Tag Archives: New York City

Travel by Tandem

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A tandem bicycle rental is a terrific way for a couple to explore a travel destination. While bikes in general are more efficient than walking and much more fun than being confined in a motor vehicle, the tandem adds a special dynamic.

The tandem experience eliminates the worry of separating or losing your partner. Also, ongoing conversation is much easier than if attempting to travel together on separate bicycles. You can share the workload as well but beware, tandems are a little more challenging when navigating hills.

There has been some discussion about tandem bikes and relationships. According to Angela Hill of the Oakland Tribune, “They’ve been called everything from love machines to divorce accelerators”. As a rental operator, I recall the first tandem rental I ever facilitated was to a newlywed couple in San Francisco. Upon return from their ride I was apprised of some conflict along the way relating to the pecking order of operator management. The biggest issue seemed to be the lack of advance warning to the rider in back about forthcoming bumps. In the end, we all had a good laugh and the relationship did not seem any worse for the wear.

Tandems are a great product to rent as they tend to be more economical than renting two separate bikes. Additionally, most people do not own a tandem, so renting one is a means to try something new. They are not difficult to ride, but a few important rules apply. The rider in front always mounts the bike first and the first one on is always the last one off. The front rider always stabilizes the bike for the back rider when mounting and dismounting the bike. Communication is also very important. Advising when brakes will be applied or when shifting greatly improves riding efficiency. Advising on forthcoming points of interest also makes for a better experience for the rider in back. And yes, the front rider should alway advise when there are bumps in the road.

Bike and Roll NYC recommends a tandem bicycle rental experience for those who enjoy adventurous travel and sharing experiences with others. See bikeandrollnyc.com/rental/tandem-bike/ for more information on renting a tandem in New York City.

Credits

Byline: Darryll White

Photo by: kohlmann.sascha via flickr

Bicycle Tour Guides in New York City

Written By: Darryll White

 

New York City is one of the most visited places on the planet, ranking in some polls as the number five (5) tourist destination worldwide and number one (1) in the US. Due to all the history, diversity, culture, and architecture, along with a massive local retail and service industry, the city is a tremendous destination.

 

With all the city offers, a visit at first glance might seem overwhelming. For many, guided tours offer a way to capture the essence of certain sections and or aspects of the city in an efficient and enjoyable manner. There are many types of tours to choose from, including walking tours, bus tours, boat tours, bike tours, along with nuance tours such as food tours, architecture tours, history tours, neighborhood tours, etc.

 

The city strives to protect the interest of the visitor to NYC so that when purchasing guide services the consumer has some assurance, that those who provide services will be prepared to offer a quality product. While buyer-beware is always good advice, NYC offers a layer of consumer protection by requiring tour guides to obtain a Sightseeing Guide License. Acquisition of the license requires an extensive base of knowledge about the city and the tourism industry.

 

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Persons applying to become guides in NYC must file an application, provide proof of identity, take and pass the guide exam, and pay applicable fees.

 

The exam covers numerous topic areas and requires broad based understanding of the NYC touring industry. One must understand local logistics, history, have knowledge about local neighborhoods and landmarks, understand ethnic culture, including foods and religion and immigration patterns both historical and current; as well as have basic knowledge on local museums, public sculptures, art, culture, including music, theatre, dance and literature. Additionally, knowledge on architecture, city planning, parks, parkways and cemeteries is required.

 

The licensed guide is also required to understand “practicum”, which includes legal routing of passengers, pick up/drop off points for tour busses as well as the requirements surrounding the use of microphones, billing customers and taxes, along with terms specific to travel and tourism.

 

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When selecting a tour in the city, the consumer should qualify the operator by ensuring that they utilize authorized and licensed guides for all of their tours. Most guides will carry their license with them when conducting business and facilitating tours in the city.

 

Wendy Rose from Bike and Roll offers the following in regards to the license test: “The city guide licensing test is impressively rigorous, and I love it! The questions were incredibly involved, so I really had to study all aspects of the city (past, present, food, culture, navigation, etc). It does an excellent job of looking to all the Boroughs of New York. The test for me, took four hours to complete. It was exhaustive, but incredibly rewarding.  While some people likely find the test to be an unnecessary hurdle, I definitely welcomed the challenge and opportunity to immerse myself in as many details on NYC as possible”. 

 

Bike and Roll NYC has been providing bicycle tours in NYC since 2007. With eleven (11) locations in New York City and in Jersey City, NJ, Bike and Roll is the largest bicycle tour operator in the NY Metro area. The company offers several daily tours in Central Park and along the NYC and NJ waterfront. A night tour is available and some tours include packaged deals such as the Bike and Boat tour. Additionally, Bike and Roll NYC offers walking tours and Segway tours.

 

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Sending out more than eleven (11) daily tours with other tours available on demand takes a reliable and dedicated staff of tour guides and attention to detail at the management level.

 

According to Bob Trenta, Manager of Guides at Bike and Roll, “We have put together a quality team of seventeen [17] licensed tour guides, each having their own perspective of New York City.

 

The range of their experience and backgrounds is truly impressive. Actors, wood worker, Vassar grad, Columbia art history grad from Maui, rock band keyboardist, money manager, photographers, men’s clothing designer, architect, educators, Harvard educated contrarian, film editor, industrial designer and coaches all bring something different, unique and refreshing to each tour. 

 

They have been the backbone of the many four and five star reviews we have received. Most importantly, they are always willing to adjust their schedules anytime we need them for a major touring event”.

 

One key to facilitating a successful tour is to know your group. The development of a relationship adds great value to the tour and also helps the guide understand what the group most wants to see or to gain from their tour experience. From there the guide can tailor the tour by focusing on certain aspects and not others in order to best align with the group’s overall interests.

 

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Bike and Roll NYC tour guide, Dan Golden states: “My favorite part about working for Bike and Roll (aside from being paid to bike) is the flexibility. No two tours are the same, and if I get to make slight variations on the tour stops based on what I think the group will like, everyone is happier. For instance, I just discovered Ladies Pavilion in Central Park. The views of the lake and skyline are incredible, so now I take people there if they’re really into picture-taking”.

 

What I enjoy most about being a NYC tour guide is that I love the city and love America. I’m proud to show this place off to people who have only seen it in movies. I love defying the guide books (Don’t want to wait in a long line for the amazing views on top of the rock? I know a good rooftop bar nearby with incredible views. Want the best Italian American food? Little Italy in Manhattan is great, but I know a place in Brooklyn that makes you feel like you walked into a scene from the Godfather. Like being active? How about getting a $50 day-pass to Chelsea Piers, free kayaking on the Hudson, or a horseback riding tour at Kensington Stables in Prospect Park. I also love hearing from tourists that they thought New Yorkers were supposed to be rude, and they’re actually really friendly. Don’t even get me started on how visiting New York changes their perception of the typical American. 

 

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Damien at Bike and Roll further adds; “My favorite tour that Bike and Roll has to offer is the “Bike and Boat”. Starting out in New Amsterdam right into New York up to a Modern Marvel, the Brooklyn Bridge, then off to the boroughs first neighborhood “Brooklyn Heights”. Next, down to the Portofino of Brooklyn “DUMBO”, then to the hop on – hop off Water Taxi, making you feel like Henry on the Half Moon going up the Hudson. Lastly, hop off and pedal down the Greenway into our newest of land fills (like putting the cherry on top of the cake) Battery Park City! Wow what a tour!!”

 

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Managing a group of people on bicycles in a large urban setting takes attention to detail and strong leadership skills. While fun is the goal, safety is always the top priority.

 

Bike and Roll NYC President, Chris Wogas elaborates, “At Bike and Roll our tours are based on two pillars.  First, show off the greatest the city in the world.  Second, build each tour around knowledgeable guides, well-trained team-members and safety.  We understand that providing a great product must include delivering a safe product.  Whether it be providing helmets, creating first-class tour routes, continual equipment maintenance and upgrades, or ongoing team-member training; everything we do at Bike and Roll always has our guest’s enjoyment and safety top of mind.

 

Seeing New York by bike is an experience like no other – a must do event!  Seeing New York by bike with the best guides in the industry who continually provide a first-class, customer centered and safe product is truly a serendipitous experience and will be a lifelong memory”.

 

Wendy adds, The streets of New York are busy and have their dangers, like anywhere. The key for bike safety in New York is to bike in a predictable manner. That means that you stay in the bike lane, bike in the correct direction, and hold your position in traffic (no swerving!) when there is no bike lane. On Bike and Roll tours, we all wear helmets, always go over safety rules, and encourage our guests to bike in a predictable, self-aware way. One last tip: it is crucial that people do not bike side by side on the Greenway”!

 

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Bike and Roll NYC is a member of the Bike and Roll National Cooperative. Cooperative members have provided bicycle guide services and equipment rentals in five (5) major US cities for the past twenty-one (21) years. As a pioneer and leader in urban bicycle tours, Bike and Roll strives to set the standard nationwide for high quality and safe urban tour experiences.

 

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Bike and Roll Fall Hours

Cycling Events

September is here!  Starting September 2nd, our Fall operating hours will go in to effect.

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Open 7 Days a Week

Central Park at Columbus Circle West: 8AM – 10PM

Central Park at Columbus Circle South: 8AM – 10PM

Central Park at Tavern on the Green: 9AM – 7PM

Pier 84: 9AM – 7PM

Battery Park: 9AM – 7PM

 

Open Weekends ONLY 

Brooklyn Bridge Park: 11AM – 7PM

Riverside Park: 11AM – 7PM

Liberty State Park: 10AM – 5PM

 

East River Park and West Harlem Piers Park are CLOSED for the 2014 season.

 

New York City in the Fall is a beautiful time of year!  Hop on a bike and take in the beauty of Autumn in NYC!

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Summer Streets NYC (August 2nd, 9th, and 16th, 2014)

On three consecutive Saturdays in August, nearly seven miles of New York City’s streets are opened to the public to play, run, walk and bike.

Summer Streets is an annual celebration of New York City’s most valuable public space—our streets. Summer Streets provides space for healthy recreation and encourages New Yorkers to use more sustainable forms of transportation. In 2013, more than 300,000 people took advantage of the open streets.

Summer Streets is modeled on other events from around the world including Ciclovía in Bogotá, Colombia and the Paris Plage in France. The event is part bike tour, part walking tour, part block party—a great time for exercise, people watching, or just enjoying summer mornings. Passersby are weclome to participate in arts and crafts workshops, listen to musical performances, learn to salsa dance, eat healthy snacks, climb a 25′ climbing wall, soar through the sky on a 160′ zipline and explore a 179 years voice tunnel.

map_800w-1Held between 7:00 am to 1:00 pm, Summer Streets extends from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park, along Park Avenue and connecting streets, with easy access from all points in New York City, allowing participants to plan a trip as long or short as they wish. All activities at Summer Streets are free of charge, and designed for people of all ages and ability levels to share the streets respectfully.

Summer Streets is a project of the New York City Department of Transportation. With nearly 7 miles of open streets, 5 rest stops and a seven-block-long art installation in the Park Avenue Tunnel – there is plenty to explore at Summer Streets. And remember, everything at Summer Streets is free!

Bike and Roll New York City is a proud Local Programming Partner of Summer Streets. Even if you don’t have a bicycle of your own, get out and enjoy the festivities by renting a bike from any one of our numerous city-wide locations.

 

The New York City Waterfront, A World Class Bicycle Experience (Part One)

By Nicole Mylonas

I sat down with Darryll White, co-founder of Bike and Roll, to discuss the New York City Waterfront.  In this two-part interview, you will learn about the incredible access that the waterfront grants to many New York City icons, what a great day along the waterfront looks like, why the waterfront is an important part of the NYC experience and how bicycling plays an important role.

Q: What motivated you to focus on the New York City Waterfront as a bicycling destination?

My first motivating factor was the NYC Greenway, which created the opportunity to offer a new, outstanding and safe bicycle experience in New York City.  Since the Greenway primarily resides along the waterfront it is natural for us to make the waterfront an area of focus.  A car free path goes a long way in terms of safety and the perception of safety.

While safety is foremost, our product experience is also very important. When I owned the Bike and Roll operation in San Francisco, our premiere and most successful product revolved around biking the scenic waterfront, across the Golden Gate Bridge and returning by ferryboat.  In New York City, the waterfront greenway allows for bicyclists to connect iconic sites such as the Brooklyn Bridge, the 9/11 Memorial, the Statue of Liberty, Governors Island, Staten Island Ferry, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and more, with proximate water-transit along the way .  Much like in San Francisco, people in NYC can bike the waterfront, ride on a famous bridge and return by boat.

Mayor Bloomberg’s vision, PlaNYC30, also motivated me to focus on the New York City waterfront as a bicycling destination.  The plan articulated a vision to connect the five boroughs and specifically mentioned use of water transit and increased use of bicycles.  By aligning our plan with that of the administration we were able to work in sync with an existing city initiative.

Q: How has the waterfront greenway helped change the perception of biking in New York City?

In the early 1990’s there was no bike path to speak of outside of Central Park and New York City was perceived by many as a dangerous place to ride. The addition of the waterfront greenway created a safe and significant network of paths to ride and as they say, if you build it, they will come.

The bike path also runs though many beautiful waterfront parks, which serve as a great place for residents and visitors alike to relax and enjoy the greenery, open sky and waterfront views while connecting with many great waterfront destinations. Thus, the Greenway has been integral in creating access to the waterfront.

The importance of the Greenway for biking in New York City cannot be overstated!

Q: Describe a great day on the New York City Waterfront.

Imagine a bike ride along the Hudson River, on a car-free Greenway, providing access to diverse neighborhoods, awesome iconic attractions, waterfront dining and connections to water transit that allow bikes easy access to all 5 boroughs of NYC.  A great day for me would be to create my own combination adventure on the fly, stopping as I pleased and exploring new spots along the way.  When hungry or when feeling like a change of pace, getting off the bike to sit somewhere and watch the world go by is a great option as well. There are so many terrific pit stops along the way.

Some of my favorite destinations include the picnic areas and the Boat Basin in Riverside Park, the Frying Pan and the Intrepid Museum in Hudson River Park, the Ice Cream Factory and Grimaldis in DUMBO the various concessions and skyline vantage points in Brooklyn Bridge Park, the bike path loop and Governors Beach Club on Governors Island and of course, the wooden plank bike path that crosses above the cars on the Brooklyn Bridge. 

Ferry connections can be made all along the bike path and I enjoy very much adding a boat trip, as it gets me off my saddle for a bit and also provides another vantage point, along with access to Governors Island and the NJ shoreline. NY Water Taxi and East River Ferry provide excellent and convenient service along both the Hudson and East Rivers.  For additional water tours I enjoy Manhattan by Sail and the Circle Line tours – both uptown and downtown.

After listening to that amazing description of a great day on the New York City Waterfront, I’m ready to hop on my bike right now!  The freedom of being able to hop on and hop off of the bike to enjoy museums, restaurants and parks sounds perfect.  I’m looking forward to more information as we continue this discussion in the near future.

(Read part two of this interview.)

 

A Summer Day on Governors Island

We were looking for something special to do.  My kids are leaving for camp on Sunday, so we want to do something special and memorable on Saturday.  Since several weeks of separation are looming, my children are being very nice to me and agree to get up early to go to Governors Island.

I am one of those New Yorkers who doesn’t like crowds.  There are lots of us on this island of more than eight million and we use tricks to feel like there are far fewer people than those who actually share our space.

The first trick is to go wherever you are going early!  Visit any location that tourists and locals like to visit and you’ll notice that they are empty until noon or so on weekends.  The kids and I are up, dressed, breakfasted, and out the door by 8am Saturday morning.  We catch the subway down to South Ferry and were at the GI ferry terminal by 8:40am.

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Our Newest . . . Bike (?) and a Cross-Country Hero

Bike and Roll NYC has a new partner . . . ElliptiGO.  These “bikes” (for lack of a better word) are elliptical machines on wheels.  Imagine yourself on a bike, but instead of pedals your feet are moving forward and backward on platforms as they do on an elliptical machine.  You’re standing up, so you’re much higher than you are on a bike, your hands are on handle bars with hand brakes, and you have gears so you can really get moving or up a hill.  Unlike an elliptical machine at a gym, you’re not staring at a wall, a screen, a book, or a magazine, you’re out and about.  It’s surprisingly easy!

Our friend, Emily Banks, on an ElliptiGO for the first time — in 4″ heels. It really is easy!

We had the privilege yesterday of meeting Rick Hermelin, an amazing 71-year-old former Marine  who is going to cross the country on an ElliptiGO to benefit the Semper Fi Fund.  Starting from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina on March 23rd, Rick is planning to ride across the southern tier of the US in 100 days and arrive at Camp Pendleton in San Diego.  The Semper Fi Fund gives support to injured Marines and their families during recuperation.  We are still a nation at war with many injured service men and women returning home to the harsh challenge of rehabilitation.  Rick’s journey is an honorable effort put forth by an honorable man.

http://100daysforthecorps.wordpress.com/about/

Rick likes even numbers.  He’s been running for 35 years and has completed 100 marathons, 100 half-marathons, and 100 10K races.  He doesn’t look a day older than 60.  He’s a lifelong athlete who knows how to take care of his body.  He’s one of the most centered people imaginable — caring, easy, gentle.

ElliptiGO is a southern California company trying to get their product better known in the East Coast market.  As part of their efforts, they have asked us to add several ElliptiGOs to our fleet of bikes and make them available for demonstrations and rentals.

So when Rick was asked to appear on Fox & Friends at their New York studio onFriday morning (and by morning, I mean real morning — 6am) to promote his journey for the Semper Fi Fund, we were asked to provide the ElliptiGOs, a couple of people to get the Fox & Friends hosts on and off the bikes, helmets, and general support.

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The beautiful weather this winter has meant that our season has started earlier than usual.  Sixty degrees in March isn’t unheard of, but a long stretch of 60-degree days gets everyone thinking about bikes and riding the city’s parks and bike paths.  Translation:  the ElliptiGOs were still in their boxes as we got our other fleet built, tuned, and distributed.  But we jumped to it and got four ElliptiGOs built and ready for Rick’s appearance.

Fox & Friends is incredibly organized.  I got a call at home at 5:30am to be sure that everything was going as planned.  I explained I was only a 10-minute cab ride away and would be there on time (I got there at 5:45).  Rick was already waiting.  Two Bike and Roll assistants were there by 5:50 and the ElliptiGOs were ready to be unloaded from the truck, too.  The plaza next to the studio where we unloaded them was too inviting not to take a test ride.  As the sun came up we were riding and laughing and getting every passersby’s attention.

Rick was called into make-up at about 7:15, then mic’ed up at 7:20.  At 7:25 he was asked to go out to the plaza for a “teaser.”  He was joined by Brian Kilmeade who hopped on an ElliptiGO and rode like a pro.

Brian Kilmeade on his first ride on an ElliptiGO.

Anchors being anchors, no helmet was used, but we always recommend the use of a helmet . . . on a bike, on an ElliptiGO.  It’s just a wise habit to have.

After the teaser came the actual interview.  Rick was fantastic.  He’s a natural on camera.  What was a bit unexpected, though, was that Steve Doocy immediately joined Rick and Brian on an ElliptiGO.  The producer got on one, too.  The newbies were all immediate experts.  And the plenty-big plaza wasn’t big enough — suddenly they were going around to the 6th Avenue side of the building, out on the sidewalk, anywhere they could get some speed going.  I was glad it was still early and pedestrians were few and far between.  There was one near-collision by the corner of the building where there was no visibility, but no crashes.

Rick Hermelin being interviewed by Kilmeade and Doocy for Fox & Friends

Okay, so the coverage of Bike and Roll didn’t happen, but it did make it clear to us that the interest in the ElliptiGO is huge.

We packed up the bikes and helmets and headed off to our next stop — a media event for Rick at our Bike and Roll location at Tavern on the Green.  It was still quite early and no media reps were expected before 10am, so we got to spend some time with Rick in a nearby cafe and hear about his life and his journey to this incredible trek across the country.

Born in Mexico City, Rick moved to the US with his family when he was 7.  He grew up in Texas, then served a four-year stint in the Marine Corps after Korea and before Viet Nam.  He served in Laos.  As an athlete he became interested in physiology, which led to a degree in massage therapy.

“I’ve never felt pain,” he told us.  “It was only after I started to study massage therapy that I understood what other athletes felt.  The ElliptiGO has no pressure points, so it’s great for everyone.  If you can walk, you can ride one.”

Rick Hermelin at Tavern on the Green with the ElliptiGO bikes.

After we set up at Tavern on the Green, several people came over to try out an ElliptiGO.  One gentleman said, “I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but there’s just something really sexy about them.”

Once at Tavern on the Green, media reps from MSNBC and Fox News interviewed Rick.  It was fun to see them courteously stay out of each other’s shots.  When it comes to bikes, there is no politics.

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After the interviews (where Rick was charming and informative — a natural), a man on an ElliptiGo road up.  Richard, also 71, and Rick struck up an immediate friendship and talked for about an hour.  Richard was looking for some advice on hills and Rick had it for him.  As they were chatting, another man on an ElliptiGO road past on the park drive.  I’ve seen an ElliptiGO twice in the past year, so seeing several independently seemed to imply some sort of harmonic ElliptiGO convergence.

The ElliptiGOs got so much attention that we left all four at Bike and Roll at Tavern on the Green.  If you want to try one, take one for a ride, or rent one for the day, come to our Tavern on the Green location, open every day from 9am to 5pm.  The weather is supposed to be in the 60s and even hit 70 next week, perfect for riding any bike:  Comfort, Performance, Race, tandem, or ElliptiGO!

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.

Weird, yet wonderful

I like to walk/bike to work in my shirtsleeves as much as the next person.  But each of the three people I ran into on my way to work this morning (see . . . New York is just a small town) declared that our lovely, 60-degree weather is “weird.”

I made it just four blocks before I needed to stop to take my jacket off.  Granted, I lug a laptop with a large glass screen and all sorts of miscellaneous items in my backpack, but it was too warm for anything other than a shirt.

Each one of these incredible days begs for a bike ride.  On Saturday we rode up to the Little Red Lighthouse under the George Washington Bridge.  We headed out around 11:30am, road over to the bike path, and enjoyed the lack of wind and small number of riders.  The Spandex-clad were out, but the rest of the world one normally finds on the Hudson River bike path seemed to remain unaware of the incredible opportunity for an incredible ride.  The clay tennis courts were filled; the asphalt ones further uptown were also in use.

At the lighthouse we stopped and enjoyed the view of the bridge and the palisades across the Hudson River.  What a cozy place to chat.  It’s hard to remember the millions of people living and working behind you, especially if you don’t turn your head.  The fury of the Hudson’s current moved a massive tree trunk downstream.  I’m always amazed by the power such a wide river can exert.

Heading back downtown we stopped at the Fairway just south of our location on the bike path at 135th St.  We picked up lunch and sat on a bench to picnic by the river and take in the sun and the view.  Seagulls moved in for our crumbs as soon as we were done.

By the time we headed back down the bike path, there was a lot more traffic.  In NYC, the cut-off for uncrowded activity seems to be noon.  Do anything before noon and you’re reasonably sure to find a location reasonably empty; after noon is a different story, though, because that’s when the crowds arrive.  We were home by 3

Sunday was another incredible day and this time we headed into Central Park for a few loops.  The way to do Central Park is to stay north.  Below 72nd St. you’ll find lots of pedicabs and pedestrians.  For cyclists, though, this southern loop is flat and easy to ride.  Kids who would rather avoid hills love it.  But we were happier away from crowds and continued north after the southern loop, up the hill behind the Met, and down the hill by North Meadow.  There are still plenty of leaves on the trees.  In fact, it looks like some of them are starting to bud.  With December right around the corner, where is winter?

But winter will come in some form sooner or later.  In the meantime, enjoy these days of unseasonable warmth.  And, just as a reminder, all four of our end-of-season locations (Central Park: Columbus Circle, Central Park: Tavern on the Green, Pier 84, Battery Park) are open today and will stay open for as long as the weather allows.  If you can hop on two wheels today, enjoy.

Discover the North Fork

When I woke up on Sunday the sky was iron.  Clouds were everywhere, waves of gray and white, not a speck of blue to be seen.

“Oh no,” I thought to myself.  I was accompanying our North Fork tour, a 23-mile ride designed to introduce bicyclists to the scenic North Fork of Long Island.  One of the riders had sent me an email earlier in the week asking if the ride was rain or shine.  “It’s supposed to be a beautiful day,” I wrote back.  Confident in the predictions made by NY1 and weather.com, I refused to admit the possibility of rain and continued prepping for the ride.

Although I had ridden the route three times before (twice engineering the ride and once with a group), I was looking forward to this last tour of the season.  It was going to be a big group and everyone had been incredibly accepting of LIRR’s cancellation of its Mattituck train and were flexible about having to take the jitney or drive out.  A nice ride with a nice group . . . what could be nicer?

We were all on bikes and ready to go by 12:15 on Sunday.  One of our guests told me that her iPhone predicted sun by 1pm.

Making our way out of Mattituck, across 48 and onto Oregon Rd. was much easier than I had expected with a group this size.  Everyone was about the same skill level and all were attentive and cooperative.  We didn’t have any spandex jackrabbits who were more interested in clocking mileage than seeing the sites we’d selected.

We stopped at Sherwood House Winery first, handed out our locavore picnics, and settled at the tables scattered around the fire pit.  The merlot grapes hadn’t been harvested yet, so the vines still looked full and robust.  I’ll admit I’m a little bit of a wine snob.  I lived in northern California where the quality of wines one finds in the supermarket is better than the what one usually finds on the North Fork.  But I had tried Sherwood House’s cabernet franc, liked it, and given the delightful atmosphere of the French-style outdoor tasting room, it earned a place on our tour.

Leaving Sherwood House Winery after lunch on the North Fork tour.

The guests tried a steel-aged chardonnay and a merlot.  A few bought wine, which was carefully tucked into the bed of our sag truck.  Now that everyone had eaten, drank a little, and enjoyed the view over the vines, it was time to move on.  Plus, the sun was starting to peek out.  The iPhone weather app was on the money.

The next part of our route led past bucolic farms, potato fields, even a vast expanse of sunflowers.  Hurricane Irene had taken her toll on the sunflowers.  All their giant heads were bowed, but their faded beauty was still recognizable.  We crossed 48 again (at that point a divided highway) and rode along the wide shoulder at a healthy clip everyone could manage.

Catapano’s Goat Farm was our second stop.  I remember when Catapano’s was a tiny place with just a few goats.  I watched it grow until it outgrew it’s first location and relocated to where it is now.

There is a small shop with a large selection of goat milk products and a vast array of flavored (and plain) goat cheeses.  My favorite is the lemon-pepper (which gets consistent raves from our guests) and I never leave there without a chunk or two of the goat fudge, the taste of which falls somewhere between chocolate and dulce de leche.  Yum.    

We bought a couple of different cheeses as a snack for later, let everyone who wanted to say “hi” to the goats, got back on our bikes, and moved on.

The North Fork of Long Island, unlike the South Fork, was carved out by a glacier during the last ice age.  The North Fork is undulating and rocky, with lots of inlets and covers.  The South Fork, in contrast, is sandy and flat.

We rode for a few miles on these gently undulating hills until we reach Horton’s Lighthouse.  The lighthouse sits back from a cliff facing Long Island Sound and the southern shore of Connecticut.  The views are beautiful.  There’s a long staircase that goes down to a lovely beach full of pebbles and giant boulders that I’ve been climbing since I was a kid.  Several guests went down the long wooden staircase, enjoyed the view, collected some rocks, and headed back up when they were ready.

Horton's Lighthouse overlooking Long Island Sound

A few wandered over to the lighthouse, closed for the season, but beautiful in the way all lighthouses are beautiful.  A beacon shows one where to go (or not to go) and therefore offers reassurance.  Maybe that’s what makes them all beautiful; maybe it’s their proximity to water.  In any event, this lighthouse, too, is beautiful.

Mounted up again, we started going south, crossing the fork.  It was autumn, after all, so we stopped at Krupski’s farmstand, which was so loaded with pumpkins it looked like an orange wonderland.  It was the perfect photo op and we took lots of pictures of guests with pumpkins, gourds, and squashes.

A little further down the road we stopped at Pugliese Vineyards.  We pulled out the goat cheese and the extra baguettes from our picnic supplier.  Everyone was ready for a snack and the goat cheese was so delicious that it disappeared remarkably quickly.  Those guests who wanted to tasted a few more wines and purchased a few more bottles.  We sat at tables next to a pond occupied by giant koi with a great blue heron posing at its edge.

I liked that this particular tour group was interested in the history behind the Cutchogue Historic Buildings, our next stop.  The fact that Parker Wickham, the first large landowner in the area in the 17th century and whose house stands to this day in the common, still has descendants in the area fascinates me.  The North Fork feels more like New England than New York.  Peter Wickham’s house would fit in perfectly in Salem, Mass.

An autumn Sunday at Kimogener Point.

The next part of our ride took us to Peconic Bay, the south side of the North Fork.  We stopped at a spot overlooking Robin’s Island, with beaches in front of us, salt marsh behind us.  It was the golden hour and everything was bathed in beautiful light.  Everyone just sort of stood, chatting, enjoying the view, the weather, the fact that this was the perfect way to spend an autumn Sunday.

On our way again, we continued along Peconic Bay, passing one field filled with more Canada geese than I’d ever seen before.  We made our way to the Mattituck train station, and suggested to our guests that they take a stroll along quaint Love Lane before biking the last mile or so to where the jitney would pick up those who were riding it and where the others had left their cars.  It would be a few hours until they got back to the city.  Having a snack in hand seemed like a good idea.

Everyone said they’d had a wonderful time.  Several wanted to try our tours in New York City.  As always, our tour of Central Park seemed to have the greatest appeal, but many were intrigued by the idea of riding across the Brooklyn Bridge and exploring Brooklyn’s neighborhoods.

As far as the North Fork tour goes, we may be done for this season, but we’ve got April and May dates already loaded for next spring and even have a few bookings for them.  Spring will be a different experience, but it will be just as wonderful.