+ S O C I A L U R B A N I S M

Meet Chadd Roberts: A True Bicyclist of New York City

By: Chadd Roberts - February 6th, 2019

Narrated by: Byron A. Nicholas, AICP

 
Chadd in Rockaway Beach, Queens, N.Y.    - Courtesy of Chadd Roberts

Chadd in Rockaway Beach, Queens, N.Y. - Courtesy of Chadd Roberts

 

While studing urban planning in college you have probably came across the book: Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne. It is a collection of Byrne’s thoughts about the urban realm, in cities across the world, from his perspective as a bicyclist- the good, the bad and the ugly.

When we think about bicycling in New York, we often think of Citibike used in the streets of Manhattan for short work and leisure trips. It is rare that we meet people who extensively use this mode of transportation in the city’s outer boroughs.

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Who is Chadd Roberts?

With approximately 700 square miles of residential, commercial, industrial, Chadd’s pictures proves that New York City is far from homogoneous and documents the true cosmopolitan characteristic of the city.

Chadd identifies as Afro-Caribbean. He was born and raised on a little autonomous island in the Caribbean called Grenada where he has spent his adolescent years in Grenada Boys’ Secondary School and then T.A. Marry Show Community College.

After leaving Grenada, he became a U.S Navy Corpsman with 6 years of tenure.

Some of his main hobbies includes playing billiard, video games, hiking, swimming at the beach, recreational photography, biking and exploring various waterfronts.

Bicycling for a Living

There is no doubt that the bicycling population appears to increase due to the expansion of the shared economy. We now see cities and other municipalities passing complete street resolutions and installing bicycle infrastructure. Bicyclists like Chadd depends on his bicycle for work and leisure. His pictures provides a bicyclist’s experience not only in Manhattan, but also in the the outer boroughs. Chadd works as a bartender at Japan Village, a bustling new market in Brooklyn’s Industry City. Chadd also works as a courier - using his bicycle - for Postmates and Uber Eats. By using Google Map’s timeline Chadd was able to record his bicycling routes within 24 hour periods. Below, you would see the distances Chadd has taken. In one day, Chadd has bicycled for an amazing 52 miles within 7 1/2 hours traversing throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. In another trip, Chadd has bicycled between Far Roackaway, Queens, Brooklyn and Midtown, Manhattan for 35 miles and walked another 5 1/2 miles for a total of 4 hours. During his third trip, he has bicycled for 28 miles within a 3 1/2 hour period during the West Indian Day parade on Labor Day 2018.

Urban Art

I love the independence of being able to pedal and go places by my own effort; seeing life unfold while I’m on the road and experiencing new things every day.
— Chadd Roberts

Chadd’s journey throughout the streets of New York displays a vibrant public art gallery that expresses the characteristics of everyday people. Graffiti, murals, or some like to call it “Urban Art” is one of the best examples of self-expressionism. As we can see through Chadd’s pictures, many artists take to the streets to glorify their love for Dragon Ball Z, Puerto Rican patriotism, humanity, mysticism, Black pride, or simple warm color palettes to brighten a neighborhood.

When asked, which neighborhood stands out the most, in terms of character, history, architecture, and culture, Chadd replied “ I enjoy bike riding through all the neighborhoods, but so far, mostly for the art and food, I love riding through Bushwick.”

The placement of the above various murals and graffiti art was just as interesting as the art itself. At times, it seems like technological distractions can prevent us from fully engaging with our environment. Much of the art are in conspicuous locations while others were located at high building facades. Some engulfed entire building facades while others were simply on moving trucks as though they were mobile art galleries. Chadd’s Instagram page provides a great collection of all the public art he comes across during his trips. You can see more at: @supersaiyan_aaron

Transportation

In a city where 56% of commuters take public transit, 26% drive, 10% walk. 4.1% work at home, 1.2% bike, and the remaining either carpool or taxi to work, the City of New York has attempted to accommodate safety, mobility and accessibility for all modes of transportation throughout the five boroughs (U.S Census). A lot of steam has been picking up for the loud minority of bicycle riders. Every year, the city is investing time and effort into protecting cyclists. In fact, according to NYC Department of Transportation the city continue to implement 50 lane miles of bicycle facilities a year, including at least ten lane miles of protected bicycle lanes and create or enhance 75 lane miles of bicycle facilities in Priority Bicycle Districts by 2022.

Do you think the city has done a good job promoting the safety and welfare for bicyclists?

Chadd agrees the city is doing a great job to protect cyclists. “I think we can see this by the addition bike lane miles, Vision Zero program (including free helmets, bells and lights), and the city’s collaboration with the Ghost Bikes campaign to raise awareness for bike safety.” Chadd also mentioned, “ ever since the terrorist truck attack that mainly affected cyclists on the West Side highway, the city added bollards, and other protective barriers at vulnerable areas to separate vehicular traffic from bicycle and pedestrian traffic.

What recommendations would you make for the city to improve bicyclist's safety?

Chadd believes its up to cyclists, drivers and pedestrians to stay alert, mindful and aware of other modes of transportation. “I think the city is going in the right direction when it comes to safety we can’t be overly dependent on them for it. As long as people are being vigilant and aware of their surroundings whether as a pedestrian, motorist or the cyclist themselves, they’ll be better off prepared to avoid mishaps.” After all, a little compassion goes a long way.

Check Out More Photos from Chadd’s Cycling Journeys Below!

 
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