Two months ago, I did what I’ve wanted to do ever since I moved to NYC: I bought a bike. Though there are plenty of people who think I’m crazy for biking the busy streets of Brooklyn and boroughs beyond, I can honestly say it’s one of best decisions I’ve made in the year since moving here from North Carolina after college.
Obviously, there are serious physical health benefits to commuting by bike to work and to getting out and biking whenever I feel like it (which is a lotreally, I’m obsessed). My legs, core, arms, even wrists and hands, feel stronger. I’ve noticed fewer aches and pains in my knees and feet, as I put less weight on my joints while cycling to places I used to walk to. And apparently, new full-time bicycle commuters can expect to lose an average of 13 pounds within the first year of commuting!
My body isnt the only thing benefitting from cycling, as I’ve noticed a change in my psychological health too. It feels so much better to muscle my way to work, observing morning life on the streets of BK than to travel awkwardly with the bustling (grumpy) crowds through tunnels in the ground. Don’t get me wrong; I think public transportation is fabulous, the subway is literally a masterpiece, and there are stories I could tell that I sincerely don’t think could happen anywhere but the NYC subway—it’s full of interesting people. However, personally, I think feeling the sunshine on your face while your hair whips through the wind and your body pulses with adrenaline will typically always beat being squashed up against someone who you’re pretty sure hasn’t showered in a week. When I get to work, I feel alert, energized, and accomplished. Endorphins are a wonderful way to start the day.
Then there are the financial and environmental advantages to biking to work. Bikes are cheaper than cars and public transportation, that’s a given. No car payments, no buying gas, no unexpected car repairs. I traded my $116 monthly unlimited metro card in and haven’t looked back. Sure, there are days when I need to use the subway because somewhere is just too far to bike or the weather is horrible, but I’d say I save at least $70 a month by choosing a bike over public transportation. As expensive as we all know New York life is (and as young and poor as I personally am) this makes a difference. It’s way easier to find a “parking space” for your bike than for your car and you deal with less traffic issues as a biker. And, interestingly enough, there are plenty of places that I can get to 5-15 minutes faster on bike than by taking the subway or by driving in traffic—my workplace included. Bonus? Biking significantly reduces your carbon footprint, making NYC air a tiny bit fresher.
All this is not to say that there haven’t been times on my bike that would make my mother cringeand possibly come to Brooklyn and steal my bike so I could never use it again. New York City is the most populous city in America and that means there are a ton of people to run over and get run over by. Nothing wakes you up like almost being knocked silly by a massive box full of Bryer’s ice cream gallons as it falls from a delivery truck at 9am in the morning. (The driver should have at least given me a gallon for the heart attack I had, right?) So yes, biking in NYC is dangerous. If you’re going to bike, wear a helmet, stay focused, learn to read the body language of pedestrians, follow the same traffic laws as cars do, and please don’t text and pedal!
For me, the benefits of biking far outweigh the risks. The city is my gym. Biking during NYC spring is glorious and took me out of my long winter funk. The joy I get from speeding down the Manhattan Bridge bike path while overlooking the Manhattan skyline after I’ve worked tirelessly to get up the initial hill is unrivaled. I’m getting to know the city in ways that I couldn’t dream of doing underground on the subway and exploring corners of the city that I wouldn’t have been able to on foot. Every day before and after work, I get to partake in a little adventure. I get to play a real life version of Frogger and make my way through the maze of humanity that is NYC. Now that I’ve played this thrilling game, I have no intentions of quitting anytime soon!