New York, USA: Meet Maddy.
15.05.2023 | Out and about in ...
New York. In your mind's eye, urban canyons appear, flooded with yellow taxis. You certainly don't first think of a bike-friendly city. But this is exactly where Maddy Novich, known on Instagram as "CargoBikeMomma", is on the road every day with her Load 60 HS. We spoke with the mother of three and professor of criminology and asked her whether a life on two wheels sharpens one's view of the world.
Hi Maddy, you're a criminologist and professor at Manhattan College, and you also run a very successful Instagram channel - as a mother of three. So how do you juggle it all?
(laughs) It's all a question of successful time management! And, a lot of coffee. I’m also the kind of person who never sits still. I’m always trying to accomplish things and look for ways to be more productive and efficient. And that brings us straight to one of the biggest advantages of cargo bikes: they put me back in control of my time.
In the past, my husband Jeff and I used to travel exclusively by public transport with our children. That meant constant waiting for buses and trains and cancellations at short notice. We had to build in a time buffer for each route. Since we started traveling with the cargo bikes, we get from A to B much more efficiently.
How did you first get in touch with cargo bikes?
During a summer holiday in the Netherlands. We rented a cargo bike from a shop in Leiden - one without a motor, I should add - and went off on pretty far trips. It was absolutely junk compared to my Load (laughs). The next year we came to Amsterdam for a few weeks and used a proper cargo bike regularly - for groceries, for fun trips, everything. That opened our eyes to how efficient and fun it was - especially as a means of transport for the kids.Then we tested another cargo bike with a motor, which was much better. It was immediately clear to me that I would never again wait 45 minutes for the bus.
Within a month of returning to New York City, we bought our first cargo bike and six months later I started my Instagram channel where I share insights and experiences from my life as a "CargoBikeMomma". In the meantime, we've become friends with many like-minded people. We share a common love of cycling.
What do you think are the advantages of cargo bikes compared to other means of transport?
As a full-time working mother of three, clearly the time savings. We live in Harlem. Here I can park my bikes right in front of the house and never have to look for a parking space for a long time. Another factor is finances: cars are extremely expensive when you add up all the costs of buying, running, insuring and repairing them. And: cars ruin the cities, they just make everything ugly! (Laughs.)
That's why I advocate for a car-free (or car-lite) lifestyle. And that's despite the fact that my husband and I both have drivers licenses. So we could drive a car - but we don't want to anymore. We favour a healthier lifestyle and want to reduce our carbon footprint.
» Where the car is more about individualisation and separation, cycling creates connections and community. «
And what do your children think about that?
They love it! We really do ride with the children in the cargo bike in any weather. They couldn't care less.
How does it feel to cycle in the streets of New York?
Compared to Europe, biking in NYC is quite different. The Netherlands, for example, is perfect for cycling. In Berlin, you can also get around very well on a cargo bike. In New York, on the other hand, I had very different experiences, depending on the district and the street. But it's not as bad as you might think! (Laughs.)
I must admit, the condition of the streets are often bad because we have a lot of potholes and you should pay close attention to the cars. Fortunately, there are now many protected bike lanes. And if you ride through Central Park, for example, you'll have crossed over 50 blocks in no time, without any traffic jams, traffic lights or cars. Nevertheless, we urgently need more infrastructure for cyclists in New York.
You ride a Riese & Müller Load 60 HS with Rohloff shifting. How do you like the bike?
It is an absolute dream! I call it my "Dream Machine". It's such an agile, slim bike and super easy to handle. I am very petite and only 1.52 m tall. I can still park and turn the Load very easily. And thanks to the full suspension, it feels like I’m sitting on clouds.
You walked away from a potential career in the FBI and decided to pursue an academic career instead. How did that come about?
When I was younger, I had plans to get into law enforcement in some form. Since I speak fluent Mandarin, either with the CIA, the NSA or the FBI. I was on the verge of becoming a special agent.
I was waiting for my background check with the FBI to finish when I decided to go into academia instead. Looking back, it was the best decision of my life. I love teaching and doing research at my college!
You earned your PhD in "Criminal Justice" and have been researching sociological and criminological issues since then. Does cycling sharpen your view of your surroundings, your environment and your neighbourhood?
Cycling definitely has a very big impact on my daily experience. New Yorkers love my bike, many of them are very enthusiastic and because of that you quickly strike up a conversation at every corner. So I would say that where the car is more about individualisation and separation, cycling creates connections and community.
Thank you very much for the inspiring interview, Maddy.
Maddy on Instagram