From Boulder to the Big Apple
Last weekend I had the privilege of riding the Five Boro Bike Tour in New York City, and it was awesome.
Hosted by the nonprofit Bike New York, the ride has taken place each May since 1977. It now caps at 32,000 cyclists, making it the world’s largest charitable bike ride. Our friends at Primal Wear generously invited me to come along and be part of their team.
The urban jungle
In addition to doing the Five Boros ride, I also planned to take advantage of the Citi Bike bikeshare system to get around over the weekend. Even though I am an experienced cyclist, having lived and ridden in Boulder for 20 years made me a little anxious about taking on the mean streets of New York.
While I hadn’t been to NYC for at least six or seven years, I had of course heard about all the bicycle infrastructure that had been put in place since then. But reading about it and riding on it are two different things.
A city transformed
I can’t say enough about how impressed I was with the strides the city has made to improve streets for both pedestrians and bicyclists and, thus, everyone. There were bike lanes and, more impressive, protected bike lanes everywhere including down some of the city’s famed main avenues.
The Citi Bike app was great for not only finding where the stations were to check out or return a bike, but was key to route finding in a large, unfamiliar city. It really removed the intimidation factor and made riding around on the blue bikes so much easier.
I love to walk around a big city and people watch, but when I have somewhere I want to be, cycling is SO much more efficient. Not to mention it’s much more pleasant than the subway and way cheaper than a taxi.
The main event
On Sunday a group of nine of us hopped on our road bikes to tackle the Five Boros ride. The Primal riders had participated before but (like me) the other folks from FirstBank and Feedback Sports were doing the ride for the first time.
It’s quite a production to close the streets of NYC for a morning and move 32,000 cyclists through. Primal works with Bike New York to produce the event jerseys, so we were fortunate to be in the first wave to leave the start line. I even ran into a Bicycle Colorado member!
As the name indicates, you ride through Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn, and finish on Staten Island, taking the ferry back. The ride is about 40 miles and is generally a leisurely pace, which is such an amazing way to see a city.
It was especially cool to see all the participants who seemed to be pretty new to bicycling. What a great way to get someone hooked! The city’s amazing new infrastructure and a solid bikeshare system will lead many folks to try out and stick with bicycling.
Why we ride
Friday night was such a great example of why we love bicycling. Nine of us left the expo late, tired, cold and not quite sure how far it was back to the hotel. There was talk of taxis, but we decided to Citi Bike and walked to the nearest station to get bikes.
Once on the bikes, we all perked up, bonded in the camaraderie of riding at night in the city and the ride itself became a memorable part of the trip. Don’t think a taxi ride would have done that. This is why we ride.