Monday, May 2, 2011

The Big Apple 5-Boro Bike-Walk-Wait

The alarm rang at 5:15 a.m. and the big day got underway. Barely able to open my eyes, dress and grab my bags before leaving the hotel room, I was ready for the momentous bike ride. Five hardy souls met in the early morning light: me and hub (driving from South Jersey), son and daughter-in-law (driving down from Vermont), and daughter-in-law’s Mom (joining us from Massachusetts). Dressed in bike clothes with sweats thrown over them to keep warm in the early morning chill, we set out.
It was a fast half hour drive to the Staten Island Ferry. We parked in a municipal lot, unloaded the four bikes – son and daughter-in-law shared a tandem - backpacks and bagels for the breakfast we shared on the ferry ride to Manhattan.

staging area

tandem riders with baby on board
The bike, wait, walk, wait and ride again schedule became the day’s theme. We all managed to stay together and had a good time, but the waiting grew to be frustrating. The worst was on the BQE – Brooklyn Queens Expressway. The BQE was under construction and merged into one 12-foot lane. We were trapped – along with thousands of other cyclists – on the highway for two hours before at last getting to finish the race – a short ride on the Belt Parkway to the Verrazano Bridge, then across the lower level of the bridge to Staten Island, where we had started almost 12 hours earlier. We rode 38 miles from lower Manhattan north to the Bronx, back to Manhattan and down the FDR drive, across the river to Queens, Brooklyn, ending up in Staten Island.

Disembarking and joining thousands of eager cyclists, we made our way slowly to the staging area somewhere in the canyons around Battery Park. The first lucky riders started at 8:00 a.m. Our wait of about two hours was finally rewarded when we crossed the start point at 9:30 a.m. The roads and bridges along the entire route were closed to traffic. It was quite a site seeing the broad streets of Manhattan for as far as the eye could see filled with cyclists of all ages and sizes. There were Moms and Dads with children in baby seats on their bike, sitting in strollers attached to bikes, and on tandems – one adult, one child. (The two old ladies of our group noted the fact that there were not a lot of riders of our vintage.) There were fancy, expensive bikes and older models. Small groups attached all kinds of objects to their helmets – the better to find each other. There were feathers, flags, dolls, and cones.
The weather could not have been better. There was not a cloud in the sky, and although it was very cool in the early morning, it warmed up and was perfect cycling weather, the mid-60s. We had all worn old clothes we could discard along the way. We rode up 6th Avenue - Avenue of the Americas - past Radio City Music Hall to the entrance to Central Park. We were stopped and waited a few minutes as everyone merged onto a small path through the park. We rode a few more minutes and walked again as everyone bottlenecked.
bottleneck at the bridge
The best part of NYC cycling, aside from the magnificent scenery, is that it is flat. The only inclines are the bridges. The Verrazano was a challenge, but the two old ladies managed to complete the ride without disembarking and walking up the bridge. A real sense of accomplishment!

There were fabulous views from the ferry ride, along city streets, through Central Park, across the river and the open water. My son, the great organizer, had supplies of fruit and trail mix to carry us through the day. There were port-a-potty stations every few miles and rest stops with water and refreshments. The missing link to a perfect day was an improved means of allowing thousands of cyclists to complete the route without a lot of walking and waiting. The ride took us almost twice as long as it should have.
This was another experience to check off the bucket list. We all agreed it was fun, but our next family ride will be in another city. We are planning Montreal in two years, when baby will join the group. We have to skip next year because kids have to be at least a year old to participate. Meanwhile, we will ride closer to home and try to stay in cycling condition.

waiting on the BQE


  1. Good for you! Now, personally, riding a bike through NYC would never be an item on my bucket list.

  2. Oh, well done! I am still thinking about resurrecting an old bike in our garage but am sorely tempted by the new ones with the cute little motors attached so you can go uphill. Have to break myself in gently!