Why Jessica Rides

Here’s the 13th portrait in Streetsblog’s weekly “Why I Ride” series.

Photo copyright Dmitry Gudkov

Jessica is the fitness editor for Prevention magazine. She’s lived in New York for ten years, but has only been commuting from Brooklyn to Manhattan for the last couple of months. Not that she hasn’t been riding. She’s ticked up countless laps in Prospect Park on her road bike over the years, and even had a heavy old beater — a 1973 3-speed — that she’d take out occasionally. She was just never that comfortable riding in traffic.

Recently she was researching and pitching a story about the health benefits of daily physical activity and how much of the rest of the world gets more of it (through walking and biking) than do most Americans. It occurred to her that maybe she could try riding to work. At the advice of a friend, she opted not to dive right into street riding but to ease in bit by bit. This started as a series of weekend rides around Brooklyn. Right away Jessica was pleasantly surprised by how much the network of bike lanes had been expanded since the last time she rode in the streets. The fact that she could ride from her house to the Manhattan Bridge almost exclusively on marked lanes made the whole endeavor feel much safer. She also picked up a new, more commute-friendly 8-speed bike. Not too long after that, in the company of a seasoned commuting friend, Jessica made her first trip over the Manhattan Bridge to her Midtown East office.

Even then, she didn’t dive in. The first few times, she would ride to work, take the subway back, then ride home from work the following day. But as her experience grew, so did her confidence. On her blog, she has detailed some of her experiences, mistakes, and discoveries: watching out for potholes, not overloading your baskets, what to wear to the office, the importance of downshifting. To her surprise, she found that only a few weeks in, she was already giving advice and pointers on routes and navigating traffic to other new cyclists.

“It’s just such an easy way to get around,” she says. “And even if I don’t make it to the gym, I’m doing something good for myself.”

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