Sick of standing on a packed subway in the mornings, or starting your day stuck in traffic? Advocacy group Transportation Alternatives wants you to try another way to head to work: biking.
In honor of Bike Month in May, Transportation Alternatives (TransAlt) is once again hosting its Bike Commuter Challenge, for which people swap their normal commute for one on two wheels.
About 3,000 people from all different workplaces across the city are expected to sign up to participate, said Matthew Cox, partnerships manager with TransAlt. They’ll compete to see which office will have the highest percentage of bike commuters throughout the month.
“We see it as a way to get people to take cycling to work as a serious form of transportation, who haven’t previously,” said Cox. “Obviously a lot of people in New York already do that, but this is a chance [for cyclists] to reach out to coworkers and act as ambassadors for cycling to work.”
More than 800,000 New Yorkers ride a bike regularly, according to NYC DOT, and that’s a figure that has been growing compared to years past. Cox has noticed the change.
“Cycling in New York City has had a fight,” he said. “It’s struggled to be considered a normal thing that normal people did.”
That’s becoming less and less true, though, he added, and he hopes the Bike Commuter Challenge changes that notion even more.
“Especially now with the subway system in crisis, we’re seeing a consistent decline in bus ridership, the L train is going to be shutting down — people need a reliable way to get to work, and we think cycling is the answer for that,” he said.
Tips on biking to work
Cox knows some people may be wary of cycling in the city or sweating before they head into the office, but he has some suggestions to offset those concerns.
TransAlt provides tips on how to bike to work without getting (too) sweaty, like taking one day to bring in a few extra outfits so you can change once in the office.
If you’re worried about safety, start a bike chain, he said. Since your coworkers might be doing this challenge with you, buddy up and there’s sure to be at least one experienced biker amongst the group that can lead the way.
You can also incorporate cycling into just a section of your commute if you aren’t ready to dive in helmet-first.
“We aren’t saying have to leave your apartment in the Bronx and bike to the Financial District,” Cox said. “Maybe where you normally make a transfer, hop on a Citi Bike instead and ride the last couple of miles. It’s all about giving it a shot.”
People commonly have a “last mile problem,” he noted, where you’re almost home, but the bus is stuck in traffic or your last transfer is met with train delays. Cycling can be a solution for those final, problematic pieces of your commute.
On May 15 and 16, TransAlt will set up stations along popular bike routes in all five boroughs, like the West Side Highway bike path and the East River Bikeway. People will pass out coffee and Clif Bars (a Bike Commuter Challenge sponsor), so you can stop, rest and mingle with other riders along the way.
The company with the most people biking to work will win prizes like snack baskets, bike lights, REI gear and more. Registration for the challenge is open all month long at bikemonth.nyc, so if you don’t bike to work right away, don’t worry — it’s all about just trying it out and giving cycling “a fair shake,” Cox said.
Biking by the numbers in New York City
828,000 New Yorkers ride a bike regularly, meaning several times a month
That’s 140,000 more than just five years ago
More than 460,000 cycling trips are made each day in New York City
About 86,000 adult New Yorkers, 2.5% of all commuting residents, usually bike to work or school
Cycling to work has grown nearly twice as fast in NYC as in other major cities (70% growth in NYC compared to 37% growth in peer cities)
16.3 million Citi Bike trips were taken in 2017