Orange sunlight slanted through the tree branches that hung over West Loines Avenue in Merrick, and the pungent-sweet smell of freshly cut grass and barbecued meat permeated the air as I bicycled east on this virtually empty street on a steamy Friday evening in late August.
I was headed home to south Merrick from the Herald Community Newspapers’ Garden City office. After an hour and 15 minutes of riding, I reached the corner of West Loines and Merrick Avenue, at the north end of Merrick’s downtown business district, around 6:15 p.m.
I stopped beside R.S. Jones, the Southwestern eatery from which the smell of barbecue emanated, downed a swig of water, called my wife to say that I’d be home in 20 minutes, and was off again.
Passing Chatterton Elementary School’s baseball field on Hewlett Avenue, I heard a bat crack at a Little League practice. “Third base, Andrew!” a coach yelled.
Unsheltered by the glass-and-steel cocoon of my Subaru Forester, my sense of smell and hearing were heightened, and I was feeling invigorated.
For the Herald’s series on alternative transportation, “The Road Less Traveled,” which premieres this week, I rode my bike to work on Aug. 24 to gauge the feasibility of commuting on a two-wheeled, human-powered vehicle. It was quite the experience.
The benefits of biking
We hear so much these days about cycling instead of driving to help minimize global warming by reducing our carbon-dioxide emissions, as well as improve our health and lower our gasoline costs.
The benefits of bicycling “are phenomenal,” said Joseph De Palma, president of the nonprofit Nassau-Suffolk Bicycle Coalition, which advocates for the creation of bicycle paths across Long Island.
Cycling, De Palma said, can be addictive. “Before you know it,” he said, “it just becomes part of yourself.”
In neighboring New York City, with 8.2 million residents, 200,000 cyclists take to the roads each day, with many commuting to work, according to Transportation Alternatives, a nonprofit organization that promotes alternatives to the car.