Apr 6, 2011

Bicycling: A Beginning

We are thrilled to introduce our readers to our first columnist here at Positively Staten Island, Meredith Sladek.  Meredith lives on the North Shore and commutes each and everyday on her bike to Manhattan.  She will be covering the bike scene on Staten Island.  Meredith is the organizer for the Transportation Alternatives Staten Island Volunteer Committee.  She can be reached at meredith@transalt.org.

A large number of Bike Commuters and recreational riders exist on Staten Island, and are largely ignored in favor of our car society, which has been created by our lack of adequate public transportation.  But with recent events, and the ongoing green initiatives, we will be bringing you any and all Bicycling information there is for Staten Island.


Bicycling: A Beginning

When I was younger, like many, I dreamed of flying.  In my mind, I would start to run.  As my legs stretched, more ground started passing beneath my leaps until I was running upon nothing at all, just sweeping my legs back and forth, tiptoeing over the treetops at the speed of sound.  In waking life, the sensation is replicated as I turn my bicycle onto Bay Street every day during my morning commute.

            I have ridden a bicycle through the streets of Manhattan for three years, commuting from Staten Island to Midtown since 2009 (and previously, from Brooklyn).  I began my two-wheeled ways in Kirksville, a rural community in northeast Missouri, where some back roads were not even gravel but dirt.  It wasn't always necessary to look both ways for traffic; traffic was almost too sparse for precaution.  I found my chipped, rusty yellow Schwinn abandoned in the backyard of a deserted house, overgrown with brush and wildflowers, and pedaled it to class to avoid an astronomically pricey campus parking pass. 

Upon moving to New York, I deliberately left my bicycle in Missouri.  It never crossed my mind to ride in the city, as I was put off enough by the pulsing mass of traffic that bellowed, belched, and swarmed before me when I merely stood on the sidewalk; I was petrified at the thought of putting myself into the mix.  No stranger to the rumors and reports that New York drivers were some of the worst in the country, I knew that people rode bikes through Manhattan all the time, but I didn't think I had it in me to be one of them.  I contented myself with catching the train or walking, though it was frustrating to miss and even worse when it (and I) was late; the occasional bout of achy feet didn't help, either.

My first impression of Staten Island, after the ferry ride and during the bus trip down Bay Street, was the striking similarity it bore to the Midwestern land I’d left behind.  Ample trees lined the streets and blanketed the hilltops; stately Victorian homes peeked through the branches. Perhaps I’d finally found a compromise between insomniac Manhattan and narcoleptic Missouri.

It was on these streets that I felt comfortable cycling again.  After calculating my savings from a monthly Metrocard, it was motivation enough to begin bicycling to work every day, and every day I feel fortunate and energetic to do so.  The revolutions of the pedals are my soaring leaps, and miles are reduced to a few full sprints as the wind ushers me through the people, the heat, the metal, the energy; I am a part of it and apart from it, and I am flying. 

Meredith Sladek
Transportation Alternatives Staten Island Volunteer Committee

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