Profile of a Bike Commuter
Shane Ferro is a journalist, competitive cyclist and faster than a helicopter.
You recently raced a helicopter across Manhattan on a Citi Bike. How did that come about?
For some reason, much of Midtown was going to be shut down and it was going to be hard to get across town. I think the pope was in town and the UN was happening. This helicopter company tweeted that they were having a promotion: $100 to take a helicopter from the East Side to the West Side. I thought, that’s dumb, I could do it faster on a bike. I took it to my video team at the Huffington Post and proposed that we challenge them. Less than 24 hours later, it happened. I very narrowly won.
How narrowly did you win?
It all came down to where we decided to meet. We couldn’t just race from helipad to helipad, because no one is ever just going to the helipad. We chose to finish at the Citi Bike station outside 601 West 26th Street, a big building where a lot of people work. I biked past the people from the helicopter walking down 11th Avenue, about a block away. So I barely won.
But if they lose points for carbon footprint…
Then I won by a longshot.
What do you ride when you’re not on Citi Bike?
I have a Surly Cross Check. My race bike is a Felt FC. I do road racing and cyclocross racing, for the most part. Because my office has indoor bike parking, I commute in on my race bike sometimes, because it has gears and my Surly doesn’t and I live in the Bronx, which is downhill from Manhattan. I usually take the West Side Greenway.
And what’s cyclocross?
It’s a cross between road racing and mountain bike racing that’s on grass and dirt. You ride what looks like a road bike with a little fatter tires. There are also obstacles on the course.
Sounds rugged. Better or worse than New York City potholes?
Depends on the course. They’ve been doing construction on the West Side Greenway near 79th Street and it’s closed sometimes so you have to get off your bike, walk up the stairs, then walk down the stairs and get back on. That’s exactly like cyclocross.
For a long time, competitive cycling was largely considered a male sport. Is that changing?
It’s slowly getting better but in an up-and-down kind of way. This year, I’ve seen fewer races for women because last year we had three races on the same day and there weren’t enough women at all three of them. We demand more, but when there isn’t quite enough demand to keep up with what race promoters are putting out there, they say, “Oh, there’s not enough women, we’re going to quit.”
The internet has also been a really positive force in showing how the bike industry can be somewhat sexist. There are a lot of women very dedicated to changing how this sport portrays women, and people are starting to pay attention.
When you’re not racing, you write about business for the Huffington Post. Any thoughts on the role of bicycles in the New Economy?
We’re seeing the rise of the city again and the redevelopment of a lot of urban centers. Bicycles tend to be the best way to get around in urban centers. As the number of people biking is going up, we’re seeing a change for the better. Like in New York, bikes clearly won the bike wars, and the people who said that bikes lanes weren’t going to work, they’ve quieted down. The bike lanes are great. We need more.
Bikes are part of the gig workforce too. With non-traditional commuting times and locations, bikes make sense.
And the infrastructure is so much easier to build. The 2nd Avenue bike lane definitely went up faster than the 2nd Avenue subway!
Photos by Konstantin Sergeyev.