Commuters Snatch Up Bicycles in Storm's Wake

New York, once known as New Amsterdam, could soon look a lot more like...well, Amsterdam.

Commuters Snatch Up Bicycles in Storm's Wake
Scott Eells | Bloomberg | Getty Images

In the midst of congested transit left in Super Storm Sandy's wake, more New Yorkers are opting to ride bicycles.

"Yesterday we outsold our busiest summer Saturday," said Emily Samstag, manager of Bicycle Habitat in Brooklyn, speaking to a surge in bike-related sales just one day after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast. "Our first customer walked in and said: 'The subways are down so I have to buy a bike'. That was standard all morning."

(Read more: Scenes From Hurricane Sandy)

All told the shop sold 15 bikes Wednesday. In October it usually sells a bike or two a day. It also had a surge of customers looking to get safety checks on mothballed bikes as well. The lack of power wasn't a deterrent.

"We had two mechanics outside and one mechanic inside by the big window," said Chris Bloome, a sales person at Bicycle Habitat's Soho store. "Because it was so dark, we were selling merchandise with flashlights."

Ride Brooklyn, a bike shop in Park Slope, also experienced a wave of customers.

"Normally sales would have been 80 percent less than yesterday," said Peter Kocher, the store's co-owner. His employees were handling up to three customers at once. "We had to call a bunch of people in. It was insane," he said.

Subways Closed, Commuters Turn to Pedal Power

With subway service spotty at best and long lines forming for buses, many inner city commuters are opting for pedal power.

"I had a bicycle before and I actually rode it during the transit strike a few years ago, and it was stolen," said Ann Jewkes, a legal assistant. "And then this happened; I thought I guess I better do it because I don't know when the trains are going to be working."

Jewkes commutes from Sunset Park into Midtown Manhattan. She bought a $585, crème-colored bike.

"It's beautiful," she said. "Old-school looking. I think it's Dutch-style."

She said the bike had been discounted 10 percent and that the store had also given her $50 off. She bought a helmet and a kryptonite lock to go with it.

Bicycle Stocks

The sales pop is giving bicycle enthusiasts a lift.

"Maybe this can be the window into the life of a cyclist," mused Jake Fleischmann, a salesman at Ride Brooklyn. "Maybe all these people who had a bike for leisure will see that riding a bike can be your mode of transportation, especially a city like New York. We are pretty level ground, you can ride anywhere within a few minutes."

As for Jewkes, she doubts she'll be commuting by bike regularly once New York transit is up and running.

"Whenever I get there, I get sweaty and have to change clothes and look professional," she said. "If I had a different job where it didn't matter so much, I might do it."