Friday, April 27, 2012

Cycling in Lower Manhattan

Julie and Kate M.
I am in New York City for a few days, with all sorts of nice cycling people who have gathered here for the New Amsterdam Show this weekend and the Bobbin Bicycles/ Adeline Adeline party last night. One of the first familiar faces I encountered was the beautiful Julie, of the Julie blog. This lady works in the fashion industry and rides all over the city on her white and pink Linus loop frame named Kate Middleton... which I think speaks for itself: Cycling in New York has certainly become more accessible over the past few years.

Cycling in NYC
On my way down here on the train I realised that I had not been to the city since maybe 2008 - which is almost 4 years ago now. I have to confess that I don't love New York. It's not that I hate it. I just fail to see the magic and romance in it that everyone gushes about. Maybe it's because my family briefly lived in Washington Heights at a time when it was anything but romantic and my impressions are forever coloured by those childhood memories. Whatever the reason, I just see New York as a very large, very crowded city where you have to watch yourself despite all the art galleries and coffee shops and lofts and trendy boutiques that have popped up in neighbourhoods that used to be considered "dangerous." 

Cycling in NYC
And despite hearing about all the new cycling infrastructure here, I couldn't easily picture myself riding through the streets of New York, at least not right away. What about the dense traffic? The notoriously aggressive drivers? Walking from Penn Station to Tribeca it was hard to imagine myself sharing these busy streets on two wheels.

Cycling in NYC
But an hour later I was doing exactly that - on a beautiful Retrovelo, courtesy of Adeline Adeline. While my travel radius was mostly limited to lower Manhattan, it was still a surprise to experience how relatively easy riding in the city has become.

Cycling in NYC
I started out on the West Side Highway bicycle path, which is quite impressive. The 5.5 mile stretch of major road along the Hudson River has a protected greenway running through it the entire way, with somewhat frequent but well designed interruptions where bicycles even get their own green light.

Cycling in NYC
The lanes are wide, allowing bicyclists to pass pedestrians and each other if need be. Cyclists were courteous and used their bells. Pedestrians behaved predictably. With views of the city ahead and views of the river alongside, it is a great path.

Cycling in NYC
Many of the piers in this are have been renovated and developed with all sorts of little restaurants an recreational complexes. The weather was pretty terrible on Thursday afternoon - heavily overcast skies and cold temperatures - but there were lots of people strolling along the piers and enjoying their day.

Cycling in NYC
One great thing about New York City, is that no one found it strange at all when I would stop to photograph the bike. In Boston passers-by will sometimes comment how wacky it is that I am standing there and taking close-ups of a bicycle, but here no one batted an eye.

Cycling in NYC
Having had my fill of the West Side Highway, I took to the streets. Some streets have bike lanes and others don't, but honestly I found that it did not matter hugely. The bike lanes were so frequently blocked by double parked cars and delivery vehicles that a degree of comfort with vehicular cycling was necessary regardless. There was a lot of traffic, but it was slow moving and drivers seemed accustomed to cyclists. I got honked at a couple of times, but so did everyone else around me - honking just seems to be a way of communicating here. When I needed to make a left turn and didn't  change lanes early enough, a taxi driver saw my predicament and let me squeeze in ahead of him with an impatient but not unfriendly wave. Overall it was entirely manageable and not any more stressful than riding in downtown Boston. 

Cycling in NYC
I will not be in town long enough to experience riding in the city as a person living here would, but my Thursday afternoon jaunt was a nice introduction to cycling in New York. After 4 years away it was certainly the best "welcome back" I could have hoped for. I will eventually be posting about the New Amsterdam Show and all the other things I am doing here, and you can check my twitter feed for "live coverage" snapshots of all sorts of neat things. Have a good weekend!

34 comments:

  1. Christopher FotosApril 27, 2012 at 8:51 AM

    In Boston passers-by will sometimes comment how wacky it is that I am standing there and taking close-ups of a bicycle, but here no one batted an eye.

    In New York, the list of things that cause passers-by to bat their eyes must be a short one. I know there must be something.

    Glad to hear this visit went well. I've never biked in NYC, and the tremendous expansion of bike lanes and the like hasn't always gone over well--plus there are periodic complaints about police going out of their way to write tickets for cyclist infractions.

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    1. On the other hand, my experience in NYC was that you were more likely to run into some officious yutz telling you you can't take pictures there.

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  2. but here, no one batted an eye . . .

    They might have exhibited a microscopic eye flutter if you had found a way to consummate a relationship with the RV.

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    1. Good point. I need to take more precise eye retraction measurements before I make such careless statements!

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    2. The reliable insouciance of New Yorkers is among their most endearing qualities.

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  3. I am so glad I have found your blog as I love cycling so much!
    in a few weeks I'll be in NYC too and I am planning to rent a bike in central park.
    I do follow bike races as much as fashion shows!!!
    keep an eye on my blog as I am about to publish somethign about bike+fashion

    Love, Ylenia from Longuette

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  4. V, were you riding a Klara? I was eyeing the Paula for some time, then it was out of stock on Adeline Adeline's for a while, then disappeared entirely... do you happen to know what's up?

    I don't think Clever Cycles is carrying Retrovelo at all anymore. Disappointing, as I was really hoping to try a Paula at some point and see if it might work for me as a more upright commuter that's not as hefty as a Dutch bike.

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    1. Yes, it's a Klara. I will post a review early next week to update my older Retrovelo review. As far as I know Adeline carries both models. I love, love, love these bikes.

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  5. When I think about cycling in Manhattan I think about this: http://bostonbybike.blogspot.com/2011/12/red-lights-are-for-fools.html (see the first video)

    Why are the pictures B&W? Colored pictures would look better here.

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    1. Interestingly, from what I've seen so far (in lower Manhattan, Williamsburg and Astoria now) cyclists here seem to obey red lights.

      B&W because it was a very overcast, depressing kind of day and the colours did not look good.

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  6. Ah, Adeline Adeline...

    Was in NY myself a couple of weeks ago and stopped in. Was enchanted with their store and ended up purchasing a single-speed Paper Bicycle from them. (Red with black chain guard. :-)

    Speaking of which, my shiny new Paper Bicycle is being assembled by the good folks at Flying Pigeon LA right this minute. If any of your LA readers are curious about the bike, feel free to go over there and give it a test ride. I'm out of town, so I'm assuming it will just be collecting dust there this weekend. (Just maybe give them a call first to make sure it's put together and on the floor.)

    I think Adeline Adeline is the only US distributor for the bike?

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    1. I love the Paper Bicycle; the handling is truly superb. Adeline is the only one distributing them for now, as far as I know, but this may change.

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  7. These bikes remind me of the Specialized Globe. Have you ever ridden one of them?

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    1. I have a (somewhat old) review of one of the Globes if you look under Bicycle Reviews. Rides nothing like the Retrovelo though.

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  8. Sadly in New York (Manhattan anyway) you could have been cutting through a bicycle lock with a hacksaw and no one would have really paid any attention.

    I live a few blocks away from that bicycle path on the West Side Highway. Lots of fun but on weekends its a nightmare with all the foot traffic from tourists.

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  9. Did you take a bike on the train? A rider told me she was able to take her bike on the Fung Wah bus. I'm in Manhattan about three times a year and waver on whether to bring a bike. I ride extensively in and around Boston without concern but am only slowly getting around the idea that Manhattan is bikeable safely. Midtown and uptown may be tougher than your downtown experience - I always sense cars zooming 40 mph+ when there's daylight, hellbent on moving, and it still seems a little scary to me, but that might just be unfamiliarity with actually trying it (and the relative paucity of regular riders I see there).

    It would be good to hear the experiences of some of your NYC readers who bike in the city.

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    1. I did not, because I anticipated test riding many bikes here and it seemed impractical. AmTrack is inconsistent and ridiculously difficult to figure out regarding bikes on the train to NYC.

      I have not been to midtown or uptown while here, but I've now cycled in Queens and that was surprisingly nice.

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  10. Wow, such familiar looking sights for a change (I'm a Jersey boy, but spend my share of time in NYC).
    I'm going to miss the chance to say "hello" in person this time, I was originally planning to go to the New Amsterdam show (and hitting up our Jamis rep for free tickets), but instead I'll be taking my 11-year-old on her first "big ride" this weekend: a 25-mile benefit for the local food bank.
    Enjoy NYC!

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    1. Oh that's too bad! But the ride you are doing sounds more important : )

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  11. I have cycled a couple of times in Brooklyn when visiting. It was quite pleasant. I think it would be more cycle friendly than Manhattan.

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  12. Very cool! A New York ride report. Lovely photos, too.

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  13. Glad you got to experience cycling in NYC -- the amount (and quality) of cycling infrastructure there has grown tremendously in even just a few years. (I'm another Jersey boy who cycles in the city every now and then.) Looking forward to going to the New Amsterdam Bike Show tomorrow, too!

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  14. not NYC but thought you might like this. :)
    http://monnsqueak.typepad.com/squeak_like_the_wind/2012/04/bikes-are-allowed-to-be-here-too.html

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  15. I pedaled all over Manhattan for three years... twenty years ago. There wasn't a bike lane in the, maybe not in the country, but I found pedaling there to be wonderful. My sense was that street users had an expectation of inconvenience that kept them on high alert. That played to my advantage. No one cared that I was out there. They'd just pass when they could and be on their way. In towns with less traffic, some road users expect the road to be open and flowing at five or ten mph over the speed "limit," such that encountering a slow road user puts them in a state. So count me as a big fan of pedaling in NYC. Glad you enjoyed it, too.

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  16. Was that bicycle all white? I may have a superstitious streak but I would be hesitant to ride one.

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    1. It is a rich cream and does not look like a ghost bike. I will have colored pictures and a review of it soon.

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  17. I ride daily in NYC, both as a commuter and a roadie, and can tell you NYC is made for cycling. The greenway basically encircles the entire Manhattan, and the bridges (to queens and brooklyn) are very bike friendly. You learn which Avenues are the best for north-south riding, and which streets are best for east-west riding. athere are so many cyclists -- delivery, commuter, tourist -- that drivers have (finally) become accustomed to cyclists. And Bikesharing, which comes this summer, will add to the ubiquity. True, everyone -- drivers, peds, cyclists alike -- all feel that the city should cater to them, thats just NYC. Considering the sheer number of people, cars, bikes, you simply cannot speed, so its relatively safe. Cycling is the best way to get around this city, and would recommend it to everyone.
    Btw, if you would have come next week, you would get to experience the NY Bike Expo and the 5-Borough Bike Ride, where thousands of cyclists ride the city, on highways and streets closed to auto traffic.

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  18. Last year my best friend visited New York for a couple of weeks while I headed out to Uclulet on the west Coast of Vancouver Island. If we had swapped destinations we both would have returned from our trips stark raving mad. Despite being very close we have rather different ideas as to the ideal human population density to be immersed in. Still, I actually came very close to flying to New York my self a few years ago. I even had the money set aside for a ticket. Then Les Paul died and I lost the main reason I had for actually getting in a plane and going.

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  19. Manhattan was so much more glamorous when every thing was black and white.

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  20. What a marvelous collection of bicycles... most of them with fenders!

    After living in NYC a few years I think one would need to be quite brave to go out cycling on some of the streets.... unlike it's namesake (New Amsterdam).

    I always felt safest walking on the sidewalks. But they probably don't allow bikes on the sidewalk.

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  21. As a nervous someone who went from not riding a bike for 10+ years, then decided to get a fixed gear bicycle and ride along everyone else in New York... it's definitely, not so bad. Like anything, of course, it takes time, but I think, more so, it takes patience. The thing about riding in New York is the same 'thing' about living in NY, it's crowded, people are rarely paying attention, and it's sometimes a fight.

    The stress comes from the unpredictability of people on the street, cars you learn to trust (at least a little bit, you don't really have a choice), but peds and other cyclists... well, don't let your guard down. I almost loving biking in the city. It's the easiest, mostly fastest and most pleasant way to get around but damn, if I don't get frustrated almost every time I get on a bike.. With the cyclists going the wrong way, never stopping, pedestrians from all directions... It's the lack of etiquette that irritates me. Of course, we are all guilty of it at some point, but it's so grinding that so many people can get on a bicycle and think 'they can do whatever they like', without regard to others.. my boyfriend and i often say 'no wonder people hate cyclists here..'..

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  22. I live in NYC and enjoy riding my bike to run errands at least a couple times a week. Quiet residential streets are lovely and quite safe. But the commercial streets where all the shops are located can be stressful, despite the presence of a bike lane.

    As Velouria noted, the side-by-side traffic bike lanes are NOT respected. The city should wise up and install more protected bike lanes. Or go Dutch and turn some of the streets into traffic-free bike and pedestrian thoroughfares. If we had those, I'd bike every day for sure.

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  23. I enjoyed the serenity of this post which seems conflicting with the big city backdrop you write from.

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