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?