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A Q&A with NY-based writer, editor, and photographer Sam Polcer, who has recently released his new book New York Bikestyle.
Sam Polcer describes himself as a modest, occasionally creative person who is full of gratitude for the opportunities he’s been given while trying to live an interesting life. The Brooklyn, NY-based, writer, editor, and photographer’s labor of love is Preferred Mode, a bike style blog featuring his portraits of New York cyclists that he has encountered while riding around the city. A book of his portraits, New York Bike Style, pays photographic tribute to a city in love with biking in all its forms. Polcer has also joined the communications department at Bike New York, the non-profit behind the TD Five Boro Bike Tour and free bike education programs.
What inspired you to turn your lens toward New Yorkers on bikes?
There’s a bit of an advocacy element to it: I want more people to ride bikes. I thought that if I can show how good it can look, with real people, and make it an attractive proposition, maybe folks will be more likely to give it a try. I also thought that it was a good way to combine three of my loves – photography, riding bikes, and New York City.
How do you find your subjects?
Mainly by standing on street corners or riding around the city and chasing after people who catch my eye for whatever reason. The project is about the backdrop of the city as much as it is about the people.
Is there a distinctive New York bike style?
I’d say that New York bike style is distinctive in as much as New York style is distinctive. I probably already sound like an arrogant New Yorker, but it’s true: fashion happens in select cities first, this being one of them. When you combine that with the sheer number of stylish, creative people here, it just feeds on itself.
Why do you include where each of the riders was going with each portrait?
It tells readers a bit about the subject without going too far into it. There are only so many variations on the answer to the question “why do you ride a bike?” Destination tells us a bit about the person in as few words as possible. “Oh, he’s going to his grandmother’s house. What a nice young man!”
What do you ride?
I ride an old, Japanese, 10-speed road bike from the 1980s, a Lotus, with down tube shifters.
Where do you most enjoy riding in New York?
Everywhere, except maybe midtown Manhattan. I love a good night ride or a ride to the beach.
What draws you to riding a bike in New York?
I think that New York in particular is a fun place to ride because there are so many great destinations and so many fun things to see along the way. And now that there are more bike lanes than there used to be, it’s a bit easier – though we have a long, long way to go.