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Biketrain Offers a New Spin on Commuting by Bike

By Emily Frost | October 16, 2012 11:55am

FORT GREENE — Sunlight streams through the windows, casting shadows of bike wheels along the walls, as a group of commuters gathers inside Red Lantern Bicycle Shop and Cafe, sipping freshly brewed coffee. They're fueling up for a bike ride together to their jobs in Manhattan, an activity dubbed a "biketrain" by cycling enthusiasts.

The biketrain concept, a group bike ride to help new riders feel more comfortable on city streets and experienced riders to find community, debuted on the West Coast around 2009. Now Upper West Siders Kim Burgas and Kimberly Kinchen are bringing biketrains to life in New York City. 

The duo met "serendipitously" on Twitter; Kinchen was looking for support in returning to cycling after many years away and Burgas was looking for a way to connect cyclists. Last November, they launched a ride from Inwood to Union Square, stopping along the way on the Upper West Side to pick up more riders. But this train is on hiatus while they find more "conductors," to lead groups.

However, their Brooklyn iteration of the ride, which began this spring, has stuck, catching on more quickly than the uptown ride. Burgas attributes part of the success to their decision to start the morning at a cafe. Currently, they're meeting every Thursday at Red Lantern in Fort Greene.

"We meet up at 7:30 [a.m.] and everybody gets coffee and gets to know each other and the regulars check in with people," said Burgas.

"For new people, it’s a chance to meet some of the other riders and to establish some comfort before we get on bikes and are out on the street."

Jack De Stefano, a facilities manager, biked over to the Red Lantern from Bedford-Stuyvesant, and said he bikes to work in Midtown everyday and wanted to meet more cyclists.

"Cycling can be a solo activity and I think it's exciting to meet people who are doing this every day," said De Stefano. 

Riding in a group, said De Stefano, "you can breathe a bit more and carry on conversations."

Carla Iny, who works in marketing in the Flatiron District and lives in Fort Greene, said she's been biking to work for seven years, but she still gets surprised looks from her coworkers when they learn about her commute. 

"I like anything that makes [biking] feel easier and safer for people," she said.