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And now to an increasingly popular method of traveling around New York City. This summer, the city completed its plan to create 200 miles of bike lanes. New York has been labeled bike-friendly by the League of American Bicyclists, and the number of people biking to work has doubled there in the last six years. NPR's Jo Ella Straley wanted to know what is driving an estimated 23,000 New Yorkers a day to hop on the bike.
JO ELLA STRALEY: One thing I have to say right off the bat: I don't live in New York, and I never have. I knew I'd need a guide to this world of urban commuters, so I turned to a man who is well known in the New York cycling community, the blogger BikeSnobNYC. BikeSnob insisted I not divulge his real name. He feels being anonymous gives him more freedom as a blogger.
"BIKE SNOB NYC" (Blogger): I think that you should be able to wear Spandex and use obscenities in the workplace, and I think that if everybody rode their bikes to work, productivity would be up across the board.
STRALEY: I wanted to find some of these people on their way to work. So BikeSnob took me to the Williamsburg Bridge, a major artery for commuters. Among the cyclists trickling off the bridge and into Manhattan traffic was Cathy Latham(ph), who was making the trip for the first time.
Ms. CATHY LATHAM: You're so high up, and you can see the whole city. It's so worthwhile. Like, you're missing all of that on the train. You're just going underground.
STRALEY: Only a few days before, she'd borrowed her mom's bike and gone for a spin in Central Park. It reminded her that cycling is essentially fun. So today, she decided against the subway.
Ms. LATHAM: This way, you get to see, like, all the buildings in your neighborhood, everything that's going on - really get a sense of the city.
STRALEY: The Bike Snob put the ride into context.
BIKE SNOB NYC: For the first time, you rode from Brooklyn over the bridge, through some of the busiest traffic in Manhattan, over Delancey Street to work for the first time, and how was it? Did you like it?
Ms. LATHAM: Yeah, I loved it. It was great. I gave my roommate my unlimited metro card today. I'm like, here, have fun with it.
STRALEY: So here's a way to get to work that's fun, that gets you some exercise, it's free, you don't have to buy a carbon offset to feel better about yourself. Why wouldn't people do this?
BIKE SNOB NYC: There's a lot of things to be afraid of or that you think you should be afraid of. There's getting your bike stolen. There's the motor vehicle traffic. There's people judging you, people judging your equipment, people making fun of you, like me.
STRALEY: The city can't help you very much with the problem of trying to look cool, but the city does think about your safety. Janette Sadik-Khan is New York's Department of Transportation commissioner. She says the new bike lanes are working.
Commissioner JANETTE SADIK-KHAN (Department of Transportation, New York City): If you rode on the protected bike path along 9th Avenue in Manhattan, since we've implemented it, we've had a 50 percent decrease in the number of accidents on that corridor alone. And so, you know, as we're engineering our streets differently, building in new mobility into an old network, we're also seeing a really big down payment on improved safety.
STRALEY: Then there's the matter of theft. The city has done something about that too. It's just passed a law that makes it easier for employees to get bike access in their places of work. Commissioner Sadik-Khan says she hopes this will entice more bike commuters.
Commissioner SADIK-KHAN: The number one reason that people don't bike to work is that they're worried that they can't park their bike and have it there at the end of the day when they need it. So we're removing that artificial cap, we think, on cycling, and we think that that's going to be a great way to have more and more people bike to work.
STRALEY: So your bike is less likely to be stolen, and you're less likely to get whacked by a car, but there's one more vitally important issue for bicycle commuters in an urban setting: personal hygiene.
If you use your own energy to transport yourself, there's the problem of sweat. Few offices provide showers and locker rooms for the self-propelled commuter.
Back on the street in Lower Manhattan, Dan Velochan(ph) and Casey Fisher(ph) have found a way to get around the problem of getting too hot on the way into Lehman Brothers from Brooklyn.
Mr. DAN VELOCHAN: We actually ride a single bike. I took an old mountain bike and put an electric kit on it and added a banana seat with a backrest for her to sit on. Well, I ride, and she kind of relaxes and...
Ms. CASEY FISHER: I just sit. I put my feet up on the back. It's pretty nice, actually.
Mr. VELOCHAN: If it starts to get hot, or it's a very hot day, I'll use the motor.
STRALEY: The ingenuity of this approach appealed to our Bike Snob.
BIKESNOBNYC: You've got to love the spirit. You've got to love that this guy, he's mechanical, he's handy, he put that thing together. He doesn't want to get to Lehman Brothers sweaty. So he uses the electrical assistance, genius.
STRALEY: Yet the sweat issue doesn't dry up so easily. A solution, says the Bike Snob, is the need for an enormous cultural shift.
BIKE SNOB NYC: I would like to see a greater acceptance in our culture, if I may get incredibly grandiose right now, of general dirtiness and slovenliness, because the entire notion that we have to build a transportation infrastructure around allowing people to show up to work clean in suits, why? Who cares?
STRALEY: He can dream, but until the day a little or a lot of perspiration is accepted at the office, New Yorkers might want to come to work with a change of clothes.
Jo Ella Straley, NPR News.
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