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Bike vs. Car vs. Transit

Transportation Alternatives held its 7th annual Commuter Challenge pitting cyclist, driver, and bus/subway rider in the ultimate showdown of which mode of travel can be quickest (and cheapest!)

In the end, the bike proved swiftest over the 4.5 mile course which began in Brooklyn's Fort Greene and ended in Manhattan's Union Square. Jamie Favaro rolled up in just over 16 minutes and took home the gold and a bouquet of flowers for her efforts. Driver, Emmanuel Fuentebella (22 minutes) parked his car and sprinted to a surprise second place finish. Shortly after, disappointed MTA rider April Greene came in last at 29 minutes. But, as Wiley Norvell noted at the finish line, Transportation Alternatives also measured the carbon footprint of all the the riders and Greene came in a close second behind the cyclist.

[music] Caroline Samponaro: [0:02] It's the great New York City commuter race, time-honored tradition. Today the cyclists will be racing the transit rider which will be racing the car driver, from Fort Green here in Brooklyn to Union Square in Manhattan. What it's going to prove is that, as always, bicycling is the fastest and most affordable way to get to work.

Jamie Farvo: [0:23] I can very easily beat the car driver and the subway. No problem. It's not even a contest. I feel kind of bad for them because it's going to be a pathetic crush of their soul, their commuting souls.

April Greene: [0:38] Oh, I'm definitely going to win because MTA, New York City Transit, rocks.

Emmanuel: [0:42] Fuentebella: My name's Emmanuel. I'm going to hoop the cyclist and I'm going to pick up the commuter. Jamie: [0:47] Not a contest. [music]

April: [0:49] Better leave it go [laughter] .

Caroline: [0:50] Go. Go. [music] [traffic sounds]

Emmanuel: [laughter] [1:07] April: [1:08] Do-de-tum-to-to. Off to a rip-roaring start waiting for the light.
Emmanuel: [1:13] Oh. Here's the first red. Yeah.
Jamie: [1:17] I'm a social worker and program director in Washington Heights. It only takes me 45 minutes by bicycle to get from Glory side to Washington Heights, and it takes me about an hour to commute by the subway.
Emmanuel: [1:30] I'm going to make a right to Blackbush towards Manhattan Bridge. Yeah. And this is kind of a heavy traffic area. [music] April: [1:47] I do have a sinking feeling that I'm losing a little bit of ground to my compadres at this juncture, but I'm going to make it up later.

[1:57] It's a little tight in here. It's cozy.

Speaker: [1:59] Are you crowded. April: [2:00] Get to know our neighbors this way. [music background]

Jamie: [2:03] I'm getting to work, I'm de-stressing, and exercising in one.

Emmanuel: [2:11] This is Manhattan Bridge, man. It's so nice to be over the city. We're now in Manhattan. I think I might be winning because we crossed the bridge pretty well. April: [2:26] Smell that exhaust.
Emmanuel: [2:27] I work in television and I carry equipment among other things, lights or teleprompter gear, tripods, and unfortunately I cannot put it all on a bicycle. Jamie: [2:39] Yeah. Bikers rule.

April: [2:41] Let's see, it's 8:03 by now. We left at 7:45, so it's going to be 18 minutes.

Emmanuel: [2:48] A little bit of traffic, yeah. Look at a bicyclist just that's more behind. April: [2:53] Very helpful.
Emmanuel: [laughter] [2:54] [subway announcer]
Emmanuel: [3:01] Let's go. Let's go. There's no parking here, man. I will not find parking here - 8:30 to 9:00 a.m. Shoot. Jamie: [3:11] I didn't break a sweat. I'm not hyperventilating. Pretty easy. Not a difficult commute. Very fun.
Emmanuel: [3:21] I'm here. Well, I came in second, but I really wanted to win. [music] April: [3:25] What's going on? [laughter] How did you beat me?
Wiley Norvell: [3:27] Well, our bicyclist won hands down with 16 and a half minutes. Our driver was a bit behind at 22 minutes, and our transit rider came in third this year with 29 minutes. Probably having something to do with her bus to subway combo instead of the usual just one subway all the way. [3:42] We also measured the carbon footprint of all of our riders. Our bicyclist came in first, obviously, with a zero carbon footprint. Our transit rider was just behind with one pound. But the driver on that little 5-mile drive produced six pounds of carbon dioxide. So they're obviously the big loser where that's concerned.

April: [3:58] So I was kind of shocked to come in dead last. I thought we made pretty good time. We didn't wait too long for any one method. We didn't experience any really abhorrent delays. But, yeah, it just took a while, and I would be a lot happier right now, I think, if I had ridden my bike. [music]

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  • Gargamel Tralfaz!

    Hooray! Bikes rule....

  • http://npgreenway.blogspot.com/2008/02/out-of-tragedy-comes-hope-for-tomorrow.html#links npGREENWAY

    Has somebody filmed one of these in Portland yet? I've heard of them happening, I just haven't seen them filmed like this yet.

    Nice video friends. Great work!

  • nick g

    but what they didn't include in their calculation was the value of the transit riders' ability to do other things while riding the train with her fellow new yorkers - such as improve her vocabulary and mental dexterity by doing a crossword puzzle, or raise her gpa by doing extra-credit homework, save time by applying her makeup or eating her morning muffin, gain enlightenment through silent meditation or even lighten the mood of her fellow passengers by singing them a little song or reading them a poem. to say nothing of the incalculable value of sartorial expressions of style, the simple pleasure of a shared smile and the promise of romance with the cutie sitting across from her! all that, for only $2! what a bargain!

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  • bikeme

    Great film! Didn't know about this competition until this year. Luckily now I count on the Streetfilms crew to keep me informed and entertained.

    While I'm glad the cyclist won, I'm also happy Emmanuel and April didn't let Jamie's victory "crush their souls." April did sum it up pretty nicely at the end - She would have been a lot happier if she had ridden her bike.

  • http://www.tanooshka.com Robert

    They need to calculate how many times people get mugged in their car or while riding a bike vs. the subway.

  • http://westemby.com Wes

    Awesome. Go bikes.

  • http://aseachange.net Angela

    Cool. But I do want to point out that you need to factor in the carbon footprint of manufacturing all these forms of transportation, no? Or, as they all need to be manufactured, does it balance out?

  • Ted

    Great film. Excellent concept. We need more healthy competition like this to demonstrate the superiority of bikes.

    But where was the helmet on that bicyclist?! Come on! Biking in NYC without a helmet?! Forget muggers?! Shame on that cyclist for demonstrating such irresponsible behavior.


  • Jen

    Did anyone notice that that car driver was using the bus lane/HOV?

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  • http://www.asmithphotography.com Angela

    Great story, with gas prices the way they are mass transit is a must!

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  • http://www.attorneyillinois.net Chicago Injury lawyer

    I will say that the bike is my preferred method of commuting, but there are many a day where my only real option is the mass public option. Long live the bike and subway.

  • http://carfreejim.com Jim

    This is a great competion! Thanks for filming it. I used to live in Boston where the bike is totally the fastest way to get around but you fear for your life crammed between parked cars and horrific traffic. They have some work to do to make it safer with some dedicated bike lanes but its a city with great biking potential. Now I live in Arlington VA and biking is so much more relaxing with a plethora of bike trails and lanes. Montreal is ultra-amazing too with its excellent new public bike system $5 for 24 hours. Havent been to NYC but I hear there are great things going on for bikers and pedestrians.

  • NikolasM

    How about you try a competition where you get 900 people to do this race at the same time. 300 by bike, 300 by transit, and 300 by individual car and see what happens.

  • http://cos-mobile.blogspot.com/ Douglas A. Willinger

    How about another contest taking into account cargo capacity?

  • http://www.re-visionlabs.com Aurea Astro

    Hey I'd love to help spearhead a similar story here in Seattle! Is anything like this in the works elsewhere?

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  • Alex

    Saved my life! thanks for the persuasive essay hook! :)

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