I’ve lived in N.Y.C. for a little over two years now and I have yet to drive a car here. Until yesterday, the same was true for riding a bike.
Now, I do consider myself a pretty aggressive walker. I don’t hesitate to tell novice walking texters to “LOOK UP” when they come dangerously close to running into me nor do I have a problem zooming past people who like to lollygag or (shudder) take a photo every. two. feet. I’m looking at you, tourists in Times Square/ CentralPark/ 5th Avenue! Truly, walking in NYC is a sport and a competitive one at that! I like to think I’m pretty good at it due to practice.
But back to wheels. I’ve always been a bit intimidated to take anything other than take a cab, some mode of public transportation (bus/subway), or depend on my own two feet. Once, I was dating a guy who had a Vespa and he picked me up on it- Between the Upper East Side and Chelsea, I saw my life flash before my eyes no less than seven times not because he was a bad driver but because there are so many taxi drivers and regular car drivers who I’m certain are driving with suspended licenses. (Ok, and let’s be honest, Vespas don’t get much respect on the road…)
So when it was decided that I would attempt to ride a bike in NYC for the sake of a good workout, I knew I’d need a buddy… someone to serve as an extra pair of eyes and ears with all the chaos that makes up Manhattan streets (and someone to keep me from backing out of the plan). My friend J obliged and I anxiously made a reservation: two bicycles and two helmets for two hours.
We arrived at the bike rental shop Midtown Manhattan which turned out to be inside of a parking garage. A man with a thick Russian accent (a good sign to me because I'm fascinated by Russians. All of them.) introduced himself as the person I’d spoken to over the phone and had us pick out our bikes from a fleet of about 30. I opted for the free basket to be put on mine so that I had an oh- so- convenient way to store my purse and away we went!
We rode three blocks west to the Riverside Drive bike path that follows the Hudson River. And we rode… and rode and rode and rode. It was a perfect late afternoon for it- Being so close to the water kept it somewhat cool and we kept our pace up for the most part. The view of the sailboats, motorboats, ships, and the occasional canoe was just gorgeous, especially factored in with the George Washington Bridge in the background. Of course, because it was such a pretty day out, there were a lot of runners, walkers, cyclists, rollerbladers, and kids on scooters out as well. I started to think of it as a combination ride of an obstacle course and a game of chicken. Obviously, for the little kids, I slowed down and was careful to avoid them but for those adults who were not obeying the rules of being on the path, I showed no mercy…
Haha, just kidding but I did quickly realize that there are certain “Rules of the Road” so to speak, especially when it comes to private wheels (bikes and rollerblades):
1. If you’re slow, stay to the right and leave room for people to pass by you on the left.
2. If you need to stop, fine, but pull off the path- do not just stop in your lane. Duh.
3. Don’t ride paired up- Form a single file line.
4. If you’re going to pass someone, alert him or her by saying “On your left!” and/or by ringing your bell. I was sorely disappointed I did not have a bell on my bike.
5. Don’t stop short. (It seems to me like this one should go without saying but for some it does not… and resulted in a brief tiff between me and a punk yesterday…. But anyway.)
After pedaling it up to Hamilton Heights, J and I decided to turn around and head for the Intrepid, then turn it in. So we pedaled about five miles back downtown, took in the sights of the beautiful ship and Chelsea Piers, then headed back for the rental shop. I was hot and sweaty but WOW, what a great ride!
Would I do it again?
Yep. I don’t have it on the calendar yet but it’s definitely something I’d like to do again before winter.
Pros: It was so nice out and it felt great to get some fresh air. I’d say we rode approximately eight or nine miles altogether and it was a bit tiring (what good workout isn’t?) but definitely something I could do on a regular basis. Plus, it was fun to do it with J. Even though we couldn’t talk much while we were riding (see Rule #3 above), we stopped a couple of times to check in with each other so we had some time to catch up. It probably benefitted the workout aspect of our ride that we couldn’t speak to each other and just had to focus.
Cons: Well, I think if I were to make this a habit, I’d want to invest in my own bike or borrow one from a friend because it cost $13 for the two-hour rental (per bike). Say I rode three times/week; at that rate and I’d be looking at a $156 cost/month. To ride a bike. :( That's better than the price it costs to take some classes the same number of times or to pay for a monthly membership at certain gyms but... Meh- No me gusta. I think I’ll file this under “Something fun to do when with friends or sporty out-of-towners”. Also, the seats were not exactly the most comfy. ‘Nuff said.
On those notes, if anyone wants to go on the occasional bike ride, I'm no longer scared for my life so give me a ring!