I spent over a week in New York in all. With all my acquired experience of how to navigate and explore a city with speed over the last month or two I'm really quite disappointed in myself for not having achieved more in that time. That being said it was a very different experience to that of the previous cities, in itself being a very different city to any others, with so much expectation built up, with its position as the target of the whole trip, well the american bike riding side of it anyway.
But without getting too into all the personal stuff that I've attached to the city there are so many aspects of it that are fascinating. The first World City of the trip, and only apart from London (Sorry Chicago, you're a world city in my eyes but for the sake of this... I need to make a point) in Philly and indeed the more we headed East I liked the increase in diversity and difference and acceptance that comes with that. Even staying pretty centrally and often times surrounded by tourists, being that I am a tourist and doing tourist things, but throughout the city there's so much happening.
So many trendies or hipsters, city boys and office workers, odd-balls and hobos. I don't know if it was my still wide eyed exploration but people seem to hold your gaze longer here, sometimes it's welcoming, sometimes threatening, but there's more interaction. All the caught snippets of conversation sound straight out of a movie. And the modern way with half of those being people talking on hands free mobiles (cells, whatever) means you can pretend that everyone is a crazy New Yorker muttering jibberish to themselves down the street.
It's a bit obvious to say how the grid of the city influences the way that it is navigated. But it does. The problems is the size, along the streets is easy, they whiz by, but if you have to double back down a street to the previous avenue then it feels a long walk, there's no half blocks.
right. I realise that I have a lot to say. My chromebook is a little on the fritz so not much in the way of available online graphics to ease it up at all, so here's a list of things that happened again, mostly for my own future reference, as pointers, but also so that if you've decided to read this and already think you're in too deep you can skim a list of words to get a general feel then bugger off and make the most of your day.
- New Jersey
- Hot & Humid
- Punctures, for me, on the road
- Some pretty 'down at heel' places
- "I didn't realise it was white boy on a bike day"
- Another puncture
- More navigational issues
- but we're nearly there
- almost there
- I think we're there
- Oh, are we here
- friendly face
- I'd been saying all along the girls got prettier the further East we got.
- quick quick, pictures, no time to celebrate
- So many cops
- Hotels and warm welcomes
- luggage management
- En Why See
- Am I here?
- Is this it?
- Did I really ride here?
- From Portland?
- Does anyone care?
- More Riding
- My Bike.
- In New York.
- Boy this is fun.
- Old family friends
- Boxers bar, slightly strange venue, but good banter, and top local info
- Fit Cities
- Rooftop Bars
- Terrible Service
- Dive Bars - Great Hot dogs
- Arrival Parties
- Local Knowledge
- Yellow Taxis
- Good food
- New York, wow, skyscrapers and everything
OK, enough of the half baked urban analysis of one of the most studied and best known cities in the world. We came by bike and were here to find out what NYC has done to improve cycling. My impression from the relatively little cycling is that it was some great city riding. On the Monday I was barrelling down Broadway weaving across empty lanes with the road to myself looking up to a sky full of scrapers. Then when I was back in traffic I remembered my old combative self who can weave and duck and brake without breaking, though with my shagged chain and chainset acceleration is a bit of a problem. When you can catch the lights on the right pattern, cycling hard you can steam through the blocks. There were a few navigational issues here and there though, but nothing to make me overly late for any appointments The only thing that did was the intermittent, but HEAVY rain.
Again I am incredibly lucky to be involved in such an enterprise that affords me time with consultants commissioned by the city who have a soon to be released research project into the impacts of street improvements in cycling amenity on local business. After dodging the rain a little, bombing around lower Manhattan, riding over the Williamsburg bridge and back, getting lost, only to find myself directly outside the building i needed to be in exactly on time for the arranged meet up we (peter, Bob, Grant and I) headed up to NYDoT to meet with Josh Benson and Ryan Russo to get some insight into the ways that the city has built it's rep as a cycling friendly city. It's a great venue to hold such a meeting, looking out over the east river greenway cycle track, with the Manhattan heliport just beyond and great views of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. Towards the end of the meeting we were informed that the Commissioner would be able to join us. after all, it had been the carrot for our long ride after all to meet Janette Sadik Kahn in NY, but she'd been called away to some press conference or another, but still made it in time to check out my snazzy socks.
When I got out to explore the city in the next few days I found it a joy, apart form either rain or heat being a slight inhibitor, I could see where initiatives had made some great parts of the city to ride. Probably stand out would be the river side green ways, the Pike Street/ Allen street bike lane, cycling over the Williamsburg bridge and back, Prospect Park in Brooklyn. As well as these as pointed out at the DoT there was a lot of 'low hanging fruit' picking that had taken place, the impact of which I would find it hard to assess not having cycled in New York before, or even been in the city since the mid-90's.
I guess one of the factors that made me realise how friendly it could be was riding out to Coney Island on July the 4th. Though the streets were busy, and Prospect Park was heaving with BBQ's, and the bike path way down by Coney Island got a bit bumpy we didn't really have too much trouble navigating with the help of a map, and didn't experience any really terrible behaviour, oh apart from one jerk taxi driver on 9th or 10th avenue, whichever it was going North as the Hudson path had been closed for the fireworks that night, and the jerk taxi driver gave us some flak for cycling, on the road. Jerk. But the over riding impression was pretty smooth.
As with all the cycling in cities we aren't doing it day in day out at peak times or using the new citi bikes. But we got a taste of cycling in NYC, and it treated me well.
[edit: and just after I published all this a proper New Yorker wrote a way better piece. Here comes the bike path, finally]
Arriving in NYC
I didn't actually arrive by bike, or by ferry with the rest of the gang. Having separate accommodation Anna, who was a great sight by Hoboken park after a slightly fraught journey through New Jersey, and I took a ride in with Tom and the Van through the Holland tunnel and up 6th Ave to our hotel, we passed the NY Pride celebrations and crawled up town. As the rain came down I was happy to be in the van, to have Anna there, to maybe give Tom a bit of company in some pretty horrible driving conditions, and missing out on the finale of that American adventure was a shame, but looking back I know the P2P arrival 'moment' in New York was a bit of a damp squib, and though there were some parties and celebrations, there were more to come. The effort of the ride form Portland and all that had happened in between seemed to go slightly un-noticed in the scramble to get pictures and landmarks under our belts.
against an imaginary time constraint with two punctures from me following some hilarious navigational issues earlier in the day in hot hot heat, as well as the slightly nauseous feeling of knowing this section was almost over and it'd be all change. Even if it seemed at the time that day to day was keeping together a fragile system of people that Nic referred to as the 'cyclopede' and all the tensions that came with that. All along it was evident that as soon as it was gone all would be left were fond memories and a yearning to be on the open road again. I started to become quite frustrated with the demonisation of South Dakota. It became a caricature of some of the few tribulations we had. And every story needs adversity, but the further away I've got the more I miss it. And bacon donuts!
Staying in NYC
I didn't have any notes on this part. So here's a bunch of pictures instead.