As Sandy belted it’s final blows on the Eastern United States, the internet was abuzz with new information.  I kept my eye on social media, watching for news from friends.  With each tweet and instagram that came from someone I knew, or was at least familiar with, my heart jumped.

‘They are ok’ I thought.

The first level of OK at least – alive, physically unharmed.

As the days passed emails came in and the photos took a new light.  Not only were my friends OK, they were on the road to healing.  They were helping others.

For many in this time of crisis, the bicycle became a tool for helping others, helping themselves, and escaping the weight of the emotion of tragedy.

“The amazing thing is how NYC turned into Amsterdam during the transit shut down. [My business partner] Jenn kept saying ‘i’m so glad I have a bike!’ and I just beamed. It got super cold though, so not sure if people will keep it up” said Tanya Quick, our friend from Language Dept. (the NYC branding agency responsible for the beauty of CycloFemme).

“My favorite moment was riding up 1st Ave to get a prescription refilled for a woman trapped in her high rise, being in a fleet of commuters, next to a white haired woman who said ‘isn’t this amazing; it’s like Europe.'”

Talk about putting wind in your wings.

Post Sandy NYC: Downtown: no power, no traffic

Post Sandy NYC: Uptown gridlock:  traffic follows power

Tanya also spoke about the freedom having a bike gave her to get around.  It was a means of escaping, to not feel trapped and isolated.  A bicycle gave many New Yorkers access to the things they needed and the ability to help others.

Having bike gear can also have unexpected benefits. Tanya used bike lights as extra “candles”, and handy flash lights for getting up stairs after dark while the power was still out.

“I lived in my merino base layers, keeping me warm as it got cooler with no heat. And when we started back to work without heat, arm warmers came in handy”, Tanya said.

bike lights make great candles

“But most important was the feeling of control that having a bike, and getting to ride it, gave me in a time of no control of events.”

“It was a little piece of sanity while normal life temporarily broke down.”

“It provided a way to help, a community to be part of, and a reminder of my own heart beat. And at the end of the day, that’s what makes you feel human.”

Bikes are not only empowering in times of health, but also in times of tragedy and healing.

While much of NYC has returned to a certain semblance of ‘normal’ with power, heat, water, and traffic, parts of the city will never be the same.  Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do, how to help.

About the same time that we learned of the intense flooding of the Red Hook District and one of our favorite bicycle shops Gage+Desoto, we heard of their initiative, in partnership with Castelli Cycling, to raise funds to rebuild the neighborhood.

These colorful  jerseys, designed by Jonah Birns and produced by Castelli Cycling are available for pre-sale until December 1st.

Jerseys will be produced and shipped in January.  All proceeds will be split between the Red Hook Initiative (RHI) and Restore Red Hook (RRH).  

Go here.  Order now.  Let the bicycle continue to be a tool for healing, help rebuild Red Hook.

By Sarai Snyder – Boulder, CO