Leaving the subway behind

There’s an underground movement afoot: commuters jumping off the increasingly costly and crowded MTA grid and making often lengthy commutes under the power of their own muscles.

The benefits, say non-motoring mavericks, are many: Money is saved, muscles are strengthened, calories are torched, attitude is refreshed, and appreciation for the city is restored.

“Being outside and being in control of the destiny in your commute gives you a better outlook on the whole day,” said Michael Auerbach, 26, who bikes 10 miles from his Greenpoint home to his job on the Upper East Side. He appreciates saving $4.50 a day almost as much as he loves compressing his three-train, 50-minute commute into an invigorating half-hour.

Tracking a boost in walking is elusive, but there was a 221 percent rise in bicycle commuters between 2000 and 2009, to 15,495, with Brooklyn leading, according to the NYC Commuter Cycling Indicator.

New Yorkers resort to a step schlep or pedal push for a variety of reasons: Fare hikes, for example, “always give a bump to bike commuting,” said Noah Budnick, deputy director of Transportation Alternatives. Many people, too, said they resent being held hostage in increasingly crowded trains and buses.

What’s more, the city during the past three years has added 200 miles of bike lanes.

Holly Pekowsky, a trademark attorney, disliked being dragooned by the No. 6 train every morning. About a year ago, she tried walking three miles from her Upper East Side apartment to her midtown office and found she arrived eager to tackle her day instead of feeling defeated.

Her hourly on-foot commute “is heaven,” said Pekowsky, who stops at a gym near her office to shower and don corporate togs.

Tags: commuting , biking , MTA , New York

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