Riding for the Love of Biking and the Planet

By Jen Benepe (April 15, 2012–New York, NY)

Cyndi Steiner at last year's Climate Ride in D.C.

Cyndi Steiner had been working diligently for years to help children and other New Yorkers learn how to ride a bicycle.

Since joining the not-for-profit Bike New York which makes cycling education a priority,  Ms. Steiner has also been racing her own bicycle, and now manages a team of female riders who compete on the weekends. So you might think she has a full plate: not on your life.

In 2011, Steiner who had been a board member of BNY for 10 years acted as a volunteer for the Climate Ride that took intrepid cyclists from New York City to Washington D.C. in five days and 300 miles, an effort to publicize the state of our fragile world ecology and to bring the message home to their representatives in D.C.

This year, Steiner will do the ride herself from May 19 to 23, and will be able to combine her ride with fundraising for her favorite not-for-profit.

Bike New York, most well known for hosting the annual TD Bank Five Boro Bike Tour that takes more than 30,000 riders through all city boroughs in one day, spends the rest of its 364 days a year helping New Yorkers get on bicycles. (This year they will also be hosting a three-day expo at the Basketball Pier on the Lower East Side from May 3rd through the 5th. )

Ms. Steiner racing for her team in 2009

Born and raised on the Delmarva Peninsula, in Maryland, on the Chesapeake Bay– “think blue crabs, oysters, lots of farmland and wetlands” said Steiner, she is no stranger to living in an area that screams out environmental fragility.

Many people like Steiner have made the connection between cycling and the environment–and while it may be obvious to like-minded cyclists that getting on a bike helps spare the environment of harmful CO2 emissions and other dangerous pollutants, it’s not always so clearcut for car-bound folks, or even our Congress people.

In 2011, Bike New York’s education program taught 3,650 people combined adults and children in 215 classes how to ride a bike, basic handling, how to ride safely on city streets, bicycle maintenance, commuting, and a class on how to buy a bike.

All of the classes are offered for free at five centers around the city, and this year, four more will be added, said Steiner.

All of that costs money, an average of $200 per student. Steiner’s goal is to raise $3200, and with help from other cyclists and particupants in the ride, hopes to raise a total of $5,000 for the organization.

To complete the trip from New York to D.C., with average distances of 40 to 70 miles per day, Steiner will be riding her Trek 5500 OCLV which she bought in 1999.

Cyclists in last year's Climate Ride, Photo: Kip Pierson

Ordinarily, bike racers like to switch out their bicycles every few years, but Steiner’s relationship to her bike which she calls her “throughbred” is deep: ” It has about 50,000 miles on it and it is solid–I love that bike,” she said. The only other things she will carry with her when she sets out is a piece of ID, her insurance card, a cell phone, a granola bar, a spare tube, and a pump.

The Climate Ride will supply sag wagons–the support vehicles that carry clothing and other bags for the riders, all of them  hybrids, biodiesel vehicles “or high miles per gallon performance vehicles.” Some of the other 199 riders–75 more than last year, and the max that the organization can handle– will either ride for the Climate cause alone, or will be representing other approved beneficiaries similar to Bike New York.

Among the organizations raising more than $630K with the ride will be the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the

Jumping in between riding at last year's Climate Ride, Photo Kip Pierson

350.org, the Rails to Trails Conservancy, the League of American Bicyclists, the Alliance for Biking and Walking, and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). When the cyclists get to D.C., they will hold a rally in front of the capitol buildings, and the next day visit their lawmakers.

Ms. Steiner, who lives in Montclair, NJ, will be appealing to Congressman Bill Pascrell to maintain bicycle and pedestrian inrastructure and project funding as originally laid out in the 2009 Surface Transportation Act. That funding was recently threatened through budget cuts, and Steiner and her fellow cyclists will be asking lawmakers to preserve last year’s funding levels at a mere 1.6% of transportation spending.

“Ten percent of all trips are made by either pedestrians or bicyclists, and 14% of all road fatalities happen to bicyclists and pedestrians. We’re no longer trying to go beyond the 1.6% in this negotiation; we’re just trying to recapture the 1.6% that has been lost,” said Steiner.

A group photo, 2011 Climate Ride, Photo Kip Pierson

“I am used to encouraging riders when they are dragging, helping them get through the mentally challenging parts, helping them dig deep within themselves to find more than they knew they had, and knowing how proud they will be when they finish. It doesn’t matter the level of cyclist, everyone feels proud of having accomplished something on the bike that they have never done before,” said Steiner of the 300 miles she will be traveling.

A spokesperson from the ride Kathryn Socie said a map of the ride is currently not available, but participants will head out from Battery Park in New York, cross by ferry to the Atlantic Highlands, then on to Princeton, N.J. the first day. From there they head to Lambertville, NJ, and cross the Delaware into Pennsylvania to Valley Forge, PA.

From Valley Forge the cyclists will travel through Lancaster County, then Amish country, and across the Susquehanna River into Maryland. From Maryland they will travel south into DC, said Steiner.

Digging the view at a well deserved break, 2011, Photo Kip Pierson

Though the D.C. ride is closed to new participants, another ride will be taking place this September 9th through 13th in California.

In the meantime, Steiner hopes to attract several more donors to her cause by May 1st: You can become a contributor by giving to Bike New York (BNY) anything from $10 to the sky’s the limit.

Fifty dollars will give you entry into a raffle to win two VIP passes to the TD Bank 5-Boro Bike Tour on May 6, 2012: $25 or more is eligible for a raffle of a Bike New York attaché-style messenger bag and umbrella, both of which have the BNY logo.

Steiner who has received several “Platinum donations” over $200 each said she is happy for even the smallest donations of “just $10,” to bring her to her goal of being the top fundraiser.  Help Steiner make it to the top and to D.C.,  by donating at her page here!