Age: 57
Neighborhood: Midtown
Occupation: Personal Shopper
What kind of bike do you ride?
I think it's an old Lady Schwinn. I'm not sure of the name. I do know that when I take it into the bicycle shop the guys always "oh" and "aaaah" because I guess it is the oldest bike they have coming into the shop on a regular basis. It is hard to get parts for, so it is sort of pieced together from different brands.
How did you get your start cycling in NYC?:
Twenty years ago I took a job which didn't pay much. I was looking for something that would cut any costs. Biking to work was ideal.
How do your coworkers and clients react to your cycling?
They think I'm eccentric, but that's all right, because I'm making a positive statement. There is no better way to get around New York, quickly and affordably.
Essential riding gear?
When I started commuting, I was working as a buyer in the Garment Center. So I had to dress nicely. I always ride in high heels and a suit. Actually I'm so used to riding in high heels that I find it hard to ride in sneakers, because the heels grasp the pedals much better. About five years ago, I took a fall on Park Avenue - and was lucky I didn't get run over. Now I always wear a helmet. A year ago I took another terrible fall on Park Avenue. I ended up breaking my jaw (didn't get a run in my pantyhose, though) but thank God I had helmet on.
What changes have you noticed in cycling during the past 20 years?
There are a lot more women executives riding to work. Going up 6th Avenue any night between 4 and 7 I'll be passed by at least a half a dozen women who are obviously some sort of executives. Also, the messengers have become more considerate, in the last few years. I find most of them to be very considerate of other bikers, which they weren't a decade ago when they first started out.
What would make cycling better in NYC?
I'd like to see more parking spots. It's really a problem, especially here in the Garment Center. There's not that many street signs to lock your bike to anymore, and no bike racks where they'd be helpful. I've had my bike chained up by the Waldorf when I locked it to a city sign near the hotel. I had to find their security, get a lecture and finally they unlocked it. This happened to me several other times on Central Park South. I don't see how they get away with it - those signs aren't theirs to begin with.
What are the downsides to cycling in the City?
I don't think that there are any downsides! In 20 years I've had a couple of accidents and a couple of bad experiences, but nothing so traumatizing that I wouldn't go right back and do it again. Even when I was hit, I was impressed by all the people that helped me out. Two UPS men stopped all the traffic on Park Avenue and helped me pick up my bike. These things build awareness. To me bicycling makes sense, I'd like to see more people riding.

Read more commuter profiles.