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I took my bike by the horns last summer and headed north from midtown up along Manhattan’s western edge to the George Washington Bridge.
I moved to New York in 1994, and I still have a long list of destinations that I have yet to visit, places that most tourists blow through within 48 hours of landing at LaGuardia. I have yet to visit the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building Observatory, or the United Nations. (I’ve also never seen Phantom of the Opera, but that’s mostly okay with me.)
To knock off one of these yet-to-visit destinations, I took my bike by the horns last summer and headed north from midtown up along Manhattan’s western edge to the George Washington Bridge. The ride up the Hudson River Park bike path was amazing on its own, but it was merely a teaser for the breathtaking experience to come.
The George Washington Bridge was completed in 1931, after four years of construction. The bridge extends 1.45 miles (2.3 kilometers) from Washington Heights, in Manhattan, to Fort Lee, in New Jersey. The protected bike path is on the upper level of the bridge, right along the edge; at its midpoint, it soars 212 feet (64.6 meters) over the Hudson River.
I’ve been over the George Washington Bridge hundreds of times by car, cab, and bus. The view is undeniably stunning – especially on a clear night – but it goes by too quickly in a car. Dressing for the destination when I made the ride meant wearing what I would for any midsummer joy ride: an old blue shirt (long retired from dress-shirt duty), tan chinos, a pair of Chuck Taylor sneakers, and a vintage Gucci tie that I found in a thrift shop, worn as a belt.
Once I arrived at the bridge, I rode back and forth across it two or three times just to take it all in. Eventually, I stopped – somewhere near the middle – to look at the view and snap some pictures. I didn’t stay off my bike for long, however, when I discovered that suspension bridges constantly move. When I got off of my bike, the overall effect under my feet was like a very mild and steady earthquake. Being slightly freaked out by heights, I chose not to lean over the railing to look straight down to the water; but I did get pretty close, and the view was fantastic.
That day, there were only a few pedestrians enjoying a walk across the bridge, mixed in among a stream of Lycra clad cyclists. Sure, some may enjoy the thrill of speed and need only a glimpse of this view, but I’d argue that a slow ride by bike is the best way to experience one of New York’s most glorious engineering achievements. Truly, the view of Manhattan from the bike path on the George Washington Bridge has to be my favorite view of this knockout town.
George Hahn is the creator, writer, and crash test dummy of his own website, a journal for men who aren’t millionaires but who like to look good and live well. georgehahn.com