Hope everyone’s 2017 is off to a roaring start! Bike New York volunteer Joanna Giordano’s certainly is, largely because of how well her year began last year. As a New Year’s resolution, despite not owning a bike, she set the admirable goal of becoming a bike commuter. Additionally, despite not having ever ridden 40 miles in a row, she signed up to ride in last year’s TD Five Boro Bike Tour. “Biking is a tough resolution,” she explained, “because you can’t really start biking on January 1, but if you sign up for something, then you have to get a bike and get ready for it.” Joanna trained with supportive new friends whom she met at WE Bike NYC gatherings, and toughed out the less-than-ideal weather at last year’s Tour like a seasoned veteran. These days, Joanna is comfortably riding streets with or without a protected bike lane. She is still defensive in her approach, but much more assertive in her demeanor. She’s even riding in the wintertime! “Feeling safe when I started was the main barrier. Then I had a foundation to build on,” she explained. After proving to herself that she could do it, she made the decision to begin volunteering with us in order to help other people realize that they, too, can do it.
Fittingly, more often than not, Joanna chooses to volunteer at our Learn to Ride classes in order to work with beginners. When she hears students doubting themselves, memories of her own self-doubt come flooding back. “I thought it was cool that people rode in the city, but I never thought I’d be able to do it.” Joanna’s fastidious approach to problem solving paid off in spades. When she wanted to bike to work, she walked part of the route first in order to eliminate unknowns. Once she started to ride her bike along the route, she would hop off and walk the moment she felt unsafe. “I overdid it but that made me comfortable. In my opinion as a female rider, being more prepared, knowing what to expect, and feeling safe in the protected bike lanes – that’s what’s going to get the average woman on a bike.” Visits to the Female Bike Forum by WE Bike NYC assured her that not every cyclist is a super-fit, spandex-clad, road warrior that rides centuries on the regular. Slowly but surely, she came to believe that “if [she] can do it, anyone can do it.”
That level of humility and a keen desire to share, coupled with her entirely relatable experience, have been crucial to her success as a volunteer. She is able to remind students that learning to ride is a process. “It’s not like I got up one day and tried to ride down Park Avenue in rush hour traffic! There was reconnaissance and research.” As someone who now rides to work on a regular basis, she can bring to light the benefits of bike commuting. “It’s four miles one-way, not fifty. I get cardio out of it, save money, and avoid being smushed on the train!”
Especially exciting to Joanna is the diversity of our student body and all the different motivations for learning that students have shared with her, including a foot courier who wants to become a bike messenger to supplement his income; a husband who wants to ride with his wife when they visit friends on Long Island; a wife who’s been riding on the back of a tandem bike for years but wants to learn to ride on her own; an Australian tourist who decided to learn on a whim while on vacation. “It’s so hard for adults to pick up something new and make time for that, so I respect that,” she said.
So what does 2017 have in store for this newly empowered and ambitious woman? “I’m interested in bicycle touring! I can’t imagine ever being able to do that though.” The irony of that statement is not lost on her. “But if anyone can do it, I can!”