To commute by bicycle is to combine the best of all transport options—the efficacy of wheels while connecting to sun and air. One doesn't whiz by the world at 60mph nor plod along, but instead keeps tempo with a city’s natural rhythm.
Now, Transportation Alternatives (TransAlt) is adding one more element to make commuting by bicycle in New York even sweeter—a sense of community.
While most riders dread their subway commute, there can be—on a very good day—a feeling of ‘We’re all in this together.’ It’s possible to feel a shared sense of determination, as the subway cars sway, a feeling that everyone is moving forward together one stop at a time.
I’ve been biking to work for over a year now and loving it. However, it is a notably solo experience. I was excited, then, to share my morning commute with fellow cyclists during TransAlt’s Bike Train on June 20th.
These events bring cyclists together and help them feel comfortable traveling the Brooklyn-to-Manhattan route in advance of the L Train Shutdown.
At the very first Bike Train in April, TransAlt’s Senior Organizer, Luke Ohlson explained, “The L Train is going to shut down in just one year from now and we’re going to see a 300% increase in cycling. We’re going to have a lot of people getting on bikes to ride to work for the first time.
“A lot of people that we talk to about this issue say, ‘I would ride a bike but I don’t feel safe.’ ‘I would ride a bike but I don’t know the network that well.’ This is an opportunity for people to meet and ride over the bridge and get to work.”
As dozens of riders assembled at the entrance of the Williamsburg Bridge, the buzz of enthusiasm was as effective as morning coffee. It was invigorating to know we would travel in unison before diverging toward our separate offices. It was encouraging to part of something bigger and share a love of cycling with so many strangers.
While we waited to depart, I spoke with nine people about their favorite aspects of commuting by bike. Though we wouldn’t travel together every day, I wanted to remember what others were enjoying as we passed each other en route.
I’ve added my own favorite to the list as well, so here you have it—ten reasons to love commuting by two wheels:
- “I love riding on the Williamsburg Bridge and feeling a cool breeze on a hot day.”
- “I like bunny hopping curbs!”
- “My favorite part is seeing kids riding school—especially if they’re bunny hopping curbs.”
- “I like the exercise.”
- “I love the unintentional exercise.”
- “I really like traffic because it requires focus and focus makes you free.”
- “I love getting some sun!”
- “I bike along Broadway in Queens and it’s a little nostalgic to go up the street every day. I always feel like the Godfather when the guy gives him that orange. I know the street so well and I’ve traveled it for so long. It feels like home.”
- “My favorite part is going over the Williamsburg Bridge and crossing from Brooklyn to Manhattan. The colors and the views are amazing.”
- “The best part is descending the bridge into Manhattan. Most riders stop pedaling and just roll along. I feel like we all become part of the same flow of energy. If you relax and let it blur, it looks like we’re synchronized and coasting down the bridge as one.”
Next year, when the number of cyclists crossing the bridge triples, it’s heartening to know the number of reasons will triple as well.
While our morning commute may not be synchronized like our subway-riding counterparts, we as New York’s cyclists share a common bond nonetheless. We share a love of taking in the details of the city while moving quickly through it. We share a love of using the morning commute as a way to connect with the world and ourselves.
Thank you, TransAlt, for giving us the opportunity to connect with each other as well.