Each workday morning, Borough of Manhattan Community College Public Affairs web designer Rob Gizis rides a single-speed hybrid bicycle the three-to-four-mile trek from Prospect Heights, Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan. Doesn’t matter if it’s bitter cold or sizzling hot out, he still pedals across Pacific St. to Vanderbilt St., and from there, glides down Dekalb Ave. to Downtown Brooklyn where he makes his way onto the bike path of the Brooklyn Bridge.
“I try to leave around 8:15,” says Gizis, noting that it takes just a few minutes longer to get to the building across the street from Fiterman Hall, where his office is located.
He says mornings on the bridge aren’t so crowded by tourists, and although it’s sometimes a breezy ride, he finds it invigorating. Besides that, the views are majestic.
“Generally speaking, since I’ve been riding, I’ve got more energy at work, and that’s one of my favorite parts of it, I’ve got more bounce throughout the day,” Gizis says.
The number of New Yorkers who commute by bicycle to work or school has increased rapidly in recent years. In fact, according to recent US Census data, the number of cycling commuters in the city has doubled since 2009, thanks in part to the vast network of bike lanes. Washington D.C. was the only city to post a larger gain.
Where to lock up?
But worries over where to lock up a bike on the street often discourages those who might be on the fence about pedaling versus taking the C Train.
Fortunately for BMCC students, faculty and staff there are a number of NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) provided bike racks populating the sidewalks surrounding the school’s buildings.
There’s also an indoor bike storage facility with space for up to 70 bikes in the ground level of Fiterman Hall. That’s where Gizis leaves his bike.
How indoor bike storage came to BMCC
The indoor bike storage space was the result of April 2009 NYC Council legislation that adopted a NYC Department of City Planning proposal that required new buildings under construction in the city to include an indoor bike storage facility.
Scott Anderson, BMCC vice president of Administration and Planning says he and the college wanted to provide additional space for cycling commuters in addition to the indoor bike garage.
So he and his team utilized its healthy working relationship with DOT and requested that the city install additional bike racks as well as seating areas for students and other members of the public who come into the area each day.
The result of his efforts was a saturation of bike racks around the BMCC community along Chambers, Harrision and North Moore streets. There’s also an outdoor bike rack for faculty and staff in the BMCC parking lot that Anderson says will soon be expanded.
The long commute
But as Anderson notes, around 68 percent of BMCC students commute significant distances, many from outer boroughs to the school’s campus. On any given day in winter, the school’s bike racks and indoor storage facility are half full at best.
But, he anticipates that with increased awareness, coupled with cycling’s increased popularity further encouraged by warmer weather come spring, more people will utilize the racks and storage space.
“Ultimately, that’s why you see so many bike racks around our buildings,” he said.
Anderson, a cyclist himself, says the racks and indoor facility aren’t always filled to capacity because many students and staff are comfortable with alternative modes of transportation such as the bike share program or mass transit.
Nonetheless, he wants to make certain that both students and staff are aware the racks as well as the indoor space are available for use on a daily basis for those who choose to ride their own bikes.
The greater sustainability mission
BMCC’s efforts at securing the additional bike-friendly infrastructure have been applauded by those who say biking is one piece of a bigger sustainability mission being encouraged both by the city and CUNY.
By providing ample bike racks and storage space, BMCC had put in place the necessary infrastructure to further encourage students, faculty and staff to ride a bike to school or work.
She said anything CUNY staff and students can do to make more use of bikes and a mode of transportation helps the institution do its part in terms of reducing the city’s carbon footprint and ultimately, reduce the negative impact of climate change.
“Not only that, it’s an easy and fun way to get around, “ Case says.
More alert throughout the day
Although people cycle for various reasons, there’s no disputing the health benefits according to BMCC Health Education Professor Gloria McNamara.
“Biking can offer several mental health benefits, such as enhanced self-esteem, creativity, focus and pleasure,” said McNamara.
She said cycling can help facilitate effective cardiorespiratory functioning and it can increase muscle strength as well as endurance of the lower extremities.
McNamara cited U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ minimal recommendation of performing 150 minutes of physical activity weekly as a prophylactic measure against heart disease or undesirable weight gain
“Lastly, should one start cycling at BMCC they might go anywhere,” said McNamara.