It’s officially National Volunteer Month and we’re thrilled to celebrate our tremendous volunteers all month long. Our April Volunteer Spotlight is one of our most dedicated team members, John.
His empathetic approach to teaching, his eagerness to explore, his commitment to bicycling; there are so many reasons why we love John. Keep on reading and you’ll start to love him, too!
HIS EMPATHETIC APPROACH TO TEACHING
We asked John what volunteering with Bike New York meant for him and his response blew us away:
“The main thing I enjoy the most is helping people who are not comfortable with riding overcome anxiety and meet the challenge head-on. Because each student is different, I learn nuances from working with them at every class, and I also learn by observing the different instructors.”
He continued to recount a story from a past Learn to Ride class he instructed:
“[A] memory that sticks out is from working at an [Learn To Ride: Bike Skills 101 – Adults] class. There was a woman in her late 20’s who was having a hard time emotionally centering herself. The instructor and volunteers each took time out to see if we could help. It turned out she was scheduled to visit her boyfriend in London the following week and he was expecting her to bike all over London with him, but the problem was she didn’t know how to ride. That small detail (and I assume other relationship issues) were too much pressure for her. We ended up asking her to take a break from the lesson because she was practically torturing herself to learn, which is not the way to do it. The reason this story sticks out is because the complex emotions from the student were initially confusing and saddened me, but the empathetic response from the Bike New York crew impressed me.”
HIS EAGERNESS TO EXPLORE
“I moved from Chicago to Queens nine years ago and I immediately began exploring around the city on my bike. Every so often I’ll pick something I haven’t done and use that as an anchor for a ride. Examples I’ll pitch to myself might be “check out Randall’s Island” or “go down to see the Fearless Girl statue” or “check out the new Kosciuszko Bridge path”. Sometimes it’s a banal reason, like one day I was trying to decide where to ride and I remembered a waffle stand I had seen near City Hall, so that was my anchor. The promise of a treat is what got me out of the house!
While John loves to explore, he also has a few tried-and-true bike routes. Give this one a try on your next ride!
“My regular route for long rides is a loop from Jackson Heights (my hood), to the Williamsburg Bridge via Greenpoint and Williamsburg, then from Manhattan (Chinatown, Lower East Side, etc.) up to the Queensboro Bridge, through Sunnyside and Woodside, and back to Jackson Heights.”
his COMMITMENT TO BICYCLING
Biking almost 30 miles on a Saturday morning to volunteer for a bike education class? Commitment. 👏
“I signed up to staff a Learn to Ride class on Staten Island once and made the trek early on a Saturday morning all the way from my apartment in Jackson Heights. It was the first time I rode my bike around Staten Island and it was pretty wild–parts of it are not like anywhere else in the city.”
As John mentioned, he previously lived in Chicago where the frigid winter temperatures leave a chill in your bones (🥶), but that didn’t stop him from getting on the saddle.
“In Chicago, I was a year-round rider, regularly riding in 15-degree weather, and snow, and I still go out riding in Winter here. What New Yorkers call cold is sometimes laughable to me. Winter riding is easier than you think, so don’t let a little cold or slush stop you. My trick is to have a winter bike that can take a beating, and know how to layer.”
We’ll keep that advice in mind when winter rolls back around (but we can’t promise we won’t complain about it being too cold 😏)!