Al Roker Bikes to Victory in 2010 Commuter Race

This morning, the hosts of the Today Show played this segment for their 5.4 million viewers. It’s this year’s edition of Transportation Alternatives’ annual Great Commuter Race, where cyclist, transit rider, and motorist vie to see who gets to work first. TA’s Wiley Norvell emailed us to explain how the race made the transition to national TV:

After the tenth-straight cyclist victory, there seemed to be some
skepticism from the fourth estate about how legitimate the race really
was. Well, we took it to some of the most trusted names in America to
prove that biking really does come out on top.

A few observations:

  • Matt Lauer really lays it on thick pretending not to know his way around the subway and the bus.
  • The folks who run Commute by Bike should start polishing their TV pitches.
  • Scoff all you want at the short route (72nd and Broadway to 30 Rock). But that means Meredith Vieira never had to drive through the insane traffic bottlenecks at NYC’s free bridges, while Al Roker took the Broadway bike lane, probably the slowest riding in the city, and still finished first. 
  • PaulCJr

    I wonder why he jumped on a bus? I think the metro rider might have won had he not jumped on the bus.

  • Zmapper

    It appears that in these commute challenges that whenever the transit rider boards a bus as part of the trip, he loses. I think that says something about our local buses. He probably should have just stayed on the 1 until 50th street and got off there.

  • J

    While the bike usually wins, for longer distances, it’s more of a fair fight. My commute from Washington Heights to SoHo is 50 minutes by bike and 35 minutes by subway. It doesn’t hurt that the D skips the entire Upper West Side and goes pretty much door to door for me.

  • Clarence Eckerson

    Where was Tiki Barber?

  • Nice job TA! That’s a PR Grand Slam for the commuting race. While they were trying to make laughs, they actually illustrated a main point of Jane Jacob’s idea of casual encourters with friendly strangers & acquiantences that is the core of the urban experience. Both Matt and Al had small casual encounters. Al had a brief chat at a light with an old teacher and Matt chatted with a stranger waiting for the subway. The driver could only roll down her window and shout “Happy cinco de Mayo” to a group of guys that looked like they might have been making a political statement, but who knows, she was too separated from the streetlife in her car to see.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Awesome and amusing PR.

    For the high-tech opinion, Google says 5 minutes by car and 9 minutes by both transit and walking. But the car trip may not include the time required to park.

  • Al Roker is a Bromtonaut? Cool!

    Nice of them to cover Al’s conversation with his old high school teacher. One of the best things about riding a bike (or walking or taking mass transit) is bumping into people you know.

  • paulb

    Call me backward, I didn’t know Al Roker had lost so much weight. Brompton, tremendous weight loss: very cool.

    Cycling trips for real commuters in fact go faster than in these comparos because on tv the cyclist can’t float the red lights. Same thing happened to Richard Hammond crossing London a couple years ago–and he still won that Top Gear challenge.

    If anyone’s compiling statistics: My commute, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn to west 18th street, is 5 1/2 miles one way and the subway vs bike ETs door to door are so close, depending on subway delays and headwinds or traffic, and my middle-aged energy level. Anywhere from 35 to 50 minutes.

  • Clarence,

    You know damn well that in his 14-miles-per-gallon-city Cadillac Escalade, Tiki had to double back to 11th Avenue to find a gas station, and with the difficulty of fitting that behemoth into a standard parking spot, may still be circling midtown.

  • No, the trip chosen is really bad for cars – the diagonal intersections on Broadway are perpetually congested. A good trip for cars would involve a lot of freeway or de facto freeway distance (e.g. 96th/Broadway to the Battery), and a good trip for bikes would have a big east-west component (e.g. 72nd/Broadway to 72nd/1st).

    The type of trip chosen is one of the better ones for transit: it’s mostly north-south, and it’s on a frequent subway line. I have no idea why the transit rider chose to take the bus; if he’d taken the subway, he’d have won. Taking buses in Manhattan in a transit race is the equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot in a marathon.

  • Lisa

    Glenn, your comment is EXACTLY what I was thinking. You could just feel Al and Matt’s connectivity to people. Meredith was in her little capsule. So telling for why we need to encourage people to use their feet and power or jump on public transit. Very cool.

  • Roker had gastric by-pass surgery. Awesome if he rides the brompton regularly. Probably does because folders are squirrely at first in the steering and they probably wouldn’t have just thrown him on one.

    -j

  • Al rode a folding black Brompton (made in England) in the race, but then in the talking segment they featured a red Dahon (made in China). Maybe next year he can ride a Worksman (made in Queens).

    He definitely really rides a Brompton regularly because it takes time to get used to those 20-inch wheels. For the first week, or so, you look like a 7-year-old who just took off the training wheels. Eventually, you get used to the geometry.

  • Michele Chavez

    That was great seeing Al on a folder!

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