Why I taught my daughter to bike in the city
By Bill Ulfelder, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in New York
I am not a cyclist. That would be my brother. He used to shave his legs and still rides thousands of miles every year. When the weather’s bad, he rides on a contraption in his basement, and a video screen gives him the impression he’s riding in the Italian Alps instead of a damp basement in suburban Maryland. I am not that dedicated. But I do love riding my bike — outdoors. On May 4, I’m going to test this love by riding through New York City in the TD Five Boro Bike Tour as a member of The Nature Conservancy’s “Team Nature.”
New York City is a great city to ride in. One of my fondest New York memories is of a quiet, summer day when I played hooky to join a good friend on a ride through Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. The city was still very new to me and to be led by a true New Yorker through the Financial District, Chinatown, Williamsburg and Long Island City was a blast. We stopped at the Pickle Guy, checked out the revitalized Brooklyn Navy Yard, then stopped for lunch and beers at a Cuban restaurant, where we had double espressos before getting back on our bikes for the return home.
My daughter Bella learned to ride her bike in New York City. I, like so many parents, read suggestions online, watched videos and took deep breaths to be patient; I knew there were some falls in her very near future. Now 10 years old, Bella loves riding in the City. You can cover more ground on your bike. So instead of sticking to the stores and shops that are within walking distance we can reach destinations farther afield, including some good gelato shops. And unlike the subway, you’re above ground seeing the sights, feeling the city.
The science is clear. Kids who spend time outdoors are happier, healthier, more creative and do better in school. They’re also more likely to appreciate nature and develop a conservation ethic. A recent international study by The Nature Conservancy reveals what we intuitively knew: The number one motivator for kids to spend time outdoors is their parents. Time outside doesn’t need to be complicated or elaborate. Simple, neighborhood bike rides are a great way to get outside.
Riding in the Five Boro Bike this year is a chance to raise resources for an organization I believe in, an excuse to get on my bike and train, and a way to celebrate the city I love. Just like the NYC marathon, which I have run several times, the Five Boro Bike Tour offers a chance to absorb many different flavors of the city — the hipsters in Brooklyn, the Latinos in Spanish Harlem, the “suits” in the Financial District — just to name a few.
So, shave your legs (or not), get your bike tuned-up, put on your helmet and get outside for a ride. And if you’re a parent, go on a ride with your kids — there’s no better time to get them out than right now.