In a Pandemic Recovery, Bike Commutes Are Where the Rubber Meets the Road

By Abigail Goldring, Media Relations Staff

Alex Levi, a principal architect in the Port Authority’s Engineering Department, has always been an avid bicyclist, cycling 30 minutes down the West Side Hudson River Greenway to his office at 4 World Trade Center twice a day, every day, rain, snow, or shine.

PA bikers, circa May 2019

On the other side of the river, Michelle Mayer, a supervising business analyst in the Operations Services Department, was committed to her daily routine of biking 12 minutes downhill from her Jersey City neighborhood to her office at the Port Authority Technical Center (PATC) before taking the 18-minute uphill trip back home after work.

But with both state’s executive orders for nonessential employees requiring them to work from home, Levi and Mayer have been missing their daily rides – times when they could just clear their heads and concentrate only on the open roads ahead of them.

As offices open back up in new phases of New York’s and New Jersey’s recoveries, cycling is becoming one of the few ways to get to and from work safely while also socially distancing during the pandemic. Bike sales are soaring as more people in urban areas seek alternatives to public transit without car ownership.

The Port Authority is uniquely prepared for a bike-friendly workforce, from just recently updating its bicycle policy, to steadily updating its facilities with bike access and amenities, to providing incentives for its own employees.

Earlier in 2020, the agency opened the Goethals Bridge’s first-ever shared use path for bicyclists and pedestrians. The Bayonne Bridge and the George Washington Bridge already have shared use paths that provide free access to pedestrians and cyclists alike. Last summer, Journal Square welcomed the Port Authority’s first Oonee Pod, a Brooklyn-based secure bike storage facility. And in 2019, discounted bike-share memberships became available for Port Authority employees.

Day One of the Goethals Bridge shared-use path, March 2020

The Port Authority Board of Commissioners adopted the agency’s first bicycle policy in 2010. Since then, a group of 50 employees known as the Bicycle Working Group has carried out the ambitious goals laid out in the Bicycle Master Plan, most recently updated in 2017 to reflect an upward trend across the region and the continued renovation of the World Trade Center site. Now, that trend is undeniable.

Senior Economic Analyst Cristina Ruiz plans to bike almost everywhere as emergency orders are lifted. “Once we open up, I plan to use bicycling as a primary mode for transportation for as many things as possible, from commuting to groceries, and leisure,” she said.

Matt Walker, a principal engineer, can’t make the whole journey on bicycle from his home in Long Island. But when he starts commuting again, he won’t miss a beat picking up his old routine riding from Penn Station to 4 World Trade. “Nothing beats getting out into the open air after a long train ride,” he said.

Oonee Pod at Journal Square (credit: Noah Benus)

Last year, Port Authority employees biked more than 11,000 miles on CitiBikes, reducing over 9,000 pounds of carbon emissions. With today’s health and safety concerns, biking may offer commuters a bit of relief. Not to mention, it’s good for the environment and people’s health.

Kirsten Jones, co-chair of the Bicycle Working Group and a customer service supervisor at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, is a big believer in the benefits of biking. “When more people ride bicycles, it creates a more livable place for everyone. There is less congestion, cleaner air, safer streets, fewer sick days, longer life expectancy, a better economy, and less wear and tear on the roads,” she said.

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