New York City resident Susi Wunsch runs the bicycling blog velojoy.com, where she writes about the latest biking news, features new bike accessories and shares her experiences as a cyclist in the city. We recently spoke with her about her site, practical tips for riding in the city and ways to get more women involved in biking.
How did you get started with your blog?
Well, I’ve been very enthusiastic about bicycling for the past decade. I also have a background in freelance writing and marketing. I started velojoy in May 2010 to be more oriented toward road cycling, because that is where I began.
Not long after that, I got my first commuter bike and started riding in the bike lanes of New York City. There were so many interesting facets in what was starting to happen with cycling in the city at that time; more people were embracing cycling as a form of transportation and commuting. So the blog then became what it is now—a site devoted to city cycling—in the fall of 2010.
How did you come up with the name?
Velo is a word for bike. It’s probably more recognized in Europe than it is in the United States. If you put that together with ‘joy,’ that perfectly expresses what the blog is about.
What are some of the issues you address on velojoy?
We want to help people consider cycling as a form of transportation and perhaps demystify it. We know based on studies that many people would like to bike more but are hesitant because of safety concerns. This is an obvious issue in a city with tons of traffic, but we want to show people that there are steps they can take to ensure a safe commute.
One of the key issues we’re interested in is the considerable imbalance in the numbers of men and women who ride in the city. That ratio is about three to one. In the United States this is not unusual, but in many parts of Europe, it’s quite unusual. So another goal we have is to particularly get women to consider bicycling.
What are some of the reasons for the difference in the numbers of male and female riders in the city?
Studies show that women have more reservations about riding for safety reasons than men. But also, in a city that’s as image-conscious as New York, we find many women have practical concerns—perhaps having one’s hairdo messed up by a helmet or perspiring on the way to work. We’re interested in having people recognize that these barriers, in the end, are not unlike the barriers you face when you’re getting on the subway. On a summer day, you take the train and it’s going to be really hot, then really cold, then hot again. There are things you can plan for, and in that way cycling can be as normal a part of your day and transportation as any other option.
What do you recommend for people who have safety concerns or are worried about their appearance?
There are some great classes offered here in the city. Bike New York, for example, offers free classes to learn about safety and road skills and ways to make commuting more comfortable and efficient. I myself got a lot out of the Commuting 101 class. We are also so fortunate to have an always improving infrastructure here in the city.
As far as appearance, there are endless amounts of accessories out there to address every need. If your pants are floppy and you don’t want to get them caught in your bicycle chain, Brooks makes beautiful leather straps. If you have a lot of stuff to carry—extra clothes, a laptop, a briefcase—there are panniers that you put on a bike rack that are waterproof and can fit everything you need. There are ways to illuminate and stay safe after dark, both in terms of bicycle lights and apparel. It used to be that the only option available was a bright orange safety vest, but now major brands like Vespertine and Angella Mackey design clothing that helps you stay illuminated during the night in a way that’s really attractive.
What would you say to people who may never have considered biking to convince them to give it a try?
Bicycling is really such a great pleasure. It offers a different point of view of the city. You’re higher, moving through space and encountering the outdoors in an entirely different way. It’s also a good way to stay healthy and fit, and reduces pollution, so it’s great for the environment. It’s really a win-win and makes the city as a whole a more enjoyable place.
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