Why Ed Rides

Here’s the latest installment in Streetsblog’s Why I Ride series.

Ed Lederman bike portrait
Photo copyright Dmitry Gudkov

Ed Lederman started riding a bike in New York in 1982. He had just arrived in the city with a dream of becoming a professional photographer and landed his first New York job: cleaning a photographer’s studio. Not long into this lean period, it occurred to him that he could save some money by riding a bike. Ed remembers an urban cycling scene dominated largely by messengers and other thrill-seeking types. Ed was among them: He fondly recalls one of his hobbies, spinning down a quiet Fifth Avenue at 4:30 in the morning, trying to ride a streak of timed green lights.

After a couple of months of sweeping floors, Ed graduated to photo assisting and, a few years later, he struck out on his own. In the past 25 years he has built a successful business as an in-demand New York City architectural and panoramic photographer. One thing that hasn’t changed is his love of navigating New York on a bicycle. His job often had him photographing buildings and construction projects and he usually took a taxi or the subway to the site. Occasionally he rode his bike to scout the location with his camera a day or two before the job. This proved convenient and cheap, and before long he found himself riding all over the city with cameras and a tripod strapped to his back.

When the 2008 economic crisis hit, business slowed down. Finding more time on his hands, Ed decided to launch a personal project: a New York “photo of the day” series. Very often he ventured out in search of the day’s photo on his bike. This was the perfect means to get around: fast enough to cover a good amount of ground, yet versatile enough to allow him to stop and set up a photo anytime. By this point he had been photographing New York professionally for years, yet he says that this new situation taught him to experience and document the city in a new light. The project continued for over 500 days, and the exposure from the series led to new assignments and a resurgence in his business.

Ed’s days of raising hell on Fifth Avenue are behind him; he prefers to ride in bike lanes and puts a premium on comfort over speed, taking in the city at a leisurely pace. After years of buying nice bikes and having them stolen, he finally gave in and bought a flea market beater, the Panasonic seen here. The theft deterrence plan is working so far – once or twice he forgot to bring a lock with him and returned to find his ride untouched. No doubt Ed will continue to explore and document the city he loves, and he will do much of it from the saddle of his bike.