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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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!