Biking in NYC - Some Observations
In 2011, after 2 1/2 years of living in Puerto Rico for Dynamic Logic / Safecount, my wife and I moved back to Brooklyn . We returned to our condo we had rented out to friends, although now with a 3 month old girl and an adopted dog. in Puerto Rico, my commute consisted of a 10 minute drive from the ocean, down a palm tree lined highway past wetlands with exotic birds. In Brooklyn, the commute I was returning to was different.
In the almost three years since we had left NY, the subway seemed more crowded, slower, more delayed. It also seemed like an old reminder of one of the reasons we sought a change of scenery a few years earlier. I had to find a different way to get to work.
The bus routes from Brooklyn to Manhattan had all been cancelled and the ferry was too far from our house. I had ridden my bike around Manhattan when I lived there several years earlier, and recalled what a thrill it was to ride with traffic, almost always beating it.
I took my mountain bike out of storage, a GT with front and mid frame shocks, designed for steep mountain trails and most definitely not urban riding. The tires were thick and every pedal rotation up the Manhattan Bridge was absorbed by my dual shocks, sucking away any momentum I built. Plus, the gear system sometimes jumped, went from 8th to 9th, or worse, from 9th back to 8th, without warning. That sucks when you're riding fast.
I shopped around and bought a single speed (not fixed gear) track bike that was designed for urban riding. That means it had front and rear brakes and chrome fork tips which absorb shock of even small road bumps. At only 20 lbs, it was fast and light.
Since riding to work about 4 days/week for the past 2 years I've noticed some interesting phenomena about bicycling, bicyclists and New York City:
- Most days, especially during rush hour, bicycling is the fastest way to get around Manhattan and North Brooklyn. And always on Fridays
- Between 2012 and 2013, New Yorkers are noticeably more aware of bike lanes. Bicyclists are also more aware of pedestrians, red lights and the need to wear helmets
- Bicyclists ride because they don't want to be subject to mass transit delays, they want to multi-task and make their commute their workout, thus, they're fiercely independent and also not very friendly - especially with other bikers
- Cars don't want to hit you. Most drivers in NYC are very careful
- Biking over the Brooklyn Bridge is extremely dangerous to pedestrians and yourself - do the right thing and take the Manhattan Bridge, they end up 1 block apart in Brooklyn
- Surprisingly, most fixie riders are actually quite adept at riding them
- Most corporate offices offer bike parking - expect more of this
- Yes, sometimes you show up at work a little sweaty, but it's nothing that can't be solved by a sink, some paper towels, deodorant and baby powder
- Bicyclists that breeze through intersections when they don't have the light are jerks