Saturday, August 18, 2007


...or why I hate riding on Manhattan's East Side.
I must be eligible for some sort of prize as of today. I think it would be called "most failed attempts at riding the periphery of Manhattan by one individual". I just can't make it work, and I don't know why.
Well, I sort of know why...
I feel like I know where I'm going when I'm in Manhattan, so if I miss a turn or two, I'm never that worried. "I'll just catch the next entrance", I say to myself. Only, I'm wrong.
Whenever I try to ride completely around Manhattan, I screw it up.
According to the Official NYC Bike Map, there is a (basically) unbroken line that goes around the island. This is a lie.
The West side of the island is quite lovely to ride on until you hit (Pet Peeve Alert), the parking lot of Fairway Supermarket at 125th street. After a little deadly intersection detour, it becomes one of my favorite stretches of bike path in the five boroughs. It passes through Riverbank State Park and then Ft. Washington Park (with a little detour to the Little Red Lighthouse), up along the Hudson into Inwood and the Cloisters.
It was a lovely day for a ride. Sunny, but cool, a little too windy for comfort - I almost got blown over a couple of times, but that's always the downside of riding near the water.
I got to portage my bike on the Henry Hudson Drive to get around some construction. I was impressed to see the workers set up on either end to help bicyclists heft themselves and their bikes over the barriers and across the highway - it was a happy bicycling high point of the day.
The low points followed in quick succession from there.
I followed the greenway signs across Dyckman to the Harlem River Drive Bike Path which quickly disintegrated into a broken glass covered on and off road excursion. Somewhere near Jumel Terrace, I picked up St. Nicholas Avenue and instead of turning left, I went straight.
This is not a disaster. Manhattan is very narrow, so when I figured it out, I turned. My best guess is that this is where I screwed up. Like little red riding hood, I strayed from the path.
My original plan was to go over the Triboro bridge into Queens and then ride down to Brooklyn, but somehow, at 125th street it all went wrong.
125th street is the bane of my bicycling existence. On the west side, it's where my happy, traffic - less riding ends. On the east side, it's where I ALWAYS get lost. Crossing on it is like attaching your mouth to the exhaust pipe of a bus.
The last time I tried it going north, I ended up in a sanitation storage yard where they store sand in enormous piles. And I don't mean that I left the bike path - the bike path ends in the giant pile of sand. The time before that, I ended up accidentally going over the Willis Avenue Bridge into the Bronx. This time, I was sure my plan would work.
I rode to the entrance of the pedestrian walkway of the Triboro and stopped short. It was gated shut with a sign that read, "Closed. Please use the walkway on the North Side." I crossed 125th street again (and the 6 lanes of on ramp, off ramp bridge traffic). The pedestrian walkway was gated shut with a sign that read, "Closed. Please use the walkway on the South side." Umm, WTF?
Is the Triboro closed to Bicycle traffic right now? Or is it my 125th street juju that makes it impossible for me to figure this out?
I sighed heavily and set off along the East Side of Manhattan.

Now some parts of the path are quite nice. And the sections in the North are fairly empty of pedestrian and bike traffic. But trust me, it may look like a path on the map, but it's not.
First of all, it's made of hexagonal concrete tiles, very bumpy on road tires. Second, though parts of it are quite beautiful, they end abruptly in flights of stairs that you have to carry your bike up or down. Third, when heading South, the section from 55th street through 34th street runs on 2nd Avenue. Not next to 2nd Avenue, not marked with a bike lane, just follow the NYC greenway signs straight to the bus lane.
So I was cranky and possibly not concentrating as hard as I should as I swung off onto Sutton Place and promptly got doored by the passenger side door of a car parked at the edge of the bike lane. I did a nice little slide on my elbow between the idling car and the moving traffic, leaving a bit of myself embedded in the road, but my bike seems ok and the rest of me is just slightly more bloody and banged up than normal.
I hate riding on the East Side of Manhattan.

Thanks for the door.
What do you do when you get doored?

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