“Do you have a car?” This is a question that New Yorkers ask each other all the time and it makes me so happy. It is asked with absolutely zero judgment. It’s just a simple question but it isn’t something that I can remember ever being asked before. If you live just about anywhere else in the US, it’s presumed you have a car – several, in fact. But New York is flat, compact and is covered in inexpensive and convenient transportation options. Cycling is my favorite one by far. There are a lot of great things about this handsome City but the best thing about living in New York is that you can and should get just about anywhere on a bike.
Yes, a lot of people drive here but it is stupidly expensive or stressful. You either pay $700 a month for a parking spot or spend half of your week moving your car around to psych out the street sweeping schedule. It just isn’t worth it to me and a slow bike tour through Manhattan is a perfect way to discover her hidden little parks and beautiful architecture. There is just one rule to follow – if you are on a bike there are no rules. This is the only down side that I can see to cycling here. The hard core cyclists can be first class jerks. They ride the wrong way down the street, on sidewalks and they blow through traffic lights. In fact, if you don’t ride like this, well…. I left my apartment last week and headed safely down West 110th Street in the bike lane on my nifty Citibike. When I got to the 7th Avenue intersection, I hit a traffic light and made a safe stop. That was not cool apparently. Another cyclist came barreling behind me screaming “What the FUCK are you doing stopping? You’re on a bike ASSHOLE.” I guess I need to check the statues again on this but I could have sworn that the same rules apply.
Then there is the Central Park Peloton. There is a lovely five mile loop in Central Park and it is packed with cyclists and runners all day. This is the only place in New York where you have to follow rules on a bike because if you don’t then you will be crushed. Literally crushed. The course was designed for a lazy small ring recovery ride but New Yorkers have a better idea – an outdoor velodrome! It is a sight to see. Triathlon and time trial get ups galore. It looks like the bike course at Kona out here. Aero bars, aero helmets, full disk wheels and lots of very very tight kits. 250 watts is what these guys and gals are aiming for and I think they are hitting it just fine. Just don’t get in their way or you’ll get more of the helpful comments like I did on 110th Street.
Fortunately, there are a lot of happy New York cyclists out there and I found them at NYCC – the New York Cycling Club. They are quite amazing actually. They have a huge group of friendly riders of all levels and they post their rides on a convenient online sign up system that ranks the rides by speed and difficulty so you know exactly what you are getting into. I joined them last weekend for a long ride up to the summit of Bear Mountain and then we took the Metro North train back down to the City. Our ride leader was Steve Vaccaro and he is a bike lawyer. Yup. That’s a thing and he isn’t the first good riding buddy that I know that specializes in this area. My friend Ken Rosskopf in Decatur is also a bike lawyer and it is interesting to hear their stories. Steve is a passionate transportation advocate and a great guy to spend the day on a bike with.
For Thanksgiving this year, we ordered our dinner from a fancy place in Brooklyn and I was excited to go over there to pick it up with by bike trailer. It was a blast. I hooked up the trailer to my Merlin road bike and headed down the West Side Greenway downtown and the over the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a terrific way to get a nice ride in and our meal made it back safe and sound. Zero carbon emissions even! Although it has been a crazy year I still have so much to be thankful for. And cycling in New York is definitely one of them.