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May 14, 2010 9:16 AM   Subscribe

The 11th annual NYC Commuter Race -- starring Al Roker on a bike, Meredith Vieira in a car, and Matt Lauer taking mass transit, each traveling from 72nd and Broadway to 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The event (previously on MeFi) is organized by Transportation Alternatives.
posted by hermitosis (68 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Al Roker on a bike! just became my favorite interjection.
posted by jquinby at 9:19 AM on May 14, 2010 [11 favorites]


All I know is going west on 34th on foot will beat the M34 bus.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:21 AM on May 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


Where the fuck is Ann Curry wearing a jet pack and Zorro mask? We can put a man on the moon, but we can't put Ann Curry in a jet pack, wearing a Zorro mask?
posted by Greg Nog at 9:23 AM on May 14, 2010 [9 favorites]


...aaand, you can actually find bikes to match your outfit.

Thanks, Today Show.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:24 AM on May 14, 2010


*lives on 72nd and Broadway and pretty much walks everywhere*
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:28 AM on May 14, 2010


I'm going to say the same thing I say every year:

I am never biking to work, so quit hinting Transportation Alternatives.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:29 AM on May 14, 2010


What is this, 1976? Where is Brian Williams dialing up on his fax-modem to telecommute?

It's still not a cut-n-dry victory, though. He has to be productive at home to win.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:30 AM on May 14, 2010


Anne Curry still has a network job. Incredible.
posted by L'OM at 9:30 AM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


> I am never biking to work, so quit hinting Transportation Alternatives.

Feel free to ignore advice you don't want to accept.
posted by ardgedee at 9:31 AM on May 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


This would be more entertaining if the loser got fired from NBC.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:32 AM on May 14, 2010 [8 favorites]


and Jeremy Clarkson will be...skateboarding?
posted by boo_radley at 9:32 AM on May 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


> Al Roker on a bike! just became my favorite interjection.

I'm sticking with "Studs on a bus!"
posted by ardgedee at 9:34 AM on May 14, 2010


waiting for the *real* bikers to weigh in on the coming horde of dorky bike n00bs invading the bike lanes in their folding commuters, matchy-matchy pedal pushers, flowered helmets, baskets, bells and handlebar streamers...
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:35 AM on May 14, 2010


This is what I do for a living (promote transportation altneratives), and one of the communities I work with did something similar last year, and the bike won. In a suburban community no less.
posted by dry white toast at 9:36 AM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Top Gear not only did it better, but the Stig managed to have more human interactions on public transit than Matt Lauer.
posted by SNWidget at 9:40 AM on May 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


In a suburban community no less.

I live in a suburb that sometimes has really lousy traffic. Last Saturday afternoon, I walked to a bar about a mile and a half away--a straight shot down one street. I got about halfway there before I stopped seeing the same cars at every corner. On a bike it would have been no contest.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:42 AM on May 14, 2010


I was just ducking in to mention the Top Gear episode. The bike won, and they had a BOAT in the mix.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:46 AM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Burhanistan: "This would be more entertaining if the loser got fired from NBC."

Must every NBC thread turn into a Jay Leno derail?
posted by roll truck roll at 9:47 AM on May 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


Is there a winner? I presume bike, but I have no interest in watching / visiting the Today Show to find out.

Also, walking on 86th Street will be the M86, too.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:48 AM on May 14, 2010


Is there a winner? I presume bike,

Yep! Bike!

I recently discovered that it's faster for me to bike to work than to take the subway; it's only about half an hour rather than 45 minutes. The only problem, as ever, is the amount of sweat I secrete. Get on it, Science!
posted by Greg Nog at 9:51 AM on May 14, 2010


waiting for the *real* bikers to weigh in on the coming horde of dorky bike n00bs invading the bike lanes in their folding commuters, matchy-matchy pedal pushers, flowered helmets, baskets, bells and handlebar streamers...

It's attitudes like this that help encourage people to stay in their cars, clog up our streets, keep us building our cities on the soul-killing and off-putting scale of automobiles instead of on the livable and relatable scale of humans, and go though expensive foreign oil like nobody's business.

Anybody on a bike is a "real" biker. Biking should be more inclusive. One of the reasons people don't view it as a viable alternative is because--in addition to it being dangerous in our current culture that views it as an exotic, anomalous niche form of transportation--it isn't.
posted by millipede at 9:53 AM on May 14, 2010 [16 favorites]


> waiting for the *real* bikers to weigh in on the coming horde of dorky bike n00bs invading the bike lanes in their folding commuters, matchy-matchy pedal pushers, flowered helmets, baskets, bells and handlebar streamers...

*Real* biker here.

I approve of it.

You're welcome.
posted by ardgedee at 9:55 AM on May 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


I just recently saw that Top Gear episode and nearly hurt myself laughing. Is the NBC one as funny? I bet not.
posted by rtha at 9:59 AM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I recently discovered that it's faster for me to bike to work than to take the subway; it's only about half an hour rather than 45 minutes. The only problem, as ever, is the amount of sweat I secrete. Get on it, Science!

I was biking to work for a while, but then I developed an extreme anger issue with regard to Williamsburg drivers. This is a good reminder to get back on, at least for the month before the job moves to Jersey.
posted by edbles at 10:00 AM on May 14, 2010


Yeah, another *real* biker here.

I approve of anything that gets more people outta their cars and pedaling.
posted by brand-gnu at 10:00 AM on May 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


One big time killer with cars is parking. If you work in a dense business district, you have to park in a garage which usually means 10 - 15 minutes to drive around and around the ramps to find a spot, take the creaky urine-smelling elevator down to the lobby and then walk to your office building.
posted by octothorpe at 10:02 AM on May 14, 2010


I bike to work every day and probably rack up 4500km a year commuting.

If you're on 2 or 3 wheels and are pushing pedals, congratulations, you're a cyclist! You win!

Streamers, shorts, backpacks, panniers - whatever. In stark contrast to Lance Armstrong, when it comes to bike commuting, it really is all about the bike. And that's it.
posted by GuyZero at 10:02 AM on May 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yesyerday's Bike to work day in Sf had more bikers than I've seen out of critical mass. It was great to see.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 10:06 AM on May 14, 2010


What kind of bike is Al Roker riding there? Looks like a folding bike, but I can see the make.
posted by borkencode at 10:06 AM on May 14, 2010


This would be more entertaining if the loser got fired from NBC.

I remember the Today Show from before the Coming of the Kenyans. That thing took forever!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:09 AM on May 14, 2010


Alas my hate for those three TV personalities keeps me from further investigating your post.
posted by poppo at 10:13 AM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess I'm a "real" biker, and I think just about everyone I know who rides a bike regularly thinks that the more people out riding bikes, the better.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:16 AM on May 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


We don't need to convince people to take mass transit and bike. They already know and want to. We need to convince government to set it up. Create the trains, busses and bike lanes and I'll use them.
posted by DU at 10:17 AM on May 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd like to see such a public transportation challenge with a wheelchair user.
posted by Soliloquy at 10:18 AM on May 14, 2010


Hopefully the passage of the The Bicycle Access to Office Buildings Law last year will have in impact on the number of NYC commuters who can choose to bike. It's a serious challenge to get people to commute by bicycle when there's nowhere safe to store the bike after you get to work.
posted by jardinier at 10:27 AM on May 14, 2010


I ride to work occasionally - I try for once a week in nicer weather. Laziness tends to take over in the morning, unfortunately, because I just can't wake up enough to get out of bed on time. Unless I jump in the shower the moment the alarm clock goes off, I'll be late to work.

That being said, my bike commute is so much more pleasant than the drive, even though it takes twice as long. I do a reverse commute - city out to the suburbs in the morning - and I imagine if we lived deeper in the city I could probably beat the car on the commute.

Boston's been pretty good about painting bike lanes on the roads lately, but aggressive drivers are still a huge problem. People don't look when they open their car doors, they don't see you when they try to make a right-on-red, and I've almost been creamed a few times by people on their cell phones trying to beat the left turn light turning red.

There is a very strong incentive to ride to work, though - it's all the people I see here huffing and puffing after they climbed one flight of stairs to get a cup of coffee. When they see my bike, they look like they're staring at a space alien or something.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:42 AM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


So is Roker going to obey traffic laws, or is he going to run red lights like all those other NYC bikers who almost kill me every day when I'm walking to work?
posted by grumblebee at 10:49 AM on May 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's a serious challenge to get people to commute by bicycle when there's nowhere safe to store the bike after you get to work.

Absolutely. My options are to bring my bike upstairs and have it take up a fair chunk of my office or chain it up downstairs and have it take up a fair chunk of some bicycle thief's garage.
posted by JaredSeth at 10:57 AM on May 14, 2010


If Conan were still on NBC (and in New York), we would've seen a Segway. With the Masturbating Bear riding it.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:01 AM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's a serious challenge to get people to commute by bicycle when there's nowhere safe to store the bike after you get to work.

Also more offices need a shower. I've been lucky to work at a number of offices that had a shower (one off the coffee room oddly enough) and this makes a really big difference in terms of how often you're willing to bike.
posted by GuyZero at 11:09 AM on May 14, 2010


There is a very strong incentive to ride to work, though - it's all the people I see here huffing and puffing after they climbed one flight of stairs to get a cup of coffee. When they see my bike, they look like they're staring at a space alien or something.

A Real Conversation I've Had At Work:

Co-Worker: Why don't you just drive to work? It'd be faster.
Me: It doesn't take that long to bike in.
Co-Worker: But you'd save all that time.
Me: You go to the gym, right?
Co-Worker: Yeah.
Me: Mostly cardio?
Co-Worker: Treadmill, some elliptical. I'm not really into weights.
Me: So you pay for a car and gasoline to save time to get to work, then use the time you save to go to a gym, where you pay for a membership.
Co-Worker: Well...
Me: If there were only a way to combine exercise and transport, thereby saving all that gas and gym membership money!
Co-Worker: You're just being a jerk because you don't have a car.
posted by Shepherd at 11:10 AM on May 14, 2010 [30 favorites]


waiting for the *real* bikers to weigh in on the coming horde of dorky bike n00bs invading the bike lanes in their folding commuters, matchy-matchy pedal pushers, flowered helmets, baskets, bells and handlebar streamers..

I'll just chime in as another "real" biker who welcomes anyone getting out their on a bike, but especially people who like fun bells, baskets, and matching whatever color schemes and otherwise have fun and don't take their biking so seriously but rather just consider it as another way to express themselves and have fun in life with the side benefit that it also gets them from one place to another.
posted by mikepop at 11:10 AM on May 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


Yeah, one of the big reasons I haven't yet bought a bike is because I have nowhere to shower at work. And I don't want to pay for a gym membership for just that.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:20 AM on May 14, 2010


toodleydoodley: waiting for the *real* bikers to weigh in on the coming horde of dorky bike n00bs invading the bike lanes in their folding commuters, matchy-matchy pedal pushers, flowered helmets, baskets, bells and handlebar streamers..

Um - real cyclists (like the millions of people who commute every day and ride everywhere on bicycles in cities across Europe and the US and Asia, etc.) use bells. It's how you let someone know you're coming, or passing, or to watch out. They're the horns the bicycle world and there's nothing more dorky about them than car horns.

And baskets are where you put your groceries or other things when you're actually using your bicycle as part of your life - not just riding it for exercise all decked out in ad-covered spandex with wrap around shades like you think you're in the Tour de France...
posted by jardinier at 11:33 AM on May 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


Not a "real" biker, but I bike to work in NYC about 3 out of every 5 days during the sunny months. I've got about 8 miles to go, each way (subway's about 15 minutes faster, I'll admit), and I get pretty sweaty in the process. I lock up using a big chain and have never had any problems. I towel off & change clothes completely & immediately when I get to work, and (as far as I, or my bluntly honest coworkers, can tell) don't smell bad. The more cyclists of ANY variety (in fact, non-"real" are the kind I prefer), the better. The more public transit, the better. The more walkers, the better. Automobiles are a cancer on our land and on our civilization. Hooray for Al Roker on a bike!
posted by Erroneous at 11:36 AM on May 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


all decked out in ad-covered spandex with wrap around shades

The most uncomfortable thing I see people do - more than the big guys on mountain bikes with their knees hitting the handlebars - are these dudes (invariably men) with carbon road bikes, wearing spandex head to toe, clipless pedals, in the drops on very busy and traffic-light-ridden Massachusetts Ave. wearing a backpack big enough for a multi-day hike. They have to be doing something bad to their backs!
posted by backseatpilot at 11:37 AM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anybody on a bike is a "real" biker. Biking should be more inclusive. One of the reasons people don't view it as a viable alternative is because--in addition to it being dangerous in our current culture that views it as an exotic, anomalous niche form of transportation--it isn't.

hear hear. What the world needs is more bicycle riders OF ALL KINDS, and fewer "your-favourite-bike-sucks" type douchebags.

owns seven bikes INCLUDING a $6K carbon roadbike that gets raced frequently, a dual-suspension MTB, a $50 ghetto step-thru framed grocery bike WITH A BASKET and a *gasp* fixed gear. and I commute to work in jeans/chinos, thanks.

now get off my fucking lawn.

posted by lonefrontranger at 11:55 AM on May 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm halfway to a real biker. Probably 2,000 km a year for pleasure & errands. Used to bike 25km each way to work 6 days a week. Doubt I'll ever own a car, just bikes.

I don't care what the hell kind of bike you're riding. If you're riding, I'm happy!
posted by Lemurrhea at 12:03 PM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


*does a few wheelies on lonefrontranger's fucking lawn on my clunky little Frankengoose*

*dives back into killer deadlines that have kept me off my bike most of this week*
posted by maudlin at 12:04 PM on May 14, 2010


Go Roker go!
posted by Mister_A at 12:27 PM on May 14, 2010


It is just as fast for me to bike to work 2 miles away as it is for my to bike. Plus, if you bike, you can usually park closer to the door! :)
posted by 47triple2 at 12:59 PM on May 14, 2010


What kind of bike is Al Roker riding there? Looks like a folding bike, but I can see the make.

Mr. Roker is riding a Brompton, a truly excellent folding bicycle.

(disclaimer: satisfied Brompton owner)
posted by tss at 1:07 PM on May 14, 2010


As a 5/5 day bike commuter, what I would tell potential bike commuters isn't to not bike commute, but how not to bike commute. I think the bikers herein are the group referred to in this thread as *real* bikers, and those mutually grumbled about by those driving cars, riding bikes, or on foot. Don't try to be them, and don't listen to them.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 1:16 PM on May 14, 2010


Anybody on a bike is a "real" biker.

Yes, yes, but what if they're Scottish and/or wearing a Yankees hat?
posted by rokusan at 2:05 PM on May 14, 2010


waiting for the *real* bikers to weigh in on the coming horde of dorky bike n00bs invading the bike lanes in their folding commuters, matchy-matchy pedal pushers, flowered helmets, baskets, bells and handlebar streamers...

I'm as real of a biker as it gets, and I think all of that stuff is awesome. If I had a basket, I'd put a boom-box in it and listen to electro!
posted by fuq at 4:29 PM on May 14, 2010


Al Roker on a bike! just became my favorite interjection.

Now all we need is another season of the Middle Man.
posted by Evilspork at 6:57 PM on May 14, 2010


I'm Bike to Work Week coordinator here in my city, and really, it is all about getting dorky bike n00bs out there. Without them the *real* bikers will never get trails, single tracks, bike bridges, and so forth.

It's actually the public who seems to perceive cyclists as all spandex-wearing speedsters. I want the folks dressed in business attire riding a classic 1970s Schwinn with an annoying squeak on every down-pedal to get out there, and increasingly, they are.

I went to the state's bike summit this year and it's really just an exciting time to be a cyclist. We just had Transportation Secretary LaHood commit, for the first time, to treating bikers and pedestrians as equal users. Thanks to underwriting from Trek and Saris and others, Madison and Dane County, Wisconsin leaders traveled to the Netherlands and Germany to see how it's done there and came back incredibly excited. Even my hometown, which put up a bunch of dorky green "bike route" signs in 1976 like a lot of places, actually has an excellent segregated trail system now (although getting to bicycle friendly is going to take a bit more commitment).

I've been doing almost nothing but posting cool bike commuting videos to my Facebook page for weeks. Some of my favorites:
Rush hour in Utrecht [note: no spandex, no helmets, mostly dorky bikes]
Commuter dreams [Portland, very *real* biker, with Tour de France motif]
Mat's Commute [Boulder]
Bike Ride Across the Manhattan Bridge [I so wish I were in NYC now, with a bike]

And then you have the sudden fad for the ciclovia -- here's Madison's Ride the Drive.

There's a real sense that this is a moment of great opportunity.
posted by dhartung at 7:26 PM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mat's Commute [Boulder]
hey that's one of our open space bike patrol guys! :)
posted by lonefrontranger at 8:57 PM on May 14, 2010


Not a "real" biker, but I bike to work in NYC about 3 out of every 5 days during the sunny months.

Erroneous, sounds like this makes you a real biker.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:18 PM on May 14, 2010


Apropos the sweating -- one solution is to not ride so fast. Seriously. You don't have to go hard, any more than you have to run rather than walk when you're on foot. If you stop at controlled intersections, it's not a lot slower. I get seriously sweaty when I exercise hard, but I don't get hot and sweaty on my bike unless I'm in a hurry. The caveat is that I live in a temperate climate.

Apropos backpacks and other impedimenta -- I've never looked back after getting panniers. The panniers hold my lunch, some tools, spare clothes, and shopping, and because they are bright yellow with reflectors, they improve my visibility. I recommend investigating panniers. The best ones have clips and shoulder straps so they can become satchels when you dismount.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:45 PM on May 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ha, dhartung, it's great to see something as mundane as our morning commute in Utrecht watched from across the world as a cultural oddity. The common is suddenly strange.

I was shocked by the differences in injury/fatality rates btw. From the description on that video:
Injury rate per million km cycled: USA 37.5; NL 1.4
Fatality rate per 100 million km cycled: USA 5.8; NL 1.1

Hanging out with some Canadian bike heads who moved here made me realise how unusual our extensive network of dedicated bike paths with navigation signs is.
posted by joost de vries at 3:00 AM on May 15, 2010


(disclaimer: satisfied Brompton owner)

Second the Brompton, and as a *real* biker, the more bikes the merrier!!

Finally, for the *real* bikers, World Naked Bike Ride is coming to a city near you...
posted by JiffyQ at 3:20 AM on May 15, 2010


Continuing dhartung's Utrecht post: Cycling in Alkmaar... separate bike roads.

You might want to turn the sound down.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:05 AM on May 15, 2010


Another "real biker" here (was a finalist for Alameda County Bike Commuter of the Year this year, thankyouverymuch) who is all in favor of bells and streamers and baskets and blinkies and annoying squeaks on the downstroke, as long as people are out pedaling!

That said, if I'm passing you on the straightaways, but you're getting ahead by running red lights, riding on the sidewalk, and going the wrong way down one-way streets, you're not really riding faster than I am. And quit shoaling me at red lights. Just because you're in Lycra on a stripped-down carbon frame and I'm in jeans on my utility bike with bell and baskets and lights and what have you, that doesn't mean you're necessarily a faster rider. Happened again and again going up Market Street toward the Wiggle on BTWD on Thursday.

I'm still pleased from yesterday, when I picked my bike up from the mechanic (new chain & cassette) and was told, "You two now hold the store prize for hardest-riding customers. There's one guy who's thrashed his bike worse than you, but it took him longer. So you win." (It's not like I'm trying to ride Esperanza to bits, it's just these jankety Oakland streets vibrating her to pieces one bolt at a time.)
posted by Lexica at 4:26 PM on May 15, 2010


In New York, you are not going to be getting many people to make the switch from cars to bikes, but more from subway to bike. Those who are used to getting there by car are pretty hard to change their driving ways. We really need to add tolls to all the East River crossings.

(15-year NYC bike commuter here, btw.)
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:37 PM on May 15, 2010


Yeah, my biggest problem with commuting by bike is psychotic drivers who will throw shit out of their cars at you just because you're riding a bicycle. Or, in California, hit you with their car. I don't need that kind of bullshit in my day
posted by leotrotsky at 9:53 PM on May 15, 2010


God, lev trotsky, that's insane and incredibly obnoxious.
You US bike heads should move to the Netherlands, North-Germany or Danmark. Bicycle bliss.
Or maybe you shouldn't because biking is not as much an identity here. You're much more special in the US. :-)
posted by joost de vries at 11:09 AM on May 16, 2010


Heh, TWinbrook8, we have those here -- it's just a lack of mileage. Getting a measly extension from one arterial to the next is like pulling teeth. Or a veterinarian pulling teeth from an ornery camel. We have a proposal here to tunnelize one bike/road crossing. A federal grant will pay for 2/3 of the cost, but because it's "just" for bikes (it is for all trail users, of course) the city is up in arms about the "waste". There was an unexpected engineering problem involving relocating a sewer line, but again, it was 2/3 paid for. The hue and cry was on the level of the Tea Party reacting to a guest worker program.

That may factor into why, as I just heard, another part of the city won't be getting any bike trail anytime soon, as the city has tried to fund it four different ways so far. I think leaving the other grant sitting on the table makes us look bad or something.

Finally, leotrotsky, I even get that around here. Today, on an empty country road, a car came up behind me and whisked just as close as he dared while going past me. Every other vehicle gave me a whole lane's berth, but not this guy. Beater car, too. I think some people are just mad at the world, and we're an easy target. At other times, a pickup truck (with Confederate battle flags on poles!) played chicken with me, and someone blew an aerosol-powered air horn at me as they blew past.
posted by dhartung at 6:55 PM on May 16, 2010


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