Yesterday, my husband, our one son and I road the Five Boro Bike Tour in NYC. What a blast! We road 40 miles (actually almost 50 when considering the bike travel to and from the starting place) through Manhattan (starting by Battery Park, riding up 6th Avenue, Central Park and Harlem), The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and finishing on Staten Island. We went over 5 bridges and road on the FDR Drive, the Gowanus Expressway, and Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. There were 31,997 other cyclists joining us!
It was quite a thrill to have the roads free for cyclists. At every intersection there were NYPD and/or Bike tour volunteers to ensure no auto crossed through the intersection and to help any pedestrians cross. Riding across the bridges was something. When I am in a car I don't even think of the elevation and incline in going up to the top of the bridge. Now I know.
The bike tour started in 1977. It is one of the main events for Bike New York. Bike New York's mission "is to facilitate and promote cycling as a safe and sustainable means of recreation and transportation through free bike education classes, public events and collaboration with community organizations and municipal agencies." The money raised goes toward funding free bike education programs.
No matter the skill level, they have classes: there are classes for learning to ride for adults and kids, bike practice sessions, bicycling basics, bike path cruise ride, street skills class and street skill ride. They teach classes on bike commuting, winter riding, bike maintenance, winter bike maintenance, family cycling, how to buy a bike, bike safety. They also offer after school and summer camps for kids. Last year they taught bike skills to more than 17,000 people.
It was just fun to be part of a collective, all riding together. Everyone we encountered was pleasant and it seemed as if everyone was looking out for one another. As with anything that takes place in NYC, the people watching was worth the price of admission. Throughout the day we kept seeing these three gentlemen riding along wearing capes and cavalier hats (complete with a plume of feathers) over top their helmets (a requirement for riding). Alas, when we saw them towards the end of their ride, their feathers had flopped due to the rain.
Some people are fanatical about cycling while others are just enthusiastic. I would say that our family is enthusiastic. The son who was with us (it was his idea for us to participate) is a cycling enthusiast in that he doesn't own a car and uses his bicycle for commuting as well as for leisure. Of course, he lives in the Tri-State area and has the advantage of great mass transit.
My husband is involved with a local bike co-op which mostly refurbishes bicycles so that people who do not have the means to have a car have some type of transportation that provides a little more freedom and exploration than just walking.
I know that I have penned the attributes to cycling in the past. I use a bicycle mostly for leisure and getting some exercise. Though I do try and use it for certain types of errands- not too far a trip and not too heavy or multiple items to carry.
As this is National Bike month I would encourage you to revisit your bicycle. If you have one stored in a garage, pull it out, dust it off and take it to a bike shop (or do it yourself if you are able) to get it ready to ride. If you have never ridden before or it has been a while, check out your state or local bicycle advocate groups. Many offer bicycle riding classes and lessons for riding on the roads. For example, Bike Maryland is the advocacy group for bicyclists in the state of MD. The The League of American Bicyclists is a national organization. Even some local bike shops will offer classes on riding, bike maintenance, etc.
Cycling is a great way to see your surroundings. Time goes by at a slower pace. You can pull off to the side of the road for those impromptu adventures- stop and go into a store you always whiz by in the car, say hello and chat with a neighbor planting in her garden, watch some neighborhood kids playing a pick up game of soccer, notice the architecture and gardens of various neighborhoods. All the while enjoying the sun and fresh air on your skin. Plus you can feel good about the human powered machine and that you have kept your carbon print low.
What about you? Have you ever been part of a collective group event? Run or walk for a charity? How was it? Did you enjoy the experience? Would you do it again or was it a once and done? Have you ever gone on a long-ish bicycle ride? Where and with whom?