Once upon a time, before Citi Bike and before my own bike, there was a rental bike.
One sunny summer Sunday, I rented from Bike and Roll at Brooklyn Bridge Park. I timed my first bike ride in NYC with Summer Streets, a series of three Sundays in August where bikers, rollerbladers, runners and walkers enjoy a seven-mile traffic-free corridor from Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park. Summer Streets is a perfect way to try riding city streets without the menace of motor vehicles.
I huffed and puffed across the Brooklyn Bridge, dodging clueless tourists snapping selfies in the bike lane, and then cruised up traffic-free Lafayette Street, Fourth Avenue and Park Avenue before cutting over into the tranquil confines of Central Park.
The feeling of independence was inebriating. I didn’t have to walk to a subway, descend into stale and soggy station air, pace back and forth wondering where the the train was, realize that oh $^!@ it’s the weekend and the N is traveling on the R line via Beijing, transfer at Union Square, wait for the uptown 4/5 while trains louder than jets at La Guardia screech along curved tracks, enter a packed carriage with some guy begging for something, climb upstairs to the street and walk three avenue blocks to reach Central Park. Umm... no wonder Brooklynites don’t leave Brooklyn on the weekends.
It was better on a bike. I stayed above ground the entire time and enjoyed fantastic views of lower Manhattan crossing the bridge. I took a direct path to my destination while witnessing the cityscape change from Chinatown to NoLita, Greenwich Village to Gramercy, Midtown East to the Upper East Side.
As a tour guide, my biking on the automotive viaduct around Grand Central offered an exciting new perspective on a familiar landmark. Even if you don’t care about the scenery, the benefit of time savings is undeniably appealing.
Best of all, taking an active approach to reaching my destination sparked a revelation. I was not a passive prisoner of the MTA. Weekend track work? Not my problem. Train traffic ahead of us? Bike lane is clear. I pedaled a victory loop around the park and celebrated with a black and white cookie from William Greenberg.
What I love about New York is the amount of choice. When it comes to getting around town, you have options beyond which subway line to take. You don’t have to take the subway at all.