Bicycling in New Haven
Beyond all the other changes I’ve experienced so far in coming to New Haven, one of the most drastic is my mode of transportation. Prior to my move, I would commute about 15 minutes per day from my residence to Pace Law School, which I considered a pretty easy drive after growing up in rural Pennsylvania, where it took that long just to reach a grocery store, much less my high school (which was located 45 minutes by car away from my house). The culture of Westchester, New York is not very bike-centric; though there’s a Trader Joe’s about a mile from where I lived and the gym is even closer than that, I would always drive there, though I often felt pretty guilty about my contributions to global warming. Even as an undergraduate at UMass Amherst, where many people did ride bicycles, for my first two years I lived in dorms perched atop hills to perilously steep for my nervous and asthmatic nature (too fast going down! Too steep to pedal up!), and for my last two years had a bus stop located directly outside my apartment door.
In confronting how best to make the daily commute to school, the answer was clear- buy a bike!So when I found myself living in an apartment located almost a mile from school with no nearby convenient bus stop and no at-school parking, I looked around to see how my fellow students were handling the situation. From the rows and rows of bikes parked on racks around Kroon and Sage halls, the answer was clear; biking was the preferred mode of daily commuting. Though walking is always an option, it takes at least double the time of sailing down the road on a bike. So, I invested in a decent hybrid bicycle and started my journey of becoming a daily bike commuter. Though I hadn’t really ridden a bike since I was a child (and even then not much, since there wasn’t anything in child-bicycling range of my house in the PA woods), I got the hang of it again pretty quickly! Though I must admit, I am still a very cautious biker.
New Haven is a relatively bike-friendly city (at least around the downtown and East Rock, which is the extent of my biking experience), with many roads having dedicated bike lanes, and most others at least having “share the road” bike reminders painted on the asphalt. Though there will always be those cars that are in such a hurry they just “must” narrowly try to swerve around you, and though the dedicated bike lanes often have their fair share of hazards like debris, potholes, and the classic parked-car-opening-door-into-bike-traffic fiasco, these are things that appear to be unavoidable wherever you go, so long as you are on a bike. Not to mention getting caught out on a day in the pouring rain! One of my pet peeves is getting wet and admittedly, biking in the rain will leave you soaked through. But, in regard to safety at least, my philosophy is that as long as I am cautious, always aware of my surroundings, and obey the rules of the road, I have a good chance of avoiding problems. So far, this has worked well!
I find that I have really come to enjoy biking; in fact, I usually go back and forth between my apartment and school several times a day on breaks in between classes and such, to eat lunch, play with the kitten I’ve adopted from SPCA, or occasionally, nap (those are the best days). It gets my heart rate up, I feel cardiovascular-ly healthier than when I was just driving everywhere, and both my conscience (and my wallet) are lighter now that I’m burning significantly less gas. When I return to Westchester for my last semester at Pace Law, I plan to bring my bike with me and make a conscious effort to ride more to the gym, the grocery store, and other errands within reasonable biking distance. I highly recommend commuting by bike to current and prospective future students!