It’s 1991. A bright-eyed post-grad, Clarence Eckerson Jr. has just left Albany for New York City. He buys a bike with the intention of bringing it home on the subway — but it's rush hour. The streets are crowded. The subways are packed. The traffic is gridlocked. Instead, Clarence hops on his bike, pedals up Broadway and crosses over the Brooklyn Bridge towards his home.
There are no bike lanes. No West Side Highway. No ride-share apps or scooters. The transportation infrastructure of NYC, as we currently know it, has yet to exist. This prompts him to reach out to a few budding biking organizations and advocacy groups to raise awareness about NYC's lack of biking options.
Thirty years later, Eckerson is a passionate advocate and activist for biking, urban transportation and environmentally-friendly transit practices. In the early 2000s, he created Bike TV and Streetfilms.org, where he has since made more than 1,000 quippy, short videos (often while riding his bike!) that highlight the benefits of biking, walking and alternative methods of transit in NYC and other metropolises around the world. As an avid bike rider without a driver’s license, he’s the quintessential poster child for transportation activism. From titles like “How To Bike To The Rockaways” to “The Case For Separated Bike Lanes in NYC,” Eckerson’s videos highlight how biking positively impacts health, improves self-sufficiency in urban cities, and addresses the global crisis of climate change. It’s a passion to which he’s dedicated his life.
Eckerson, a 1990 graduate, majored in Rhetoric and Communication with a minor in Computer Science and took classes in Film Studies. While his Communication degree aided him in working with media and learning about people, it was his experience biking through downtown Albany and around campus that jumpstarted his lifelong passion and shaped his future.
“I’ve always loved biking. But when I moved to [Albany], I biked more and learned to appreciate it as a mode of transportation.”
Eckerson was a few credits shy of completing his second minor in Film Studies, but the knowledge he gained is put into practice daily as a biker and videographer. While on campus, he also worked with the Albany Student Press, where he regularly wrote movie reviews. To put himself through school, he worked multiple jobs, including at WTEN Channel 10 News and for a printing press that printed publications for UAlbany.
For his 30 years of work in biking advocacy and environmentally-friendly transit practices, Eckerson received the 2022 World Bicycle Day Award. The award was created by Leszek Sibiliski who spearheaded the campaign to create an international day of recognition for bicycling and which was adopted by the United Nations in 2018. World Bicycle Day is celebrated annually on June 3.
“It was a tremendous, unexpected honor to get an award. When you’ve been working so hard for so long, any recognition is humbling. But to get recognition from the most famous global body, that even made my mom take notice!”
His next goal is to make a full-length documentary about transportation in NYC and around the world — and include his original, raw footage of how everything has changed since 2000.
Not only has Eckerson spread the word about the benefits of biking and accessible transportation in major global cities, he continues to make content that strives to be engaging, enjoyable and forward-thinking.
“I look at my son and realize that he’ll grow up in such a cool city. We’re all benefiting from the work being done here. I’ve watched all this change happen over the past 20 years, and I just can't even imagine how much better it will get.”