By Dani Simons | photo credit Motivate/Lars Klove
I first moved to New York nearly eleven years ago. I took a job with a non-profit called Transportation Alternatives. I was going to be promoting bike riding in New York City. My mother was petrified.
Before taking the job I had ridden a bike exactly once in New York, and that was for the Five Boro Bike Tour, where they close down the streets and you’re moving slowly through a sea of thousands of other people on bikes.
My first week on the job I biked 75 miles in one day. That was further than I had ever pedaled in my life, let alone in New York City traffic. I was exhausted physically and mentally. And I was hooked.
I was planning bike tours and other special events for Transportation Alternatives (T.A.), so I spent a lot of time “scouting routes” — aka biking around to different neighborhoods and figuring out where our riders would enjoy visiting. I was getting to know my new city in a way that’s impossible if you only ever poke your head out at a subway stop. I started to understand how one neighborhood connected to another. I found the best spots to eat West Indian food in Ozone Park, the best old-school bakery in Mott Haven, the “hidden” beaches and parks. Soon I knew more about these spots than my friends who had lived in New York for years and years.
That first year was tough. I was adjusting to a new job, a new city. I went through a terrible breakup. I moved to a new apartment. But biking kept me sane. It was through biking that I came to love New York City. I know this sounds crazy, but sometimes when I’d pedal across the Brooklyn Bridge, I’d look back at the skyline and think, “I love you.”
So much has changed for the city and for me personally since then. I’ve changed jobs, moved to Brooklyn, and gotten hitched. The city has added over 430 miles of new bike lanes since 2007. They installed the very first parking protected bike lane in the country — then they installed nearly 40 miles of them. And in 2013, NYC launched Citi Bike, the largest bike share program in the country.
Today I work for Motivate, the parent company of Citi Bike, and the operator of some of the largest bike share systems in the country, including Capital Bikeshare in the D.C. area, Hubway in the Boston area, Divvy in Chicago, and the Bay Area Bike Share in the California Bay Area.
I am proud of what bike share is doing to make it easier than ever to start riding a bike in cities. You don’t have to worry about buying, storing, or maintaining your own bike. You can use it to get to and from work, or you can just take it out on the weekends to meet friends when the traffic is calmer.
Here in New York, Citi Bike has nearly 90,000 Annual Members, and over 16.5 million trips taken in a little under two years. And we’re expanding, doubling in size from 6,000 to 12,000 bikes by 2017. Citi Bke is starting the expansion later this year, with new stations in Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bed-Stuy, and Long Island City.
There’s never been a better time to ride a bike in New York City. Are you ready to get started?
Here are a few tips:
Biking to work? Ride slowly, it’s not a race. You’re still getting exercise, and this way you’ll arrive at work fresh. Still worried? Stash some face wipes and a little deodorant at work and you’ll be good to go.
Want to find a good route? The City of New York provides an awesome bike map, download it or pick one up for FREE at a local bike shop. Need more help? Ask a friend who’s already biking to do a dry-run with you on a Sunday, to test out a good route to and from work.
Just out for a weekend spin? Some of my favorite places to ride in NYC include: 1) the Shore Parkway Greenway in Brooklyn, great views of the Bay and you can ride beneath the Verrazano Bridge; 2) the Hutchinson River Greenway in the Bronx, connect to the Pelham Parkway Greenway for a car-free route to City Island; and of course, 3) the classic West Side Greenway, convenient to Manhattan and great river views.
Don’t have your own bike? Shameless plug, try a Citi Bike day-pass, you can purchase one at any of our over 332 (and growing) stations. Or if you’re ready to take the plunge you can sign up for an Annual Membership online. Unlimited short trips are included whether you sign-up for a day or the whole year. The bikes are one-size fits all with adjustable seat height. They’re a bit like a beach cruiser, offering a steady, comfortable ride.
And don’t forget:
In NYC, cyclists must:
· Yield to pedestrians
· Stay off the sidewalk
· Obey traffic lights
· Ride with traffic
Dani Simons is passionate about sustainable transportation. She currently serves as the Communications & External Affairs Director for Motivate, the nation’s largest bikeshare operator, and the parent company of Citi Bike, New York’s bike share program. She previously served as the Director of Marketing & External Affairs for Citi Bike.
Prior to joining bikeshare, Dani was the Director of Strategic Communications for the New York City Department of Transportation under Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. There she managed projects ranging from the Agency’s online communications to advertising and marketing campaigns that were seen by millions of New Yorkers. She also organized special events and awards, and started the Summer Streets program, where NYC closed over 7 miles of city streets to auto traffic and opened it up to tens of thousands of people to walk, bike, and play.
Prior to that, Dani was the Deputy Director of Transportation Alternatives, New York’s leading bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organization. She was responsible for Communications, Development and Special Events.
She has a Masters of Environmental Science from the Yale School of Forestry and the Environment. She is a Brooklynite and a daily bike commuter.