Learning to Love Bikers

THIRTY-TWO THOUSAND bicyclists are expected to ride in the annual Five Boro Bike Tour in New York City this morning. About half the registrants are from out of state and won’t be familiar with riding in the city. They’ll be getting their dose of it on its best day, when cyclists seize thoroughfares like Avenue of the Americas and the Belt Parkway from quotidian traffic terrors like the garbage truck and the wide-turning bus.

It is, in fact, a cool experience; you won’t get it, entirely, if you’re a suburbanite or someone from farther afield, but if you’ve lived in New York as an adult as long as I have — more than 35 years — just the idea of riding a bike on F.D.R. Drive is liberating, a power-to-the-people sort of delight. Plus, the worst hill you have to climb is over the hump of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

So, welcome, all you strangers, share the bounty of the day, and have a good time. But you don’t know the half of it.

I say this as a habitual bike traveler who has preferred to do my riding somewhere else. This has to do with issues of bike maintenance and security: City streets beat up your bike, and you’re always worried about where to put it and how to keep it safe. Who wants to carry it up and down in an elevator or schlep around a chain the size of a python?

But this problem has been addressed by the city’s bike-sharing program, which is a year old this month. I’ve become an enthusiastic bike commuter — happily my office and my home are in neighborhoods served by the limited system — and I can report, unscientifically but with some certainty, that cycling in the city is better than it has ever been.

[Continue reading at the New York Times]