Biking in New York City has grown immensely in the past few years. It’s common to see a few lone cyclists mounted upon their bikes at a stoplight, as if they were riding in the Old West. While cycling alone is an activity that can soothe the mind and invigorate the body, it can also be daunting when you are just starting out on the pothole-ridden roads of New York City.
This is why Kimberly Kinchen and Kim Burgas created the bike train, a collection of cyclists who mimic a subway route and create an environment where people can ride in good company and help new riders. Both recall that when they began cycling in the city, it was an ominous trek but they eventually felt comfortable on the bustling streets.
The two joined efforts when they met and realized they were working on the same project from different angles.
Kinchen moved to New York from Seattle 10 years ago; she was a cyclist there, but only started riding in New York City about a year ago. Soon, she began her own bike train project after seeing how successful it was in places like Portland, Ore., and Ontario.
Burgas began cycling in her hometown of Cincinnati. Once she moved to New York City, she too was fearful, but after a while she warmed up to the busy streets and began commuting to work. Her inspiration for a bike train began when her office workers would ask, “How do you manage to get to work on a bike?” She responded that they should join her on the road.
The pair envisioned cyclists connecting via the Internet and meeting up for rides that follow the bike lanes in Manhattan. It is a way to break down the silence between riders at red lights and meet like-minded people who, Burgas said, “Will never ask you to explain why you rode to work in ‘that weather.’”
They hope to create a public forum welcoming riders from all walks of life and frame size, from the fixed-gear enthusiast to the parent with a child seat strapped to the back. They consider themselves the creators of a friendly bike gang.
Earlier this year, Burgas and Kinchen developed two routes: Inwood to Midtown and Prospect Park to Midtown East. Each of the “lines” runs periodically and has a conductor, either Burgas or Kinchen. They remain in contact with riders via smart phones and Twitter using the hashtag #bikenyc.
“Some days it’s Kim and I,” said Kinchen. “Other days there are much more people.” Burgas said there are generally about 15 people in the group.
While there are only two routes so far, the duo are currently planning expansions to have other operational routes for the month of April. They are also developing an application so riders can connect easily via their smart phones.
As the group grows in size, “the logistical problem grows,” said Kinchen, echoing one of Burgas’ concerns. “The main thing is that people get in touch so that we know to wait for them.”
Burgas said that because of her background in technology, she was apprehensive at first about developing further, “but in this case it will help out a lot to have this app.”
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