I’ve been biking in New York for 11 years now. It’s not always easy to walk everywhere so I decided I needed a bike. I bought a trike so that I could take my son and dog with me. The one I bought was such a piece of junk! I ran into George Bliss from The HUB and we started up this great relationship. He ended up building all my trikes that I’ve used for years to carry my groceries, do all my market runs, carry my dogs and take my kids to school. I could move all kinds of things with my trike, even furniture! George has this great vision of how bikes enhance life in the city. He is definitely ahead of his time.I ride bikes everywhere. All my bikes are three-speed and they have kickstands and baskets. I have a Brooklyn Bowery bike that I decorated with colorful paracord. I like to decorate all my bikes. My bikes are like cars and are the key to living in New York City. No more sitting around in traffic in a cab. You just go when you want to go.Citi-Bikes? I think it’s great. I’ve seen a lot more riders out on the streets. I think it introduces people to how you should ride a bike in New York City. I’ve been talking about it for years, 11 years to be specific. People say they don’t want to own a bike. “I’d have to carry it upstairs. I live in a walk-up.” Or, “It might be stolen.” Bike-share takes all that worry away. Yes, there have been glitches, but ridership is way up. Anything that promotes more riders, more bikes on our city streets, is good. And I’m for it because it means safer streets. I’m not criticizing Citi-Bikes name on the bikes. It’s okay. They paid a lot of money for it. In Paris, bike-share worked and there were a lot more people on bikes. And after a while people started buying their own bikes.Lela Rose, fashion designer
I have ridden the bike in L.A, New York, London and Paris for 22 years. And I never take the subway. Too many problems. Pushed around by guys. I go everywhere on my bike.
Virgine, jewelry designer
Matthew Broderick, actor
"The streets are getting a little friendlier to biking…"
I’ve had a career that involved being a buyer for Bergdorf Goodman. I worked at Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. I was Creative director at JC Penny until this past month. To me a bike is an ionic, romantic way of getting around New York. I’ve been a little afraid to ride in the street, but now the culture is shifting in the city and is more friendly to bikes. I just love the feeling of an old bike. I think there’s nothing more noble. More beautiful.
When I was a kid, I was obsessed. I’m 53 years old. So it was in probably 1972… I was obsessed with a Schwinn Varsity, chocolate brown, 10-speed bike. And the year my parents bought our house, we were told no big presents that Christmas. But, sure enough, I got the Schwinn. I was proud of that thing. I had graduated from the banana seat and the “Sissy bar” on a Schwinn Stingray. That new bike was a thrilling, amazing gift.
But, as I grew up I immediately shed the idea of a bike because it signaled that you were a kid. I wanted to drive a car. Now, 40 years later, it is more interesting to be driving, riding a beautiful machine. Something that has a history, and gives you a lot more freedom than a car or car service. It’s a beautiful thing to see the world from a little bit higher than the average pedestrian. And feeling every nick and cranny of the streets.
I did once have a track or a bent over model, but all the things I got for my new bike are exactly the things I never wanted as a kid. It’s got a basket. Very useful. It’s got these handlebars, that force you to sit upright. In the old days it was all about looking like a racer. Hunched over the wheels. For me, biking means convenience. Biking fits my personality. A little bit understated. A little bit old.
I want to believe my bike has a history imprinted inside the frame, built into the core. And if I can be steward of that history for a time and later pass it on to someone, well, I like that idea.
Nick Wooster, West Village romantic. nickwooster.com
I like a small bike. I need to able to put my feet on the ground while sitting upright on the seat.
I live in the West Village, and I was born in Manhattan. With my beatnik parents, it felt like I was raised by wolves. My parents split up, and my mother and I lived in Detroit, then Westport, Connecticut from 1959-64. Briefly, I had the suburban life, and I probably got my first bike then. But it’s all a big mush. I went to sixteen different schools before college.
I love my new bike, an i-Ped from Japan. I took off all the labels and logos. I never like anybody’s logos. When I buy shampoo, or anything, my first consideration is: can I peel all the labels off?
I saw this bike at George’ Bliss’s HUB store. I like a small bike. I need to able to put my feet on the ground while sitting upright on the seat. And not jumping forward when I stop. I love the bright tomato red color. I was thrilled when my old bike was finally stolen. I like to go into a deli and lean the bike on the wall outside and not lock it. That bike was such a piece of crap. Finally, I leaned it against a store in Chinatown.
Except for the fact I had two very good Vietnamese Banh-Mi sandwiches in the basket, I was happy. I like being careless. It’s worth it. I’m the same about handbags, the gym, and helmets. Life’s too short to worry about health and safety. Boring! I use my red bike every day to ride to my studio on the Lower East Side.
I’m heterosexual, but bi-continental, and bi-cyclical. I do have another bike. I live in Sweden in Summer, and spend Winter in New York. I’m no fool! My Swedish bike is a JOPO. Finnish!
From HELKAMA SITE:
In the 1960’s Eero Helkama had a dream. He wanted to create a bicycle that all people could use, no matter what age, size, sex or financial status. Almost 50 years later the same dream is a crucial part of Finnish cycling culture. Three generations of Jopo bicycles live in perfect harmony, and do not care about fashion trends.
Sweden has bike lanes everywhere. And bike traffic lights. It can be horrible weather there, even in Summer, but I’m tough. I bike in the rain.
At the Rhode Island School of Design, I was in all these Departments: Illustration, Graphic Design, Painting. Now I’m 57, and I still haven’t picked a major.
Laurie Rosenwald does animation, comedy and painting. She also writes, sometimes illustrates for The New Yorker and teaches a fun workshop called “How to Make Mistakes on Purpose.” www.rosenworld.com
When you’re riding on your bike, you just want to keep riding. It’s freedom. It’s the way to get away from everything.
Our first bikes, I guess, we got for our sixth birthday. We had no idea how to ride a two-wheeler as we were still on Big Wheels, but Dad, being the good father he was, piled us into the station wagon and the three of us went off to a parking lot. And we got that classic first ride: your father hanging onto the back of the seat sayin’, “Go ahead, pedal”, and you’re terrified out of your mind and he’s running beside you. “Dad, don’t let go! Don’t let go!” Of course, he’d let go five minutes earlier.
We eventually did learn, without Dad and the training wheels, and those became our favorite little bikes. We’d get excited on weekends when Dad would take us on a bike ride and we could go and explore and ride up into the mountains. Finally, in fifth grade, we were allowed to bike to school by ourselves, 20 blocks down a steep hill.
We loved riding the rough dirt roads, over rock piles and through the orange groves, always going farther and farther in search of the steepest hill to climb. It was the first sense of freedom, those rides. We had those bikes until 7th grade.
John: We were best of friends. We hung around together all day, every day, from when we were little all the way up to college.
Mark: From when we were born through our first year in high school, it was every day.
John: I can’t think of a day we weren’t together. For 18 years.
Accidents? Sure. We fell off our bikes many times. But it was our older brother, Michael, who was coming back from his paper route one morning. You had these saddlebags you wore on your shoulders. They would drag on your neck when you rode. The more papers you carried, the more money you’d make. You emptied the bag in front first, and you had to swing the one in back around so you could reach the papers. You didn’t stop to do it or you’d lose time. So it’s pulling on your neck, choking you and once, Michael was headed down a driveway and the weight tilted him and he crashed face-first into this mailbox built to look just like a miniature house. He had the little shingles of this little mailbox house shoved up under his gums. He had to go to the dentist to have them removed. They spent three hours getting shingle splinters out of his mouth. Plus, the roof went right through his upper lip. I don’t know how he ever got home, how he ever got back on his bike and rode home from that. This was before John and I had our routes and we woke up at six in the morning to the sound of him screaming, and we ran down and the sink’s full of blood.
Growing up we hung around together every day. We’d fight every day. Play every day. We always loved each other. We were best of friends so, if we’re fighting one hour out of 16, maybe that’s not so bad. When you have a perfect companion at a young age like that, you’re less likely to have other close friends.
People always have a curiosity about twins, want to know every bit about your life. People would make fun of us for looking exactly the same. They were always asking, “Do your parents always know which one you are? When you get in trouble, do you blame it on the other guy?” We both wore glasses. We spoke in the same funny way. We had best friends. And we shared them. So, sometimes we’d go with three or more people instead of two.
Our older brother Michael was allowed to bike where we couldn’t. He’d come back with tales of the other side. “It’s the steepest hill you could ever imagine! You have to climb it. Man, when you ride down that hill, they call it ‘Dead Man’s Curve,’ you can’t see what’s happening in front of you, what’s at the bottom!” When you’re a kid, those stories inspire you so much that when you get going and get to see what your brother is talking about, it’s just exhilarating.
So, we got older and our Dad bought us these ten-speed Schwinns. It was very hot to go from a little BMX to the ten-speed Schwinn that got us up and down these steep hills. And we rode them until we were18. And then we had a car to use and the bikes disappeared for a while.
JOHN: We went to different universities. I went to Berkeley. Mark went to U C San Diego. After graduating, I moved to New York City. I had only been here two months and this guy I made friends with came up and said, “John, go up to the flea market and get yourself a bike.” I did. And that’s when the city started unfolding for me. And I’ve been through 10 different bicycles since then. Just trading them off or replacing stolen ones. The bike I have now is the fanciest one I’ve ever had. I ride every day of the year, even in winter months. In snow and ice conditions.
MARK: If I can backpedal just a little bit, I came to New York later than John. I went to college in San Diego where I got into surfing. And the best way to get to a surf break was to ride a bike. I had this old burgundy Beach Cruiser, a bike for that purpose, all through college. I’d muscle a board under my arm, ride barefoot through campus, up this hill and take this precarious trail down to the beach and the surf.
I was 21 when I came to New York. And John said, “First things first. You gotta get a bike. You can’t even hang out if you don’t get a bike.”
We didn’t have money for taxicabs, and subways couldn’t or wouldn’t take you where you wanted to go. Being from California and used to spending so much time outdoors all the time, getting all that exercise, having a bike in the city is a beautiful way to get a break from everything else. Riding down the street is almost the closest thing to surfing I can think of.
Helmets? I respect it. I don’t hate it when someone wears a helmet. It’s the safer thing to do. But John and I don’t wear helmets. And we’d worry that if we did have on helmets, we’d ride more aggressively than we do. But not having a helmet, we take it a little easy. That’s why we have three-speed classic Schwinn-style bikes and even used bikes. They keep me from going too fast. I stay upright on it. I’m not trying to race anybody. I’m just using my bike as a relaxing way to get around town.
I’ve never gotten into fix-gear riding but I do like the simplicity that comes with single-gear bikes. I never worry about what gear I’m in or shifting gears. I love that. I like to have hand brakes and be able to coast. Like the second gear on your three-speed, that’s the one gear you use. And I’ve only ridden single-speeds since.
This is an old Schwinn twin-speed that I converted to single-speed.
John: I probably had 10 different three-speeds and now I have a single speed. I got it from George. On my refrigerator, I have a quote by the novelist H. G. Wells: “When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.” And I very much believe that.
Mark: I usually ride every day. One time, it was pouring rain when I saw John. I said,
“You’re not going to ride in that!”
“Of course, I am,” he said.
“How you gonna do it?”
“What do you mean?”
“I carry an umbrella while I ride.” Sure enough, John piles on with the umbrella.
Umbrella? I’m gonna do that as well. Good idea. You don’t have to worry about puddles. It may not be the safest thing to do, but when you do that, your feet tend to stay dry although some days not. The slush. You’re tired.
John: I always go for it. It’s kinda fun. Once, my bike slipped out from under me, but not too bad. I’m an architect, too. And the days can be hectic and you’re running from one structure meeting to the next and, for those 10 or 15 minutes between meetings, your bike gives you a break, clears your head and you just feel good.
We both bring our girlfriends on our bikes. It’s always funny to pull up to a fancy party with a girl on the back of your bike, or to pull away the same way.
When you’re riding on your bike, you just want to keep riding. It’s freedom. It’s the way to get away from everything.
I’ve known George a long time, since the late 90s when he opened The HUB on Morton Street. I’ve purchased all my bikes, except the first one, from George. It’s one of the few places you can find a good classic bicycle. We’ve always had a nice, friendly relationship.
Mark Barboni is Co-Owner & General Manager of Hudson Clearwater Restaurant. John Barboni is Co-Owner of Hudson Clearwater, Co-Founder of Elemental Architecture and a certified yoga instructor and teaching weekly classes as a volunteer in New York City.
I grew up in Rhinebeck. Actually, the town is Milan which is about seven miles from Rhinebeck. My parents were divorced, so I couldn’t rely on rides home after soccer. I used to ride a Peugeot that was a hand-me-down from my brother. The trip from Rhinebeck to Milan is basically uphill. Going to school in the morning was great. So from about 14 or 15, I needed a bike. Otherwise I was screwed. I lived in Milan, up in these hills. I was off the artery so, even if I hitched a ride, I only got within three miles of my house.
I’ve always had cruiser bikes. One had a back seat on it and it had pegs. For my first wife. My only wife. I took her on the back of the bike until she was about eight months pregnant. I have three kids. They’re 22, 21 and 15. And they all have bikes. My wife had this big cushioned seat I made with duct tape and foam. I wanted it to be very soft because she was pregnant. I also had this yellow bike, like a butcher’s delivery bike with a big basket. It had a bike seat in back for the kids and a bike seat in the crotch area and the baby up front in the basket. Three kids on the bike! I once used my bike as a hand truck and put a nine-foot Christmas tree on it. My three kids straddled the tree and that’s how we got home.
I like this one. We got it on the Jersey Shore. I brought it here tied to the roof of a truck. I like this bike because before, I was always carrying people on the back and I usually ruined the back wheel. And, with those pegs, eventually the bearings go. For this bike, I ordered new wheels from California and brought them to George. He put on new tires as well, with the bands, to avoid getting a puncture. I’ve been using pegs on bikes since the kids were little. The wheels on this bike are steel and have three times as many spokes as the wheels you usually get. It’s almost like a motorcycle wheel. In more than a year, I have not had a single problem.
I got Kimberly her own bike, a cruiser. So she’s got this new bike and I’ll say, “Let’s go riding,” but she always has an excuse. She can’t because, “I don’t have my glasses.” She knows I’ll ride her on the back. And she feels safe standing on the pegs. And she wears boots, heels that grab right onto the pegs. The pegs are beautiful.
Riding a bike saves me time. I hate waiting for a subway or trying to hail a taxi. When I meet a client on my bike, I think it gives me authenticity. I’m showing a $27 million single-family house in Soho and, obviously, I must be well-dressed so I’m in suede shoes and a cashmere jacket. And, as I bounce over the cobblestones with my bike chain clunking in the basket, I think it somehow reassures the clients. They realize that I’m authentic.
George Bliss is a visionary, a great pioneer. He was having trouble with his lease and I was really bummed out about it. So I did some research and I went over to Prince Lumber and asked, “How would you like to lease your roof and put up a bike shop in a bubble?” Who possibly would ask to put a bike store on a roof but George? He would! He’s a survivor pioneer.
Riding in New York? We really need a bike lane on Seventh Avenue. It’s just dangerous. And we could use some separation on Sixth Avenue. It’s just a little green-painted bike lane.
I ride my bike every day. I think there were only three days last year when I didn’t ride my bike.
Michael Mansfield, realtor
I care about how I dress, how I look. Biking is a life style.
I’ve always preferred vintage bikes. I never went for the road bikes or the mountain bikes. I liked the look and feel of the upright bike. My first bike in the city, was a vintage ‘80s, black utility worker’s bike. A very heavy duty, commuter bike. At the time I lived in Greenwich Village and I rode everywhere. If I had an errand, I was on my bike. If it was a job interview, I put on a suit, got on my bike and arrived on time. It was how I got around. My transportation, rain or shine. Temperature doesn’t bother me. Yesterday I had an interview for an internet radio station called Pandora. It was frigid. I put on my shearling coat and headed up to Union Square. Last night it was zero degrees. I was out biking. There isn’t a part of the city I haven’t biked to.
I care about how I dress, how I look. Biking is a life style. My current bike is a black Biria step through. Six speed. It’s got two baskets, one in back, one in the front because I‘m always carrying things. I used to run a small flower business in the downtown area. I carried bundles of flowers on my bike, from the flower district on 28th street, to my home studio in the West Village.
When I have something on my mind, something bothering me, and I don’t even have a place to go, I get on my bike and just ride. There’s a German movie, Run Lola Run, about this girl, Lola. Lola is in trouble. If she can’t come up with the ransom for her boyfriend, he will die. She has only 20 minutes to come up with the money and she runs and runs through the city. I dream of a film about a girl like Lola but, instead of running, she’s on a bicycle.
A lot of people say I’m crazy to bike everywhere and not wear a helmet. I never wear a helmet but I think kids should. I’d want my kids to be safe.
I do bike on the more dangerous streets like Park Avenue and 7th Avenue and I have been yelled at by pedestrians, drivers and other bikers. I take whatever street works for me. But I spend most of my time on the West Village side streets: Bank Street, Perry, Charles, Greenwich, Grove, Washington, Bleecker, MacDougal. Those streets are my landscape, my home.
Victoria Monsua, designer/writer