Up Close & Personal with Caroline Samponaro

Caroline Samponaro. Thanks to Adeline Adeline for providing the Gazelle bike for the shoot.

One of New York City’s biggest movers and shakers in the grassroots cycling department, Caroline Samponaro first fell in love with bikes as an undergraduate at Columbia College back in 2000 – her thesis was about bicycling in NYC. Now the full-time director of bicycle advocacy with Transportation Alternatives (since 2006), she continues her quest to get more people riding the streets.

What bike do you ride?

My daily bike is a single-speed with a front basket. It’s a no-frills steel frame, with upright handlebars, perfect for my daily commutes and trips to meetings around the five boroughs. A few years ago I built up a geared bike for myself that has a rack so I can attach panniers and carry groceries or do errands more easily. Hands down my favorite bike is the steel, fixed-gear that I designed and brazed last summer (with a ton of help and support from fastboycycles.com). I am 5’5’’, pretty average height, yet even the smallest unisex bike frames are all out of proportion for a woman my size. I designed my frame to accommodate 26’’ wheels – and am experimenting with a more perfect frame size for the growing number of women riding bikes in the US.

What has enabled Transportation Alternatives (TA) to attract 8,000 members?

Our mission is to reclaim NYC streets for the majority of New Yorkers who are walking, taking public transit and, increasingly, riding bikes. Streets and sidewalks make up 80 percent of our public space in the Big Apple. TA’s campaign work helps to connect the dots between the many different voices that want safer, more livable public spaces. The fact that TA has helped to usher in the most unprecedented investment in bicycling in NYC over the past four years has also done a lot to grow our membership.

What is your greatest accomplishment with TA?

Ushering in the community support for the Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) expansion of more than 250 miles of bike lanes over the past four years has been an amazing learning experience. That investment in quality infrastructure has paralleled a 109 percent increase in biking during the same period. If you build it, they will come! When I was riding a bike back in 2000, it was rare to run into another cyclist. Now it’s not uncommon to be in a bicycle traffic jam on some of our most popular bike routes.

What are you working on right now?

We will be working hard to reveal the benefits of increased bicycling for NYC small businesses through our Biking Rules Business campaign: bikingrules.org. We are also super excited that the NYC DOT is officially pursuing a public bike share program! This is something we have advocated for for years, and it will be the biggest game-changer for daily bicycle transportation in NYC.

What changes do you envision for NYC in the next five to 10 years?

We will continue to see the build out of the bike lane network, hopefully, with a core network of protected bike lanes that connect the Five Boroughs (aka NYC) on major arteries for bicycle-commuting. I suspect public bike share, combined with more bike lanes, will help increase our bicycle mode share from one percent to the upper teens in the next five to 10 years. And with that jump, NYC will surely mature into one of the most iconic bicycling capitals in the world. If the the last four years are any indication, we are well on our way there.

Originally published in the March/ April 2011 issue of Momentum Magazine and on momentummag.com.

50 Issues of Momentum Mag

By Sarah Ripplinger + Amy Walker

In 2001 with a few thousand dollars donated by founding subscribers– Carmen Mills, Amy Walker and Joelle Paton launch a local non-profit publication: Momentum, the magazine for self-propelled people. Fifteen thousand copies of the free bimonthly magazine are printed in a tabloid format on newsprint and distributed throughout Vancouver, Victoria and the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia.

June 2002 – Colin Mackenzie joins Momentum as advertising sales representative.

Oct. + Nov. 2003, Issue 16 – the final issue of Momentum as a non profit.

2005, Issue “16.5”– Amy Walker re-launches the magazine as a sole proprietorship.

Oct. + Nov. 2005 Issue 18 – The sexy rain gear cover.

July 2006 –Terry Lowe joins Momentum as a writer, later to become editor and Vancouver editor.

Oct. + Nov. 2006, Issue 24 – Chris Bentzen becomes Momentum’s graphic designer, significantly boosting the magazine’s aesthetic appeal.

Dec. 2006 – Wendell Challenger starts building up Momentum’s barebones Drupal website .

Oct. 2007 – Tania Lo and Mia Kohout join Momentum as associate publisher and director of advertising, respectively.

Nov. + Dec. 2007, Issue 30 – The first appearance of the regularly-occurring columns Gleanings, by Ron Richings; Mitey Miss, by Ulrike Rodrigues; and the Shawn Granton comic.

Jan. + Feb. 2008, Issue 31Momentum is distributed to 20 cities across North America. The magazine shifts to a North American focus and begins working with independent and group distributors to bring the magazine to a coffee shop and specialty retailer near you.

Sept. 2008Momentum styles the first Urban Legend Bike Fashion Show at Interbike.

Sept. + Oct. 2008, Issue 35Momentum’s frst style issue.

Nov. + Dec. 2008, Issue 36 – David Niddrie begins photo editing for the magazine.

March + April 2009, Issue 38 – The launch of Kristen Steele’s regularly occurring column, The Advocate.

May 2009Momentum nominated for an Utne Reader independent press award.

Aug. 2009 – Lindsey Wasserman joins Momentum as its first full-time employee and office manager extraordinaire!

Sept. 2009 – Mia Kohout and Tania Lo join Amy Walker as co-publishers.

Sept. + Oct. 2009 – Dan Goldwater’s D.I.Y. column makes its first appearance.

May + June 2009, Issue 39 – Sarah Ripplinger joins Momentum as the BC editor, later taking on the role of assistant editor as well.

March + April 2010, Issue 44 – Sarah Ripplinger takes on the position of editor.

May 2010momentumplanet.com is relaunched.

Sept. + Oct. 2010, Issue 47 – First issue designed by SW!TCH studio, Momentum’s new design team.

Originally published in the March/ April 2011 issue of Momentum Magazine and on momentummag.com.

A Fresh Start

Momentum Magazine Editor Sarah Ripplinger.

This issue marks a major milestone and turning point for Momentum. We’ve come a long way since our beginnings back in 2001 (see timeline on p. 12). Now, with the publication of the 50th installment of Momentum Magazine, we are debuting a stylish and more mainstream look and feel.

It has been amazing, challenging and rewarding to be with Momentum as we reach this turning point. I am excited about our future and look forward to many more years of evolution and change as we continue to listen and react to what you want to see on our pages. By focusing on the bike lifestyle (see feature on p. 32) as a whole, we are in a better position to deliver the information and resources you need to live happier, saner lives on two wheels. Please share your thoughts about our new content: letters@momentumplanet.com. I look forward to reading your comments.

In this issue, we give you a peek at some of the hottest gear for spring 2011 (p. 46), share tips on preparing for a vacation-by-bike (p. 52), take you to the bike lanes of New York City (p. 39), give you a glimpse into the day of a folding biker (p. 28) and show you how to host your very own bike birthday party (p. 25).

Our new lineup of features and columnists will open up the dialogue on hot button issues, such as ticketing cyclists (p. 21), conservatism and cycling (p. 58) and riding with newborns (p. 26), to name a few.

There is so much to discuss. Our cities are growing and maturing in many different ways, which makes establishing better policies and practices around bike infrastructure and laws of imminent importance. Likewise, we should continue to celebrate the joy and functionality of cycling by showing just how fun and easy it is to ride a bike in your city. This is Momentum’s ongoing quest. I hope you will continue to join us for the ride.

Happy spring cycling,

Sarah Ripplinger

Editor, Momentum Magazine

Originally published in the March/ April 2011 issue of Momentum Magazine and on momentummag.com.