Saturday, May 12, 2018

Exploring NYC by Bicycle - Taking Advantage of a Nice Day

Our riding companions: my Dahon and my son's Peugeot, on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Our first full day in the city was on a Friday and with inclement weather forecast for the weekend, we set out on an ambitious loop, knowing we could recover later.

First stop was on the Brooklyn Bridge, a personal favorite, for it's historical significance and for it's amazing engineering during construction. After reading David McCullough's The Great Bridge a few years ago, I particularly enjoy soaking in the ambiance high above the East River and imagine what it was like in the 1860's and how much Brooklyn and Manhattan has since changed.

The Bridge is not for the faint of heart. As a pedestrian and/or cyclist it's very crowded and though there are separator markings on the wooden planks, it's a sea of humanity. My son loves to use his DLSR, but I had to remind him to keep his backpack on and not leave it unattended near his bike.

A NYPD helicopter patrolling the East River passes by the bridge.

Looking up at one of the archways.

The presence of all the cables, wood, and steel plus the cacophony of traffic below reminds me of the importance bridges play in transporting everyone between New York City's boroughs.

A view of nearby Manhattan Bridge and jet-skiers zipping on the river. Despite the love/difficult relationship with the Brooklyn Bridge for pedestrian/cycling transit, the Manhattan Bridge was growing on me, both for efficient river crossing (cycling and pedestrians are on separate paths) and for it's architecture.

As an aside, when my son and I descended the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan, he said, " I could see myself living here." There's an energy in NYC, for sure, that appeals to young people. I wonder if he'll still have the same impression at the end of our stay.

My son obliged me a ride around Central Park, but not before stopping off at 368, Casey Neistat's (a YouTuber) new place. However, the first floor was still papered off and we couldn't see anything, not to mention know what to say should we run into him. Much like The Lumineer's music, which I dearly love, our children introduce us to some interesting generational art, not to mention current technology - that we then ask them to keep it running!

Another foray: stopping at BH Photo & Videos, a well-known resource for anything digital. My tech-oriented son walked out with a GoPro. Guess who will be filming the rest of our trip?

Central Park is a roller coaster! We climb and descend for most of the loop. It proved to be a personal letdown, but my Dahon was  fast on the descents, passing 10 people at a clip. Who knew a small wheeled bike could prove to be winner?
My son has added a wonderful dimension to this trip. For most of the day he happily navigated and led us around by Google Maps, but then became frustrated when it failed to pinpoint BH Photo. It was then that I pulled out the trusty paper NYC Bike Map and got us to the store. Another aspect has surprised me: our normally cautious child has been assertive, mostly leading, weaving around vehicles parked in the bike lane, showing a confidence in being 19 years old. Or, he wants us to not look and act like toursists (stop pointing mom!). More than once though, I remind him about the real possibility of dooring so is aware of potential danger. I proudly follow him, but with a mother's concern.

Chelsea Market.
We exit Central Park after a 3/4 loop and head to the West Side Trail along the Hudson River. We were tired of slow progress on the avenues and this trail was a brilliant alternative, and soon we were in Chelsea and walked a few blocks of the High Line, Manhattan's elevated park, filled with gardens integrated with track rails, benches, and cement walkways - a very unique place - while also searching for decent food. We'd been hungry for sometime, so my son located a highly rated taco place in nearby Chelsea Market.

Los Tacos No.1.

Watching ladies create homemade corn tortillas at Los Tacos No.1, we ordered and gobbled two tacos each, both proclaiming we'd eaten the best tacos ever!

We spied a Vanmoof bike -recognizable by the extended top tube with integrated lights - on the street. Once a Kickstarter project that we'd heard about, it appears the company is up and running, including a brand store in Brooklyn.

We couldn't resist visiting a Tesla showroom - you just never know what you'll stumble across - which turned into 20 minute discussion, luxuriating in white leather seats.

Heading crosstown on the way "home" with a stop at Dough Doughnuts - thanks again to my son's research - I couldn't help but photograph a building using nothing but windows on the exterior. Like many other tall buildings in Manhattan, there's an interesting architectural mix of styles plus there's evidence of vast construction projects currently underway in west mid-town (more eclectic architecture), east near the Manhattan Bridge ,and in Brooklyn.

My son carries 4 huge donuts on his rack.
By then we'd learned to  head towards the perimeter trails to make tracks, and used the East Side trail to bring us toward the Manhattan Bridge.

Interesting lighting at 6:30 pm. on the Manhattan and distant Brooklyn Bridge..

East side trail.

A stop beneath the Manhattan Bridge.
The Dahon is proving to be a comfortable bicycle. We rode close to 30 miles. Other than watching  out for potholes - small wheel's potentially having more trouble than standard size wheels - the ride is zippy, smooth, and the existing saddle that came with the bike is a winner.

Google Maps representation of our 30 mile ride.
An observation about Manhattan and Brooklyn's on-street lanes and traffic concerns
Compared with Burlington's dusty, debris-filled lanes, the paths in New York City are clean and in better condition. One-way roads have bike lanes on the left side, allowing better visibility for drivers (I presume). It was odd at first to ride to the left, but we quickly adjusted. And interestingly, the city has embraced cycling culture: there are  lanes, paths, or sharrows on most roads, a real testament to NYC's commitment to bike commuters. Auto traffic is generally cautious - there are so many riders on various styles of  bikes, including e-bikes and folders that we instantly fit in, often lining up at a traffic light with 4-5 other riders. I'm impressed with how cycling in a huge city can feel safe, given the right infrastructure.


  1. I liked the Vanmoof when in Amsterdam though they only sell interesting coloured ones to someone like an hotel chain ordering a load. I tried their electric bike but it only really works on the flat!

    Looks like a great trip.

  2. My daughter (23) lives in Manhattan, attends NYU, loves it! Great place for a youngster with a bit of pocket money.

    1. As I mentioned, my son seems to love it here. While not a regular rider like myself, he says he feels at home here and enjoys how easy it is to get around on a bike or his other mode of transport that he also sees here: an electric skateboard.

  3. When I was in my late teens, I recall also being enamored of the energy of the city (both NYC and Los Angeles). I couldn't quite ever imagine living in New York because it seemed so far from home, but I did end up living in L.A. As I've ripened a bit, I find that I actually prefer more of the slower pace that I grew up living in. I think it's good to experience both - it gives perspective, appreciation, and so on. I could live in a city today, though I'd prefer not an extremely large one, but I do believe if the choice was super big city of very rural town, today I'd likely choose the very rural, despite having an appreciation for both.

    I'm very much vicariously enjoying your bicycle tour of the city. Thanks for taking the time to document all of it in photos - it's much fun to read about and to see!

    1. Thanks for reading, GE. While I couldn't see myself living in NYC, I'm envious of the bicycle culture here. I'd love to be in easier living situation, say a condo with storage, or a one level small home, anything really that affords me more time to the things I'd rather be doing with less upkeep.

    2. I’m so glad to hear about the bike culture in NYC. For some reason I imagined that it would be a very intimidating place to ride.

  4. A lovely and very interesting read. How nice that you did this with your son. I had to laugh when you said your paper map got you where you wanted - the same happened to me in London a few years back. I was with my daughter, trying to find somewhere - she tried on her phone, no luck, and then I got out my A-Z, which was probably at least 35 years old, and which I had taken "just in case". Bingo - we found the place. And - the other day on a walk with my husband, his phone GPS was telling him he was in Africa! A paper map doesn't do that, I said.....

  5. Two things New Yorkers don't do:

    1. Use a GPS. The directions it gives are sometimes flat-out wrong or bad. As an example, last year such a device directed a cyclist to the Lincoln Tunnel!

    2. Ride on the Brooklyn Bridge. Anyone who lives here (including yours truly) uses the Williamsburg Bridge to cross the East River by bike.

    But you are right about NYC and cycling: I recall the days when I wouldn't see any other cyclist on the street!

    1. Justine, thanks for all your comments! For where we are staying, the Manhattan Bridge works best for us and Manhattan based forays. For example, we leave tomorrow to catch a train at Penn station - Williamsburg Bridge is too far north. However, I've been thinking of you while we're here. :)


Due to increased Spam, I am moderating comments. Thank you for your patience.