QUEENS — Longtime Forest Hills resident Michael Rosin was getting increasingly frustrated about his morning commute.
The 71st/Continental Avenue train station, where the E, F, M, and R trains stop, is only about a mile away from the airline worker's home, but it would take him a half hour or more to get there by the Q23 bus. Rosin tried to walk to the station, but it took about 14 minutes, he said. So a few years ago, he hopped on his bike.
“It’s about 5 minutes on the bicycle,” said Rosin, who commutes into Manhattan. “Once you get used to that, you can’t stop,” said Rosin, who bikes to the station in his business suit. “In the wintertime, I just put on a pair of gloves and keep going.”
Rosin is one of a growing number of Forest Hills commuters who in recent years have started biking to the 71st/Continental Avenue station. Every morning, a crowd of a few dozen residents, often wearing white shirts, ties or suits, chain their bikes in the area before hopping onto the train to Manhattan.
To accommodate the cycling commuters, a bike shelter with four bike racks was installed in 2008 on Continental Avenue, between the subway station and the Forest Hills Long Island Rail Road station, according to the Department of Transportation.
Additional bike racks were added this summer, but even now, many cyclists lock their bikes to the street signs and lamp posts in the area, because there isn't enough room to accommodate them all.
According to Peter Beadle, a member of Transportation Alternatives Queens Activist Committee and the Community Board 6 Transportation Committee, people typically ride their bikes to big transportation hubs rather than local stations, because they're more likely to have bike racks installed around them.
But he said the biking to the 71st Street train station has been growing in popularity in Queens in the past two years, as commuting by bike has gained popularity in the boroughs.
This form of commute is "called ‘the first mile, last mile,’ because most people come within that one mile radius,” he said.
The trend has been also noticed around the Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Avenue station, Beadle said.
He credited the introduction of the Citi Bike program as helping to popularize biking, even though it has not included Central Queens.
“People started to see that biking really was a legitimate commuting option,” said Beadle, who bikes to his office in Manhattan at least once a week with a group of cyclists from Queens. “People in our area, which actually has almost no biking infrastructure, said ‘hey, if they can do it, then we can do it too.”
One downside to the glut of bikes is that a number of commuters have also had their bikes stolen around the Forest Hills station, they said.
Jian Wan, 50, an IT specialist who lives on Kessel Street, said he lost three bicycles in about two months after he started commuting by bike about a year ago, so he bought a 30-year-old clunker.
“No one stole it yet,” he said, grinning.
Beadle said that many bike thefts are often unreported. “When people see someone breaking the window of a car they would probably call 911, but they aren’t calling 911 when they see someone clipping a lock of a bike,” he said. Getting better locks can also help, he said.
For Sue Wang, 54, an office worker in Midtown, biking is a nice form of exercise from her house several blocks away on Ingram Street and saves her several minutes compared to walking.
But it also a matter of safety. “Sometimes I come home around 10 p.m.,” she said. “There are a lot of people around Austin Street, but the further you go, there's less and less people. I feel safer riding a bike than walking.”