City gearing up as more cyclists commute to work and ride for fun
Just a few years ago, Caroline Samponaro said she felt "like a renegade" as one of a few people biking to work in a sea of motorists. Now, she finds around 15 others waiting with her at red lights as she commutes from Bedford-Stuyvesant into Manhattan.
Samponaro, director of bicycle advocacy for Transportation Alternatives, said she likes the camaraderie of having other riders around. "I do always feel safer on a street when I’m riding with other cyclists as opposed to alone," she said.
Samponaro, 33, credits the growing number of cyclists to new bike lanes and parking racks installed by the Department of Transportation throughout the city.
Since 2007, the city has added more than 250 miles of bike lanes, and the number of New Yorkers commuting to work on a bike has more than doubled to nearly 19,000 people, according to Department of Transportation statistics.
More than 30,000 people took to city streets Sunday for the annual TD Five Boro Bike Tour, a 40-mile route that weaves from downtown Manhattan to Staten Island. The tour’s organizers started a lottery for spots this year after tickets to last year’s event sold out in less than a day.
Chris Wogas, president of bike rental company Bike and Roll, said his company sold out the 900 bike rentals it had available weeks ahead of the tour.
Wogas said his business has grown with increasing demand for bike rentals. He’s gone from 50 bikes five years ago to roughly 2,000 today.
The city will offer its own bike-share program starting this summer, spreading 10,000 bicycles around Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn on 600 racks.
Emilia Crotty, who heads education operations for Bike New York — the group that organized Sunday’s bike tour — said she expects bike sharing to “change the face of the city,” adding: “People are now thinking how they can make it part of their life.”
Malikha Mallette, a radio personality and host on Power 105.1, said although she loved riding in Sunday’s bike tour, she doesn’t think she’ll start commuting to work on a bike anytime soon.
“I’m still very frightened of riding in the street with cars,” she said after finishing Sunday. “Between double parked cars and cab drivers, I’m not sure I’m as skilled to deal with elements.”
Samponaro, of Transportation Alternatives, said the city needs to do more to help riders feel safe.
“As it stands now, there are a lot of streets in New York City where you take your life into your hands riding a bike or walking with your kids. That shouldn’t be the case,” she said, adding that more protected bike lanes and better police enforcement of traffic rules could make . “If we wanna have a city where people can get around in more active ways – whether that’s walking or biking – then it has to be safe to do those things.”