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Slice of Rye: One Inspiring Commuter
Friday, 23 September 2011 13:49
By Janice Llanes Fabry
For Peter Carruthers, biking is a way of life. So much so that he bikes from Rye to his job in New York City and back a couple of times a week. That’s 27 miles through Westchester, the Bronx, Harlem, and down to Wall Street in under two hours. All before a day’s work.
“I work 11- to 12-hour days and fitting in a fitness schedule is tough,” he said. “I arrive at Citibank by 6:45, so it dovetails nicely with my work day.”
Director of Foreign Exchange for Citibank, Mr. Carruthers is at his desk by 7:30 a.m., after changing out of his cycling shorts and into his suit, which he keeps at the office. His early schedule necessitates that he be up by 4:15 every weekday morning and on his bike before 5.
“I’d like to break 1:40, which averages 16 mph,” said Mr. Carruthers, who rides a Giant OCR carbon race bike. “My current time of 1:50 averages 14.6 mph.”
When he doesn’t bike to work, he’s on the 5:02 train. Not surprisingly, he rides his bike to the Harrison station and gets to the city in time for a four- to seven-mile run from Grand Central to lower Manhattan. “I’m a destination runner and biker,” he added.
Mr. Carruthers has been both bicycling and running since he was a child, growing up in Bedford. His parents, both in their 80s now, adapted healthy lifestyles early on. A medical doctor, his father regularly exercised during lunch. His mother was a speed skater and played tennis. He hopes to pass down his strong workout ethic to his own children, Allison, 16, and Phillip, 14.
“I hope that by making exercise, either by biking or running, part of my commute, I’ve shown my kids that working out can be a regular part of everyday life,” he said. The teens, along with his wife Lisa, ride bicycles, but haven’t, he acknowledged, “embraced it like I have.”
The fitness buff started biking to work when he lived just outside of Chicago. After moving to Greenhaven five years ago, he meticulously mapped out “a rideable route” before attempting the ride to Manhattan. He got his feet wet by riding to the Bronx, all the way to the Grand Concourse, where there’s a welcome bike lane.
“It’s nice to know there is a commitment on the part of the government for bike lanes, where you are relatively safe,” he said. Where there’s no bike lane, he often sprints and goes as fast as 35 m.p.h.
Once he conquered the Bronx four years ago, Mr. Carruthers continued on to Bruckner Boulevard, 138th Street, through Harlem, and over to the Hudson River Greenway. “It’s a very nice ride, entirely separate from cars and it goes right to my building.” The Greenway is the most heavily used bikeway in the country, operated by the New York City Department of Parks.
Upon his arrival at Citibank, he parks his bike indoors thanks to Mayor Bloomberg’s zoning code, requiring indoor bicycle parking at all new buildings.
Besides bike lanes and secure parking, Mr. Carruthers relishes steep slopes, which are no uphill battle for him. “I embrace uphills and love downhills.”
Unfortunately, it hasn’t always been a smooth ride. Last year, he graced the pages of this newspaper’s Police Blotter when a youth leaning outside of a passing car hit him with a hockey stick on his trek home, gashing his back. In addition, four of his bikes have been stolen, outside buildings and at train stations. These days, he employs a heavy 40-pound chain lock to secure his bike.
And Mr. Carruthers’ has had his share of flat tires. “I get a flat a week. Thanks to a lot of practice I can change a tire in about five minutes,” he said. Leaving little to chance, he carries a lumbar pack with a bike pump, a CO2 cartridge, a tool kit, tire irons, an inner tube, along with his Blackberry and keys. Of course, he sports all the safety gear, from a helmet to reflectors and a Cygolite headlight on the handlebars.
To avoid potentially hazardous conditions in the dark of winter, he only bikes to the city from March to Veterans Day and gets home by 8:30 p.m. “I could be lit up like a Christmas tree and it doesn’t make any difference, between the pedestrians walking in between cars, the buses, and the tourists.”
Mr. Carruthers understands most roads in Westchester are just too narrow for bike lanes, but he’d like to see more awareness for cyclists on the part of residents. At the same time, he feels pelotons, those group riders, should be diligent about staying away from motor traffic, especially the lone rider who travels away from the pack on the main road.
Not just a bicycling commuter, he rides recreationally as well. He bikes regularly to visit his folks in Bedford, to Armonk and Greenwich. This past July, he was a participant in the Tri-State Trek, a 270-mile ride from Boston to New York to benefit the ALS Therapy Development Institute. He rode in memory of Claire Gormley Collier, sister of Rye resident Phil Gormley.
Until November, he will continue to commute on wheel and welcomes any community member with a road bike to join him. “Anyone can ride a bike,” he said. “And after a couple of rides, you will become physically fit.”