Bicycling

Kicking off 2020 with a Century Ride

Like I did on New Year’s Day 2016, I rode a century ride with the LA Wheelmen. Well, saying I rode with them is a bit untrue. I arrived at the start point in Malibu at 7:00 AM, but after about ten minutes they got so far ahead of me that I never saw them for the rest of the day.

As anyone who has spent any time with me over the past half year knows, I am not a happy person. I spent New Year’s Eve having a mild panic attack from the anxiety of a new year. Since about New Year’s Eve 2013, I have dreaded the new year because each one has turned out worse than the previous. This sullen feeling only gets compounded by knowing that seemingly everyone else was having fun looking forward to a bright future. I was not.

One of the few pure joys I have is bicycling. Again, it’s not a perfect relationship, but we get by. First, I am not that good at it. I am slow on the bike and, in my advancing age, I am cautious in traffic so I don’t take risks that younger, speedier cyclists take. Second, all my gear is from a different age. At first, it didn’t bother me having such old gear, but now I feel like a dinosaur riding a 9-speed bike with rim brakes and cable shifting. I think I realized that group riding might not be my thing, although there’s no way I’m doing something silly like getting a Peloton.

Yesterday, the Pacific Coast Highway was my peloton.

However, the greatest benefit of cycling has been able to spend hours burning away my nervous energy focusing on something other than my stress and anxieties. And yesterday, on New Year’s Day, I was able to do just that.


I don’t have a lot to say about this ride to distinguish this ride from my 2016 effort. In both cases, the weather was chilly at the beginning, but there was a lot of sunshine in the afternoon and the temperature reached the upper 60s.

The scenery was absolutely stunning. I think Foothill Road in Ventura has become one of my favorite stretches of road out here. There’s rolling hills and a nice summit with plenty of pretty scenery—including the Pacific Ocean in the distance.

I was also enamored with the view on the way back. Riding south on the seaside of PCH provided multiple photo opportunities.

But aside from that, my performance on this ride was not as great as the first time I did it. Here are some numbers:

Year20162020
Mileage100.8 mi.100.0 mi.
Total Time9:27:449:04:45
Moving Time7:12:367:14:49
Average Speed14.0 MPH13.8 MPH

One thing that sticks out is that I was faster four years ago than I was this year. I rode the full century at an average speed of 14.0 MPH in 2016, but this year, I dropped to 13.8 MPH. Don’t get me wrong: that is still a respectable speed for a rider like me. I would immediately attribute that to the fact that my last ride of over 50 miles was over four months ago, back in August. Also, as one of the LA Wheelmen riders remarked before he sprinted away from me on PCH, “we all were in better shape four years ago.” Also, 2015 was my best cycling year ever. I rode a long-distance ride just about every weekend between March and August that year. Although I ride a bike just about every day, I simply don’t have the base miles.

However, I’m never one to obsess about PRs, and on this ride, I had a different goal. Because there’s not a lot of daylight this time of year, my principal concern was finishing before the 4:30 PM sunset. And that I did.

My lasting impression of this ride from 2016 was how hard the last twenty-five miles were due to the hills and the traffic. This year I sought to mitigate those challenges.

That first time, I didn’t expect the hills to be so challenging on PCH, and I didn’t gear down enough to give myself a chance. By the end of the ride, I was wiped out. For 2020, I made an effort to “respect” the hills. I geared down early and often, and I believe that made a difference. I wasn’t exhausted at the end of the ride.

As for the traffic, it was bad. The southbound side of PCH runs next to the oceanside of the roadway. Many beachgoers park in the shoulder, which is where I ride for most of the way. Also, many cars don’t move to the left to give me a bit of space; they just whizz past me at 50 MPH with inches to spare. After that happening once or twice, I started to take the lane when the shoulder was unavailable.

Beach Day, Plus a Century to Montauk

Since last summer, I have been taking a weekday trip to the beach with some friends who work in the bar-and-restaurant trade, or “the industry” as they refer to it. Beach Day been a highlight of each week. And although this has been a pretty sad summer for me, it’s hard to be sad while I am at the beach. And that’s why I’ve been going so often.

I skipped Beach Day this Monday because I had invited my friend Moira to go to the Mets-Marlins doubleheader. We had a blast! Since I had missed Beach Day and because the temperatures were going to be in the high 80s on Thursday, I figured that I would go to the beach that day instead. However, only one friend could go on Thursday so I decided to head to a different beach and bring my road bike with me.

Beach Day… with a Twist

I arrived at the Nostrand Avenue LIRR station to catch the 6:40 AM outbound train to Jamaica and then on to Babylon.

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From Babylon, I planned to ride the 108-mile course to Montauk—the one that I have done many times—and stop at one of the Long Island beaches along the way. I hadn’t decided which beach I would visit, but my candidates were:

  • Cupsogue Beach in Westhampton
  • Ponquogue Beach in Hampton Bays
  • Coopers Beach in Southampton
  • Main Beach in East Hampton

As silly as it sounds, I was really motivated to head east was because the forecast called for a favorable tail wind. Bicycling on Long Island sometimes feels like sailing because the terrain is pretty flat, especially on the south shore, and the wind can make a huge difference. And because the wind was coming out of the southwest, it would more or less push me across the island.

After riding through Babylon, there was in fact a very strong tail wind. With little effort and little training this season, I was cruising at nearly 20 MPH on some stretches of the route.

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A Flat Tire and then Lunch

I continued for about thirty miles into the ride, and then I got a flat. I got off the bike to find a piece of steel belt, likely from a car or truck, lodged into my tire. I removed it and proceeded to change the tube. After filling the tire to about 90 PSI with my hand pump, I continued to ride.

A few miles later, I came across a bike shop, East End Cyclery. I stopped to go in to get some water, buy a new patch kit, and to fill my tires to my usual 120 PSI. They were very helpful but, because they used a compressor, they were only able to fill my tires to about 100 PSI.

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There would be a bit of foreshadowing after leaving the bike shop. As I cruised through the Moriches, I saw a sign that pointed the way to Riverhead and to Montauk. For some reason, I stopped and snapped a photo of the sign—as if thinking there’s no way I would be going to Riverhead if I was planning on riding along the south shore en route to Montauk.

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By about 11:30, I got hungry. Because I was riding alone, I could heed my hunger and stop whenever I wanted. Citarelli Deli in East Moriches seemed like a reasonable place to stop. It was right off the route, they served sandwiches which is what a hungry cyclist wants on a long ride, and I got a good feeling about it because it reminded me of that market in Oyster Bay that we frequently visit for lunch on club rides.

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A Torn Tire

Just a few miles after leaving the deli, I was riding on a quiet road when I saw a couple of runners along the shoulder in front of me. I veered to the left to give them room to continue their run, and as I veered back to the shoulder, I heard a loud pop. The tube in my rear tire had exploded.

I stopped to inspect the damage and to repair the tube only to find that the tire had a cut in the side wall. The only fix here is to replace the tire. Ugh!

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I looked for a bike shop, but there were only two within a reasonable distance:

  1. Twin Forks Bicycles in Riverhead, about 8 miles northeast.
  2. Rotations Bicycle Center in Southampton, about 20 miles east along my route.

In either case, I couldn’t just walk to the nearest bike shop. I would have to try to ride there.

Every experienced cyclist knows about using a dollar bill to temporarily repair a torn bike tire. I had never had to resort to such a method, but having few other options, I decided to try it.

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Since the beginning of the year, I have been going to the bank to get two-dollar bills. I enjoy paying with them—especially leaving them as tips—because it always gets someone’s attention. People think these bills are rare, but as my mother pointed out, you can just go to the bank and ask for them,

This idiosyncrasy came back to haunt me: the smallest denomination bill I had was for two dollars. I wrapped the two-dollar bill around my new tube, and I found that the bill did not adequately cover the tube. Just a few spins of the rear wheel later, I found that the bill had torn and the tube was seeping out of the ripped tire wall. Had I just carried one-dollar bills, my lesson would have been half as expensive.

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My next attempt was to use a wrapper from a Clif Bar.

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The wrapper held for about six miles, as I rode towards the shop in Riverhead, until the tube popped out of the tire and my last tube exploded. For the remaining two miles or so, I resorted to a combination of both walking my bike and riding on the flat tire—hoping that I was not damaging my rim.

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Ahoy, Riverhead!

I arrived in Riverhead about an hour and a half after sustaining the first blow out. The bike shop—Twin Forks Bicycles—was a full service bike shop. They carried my preferred bike tires: the Continental Grand Prix ($75) and the Continental Gatorskins ($55). I opted for the less expensive of the two and bought a couple of new tubes, too.

Ahoy, Riverhead!

The shop proprietor asked if I wanted him to install the tire, and I explained that I would prefer to install the tire myself since my ride had already gone over budger. A few minutes later after paying for the tire and tubes, I was ready to roll.

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To make up time, I sought a more direct route towards the Hamptons. I went southeast on NY-24 which then would connect me back on Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton.

Along the way, I passed the famous Big Duck in Flanders.

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The Beach!

By about 3:30, I arrived at Coopers Beach in Southampton.

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The beach is as beautiful as the photos I saw during my research.

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The only thing was that I felt out of place among all the well-healed locals.

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My attempt to fit in with the Hamptons set.

Also, the water was very choppy—almost too choppy for swimming.

I didn’t stay at the beach long. The logistics of changing from bicycle clothes to beach wear and back to cycling gear was very time consuming. I also wanted to get to Montauk by 7:30 or so, as it starts to get dark relatively early out east during this time of year.

Snacks and Hills on Montauk Highway

One of my favorite parts of riding to Montauk is the final ten mile stretch after Amagansett. The road is rather desolate except for a few notable stands.

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After passing the “Snack Corridor” there is a fork in the road, and either one will take up some hills. The views of Hither Hills are cool because it is one of the few times on this ride that you see “terrain.”

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Also, from the top of Hither Hills, you can see the end of Long Island—and the Atlantic Ocean—in the distance.

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At Last, Montauk!

Just before 7:30, I arrived in Montauk. I had considered riding out to the point and the famous lighthouse, but I had done this years ago. Also, I didn’t want to get stuck riding back from the point in the dark. So I just decided to find somewhere to eat and hang out until my return train departed just after 10:00 PM.

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After a bit of exploring, I realized that I had never been to Montauk unless it was part of an official Ride to Montauk. I quickly realized that I think I like Montauk more as a concept than as an actual destination. This is peak tourist season for the Hamptons and Montauk, and the crowd resembled the kind of people I avoid in New York.

Also, this place is expensive. For example, one place had a Fish and Chips on the menu for $26.

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I skipped it, and ultimately, I went to a Montauk Circle Burger and eat a Really Good Burger for $18.

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Heading Home

By about 9:45, I headed towards the train station to embark on The Long Train Ride Home.

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It takes about three hours for the train from Montauk to Jamaica. I then had to change to another train to Woodside, and then pedal home from there. After a shower and uploading my route to my Ride with GPS account, I was tucked in bed by 2:00 AM.

As far as beach days go, it was a long one, lasting over 20 hours. It was also my first beach trip that included a century ride. But even with some stressful and expensive bike repairs, nothing makes me happier than being at the beach.

The above links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you buy something through those links, I will earn a commission fee.

Net Neutrality, but with Roadways

I’m about two weeks late in posting about Rob Bliss’s attempt to raise awareness about net neutrality. Bliss rode his bike and set up traffic cones to throttle automobile traffic outside the offices of the Federal Communications Commission. Like the Burger King commercial I posted about last month, the metaphor of the bicyclist causing artificial congestion isn’t the best way to explain what is wrong, even if it makes motorists angry because they can’t go as fast as they want without first paying a toll or running-down the pesky cyclist.

Allow me to offer a better metaphor of what driving would be like without a “net neutrality” for roadways. Say, for example, that Ford built all the roads in your town. Ford allows all Ford cars and trucks to drive on these roads as often as they want at no cost. However, if you own a Toyota and want to drive to the grocery store, either Toyota the automaker or Toyota drivers will have to pay a toll of some type. Perhaps, Ford has a deal with Honda, allowing Honda drivers to also use the Ford roads for no cost. But it comes with certain restrictions: anyone driving an Accord can only drive with two passengers and no cargo. Otherwise, those drivers will have to pay an additional toll or subscribe to an expensive unlimited driving and carriage plan. And what about Tesla? Would those cars ever get to even use these roads? Probably not. So everyone in your town will basically own only a Ford because it’s cheaper and simpler to just do that. And because there’s no competition for Fords in your town, everyone will have same set of crappy Ford cars and trucks, and Ford will have no incentive to ever make anything other than those same crappy cars and trucks.

I should note that Ford has actually been making better cars and trucks than it did over the last half-century, but that’s partly because they don’t enjoy the kind of dominance they once had and because they responded to competition from Asian and European automakers.

As is becoming clear, raising awareness of net neutrality is not as crucial as it was just a few years ago. It’s clearly a hot political topic. What we need to do is to act: to do whatever it takes—through legislation or litigation—to ensure the Internet remains an open platform for communication. The Internet belongs to no one, but in the United States, the final mile belongs to one of a few corporations, usually your cable provider or an incumbent telephone company. We must insure that the infrastructure owners do not get to regulate or dictate what content can be carried over that final mile. Otherwise, we’ll all be driving metaphorical Ford Pintos on the Internet.

Happy New Year

Apple Watch had a festive animation for the new year.

Apple Watch had a festive animation for the new year.

Happy new year, everyone!

I spent the last week of 2017 and the first couple of weeks of 2018 in Southern California, extending going “home for the holidays” into a twenty-six day vacation. There’s a lot of reasons why I stayed out there as long as I did, but most of them are related to weather and my schedule.

First, New York can be a pretty sad place in January. It’s cold, and there aren’t a lot of social activities happening during this time of year. Consequently, people are pretty anti-social this time of year. People stay at home to cook at home, doing a dry-January thing, or are just bundling up at home because, like I said, it gets really cold this time of year. I’m not missing much being away from New York this time of year.

Second, the extended holiday vacation allows me to visit new places throughout the ever-changing Southland. Like most other places, Los Angeles shuts down during the holidays. I would often fly back to New York in early January and miss out on a lot activities in Los Angeles because a lot of interesting things happen again in mid-January. Staying out there later allows me to do these things in a strange land. And, of course, it’s noticeably warmer in Southern California than it is “back east.”

Third, I don’t plan a summer getaway like most everyone. As popular as it is to complain about the heat and humidity of New York summers, I actually really like New York during the summertime. Regular readers know that a lot of my favorite activities —specifically cycling and softball—happen during the summer, and the fair-weather New Yorkers depart for the shore until Labor Day weekend. That makes the city a kind of playground for those of us who remain, and when the douche-set returns in September, I don’t mind getting away then. As a friend once quipped, “September is the new August.”

Lastly, my schedule this time of year gives me some degree of freedom. I taught an online winter class at Queens College this semester, which I was able to run from my parents’ home and a couple of area coffee shops. I did have to come back for my first in-person class at Pratt, which started on Wednesday, January 17. Consequently, I didn’t fly back until the day before, on Tuesday.

I had reserved four tickets to the Broad Museum, but only my mom could make it so we gave these two Dutch tourists our spare tickets. They looked hot and tired, and I wanted to assure the Dutch that Americans are nice, despite our president.

There were many highlights on this trip. I did a lot of cycling, and I drank some beers, both of which I will cover in a separate post. I saw some family members. I visited the new Broad Museum in downtown Los Angeles, whose location across the street from the Museum of Contemporary Art, strikes me as a middle-finger from Broad to the museum he cofounded in the 1980s. I shopped a fountain pen store in Monrovia, California, run by a gentle yet passionate expert in pens and inks. I visited the Wende Museum of Cold War objets in Culver City. I dragged my mom and dad out to the same movie theater, where a generation ago, I would have been embarrassed at being spotted with either my mom or dad. As I’ve said before, young people are stupid. My dad and I teamed up to take and print my own passport photos; it’s harder than you think.

But now, I’m back in New York. Aside from jumping back into work, I finally got around to doing that MoviePass thing and started going to more movies. That’s been great because, as I said earlier, everyone is anti-social, and something I can do on my own.

That Time We Had a Police Escort on a Bike Ride to Philadelphia

Cheesesteak Century Ride to Philadelphia

Last Sunday, I organized a small group of cyclists from the New York Cycle Club on a ride from Newark, New Jersey to Philadelphia, as I had previously noted on this site.

When I boarded the PATH train at World Trade Center, there were about a dozen, mostly black cyclists that boarded with me, holding their bicycles as we travelled under the Hudson River. When we arrived at Newark Penn Station, we found that there were dozens more waiting in the lobby, and when we emerged outside, there were well over a hundred more cyclists waiting to start riding. Clearly, there we stumbled upon a some kind of cycling event.

Cheesesteak Century Ride to Philadelphia

One of the cyclists gathered outside Newark Penn Station asked us where we were headed and if we were going through New Hope. We said that we were going to Philadelphia and that, yes, we planned to ride through New Hope.

He then invited us to ride with the group, noting “we have a police escort.” The video below shows the peloton riding through the streets of Newark. You can see the NYCC cyclists scattered at the back of the pack at about 1:10.

The ride we stumbled upon was the annual New Hope Ride, organized by Major Taylor Cycling Club of New Jersey. This club traces its roots back to the 1970s when two sisters formed a cycling club in response to “the discrimination they experienced while riding with other NYC cycling clubs.” The club’s namesake, Major Taylor, was an African American cyclist who set numerous world records at the turn the of the twentieth century while facing racial discrimination and persecution.

Marshall Taylor with his track bicycle

Major Taylor, the namesake of the club we rode with on Sunday’s ride to Philadelphia.

After the rest stop in New Brunswick, at about mile twenty-five, I found that these cyclists could ride much faster than I could, so we detoured back to our planned route and continued on our way. Nonetheless, it was certainly an extraordinarily great experience to stowaway on this club’s event, taking advantage of their police escort and to blow through countless red lights through the streets of New Jersey. In this racially charged climate we live in today, especially after the violence in Charlottesville just the days earlier, we also rode in unity and in solidarity.

We’re Biking to Philadelphia!

Through the Bike Wheel at the Magic Garden

I lost count how many times I’ve ridden my bicycle from New York Newark to Philadelphia, but I’ll be doing this ride again on Sunday, August 13. The ride will run through the New York Cycle Club and is listed on their Upcoming Rides page (look for the “Cheesesteak Century”). If you are a member, you can sign up for the ride through this direct link.

After a ride to Montauk, I consider this to be a ride that every NYC-area cyclist must do at least once.

More likely than not, we’ll be doing the same route I’ve done the last few times, most recently in December 2015. However, if I have an intrepid group of riders with me that day, I’m tempted to try a more challenging route that crosses the Delaware River at New Hope, Pennsylvania and reaches Philadelphia through the northwest suburbs, instead of the usual route that crosses the Delaware at Washington Crossing.

Washington Crossing in New Jersey

The last time I tried to do this ride in the summer was as a first-leg of a ride to Baltimore. But this in the middle of brutal heat wave. Temperatures during the ride were as high as 103° so after I arrived in Philadelphia, I packed up my bike and shipped in home. I continued to Baltimore on a Mega Bus.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/juanomatic/20420775683/

Let’s hope that we get more temperate weather on the 13th and a few cyclists get to check this ride off their list.

My Favorite Bike Lights: Blackburn 100 Front & 20 Rear Light Set

Having used dozens of different bike lights over the years, my current favorites are the Blackburn 100 Front and 20 Rear Light Set. I bought a set back in December, but they were stolen when I parked my bike on a busy street in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I ordered a replacement set, and because I bought them from eBay, I was asked to write a review. Below is an expanded version of what I posted to eBay.

The set comes with a white front light and a red rear light, each with three modes: a mix of steady light and blinking modes. The front, white light is rated for 100 lumens, and the rear, red light is at 20 lumens. In practical terms, these are bright enough to be seen on city streets, where there is some streetlamp illumination, but they also work in a pinch as “see” lights to shine your path on a dark road.

Mounting the lights is easy. Just stretch the rubber strap over your handlebar and seat post, and fasten the strap over the notch. The lights are also easy to remove and are portable. This is important because you should remove your lights when parking your bike, otherwise you might find that someone has stolen them. That’s exactly what happened to me, as I noted above. However, these lights are a little bigger than most other lights I’ve used, but they’re still small enough to fit in your bag or even your pocket.

The other great thing about these lights is you can use them for a long time between charge cycles. The lights are a bit bigger than the Knog Blinder lights that were my previous choice, but the increased bulk presumably supports a larger battery. You only need to charge these lights about once a week in the dark, winter months, and significantly less often during the summer.

There are a few of minor drawbacks, however. First, the package includes only one Micro USB charging cable. Unless you have other cables lying around, you can only charge one light at a time. However, you can buy short Micro USB cables for a few bucks. Second, if you have a handlebar with an oversized, 31.8mm diameter, you have to really pull on mounting strap to wrap it around your handlebar. I’ve done this for months, and as long as you uniformly stretch it, it won’t weaken or break.

One of the things that you’ll find if you buy bike lights is that there are so many bad ones out there. At the moment, these are the best ones because they offer bright illumination and portability, are easy to remove without tools, cost about $60 for the set, offer a long burn time, and can be charged via USB.

The above links to Amazon are an affiliate links. If you buy something through those link, I will earn a commission fee.

New York City 2017 Bike Map Pays Tribute to Bill Cunningham

I finally had a chance to see the New York City 2017 Bike Map, and it took me a while to realize that the cover pays tribute to longtime New York Times fashion photographer and cultural icon Bill Cunningham. Cunningham was a well known bicycle enthusiast and was known to enjoy riding his bike to photograph New York street life in his weekly “On the Street” columns for the New York Times.

Film still from Bill Cunningham New York. First Thought Films/Zeitgeist Films.

There are a few giveaways that show the cover illustration depicts Cunningham:

  • it’s an older, white-haired man on cruiser,
  • he’s snapping a photo from his bike,
  • he’s wearing his trademark blue jacket and grey pants,
  • most obviously, the map indicates a credit of “Cover illustration of Bill Cunningham, used with permission of the Estate of William J. Cunningham.”

Bill Cunningham passed away at age 87 a year ago today. He was extensively covered in the 2010 documentary, Bill Cunningham New York, which as of today, is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

NYC Bike Map 2017 Inset Pays Tribute to Bill Cunningham

Behold! New Bicycle Lanes Are Coming to East Williamsburg

One of the most infuriating aspects of having moved from Greenpoint-Long Island City to East Williamsburg–Bushwick, other than the difficulty of transporting household paper products in bulk, is that the area is decidedly hostile to bicycling.

Technically Williamsburg, Culturally Maspeth

The area is very industrial so there are a lot of trucks and commercial vehicles. Those vehicles are commonly double parked in the “bicycling margin” part of the roadways, forcing a cyclist into the middle of the road where motor vehicles travel. From my own observations, commercial vehicles also seem more likely to speed and engage in dangerous driving behavior for two reasons: First, commercial drivers are in a hurry to do their jobs and make their delivery schedules. Second, they also appear less cautious than other drivers often because they are driving someone else’s vehicle. And, as we know, because trucks and similar commercial vehicles are so heavy, they pose a greater danger to cyclists, pedestrians and even cars than a passenger vehicle in otherwise similar collision.

But it’s not just the trucks and commercial vehicles that make cycling so harrowing. Even private passenger vehicles engage in this kind of behavior, possibly because they are mimicking the behavior of their commercial counterparts. These drivers speed on side streets; they roll through stop signs, even when there are pedestrians present and are crossing the intersection; they make unsafe turns, failing to yield to traffic with the right-of-way; and on two-way streets, they will often cross the double-yellow line and speed against the direction of traffic in order to pass one of those double-parked vehicles that I mentioned earlier.

Double Parked

It’s not much better on the one-way streets. These streets, such as Scholes St and Montrose Avenue, are very wide. Cars will frequently drive side-by-side as if it were a two-lane road, except that it’s not a two-lane road. Those roads are designed to carry only one lane of traffic.

Side-by-side traffic on the single lane on Meserole Avenue.

Every traffic engineer knows that road width determines driving behavior, especially speeding, and these wide roads encourage some very dangerous driving behavior. Cars constantly race each other, as one tries to pass a slower vehicle to get ahead of it before the road narrows back to only accommodate one lane of cars. Every single time I bike along this corridor, I hear a car zooming past me with the sound of an engine in full throttle. When the car does overtake me and the other slower vehicle, it will pass me with as little as a foot of clearance. What’s even more infuriating is to see that almost every time a car does this, it will reach a red light and have to stop anyway. I usually arrive at that same red light a few seconds later. Congratulations, asshole. All that dangerous behavior resulted in no decrease in travel time.

And if all this wasn’t bad enough, the road conditions in this area are atrocious for cars and bicycles alike. Potholes, debris, and even deteriorated railroad tracks plague users of these roadways.

Cyclists especially feel all of these pain points on the east-west streets that funnel traffic between the Williamsburg Bridge and East Williamsburg–Bushwick, specifically the corridor along Scholes and Meserole Streets.

Bike Lanes and Road Diet

Scholes-Meserole Streets Corridor

Earlier this year, the NYC Department of Transportation planned a redesign of this corridor in anticipation of the looming L train shutdown in 2019. The DOT reasons that based on prior subway shutdowns, such as those after Hurricane Sandy and during the 2005 Transit Strike, the number of commuters crossing the East River by bicycle exploded as much as three-fold after Sandy and four-fold during the transit strike.1 The DOT is anticipating an increase in the number of cyclists in light of the L train shutdown and the the needs of commuters in neighborhoods between Bedford Ave and Myrtle-Wycoff stations on the L train route, specifically Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Ridgewood.

On Wednesday night, I began to see the new bicycle lanes on the aforementioned corridor along Scholes and Meserole Streets take shape. I am thrilled to see that this is coming to my neighborhood!

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I can already imagine the reaction of area drivers who will claim that the narrower roadways will increase travel times. But this is simply not true. These lanes were only designed to carry one lane of traffic in each direction, and drivers will finally have to use them as they were designed. Just because some drivers once used the roadway to pass another vehicle—and now they can’t—didn’t help anyway. As I mentioned earlier, cars would race and pass each other only to arrive at the same red light within seconds of each other.

However, the efficacy of a bicycle lane and putting a roadway on a diet is only as good as the police enforcement. Although the new bicycle lane is not yet official, over the last two days, I already saw the most common problem plaguing bicycle lanes: cars using a bike lane as an automobile parking lane.

The DOT went through all this trouble to add a bicycle lane to improve traffic flow and increase safety, and all it takes is a few drivers to clog it up and force cyclists into the vehicle travel lanes, which then angers drivers who now must slow down for the bicycles that have to go around the parked cars.

This is why we can’t have nice things.


  1. Anecdotally, the lower increase in bicycle commuters after Sandy compared to the increase during the transit strike is because a lot of people had the week off work as many businesses in Manhattan couldn’t open. 

Ride with GPS Now Supports Apple Watch Navigation for Bicycle Routes

When Apple announced the Apple Watch back in 2014, I was at first skeptical about its utility but then after some consideration I reversed my position and saw how a smartwatch could be useful. One possible function that excited me was using the watch for navigating bicycling routes planned with route-planning software, such as Strava or Ride with GPS. At the time, I wrote:

In due time, I can see [Strava and Ride with GPS] making apps for the Apple Watch, just as they do for iPhone and other smartphones. Their smartwatch apps could communicate with an iPhone, securely stored in a Ziploc bag and safely tucked away in a jersey pockets. In fact, I’ll bet dollars to donuts that both of these companies have at least considered developing for the Apple Watch.

While I don’t use Strava, I learned earlier this week that Ride with GPS’s Apple Watch app can now display alerts for navigation. While I still rely on a Garmin Edge bike-mounted computer for navigation and to record my rides, this helps bring the smartwatch closer to what I saw as its potential. In fact, if you have an Apple Watch Series 2 (the one with a built-in GPS), you can leave your phone at home: the Apple Watch will navigate and record your ride all on its own.

I’ve said it before, but it might bear repeating. Sorry, Garmin. The days of the dedicated GPS bike computer appear to be numbered.

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