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What it takes to cycle in NYC.
By Bryen Dunn
Bicycling in New York City, NY, first started gaining popularity in the early 19th century, prompting the Parks Department to implement rules and regulations specific to cyclists. Today there are protected bike lanes on 8th and 9th avenues and on 1st and 2nd avenues, along with miles of dedicated lanes throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. Also, all the East River bridges have bike paths with directional signage.
When asked what it takes to cycle in NYC, Seth Holladay from New York City Maps stated succinctly: “A bicycle and a pair of legs. Anyone can ride a bike in NYC.”
According to the Department of Transportation (DOT) website, commuter cycling has more than doubled since 2005. One story in the New York Times also noted that the recent increase in tourism could be attributed to open spaces and alternative transportation methods.
The last time I rode in NYC, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to navigate through its busy arteries. As a non-resident, I grabbed a free cycling map, plotted my route and set forth. I managed to ride from the Lower East Side to the Upper West Side in under 30 minutes, largely due to the fact that vehicles, bikes and pedestrians all seemed to flow in synchronized harmony.
It was quite easy to ride between the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, across to Central Park and then over the Brooklyn Bridge without having to battle for road space. In fact, the majority of the infamous bridges that connect the Island have separated bike lanes, making commuting a stress-free task. I took time out to eat lunch in a park, while observing the cycling culture. The couriers weaved in and out of traffic, while office-workers locked up their bikes nearby. It’s not quite Portland, but New York is well on its way to becoming a cycling hub for both residents and visitors.
Businesses are also starting to acknowledge the benefits of cycling. Blue Ribbon Restaurants distributed over 200 bikes – one for every staff member – along with a helmet and hands-on safety/ awareness information. DOT also handed out over 20,000 free helmets to any cyclist who requested one.
The city is currently considering proposals for a bike sharing network that could see as many as 10,000 bikes on the streets. This is the latest initiative from transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who is also responsible for implementing over 250 miles (402 kilometers) of bike lanes and creating the very popular car-free zone along Broadway Avenue in Times Square. The city also recently added 20 sheltered bike parking areas and 3,100 bike racks.
Biking is one of the best ways to tour a city, get from one point to another most efficiently and take in the true culture, atmosphere and aroma of the place. As Kenneth J. Podziba, president/ CEO of Bike New York put it: “The best part of riding in New York is getting lost and experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of neighborhoods that I haven’t visited before.”