Category Archives: Urban Biking

It’s Game Time for the New York City Metro Area

 

(by Andrea Doyle, Successful Meetings, February 25, 2013)

The spotlight is about to shine brighter than ever on the New York metropolitan area as it prepares to host Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2, 2014. The stakes are high as this is the first time the game is being held in the Northeast, in an open-air stadium, in a cold-weather city.
This Super Bowl will also be like no other as it going to be a trans-Hudson celebration. The game is being played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ but the events surrounding the game will be split between both New Jersey and New York. A “Super Bowl Boulevard” will transform a portion of Broadway in midtown Manhattan into a massive fan event. It will begin on 44th Street, in the middle of Times Square, and stretch down Broadway to 34th Street from January 29 to February 1.
“For the New York/New Jersey Super Bowl, we’ve embraced the opportunity to create plans that are as big, bold, and unique as New York City and the surrounding region itself,” says National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell. “While we can only fit 80,000 fans into MetLife Stadium for the game in East Rutherford, New Jersey, we look forward to hosting hundreds of thousands of people at different attractions and events during Super Bowl Week, throughout all parts of the area.” All the facets that make the New York area so special will be highlighted including culture, shopping, museums, restaurants, and theater. Plus, hotels have been renovated, roads widened, and airports upgraded in anticipation of America’s biggest sports tournament.

Tips to Store Bikes in a City Apartment

(By Marjorie Cohen, AM New York, January 16, 2013)

You’ve got a bike, maybe more than one, and can’t figure out where to put it in your city-sized apartment. You are not alone.

Although the city Department of Transportation’s 2012 figures on bike ridership aren’t out yet, Jill Guidera, campaign and organizing coordinator for Transportation Alternatives, predicts a “tremendous increase over last year. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, there was a 200% increase in riders and we think that a lot of those folks have decided to stick with it.”

There’s plenty of indoor bike parking for Transportation Alternatives employees, but when Guidera gets home, she parks her bike outside her building.

“My fourth floor walk-up apartment is the size of a pencil box, so this makes the most sense,” she explained. “I rely on the know-your-neighbors security plan.”

Read More »

City Biking Trumps Suburbia

As a girl who grew up in the suburbs of Boston, I was allotted a luxury that many New Yorkers might find hard to fathom: a backyard and a quiet neighborhood street where I could learn to ride my bike. Unsurprisingly, on my many trips to the city the idea of taking a bike ride never crossed my mind. However, when Bike and Roll hired me as a marketing intern this summer I needed to see what all the fuss was about.
Filled with doubt and a little scared for my life, I hopped on my bike at our Pier 84 location and rode uptown on the Hudson River Greenway. Immediately, I was shocked. There was not a car in sight. I was completely isolated from all NYC commotion. There were kids playing basketball, parents walking with their children and even students stealing a quiet moment looking out at the river or reading a book.
This experience was further enhanced by the plethora of tall ships, battle cruisers, and tugboats spraying water on the Hudson River signifying the start of Fleet Week. Boats filled with members of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard sailed along beside me as I pedaled by the Intrepid Museum and up the Greenway.
Later I made my way over to world-renowned Central Park. This is one area of New York that I thought I knew relatively well. Every time I visited my grandparents in the city while I was growing up, we would go for a walk through the park, play in a playground or at least eat a giant pretzel. However, when I left Tavern on the Green my perception was forever changed. I whizzed by the soft pretzel stand and weaved through the traffic-free park streets (most of the park drives are closed to cars during the day) leaving every concern behind me.
At this point you are probably curious as to how an intern who is living in a dorm room in New York managed to attain her very own bike to ride around the city. Well, it all started when my boss said something along the lines of, “why don’t you walk over to the warehouse, I’ll meet you there in an hour.”
I fought the foot traffic uptown for a few blocks until I saw a garage entrance with our logo proudly adorning the doorway. I walked in to a large room filled with rows of hundreds of bikes with royal blue Bike and Roll bags strapped to the handlebars. Wide-eyed and slightly overwhelmed, I looked over at the eclectic gr

oup of five mechanics building and fixing bikes in the corner. To my relief, the lead mechanic, Kate, who I had previously met in the office, hopped up to greet me. She expertly navigated through the myriad bikes and within seconds was tuning and cleaning up a bike that was my size.

After Kate’s expert hands had checked the gears, cleaned the chain, and performed a few other tests my fear had nearly dissipated. When my boss arrived a few minutes later, we buckled our helmets and were off. Without waiting for the subway or sitting in traffic, we spent the afternoon traversing the city. Plus, as an added bonus, I have never fallen asleep faster or slept so soundly in my life.

The season’s first commute to work!

It’s a special day when the planets align and allow me to take advantage of an almost 60-degree day in February and let me ride to my office!  My meetings today are with an extremely young entrepreneur and with a director at a school that wants to offer our Learn-to-Ride after-school program.  Neither will care that I’m in sneakers and khakis.  The daylight lasts long enough into the evenings so that I won’t have to ride home in the dark.  My tires have been filled over the weekend.  Everything I need to carry today fits in my backpack.  It’s a go.

The bikes I see on the way in are few and far between, but I’m riding early and get to the office by 8.  The ride just feels good and it’s fast.  I can’t face the subway in the morning, so I walk to work.  It takes about an hour.  The ride is only about 20 minutes, even when obeying all the safe cycling rules.

The park is gorgeous and empty.  The lake is full of mallards and northern shovelers.  Daffodils are replacing snowdrops.  Did I miss the crocuses entirely?

We’ve moved our offices since I last commuted by bike, so I need to figure out how to get there without riding the wrong way on New York’s one-way streets.  It’s a piece of cake.  I’m looking forward to hitting the Hudson River Greenway on the way home, where there may be more bikes but no cars.

Our Columbus Circle location is open today.  The inventory there includes kids’ bikes.  It’s a great day to take a lunch break wheeling through the park or to put the kids on bikes after picking them up at school.  Our season officially begins on March 5th when our locations at Columbus Circle, Tavern on the Green, Pier 84 and Battery Park will all be open.  Guided tours start March 10th.

It’s weird that we haven’t really had a winter, but taking advantage of a day like this for any kind of ride is just the right thing to do.

LeBron James Bikes to Work “All the Time”

This Twitter photo of LeBron James biking to American Airlines Arena before facing off against Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls last night has gone viral on sports news sites all over America.

 

There are some interesting sociological currents swirling around LeBron James, bike commuter. While the photographerlabeled James a “manchild” for taking to Miami’s none-too-friendly streets on a bike, the prevailing sentiment in the ESPN comments section seems to be that the sight of LeBron riding to work will help rehab his public image.

 

After the Heat edged the Bulls, James told reporters in the locker room that bike commuting is pretty routine for him. In fact, he seems to enjoy talking about the bike ride more than the basketball game:

 

LeBron’s best-known link to cycling is the charity “Bikeathon” he founded in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, which he still puts on every spring.The Heat forward isn’t as vocal about his modal proclivities as say, Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, but he sure has a higher pulpit if he ever chooses to speak up about street safety. Our friends at Transit Miami are hoping LeBron the bike commuter can quicken the pace of change in south Florida: “Maybe now we can get some Lebron-sized bicycle lanes.”

 

 

 

[When are we going to see some Knicks on bikes???  CG]

 

Image credits: @peter1lee & HotHotHoops.com@cjzero and cjzero. Hat tip: @JackNruth

 

 


From Dani Simons’s Smart Marketing for Sustainable Streets

Using Hashtags to Build #Bike Community

Maybe I’ve been spending too much time in front of my computer this holiday season, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how lots of “next generation” bike commuters in New York are forging a useful and meaningful community via Twitter.

When I first started riding here, it seemed that every hardcore bike commuter I met (at the time, mostly older, most white, mostly men, mostly in spandex, who tended to go on and on and on at various community meetings or social occasions) read a listserv called e-bikes.

But e-bikes was often filled with cranky complainers and the tips and useful bits of information were few and far between. At that point getting answers on bike questions (such as, when is that new lane going to be installed, or when is that construction on the bridge going to be finished) was also much harder than it is today, so people turned to e-bikes for answers. And even if you had a “silly” newbie question like “How can I make sure my hair doesn’t look totally ridiculous when I arrive at work after biking 7 miles in a helmet?” you had to find an actual bike commuter (a rarer breed eight years ago), or risk putting that question out on e-bikes and being snarked at.

Today, all of those questions and more are being asked semi-anonymously through the #bikenyc hashtag, and many people are offering tips and encouragement using the same.

Consider this tweet (which was retweeted by several others) from @MikeLydon the other morning, the first brutally cold snap of this winter “Dear #bikenyc, you look beautiful all bundled up on the morning commute. Keep riding!”

A few other cities appear to be catching on and using a bike hashtag, I found a decent number of #bikeChi and #bikeLA tweets on a recent search.

As we saw this spring and summer in the Middle East, (and even earlier than that in Iran), Twitter and it’s hashtags can be a very powerful way to organize, or at the very least spread information through a diffuse community. Clay Shirky has written very eloquently about the political power of social media, if you happen to be more interested in this, than say, biking…

It’s worth advocacy organizations or even city governments promoting city bike hashtags. Twitter is a great way to distribute rapid bits of information (“Bridge closed for emergency repairs tonight” or “Careful for the big new pothole that just appeared on Maple Lane” or “Free bike lights being distributed this evening on Maple Lane”). And since the media increasingly monitors Twitter for tips and breaking news, important tweets are often rebroadcast outside of Twitter as well. Using a hashtag at the end of these tweets allows users to create a dedicated “search” for this information, almost like tuning their Twitter radio to your station if you need an old-school analogy.

Twitter hashtags are also a good way for communities of interest to share information and support each other. Even if you don’t know a bike commuter personally in New York (which now seems rather far-fetched), you can connect with hundreds online via #bikenyc. Sure, some are still snarky as hell, but many are friendly, or as friendly as New York City cyclists get anyway…at least you don’t have to look at any spandex. At least not until you go to one of those #bikenyc meetups. But even then I’ve been pleasant surprised to find that #bikenyc fashion has evolved quite a bit since I arrived nearly eight years ago.

Not that I’m the boss of this, but I’d recommend for cities that aren’t using a bike hashtag yet to pick a simple one, maybe just #bike + your city’s airport code, which would keep things short (important for Twitter) local and easy to remember (important for the overall usability/success).

That would give you #bikeBOS for Boston, #bikeMSP for Minneapolis St. Paul, #bikePDX for Portland, #bikeSFO for San Fran, etc…

If I missed any cities that are already making great use of a hashtag to build cycling community online, let me know. I’d be eager to take a look at some other examples and learn more about how others are using this technique.

Some basic do’s and don’t for hashtag use in case you’re new to Twitter and wanted some more tips. 

Study: Painted Bike Lanes Don’t Endanger Pedestrians or Anyone Else

from Streetsblog

New York City’s tabloid media simply can’t stop seeing the city’s bike boom as a mortal threat to pedestrians. Even research showing a decline in the number of bike-ped crashes was somehow spun to say the opposite, that more cyclists were hitting pedestrians than ever. Now, new peer-reviewed research confirms once again that bike lanes don’t endanger pedestrians and don’t cause more crashes. If anything, researchers say, they make streets safer.

Even though they attract more cyclists onto the street, New York City’s painted bike lanes don’t lead to any increase in the number of traffic crashes, according to a new study in the American Journal of Public Health. The study’s authors expect that if they could adequately control for increased bike traffic, the numbers would show that crash rates went down due to the installation of bike lanes.

The researchers attempted to mimic the structure of a true experiment by pairing each street with a bike lane to a street without a bike lane that was otherwise as similar as possible. They attempted to control not only for design features like the number and direction of the lanes and the presence of stop signs or traffic signals, but also contextual factors like population and retail density. That enabled them to factor out the significant increase in traffic safety that has taken place across all of New York City.

“The difference between the treatment group and the comparison group in terms of a reduction is just not significant,” author Cynthia Chen, a transportation engineer at the University of Washington, told Streetsblog. The change in the number of crashes was statistically insignificant not only for total crashes, but for vehicle crashes, bike crashes, pedestrian crashes, and crashes that caused death or serious injury.

 

The study only looked at painted bike lanes installed in New York City between 1996 and 2006. Protected bike lanes, all of which were installed after that period, have had impressive safety results. A protected lane installed on Manhattan’s Eighth Avenue, for example,reduced injuries for all street users by 35 percent, according to DOT.

DOT’s landmark pedestrian safety study, which similarly attempted to control for confounding factors, also found that on streets with bike lanes, serious crashes were 40 percent less likely to kill victims.

Chen argued that her team would likely have found significant results if they had better data about bicycle volumes, which they believe increase after bike lanes are installed. “We think that if we were able to control the increase in bicycle volume, we would probably have found a significant reduction in crashes for the treatment group.” In other words, bike lanes might improve safety per person even if the total number of crashes holds steady.

The researchers also saw far greater numbers of bicycle crashes at intersections than on straight road segments. To improve safety, they recommended extending bike markings across intersections and installing more bike boxes.

The study, set to be released in an upcoming issue of the peer-reviewed journal, was conducted by a team of five academics and one city DOT official. DOT also funded the study.

The Manhattan Commute . . . on a Bike!

I admit it. I was a chicken. The guys in the warehouse tuned up my bike over the summer while my kids were at camp. When my bike was ready, it was the perfect opportunity to start riding to work, but I took the less-than-courageous route. From the Upper West Side I rode to the bike path on the Hudson River Greenway, then rode down to 34th St. and then up to the office at 36th between 7th and Broadway. What would have been a 50+-block ride on Manhattan’s streets became a breeze along the river with just a few blocks of streets to get to and from it.
Then the kids came home from camp and school started. While my older daughter takes the bus to middle school, my younger one needs to be taken to her school situated a bit more than a mile from our home. She wanted to scooter; I wanted to ride. We had to figure out how to do this.
Thanks to the good works of the current NYC administration, there is a nearby bike lane that dumps us into Central Park. My little one scooters on the sidewalk as I slowly bike next to her on the bike lane. Once we’re in the park, we travel together on the runners/bike lane down to the lake and up the hill. One small path through the edge of the park and school is right across the street. I drop her on the steps and then I’m back on my bicycle and off to work.
At that point, riding all the way over to the river would be silly, time-consuming and extremely inefficient, so I take the bike lane on Broadway. At 8:30 in the morning the pedestrians are reasonably awake and aware and Times Square’s quotient of tourists is few. It’s easy enough to weave among them, use a loud voice to remind several that they’re blocking/crossing/walking-in-the-middle-of a bike lane, and get to the office in just a few minutes.
Let me confess that I hate the subway during rush hour. I’ll do anything to avoid it. When I don’t ride, I walk all the way to work from home (more than three miles) just to miss the crush of commuters. I can’t stand that descent into stinky hell. (Who exactly is peeing in the subway?) So the morning ride is a wonderful start to my work day.
It was much harder for me to get used to the ride home. I tried using the Greenway bike path for a while, but it felt very out-of-the-way at the end of a workday and was over-populated by Spandex-clad speedsters who got out of work much earlier than I and were intent on getting their workout in regardless of who else was on the bike path.
I view 8th Ave. as the price I have to pay to get to the bike lane on Central Park West. I work at a bike company, so everyone rides in this office and everyone has an opinion about 8th Ave. around the Port Authority: they all abhor it. It is a little spooky and I did find that the adrenaline rush from the fear I felt riding those blocks up to Columbus Circle the first few times was enough to keep me up for hours past my bedtime.
But if I ride slowly and don’t let the pedestrians using the bike lane as an extra sidewalk and forcing me into lanes of traffic get to me, it’s not bad. And once I get to Central Park West, it’s a breeze . . . the trucks up there are mostly for movies, the pedestrians seem to be more aware, and the car doors don’t open as much. Of course this is my perception and could just be because I’m close to home, I’m about to see my kids, and I’m next to Central Park.
It was cold this morning as I rode and I didn’t have a jacket, much less gloves. By the time I got to the office I realized that my biking days for the season were numbered (snow, salt, and sand are not in my cycling vocabulary). And even now as I look at the darkening sky, I just want the rain to hold off long enough so that I can ride home. Who knew I’d ever look forward to biking on the streets of New York?

On Two Wheels with Water as a Companion

 

(by Jane Margolies, New York Times)

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WHEN I told my local bicycle mechanic that I was thinking about circling the city by following the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, he shrugged off my reservations about the unfinished route, which I’d heard was still dicey in parts.

“It’s Manhattan,” he said. “It’s an island. What are you going to do, get lost?”
Yet there I was on a recent Sunday morning, turning right at East 63rd Street, only to find that I’d started down the car ramp onto the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive.
Though the Greenway does encompass some city streets, mostly it snakes for more than 28 miles along rivers, under bridges and through parks. My companion for the ride was the recently released 2011 NYC Cycling Map (available atbike shops or by calling the city’s 311 information line), depicting the Greenway mostly as an enticing thick green line along much of the coast, with dotted lines indicating sections to come. (Full disclosure: I recently worked as a freelance editor on the city’s new plan for waterfront development; the Greenway was mapped out years earlier.)
Cycling the route is on the whole satisfying and at times exhilarating — a boon for bikers like me who get bored going round and round Central Park. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t bumps in the road.

WEST SIDE From the West 103rd Street entrance to Riverside Park, it was a quick trip down a hill and under an overpass to reach the Hudson River. There, signs for the NYC Greenway — racetrack-shaped and green, with a five-leafed ivy motif — greeted me.

The Department of City Planning included a route around Manhattan in its 1993 master plan for 350 miles of recreation and commuting paths in all five boroughs. In 2002 Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg pledged to have the Manhattan loop built, and the city began stitching together existing pedestrian walkways, esplanades and city streets into a single route — in some areas paving connections and in others simply planting signs pointing the way.

Hanging a left so that I’d be circling Manhattan counterclockwise, I quickly reached a new segment. Cantilevered over the water, the path between West 90th and West 83rd Streets has a jaunty boardwalk feel. Before it was built, cyclists had to veer inland up a steep hill and reconnect near 79th Street. Now the path continues uninterrupted for more than 10 glorious miles close to the river, from the George Washington Bridge to the Battery.

Although I’d timed my departure to avoid the crowds later in the day, already cyclists — along with joggers, in-line skaters and stroller pushers — were out in force. At a cafe around West 70th Street, servers were opening table umbrellas for the day.

Here in Riverside Park South, the bike lane runs under the elevated West Side Highway. Still, cyclists have a good view of the rusted remains of the 69th Street Transfer Bridge, one of the relics from the city’s industrial past that you can see as you pedal. Out on the water a blue-and-white tugboat pushed a barge.

But keep your eyes on the path: Travelers streaming off a cruise ship rolled suitcases across the route at West 48th Street. Ten blocks later, a parked white bike, with back baskets overflowing with dried flowers, was a sobering memorial to a cyclist who was killed by a truck there in 2006.

Approaching Battery Park City after being separated from the water by basketball and tennis courts, I made a few turns near Stuyvesant High School and continued south, again right along the water. Hello, Statue of Liberty!

EAST SIDE When you get to Battery Park, the trick is figuring out which way the Greenway goes — now you see the signs for it, now you don’t. But once I was on the path bordering the East River, there were fewer cyclists than on the West Side, and no wonder. Although it’s thrilling to pass under the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges, the Greenway here is a disjointed affair.

At East 35th Street the path heads inland, skirting the United Nations on busy First Avenue. Several blocks later I got caught up in the flow of traffic and found myself on that F. D. R. Drive ramp. My mistake was not spotting the pedestrian bridge over the highway, leading back to the Greenway.

The map says it’s a clear shot to the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, at 125th Street. But repairs on the path in the East 70s meant that I had to tack back and forth across the F. D. R. Drive on pedestrian bridges. And for now the Greenway turns at 120th Street, so once again it is back onto city thoroughfares.

HARLEM AND THE HARLEM RIVER The Greenway continues west in Harlem — some blocks are lined with lovely old brownstones — then north on St. Nicholas Avenue. I crossed West 125th Street as noon church bells rang.

There’s no waterfront along this part of the Waterfront Greenway, but there’s plenty of greenery along St. Nicholas Park. Still, when I finally reached the Harlem River, after riding along Edgecombe Avenue and crossing over Harlem River Drive, it felt good to be back by the water again.

The view along this least-traveled part of the path isn’t fetching: high-rises and highway on the Bronx side. But fishermen with propped-up rods give this area a homey feel, while rowing crews gliding by add a sporty vibe. And because there’s practically no one else around, you can finally cut loose.

In fact, this area was called the Harlem River Speedway at the beginning of the 20th century, a straightaway for horse and carriage racing. Today cherry and crabapple trees beautify the West 180s. The yellow and green Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse occupies a pier at the tiny Swindler Cove Park (at Dyckman Street and 10th Avenue, in Inwood), with its winding paths and tidy rows of potatoes, lettuce and fava beans tended by students at the school next door.

DYCKMAN STREET CONNECTION This nerve-racking stretch of storefronts and double-parked cars connects the Greenway on the East Side with the trail along the Hudson. Eudes Espino, co-manager of Tread Bike Shop on Dyckman Street, said that at least once a day a cyclist wandered in to ask how to get back onto the Greenway. By the end of the year, work will have begun on a ramp to the Hudson River part of the path, according to the Parks Department. For now, head up Riverside Drive, then lug your bike up stairs to reach the path along the Henry Hudson Parkway.

GEORGE WASHINGTON BRIDGE AREA To your right, the Hudson River is a silvery ribbon far below, glinting through the trees. At Inspiration Point, a 1925 overlook modeled on a Greek temple, cyclists stop and gaze at the George Washington Bridge. Soon you’re swooping down to the foot of the bridge, with the Little Red Lighthouse tucked at its feet. From here to Riverbank State Park, the Greenway runs through what feels like a big block party on weekends. Volleyball nets are unfurled. Barbecues sizzle. The scene is more pastoral along Cherry Walk, from West 125th to West 100th streets, where the path weaves between trees that were beautifully in bloom for me.

Nearing West 100th Street, a cyclist in front of me swerved to avoid broken glass. I did too. But several yards later, at the exact spot where I’d started my journey four and a half hours earlier, Dr. Edward Fishkin sat on a patch of grass next to his red Cannondale bike, expertly fixing a flat.

The medical director of Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center and a cyclist for 25 years, Dr. Fishkin bikes up to 250 miles a week, and the occasional flat just comes with the territory. He rarely experiences flats on the Greenway, however, Dr. Fishkin said, adding, “Compared to what riding was like in the city 20 years ago, this is phenomenal.”

New Yorkers are learning to love bike lanes . . .

Support for bike lanes is up a few pedal strokes as 59 percent of New York City voters say bike lanes are good because they are greener and healthier while 35 percent say they are bad because they increase traffic.

That compares to 56 – 39 percent support in a May 12 Quinnipiac University poll.

Support for bike lanes is over 60 percent in Manhattan, Brooklyn and The Bronx and    55 – 39 percent in Queens.  Staten Islanders say 53 – 38 percent bike lanes are bad.

“Warmer weather brings out more cyclists and more support for bike lanes – except on Staten Island,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

From July 19 – 25, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,234 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points.  Live interviewers call land lines and cell phones.