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May 2004
Give Your Well-Being a Boost with Biking
By Samantha Knowlden


May 2001
May 2001
Bicycling Events and Resources

May is “Bike Month” in NYC

Get out there, get in shape and have fun with organized bike rides, video screenings, classes and more. Visit www.bikemonthnyc.org for a calendar of city-wide events.

Bridges by Night: Friday, May 14

One of many organized bike rides, join this twilight tour of East River bridges, through three boroughs and over the Queensboro, Pulaski, Williamsburg, Manhattan, and Brooklyn bridges. Meet: 7:30pm at Tramway Plaza (2 Ave at 60 St., Manhattan).

Critical Mass Rides

Bicyclists and skaters meet the last Friday of every month at Union Square North (17 St. and Park Ave) at 7pm to take back the streets and promote bicycle awareness and clean transportation on a fun group ride through the city. See www.times-up.org or call 212-802-8222.

Transportation Alternatives

A nonprofit advocacy group working for better bicycling, walking and public transit, and fewer cars in the NYC area. To learn more about their campaigns or sign up for their free bi-monthly email newsletter, visit www.transalt.org.

Recycle-A-Bicycle

This program, taking root in schools throughout New York, uses donated bikes to teach inner city youth about bike mechanics, while providing them with their first bike and recycling bikes for resale or for shipment to other countries, such as Barbados and Mozambique. Call 212-569-2760 or see www.recycleabicycle.org.

Are you ready to shed those winter blahs and shake out those creaky joints? Get out and move your body and see what it does for your physical and mental well-being. When I feel blue or stressed (or any of those negative emotions that are hard to shake—anger, depression, boredom, lethargy, anxiety, etc.), I hop on my bike and pedal those feelings away. For me, there are four aspects of bicycling (besides the physical) that really help shape up my emotional well-being: riding for environmental beauty, empowerment, exploration and exhilaration.

In New York City, environmental beauty is hard to come by. For me, seeing beauty in my surroundings plays a large role in my emotional well-being, so I make a point of seeking it out—by noticing architectural designs, appreciating an urban tree, taking in the blueness of the sky or the spirit of people hanging out during warm weather, or by noticing the vibrant green and flower-filled “front yards” and gardens. Biking around the city provides these opportunities because you are not enclosed in a car or entombed underground in the subway. You can go farther and faster than walking, yet slow enough to catch the moments of beauty around you. With spring in full blast and summer coming on, it is an especially good time to absorb the beauty of the warm weather, the trees, gardens, waterways and parks.

There is nothing like a little empowerment and camaraderie (and fun) to boost your mental well-being. Try participating in a Critical Mass ride, a festive, monthly, world-wide event where thousands of cyclists and skaters converge to reclaim city streets from cars, while promoting bike awareness and green transportation. Another option is to go on an organized group ride. The Tour de Bronx is a free, fun, family event that takes place in October covering 25 to 40 miles. The feeling of cruising the streets with over 500 people while enjoying the parks, waterways and neighborhoods of the Bronx is quite an experience. Similarly, Bike New York is a 42 mile ride in May that travels through all five boroughs.

If you are afraid to ride in the city because of the traffic, there are a couple of things you can do. Take your bike on the subway to a park. Central Park and Prospect Park in Brooklyn both have bike lanes and are car-free during certain hours—just watch out for the people. Also, going on a group ride provides safety in numbers, plus you can learn tips and tricks from more experienced bikers. After my first mass ride, my confidence in my biking abilities and comfort level around cars soared.

Other ways of feeling empowerment, besides through exercise with your bike include: learning how to fix it yourself by reading a book or taking a workshop on bike repair; and joining a pedestrian advocacy group like Transportation Alternatives and working to make the city more bike and pedestrian friendly.

Throw off that depression and try exploring NYC by bike. Check out neighborhoods you’ve never been to before. Change your routine and find alternative routes to work and school. Don’t have a map? Pick out a familiar tall building in the distance and see if you can find your way there. Use your bike to explore the greenways and parks. Riverside Park is a wonderful park to explore with its beautiful gardens and paths under bridges and down by the river’s edge. It gets kind of wild and interesting in some places above 125th Street. You can ride all the way up through the park and visit the famous little red light house underneath the George Washington Bridge and keep on going up to Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters.

For me, riding over the bridges of New York City are some of the most exhilarating experiences. Think of the spectacular view you get when zipping over a bridge in a car. Now imagine being on a bike, out in the open, in the wind, up at such a height, able to take your time and stop and observe. The view of the Manhattan shoreline from the Brooklyn Bridge at night is simply amazing and dynamic. The buildings with their lighted windows, all piled up at the water’s edge, look like a flow of lava with a semi-cooled gray shell and cracks of molten rock breaking through, about to surge into the water. The George Washington Bridge is another awesome bridge to cross with its views of the New Jersey cliffs and the length of Manhattan.

Most bridges in the NYC area have bike/pedestrian lanes although figuring out how to get onto the bridges can be intimidating and tricky, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area. Going for the first time with someone who knows the way and/or taking time to explore the area and figure out the bike routes and entrances is a good idea. Once you get the hang of it, it’s a piece of cake.

Exhilaration also comes from just moving about the city at a speed faster than walking and going faster than cars stuck in a traffic jam. It comes from being more aware of your environment—the smells, sights and sounds, the subtle differences between neighborhoods, the movement of cars and people. And it comes from knowing that biking promotes your well-being and that of the earth.

Samantha Knowlden is a former Satya Editorial Assistant, and lives in Tucson, Arizona.

 

 


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