Thursday, November 29, 2007

Biking to a Different Beat


This has nothing to do with my personal experience of bicycling. But I'm always telling people who bitch about trying to bike in traffic in NYC that there are a million different ways to enjoy riding in this city.
It doesn't have to be about exercise, or efficient transportation, or 'being green'.
It can be about exploration, or community, or I guess, even about rockin' the beats.

This is an excerpt from today's NYT.
For the full article, go here.
For the phat photos, go here.

Published: November 29, 2007

A new biker gang is roaming the streets of Richmond Hill, Queens. This crew of mostly teenagers can be seen riding along 103rd Avenue just west of the Van Wyck Expressway. The bikes roar, but the booming sound has nothing to do with engines — because there are no engines. They are ordinary bicycles, not motorcycles, although these contraptions look and sound more like rolling D.J. booths. They are outfitted with elaborate stereo systems installed by the youths.

“This one puts out 5,000 watts and cost about $4,000,” said Nick Ragbir, 18, tinkering with his two-wheeled sound system, with its powerful amplifier, two 15-inch bass woofers and four midrange speakers. It plays music from his iPod and is powered by car batteries mounted on a sturdy motocross bike.

The riders are of Guyanese and Trinidadian background. In those countries, turning bicycles into rolling outdoor sound systems is a popular hobby.

“It’s really big where I come from in Trinidad,” Mr. Ragbir said. “When I first came to New York, I started with two little speakers. People here thought I was crazy because no one here has really ever seen it, except maybe for some Spanish dudes with a radio strapped to their handlebars.”

He added: “People say, ‘It’s the next best thing to having a system in a car.’ But it’s better because you don’t even have to roll down the windows.”

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cyclists Get Bridge Path. Now, How to Get to It?

(Quoted from the New York Times)

New York City's bicyclists love the newly restored bike and pedestrian pathway over the Manhattan Bridge. Really, they do.

But in the five weeks since the path opened, most cyclists have concluded that reaching it from the surrounding streets ranks somewhere between a headache and a nightmare -- even worse than the gnarly Brooklyn-side approach to the Brooklyn Bridge, which requires crossing as many as 15 lanes of traffic.
Cyclists riding south on Bowery toward the bridge have no direct approach to the entrance, and on Friday, a crossing island was also cut off by illegally parked police officers' cars.

Mr. Primeggia said that while difficulty reaching the bridge was not ''identified as an issue'' during construction of the path, the agency was investigating after complaints from Transportation Alternatives.

My favorite thing about this article?
It's publishing date...

August 6, 2001

To read the complete article, go to The New York Times Archive

Monday, November 19, 2007

Manhattan Bridge Update



This is the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge Bike Path from the Brooklyn Side. Once you find this and cross it, it's a breeze. There's a fancy new on-ramp, and the North side is (technically) only for cyclists.
Of course, this street is the entrance to the BQE in one direction, the Brooklyn Bridge, in the other, and, if you'll notice, cyclists are asked to ride in the cross walks because they couldn't engineer a safe route onto and off the bridge that allowed us to ride as vehicles.
This means that you have to merge into traffic from the sidewalk.
The Manhattan side is much worse.
I've been riding the newly re-opened North side for a month now and I still can't figure out how to safely and legally get on and off the bike path.
It's great that the path is open, but this trend of patchwork bike paths and lanes with no thought to how cyclists access the routes is going to get more and more people hurt and killed rather than making it safer to ride.
If we are in traffic, then we are traffic.
Making cyclists unpredictably ride to the left, to the right, on sidewalks, and then merge with traffic is a tragedy that isn't waiting to happen. It happens every day.

I was posting only yesterday about my ride across the Manhattan Bridge.
My use of the word 'suicidal' was meant to be ironic, but in light of what happened to Sam Hindy, it's not a joke.
Sam encountered a different issue from the one I'm describing, but I think they are all connected.
Traffic patterns that make no sense lead to accidents.

(Quoted from the NY Post)

A DAD GRIEVES: Devastated father Stephen Hindy (left) says son Sam was an avid cyclist. The 27-year-old was killed when he fell from the upper deck of the Manhattan Bridge yesterday.

November 18, 2007 -- A man whose father co-founded the Brooklyn Brewery was tragically killed in a freak bike accident on the Manhattan Bridge when he fell more than 20 feet from the upper roadway onto the lower section of the span, police said yesterday.
Sam Khaled Hindy, 27, and a friend were headed to Brooklyn when they accidentally rode their bikes onto the upper part of the bridge reserved for automobile traffic at 11:50 p.m. Friday.
When they realized they were in the wrong lanes, they turned to go back to the entrance of the lower roadway on the Manhattan side, where bicycle and pedestrian paths are located.
But as they made their way back, Hindy struck a barrier, sending him flying down onto the lower roadway through a split in the bridge, landing next to a car, police said.
"A bicycle hit the right side of my car. I didn't see the guy. I thought it was garbage bags. He didn't hit my car, he hit the street," said Joachim Romage, 62, who was driving his 1995 Toyota Avalon across the bridge at the time.
"I was so shocked. How can someone riding on the upper level flip over?"
Hindy was rushed to New York Downtown Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 12:30 a.m. yesterday.
Noah Budnick, of the cycling advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, said the entrance to the bridge's bicycle path has long been a problem because it is not clearly marked.
"The traffic is so thick around the bridge and the street grids are so confused that without a map or experience, it's understandable how someone could be misled and end up on the roadway," he said.
Stephen Hindy said his son - who had recently moved back to New York from Boston and worked as a computer engineer for the Internet advertising company DoubleClick - was an avid bike rider who frequently rode between Brooklyn and Manhattan, although he usually went across the Brooklyn Bridge.
to read the complete article go to the NY Post
Or see related articles: Bicyclist Killed in Fall on Bridge
Son of Brooklyn Brewery owner dies in accident

Saturday, November 17, 2007

New Path to Tofu


Oooh - Sexy!

Yes, It's the bicycle specific lane on the Manhattan Bridge.
Check it out. Bike icons in both lanes. Woo Hoo.

Of course, I did see about 5 people on foot on the North Path, but who cares. As the weather gets colder, fewer and fewer people cross the bridges any way.

The approach on both sides is suicidal and takes you through some of the worst streets to cycle on, but it's so nice to ride across the river without fear of hitting or being hit by random tourists, kids, sightseers or joggers on the Brooklyn Bridge Footpath.

I love riding on the Brooklyn Bridge, but sometimes the crowds get to be too much. The Manhattan Bridge leads right into the heart of Chinatown, and the best fresh tofu in NY - I only almost got killed three times on my way there.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

You See, I See

There is endless talk on the web about sharing the road - something New Yorkers do not do well. These 'talks' inevitably lead to anger and vitriol - something New Yorkers do very, very well.
There is a movement to ban bicycles on the Brooklyn Bridge, a movement to ban cars in Lower Manhattan, and a movement to add more 'people barriers' to crowded crosswalks. We've been stratified by our preferred choice of movement - 4 wheels vs 2 wheels vs no wheels and apparently no one sees the need to ride a mile in the wheels of another.
As a pedestrian, I've always hated bike messengers and all drivers of vehicles - always getting in my way and forcing me to break my stride, or horrors, actually stop at a corner.
As a driver/passenger, I'm convinced that all pedestrians and cyclists are blind, suicidal maniacs who actively must push each other off the edges of the curb like penguins testing the water for killer whales.
And as a cyclist, I've discovered that, though no one has seen fit to share the secret of teleportation with me, pedestrians have developed the ability to materialize from nowhere, forcing me to either hit them, or get run over by the cab that they've just hailed.
This schizophrenic experience of the world has lead to my new fascination with the concept of 'context and perspective'.
In other words - How do you see the world versus how do I see the world?

You (probably) see a fairly empty street.

I see a bus that will ignore my existence and push me into the pitted, pot holed half lane that is bounded by a jagged mini - cliff of extruded asphalt on one side, and delicate piles of broken glass on the other.


The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, and the line is always moving faster at the other register, but in cycling, my chosen lane is always better than the one you are trying to push me into.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

As seen in...Brooklyn Heights


This Pug has seen more of New York City than most people I know.
He's also got better manners than most people I know.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Green Half Mile Parking Zone

I'd like to give a shout out to the First Presbyterian Church just past Clark street, in Brooklyn Heights, for guaranteeing the failure of the city's experimental bike lane paint job.


Throughout the week I find the lane blocked by occasional parked cars making drop-offs or pick-ups from the church, but it's on Sunday when they really shine.


After all, who in their right mind would want to use a bike lane on Sunday morning?
I guess if I'm not in church I must not count.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Lazy Cyclist's 2007 NYC Marathon

I heard about a ride that starts at the base of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and follows the route of the NYC Marathon from a guy that I met during the Twin Lights Century. It sounded great. A quick guerrilla-style spin through NYC taking advantage of the closed streets and festive atmosphere.
I really meant to do it.
But instead, I did the Lazy Cyclist's NYC Marathon.
Need instructions?
Go out the night before. Drink wine (South African - very good)
Wake up late.
Tune in late to Marathon Coverage on TV and miss the start.
Realize that everybody's favorite male equivalent of the 'dumb blond' weather girl - Al Trautwig, is doing the commentary and curse the fates that made you interested in sports that the networks deem worthy of 'wacky Al'.
Turn off the sound and marvel as Paula Radcliffe dominates the women's race from beginning to end.
Feel guilty.
Haul your ass onto your bike and go cheer on some stragglers.
Finish 26 miles in 02:16 - not bad considering the traffic was murder.

Not much going on on Fourth Ave. by the time I got there, but they still wouldn't let me bike on it

Aside from the insanity on Fifth Ave. in Brooklyn, the ride was lovely. The weather was crisp and slightly overcast - technically perfect for riding.
I cobbled together a 'cool weather' riding outfit and set out to do my 26.
Life was pretty good until I hit the shore bike path. There, riding into a nice chilly headwind coming off the harbor, I discovered that my fingers and wrists get chilled where they are exposed, my lips chap, my nose runs, and I get cold crotch. Fingers, lips, nose... these I expected. But cold crotch? Is there such a thing as too well ventilated ergonomically designed sports equipment? Those of you with gender specific bike seats may know what I'm talking about here.
All I can say is, every once in a while, I'd hit a gust of wind, and 'Oh Daddy!' - Yowza, I have got to work that out if I'm going to be riding in chilly weather.

My version of a water stop.

Congratulations Martin Lel, Paula Radcliffe, and the 38,000 runners in this years NYC Marathon. Hell, I can't even run for the bus.