Tag Archives: New York City

Autumn in New York

There are days when having to hop on a bike for work is an incomparable perk.  I got to do it yesterday and I get to do it again today.

Let’s back up a little.  It’s mid-October, the midst of Autumn, we’re in the Northeast, and there have been years when searching for gloves before leaving the house is part of this time of the season.

But I’m looking out at a clear blue sky with temperatures nudging 70.  Yes, I am worried about climate change, but today I’m focusing on a ride through Central Park and upper Manhattan as the leaves start to change.

There’s something about exploring the city on a bike.  We’re looking for something special to offer our customers this fall — something that will let them take advantage of the weather, the smaller number of tourists, and all the bike paths and bike lanes at our disposal.

First Central Park . . .  The big loop in Central Park takes you all the way north past the Conservatory Gardens and the Haarlem Meer, then up the big hill past the North Woods (where a search for screech owls at dusk can end with threatening growls from raccoons).  I stop at the Conservatory Gardens (still lovely despite the fact that their spring and summer blooms are gone) and walk my bike past the Haarlem Meer where a flock of Canada geese are resting on their migration south.

Then on to St. John the Divine.  I lock my bike up and go inside.  The soaring space never fails to amaze me.  I could be in any of the great cathedrals of Europe, but instead I’m here in New York.

It’s just a short hop to Columbia where I wander into the quad, find a bench, and watch the students hurrying to and fro as I perform a quick electronic check of emails, texts, and messages.  It’s a beautiful scene of very formal architecture with lots of columns set against so many young people dressed in casual clothes and enjoying casual conversation.

The bike lanes take me over to Riverside Park and Grant’s Tomb, another imposing edifice with columns and a dome.  It’s open to the public most days and I go inside.  Although this native New Yorker has actually been to the Empire State Building (when visiting friends insist) and the Statue of Liberty (via a field trip), I’ve never been inside Grant’s Tomb.  The mosaics are beautiful and there’s a sense of timelessness appropriate to the memory of a war hero and president.  A park ranger is giving a talk and I listen in for a while.

Familiarity with the soccer fields in the area (I am an American with kids, after all) means I know how easy it is to get to the Greenway bike path.  The sky is still blue, the water is still warm, and the slight headwind is refreshing rather than forcing me to shift down.

There are sailboats with their shrouds clanging against their metal masts, one of my favorite sounds in the world.  I’m in the middle of New York City, but I can hear it.  Ships are heading up the Hudson; a barge is heading down.  Most of the bike traffic seems to be heading in the opposite direction from me and the riders are aware and polite.

Oops.  Got to run.  I’m off to meet a co-worker in Central Park.  Another ride awaits.

 

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?