Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Scenes from a Bike Tour of NYC

I crossed off one of my 25 things last weekend when I rode the New York Century Bike Tour, organized by Transportation Alternatives, New York City's advocacy group for pedestrians and cyclists. I'd been wanting to do this bike ride for years, but was deterred by having to haul my bike an hour to Central Park at 7am on a weekend morning. This year they launched an alternate starting location in Prospect Park, a doable mile or so from my apartment, which meant I no longer had an excuse. I will admit it was hard to say no to all my friends party harding on Saturday night in order to get to bed early-ish, but I am still glad I did it.

TA offers varying distances from 15 miles to 100 (that's the "century") to accommodate beginners and families through experienced bikers. I chose to ride the 35 mile route, which was longer than I've ever biked in one day before. I actually rode about 31 miles, factoring in my trip to the starting line and my more direct route to finish at my apartment in Brooklyn rather than at the park. I wasn't sure how I would feel when I hit the halfway point at Central Park, but I was totally fine with continuing to pedal back to Brooklyn.

I was on my own, but the fellow riders and marshals were all friendly, and I was able to join another single rider along the way at my same pace so we could have company. My fear of getting lost alone in the backstreets of Queens was unrealized. It was a gray day, but the cool air was actually perfect for biking. Serendipitously, the only rain was a half hour drizzle that didn't bother me once I had my rain jacket on.

The route is designed for on-street cycling, to demonstrate that bikes have a real place on roads alongside cars, so no roads were blocked off, and that meant we took both protected bike lanes and scary busy streets (ie. what were they thinking with having us on West End/11th Avenue and all its fast traffic heading for the tunnels?)

My favorite part was getting to see so many different parts of New York City in one day, including some locations I'd never been before. From hipster Brooklyn, to the view at the top of the Triboro bridge, to swamps on Randalls Island, through Manhattan's quickly changing neighborhoods, and over the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.

The 35 mile start time in Prospect Park was 8am, during offleash hours for dogs.

We headed north through Bed Stuy, quiet on a Sunday morning, and up the North Brooklyn waterfront. Loving the two-way bike lane on Kent Ave in Williamsburg, and capturing the strange juxtaposition of the neighborhood's artsy charm and its new towering condos.

Crossing Pulaski Bridge over the excessively polluted Newtown Creek from Brooklyn to Queens, with Manhattan in the distance.

We followed the Queens waterfront from Long Island City to a rest stop at Astoria Park, under the shadow of the Triboro and Hells Gate Bridge (awesome name). I was excited to cross the Triboro Bridge, a giant highway of a bridge I have traversed many times by car, for the unique opportunity to see views that you can only take in at this slower pace.

Looking west over the Triboro Bridge to Manhattan

Looking at Randalls Island and the industrial beyond from the Triboro

We meandered through Randalls Island's bizarre sports fields and swampy landscaped waterfront paths, which I'm now realizing were next to a psychiatric institution, before crossing this pedestrian bridge to Harlem.

Rest stop at the top of Central Park, at 110th street and Lenox Avenue. I don't think I'd been north of 85th street in the park before.

We rode down the west side, not on the Greenway, but on Riverside Drive then scary West End Avenue, and then to this protected bike lane on 9th avenue from 30th street to Bleecker street in Manhattan, complete with light signals for bikes!

After passing through the West Village, Soho, Chinatown, and City Hall, I headed over the Brooklyn Bridge, in the homestretch.

The Manhattan Bridge, as seen from the Brooklyn Bridge

I took a little shorcut through Downtown Brooklyn and Carroll Gardens to finally get home! 31 miles. 4 1/2 hours. 4 bridges. 3 boroughs. 2 wheels.


  1. Sounds awesome. And now I REALLY want to come back to New York. It's been way too long...

  2. that looks really fun (if i biked!)...but how did you take such non-blurry pictures while riding a bike?

  3. wow!

    also, did you stop to take these pics or were you just a balanced photo taker??

    Congrats on crossing another thing off the list!

  4. how awesome! i love all of your photos! j and i are thinking about coming to NY in November and now you've given me more of the itch to come. congrats on making the tour on bike no less! xo

  5. Haha - i stopped to take the pictures. The breaks were welcome, although I didn't get as many photos as I would have liked because I didn't want to stop all the time and risk annoying people behind me or losing my fellow riders.

    agirl and coley - New York would be happy to see you!

  6. Congrats! You should feel accomplished! This reminds me of our Paris bike drizzled on and off for hours but just added to the experience :)

  7. This is AWESOME! I live in such a rural area, biking is just not a reasonable thing to do. Thanks for taking us on your little tour. I loved it. :)

  8. Congrats!! This is amazing, and their needs to be a good safe way for bikes and cars to coexist especially with mta fare hikes! this is really awesome! and you can almost see my apt under the Hells Gate Bridge :)

  9. Meag - you did a bike tour of Paris?? pictures please!

  10. Amazing! This is so friggin rad Julia. Makes me want to come back!!