Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Along for the Ride

By Peter Belfiore

As many of you know, Citi Bike has teamed up with the Red Cross to help raise awareness and funds in support of our mission. At the Greater New York Red Cross, few volunteers embody both a dedication for our mission and a love of biking like longtime Red Crosser and avid cyclist Richard Sanford. In that spirit, we recently sat down with him to discuss his two passions and his thoughts on Citi Bike for Good.

Richard has been a Red Cross volunteer since he was 16. Now retired from a New York City teaching career, he volunteers his time as a Red Cross shelter volunteer as well as a Red Cross instructor. He also runs guided bike tours of the city in not only English, but in Spanish and Italian as well. His dedication as a volunteer and his language skills (he also knows Mandarin) have made him an invaluable member of the Red Cross team.

Why do you like cycling so much?

(Biking) is the most efficient way of getting around the city. If you have to go really long distances the subway might be faster, but if you’re going within five to ten miles the bicycle is just about the same speed as the train or maybe even faster.

What is it like to bike in New York City?

Well I think the trick in cycling, as the League of American Bicyclists would say, you should consider yourself as if you’re driving a bike rather than riding a bike. If you drive a bike as if you’re part of traffic you’re whole perspective is very different and you’ll feel much more confident and you are a part of traffic so traffic knows you’re there and traffic doesn’t move that fast in New York City so you can feel pretty safe. Just treat yourself like you’re driving a vehicle and I think it works much better than being a timid bicycle rider.

How do you use cycling in your volunteer work with the Red Cross?

When I get a call to be at the Red Cross Chapter, or if I’m teaching a class I’ll come to NYC by bike and go home by bike, or maybe combine bike and train but often by bike. And if I have to go to a disaster and I’ll take my bike there depending on how far it is or I’ll combine bike with train, but if I can get there by bike within the time, it’s easier for me to go there by bike. Besides that I can carry equipment on the bike that I couldn’t carry without a backpack. Sometimes I carry projectors, sometimes I carry audiovisual equipment on the bike too.

Is there a connection for you between biking and volunteering for the Red Cross?

Both of them give you a feeling of satisfaction. You’re satisfied because you’re out in the environment and satisfied because you’re helping people. The other thing is, when you’re on a bike and you come up to a disaster, you’re already part of the event, because you’re not isolated from what’s happening. You’re already in the field. Sometimes you feel closer or connected to people and the event itself, just by the virtue that you’re not in a big truck or underground in a train, you’re actually there. Just by being outside you feel more of a connection with the people you’re trying to help.

What do you think about the New York Red Cross’ partnership with Citi Bike?

It’s great that they’re supporting the Red Cross. I think Citi Bike is wonderful, and of course the Red Cross is wonderful so there’s two great organizations. I think it’s really positive.

Citi Bike for Good, is a month-long initiative enabling Citi Bike riders to support three of New York City’s most impactful not-for-profit organizations when they ride. Between September 16 and October 16, every Citi Bike ride will support the American Red Cross, No Kid Hungry® and the YMCA of Greater New York. During Citi Bike for Good, hundreds of specially-branded bicycles will hit the streets. Citi will kick off the activation with a base donation of $10,000 for each charity and will follow with up to $40,000 in additional donations to the respective organizations based on ridership during the initiative.

To learn more about the program including how you can join, visit www.citibikeforgood.com.

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