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.
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.
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.
I lost count how many times I’ve ridden my bicycle from New YorkNewark 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.
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.
Let’s hope that we get more temperate weather on the 13th and a few cyclists get to check this ride off their list.
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.
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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.”
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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. ↩
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.
Ride with GPS Apple Watch app gives you navigation cues.
Ride with GPS Apple Watch app alerts you when you’re off-course.
I’ve said it before, but it might bear repeating. Sorry, Garmin. The days of the dedicated GPS bike computer appear to be numbered.
Bicycling on Long Island has a questionable reputation among New York City-area cyclists. One reason, I think, is because the terrain is a lot more challenging and varied in places like Westchester County and across the Hudson in New Jersey and the not-quite-upstate New York counties of Rockland and Orange. Also, let’s not forget that most of Long Island is in Suffolk County, an area regarded as the worst in the USA for bicycling. But Long Island is also suboptimal for long-distance cyclists because one can only ride so far on Long Island before reaching the end of either fork. Nevertheless, there are plenty of good routes available, and a common way to expand the riding options is to ride along both forks of Long Island.
Over the last two weekends, I rode along the south fork to Montauk and along the north fork to Greenport, on two separate rides. The first was the annual Ride to Montauk, which I have ridden in some form or other since 2008, except for 2011. The second was what’s becoming a standard ride from Huntington to Greenport. Since I’ve done these rides—and recounted them on this site—so many times now, I won’t cover all the details, except for a few notes that were novel and stick out after the fact.
South Fork to Montauk
For the second year in a row, I skipped the full 150-mile route and opted instead for the 108-mile route that starts in Babylon. This year, I took advantage of the check-in in Brooklyn, at Atlantic Terminal, since that would spare me having to travel to Manhattan at 3:00 in the morning. However, that does not spare me from riding past bars at 3:00 AM when people are still out from the night before.
It never fails to amuse me that as I am about to start the Montauk ride, there are people still out from the night before.
As I arrived, I met a first-time rider who was doing her first century. Almost immediately, she admitted to being nervous to ride her first century. She said she trained with the New York Cycle Club, doing the C-SIG program, and that her longest ride was 70 miles in the hilly Bergen and Rockland counties region that seemingly every NYCC ride goes to every weekend. A few other riders and I advised her that the Babylon to Montauk route is significantly easier than what she rode on those club rides. However, Long Island can present one unique challenge that doesn’t factor as much as other rides in the area: the wind.
The headwind on this year’s ride was as bad as it was in 2014. We tried pace-lining to mitigate the effects, but I couldn’t keep up with my riding partners. I had a 16 MPH average speed for most of the first 50 miles, but once we got to Dune Road, the unrelenting headwind pushed that average way down. I was pedaling at almost full strength and the fastest I could manage was a meager 11 MPH.
Once I knew I couldn’t set a personal best for this ride and that we would be taking the 5:30 PM train home, I took it easy and kept a manageable pace to enjoy the scenery.
And to savor multiple slices of pie.
I finished the ride about fifty minutes slower than last year’s effort and managed a 15.1 MPH average speed, almost two full miles-per-hour slower than last year and about the same as what I did in 2014. However, because I took it easy, I wasn’t as exhausted afterward as I was in 2014. I told my friend Andre that I had another twenty miles in me. But aside from going to the lighthouse and back, I couldn’t go any further. I had really reached the end of the road. Besides, I really wanted to eat and have a beer.
North Fork to Greenport
This past weekend, I went with a small group from Huntington to Greenport, a ride that I’ve done a number of times now. Although you’re ever only about fifteen or so miles from the Montauk route, this is a significantly different ride. There are a few rolling hills on this ride, and Belle Terre east of Port Jefferson is certainly a noteworthy climb. Another way that this ride was different from last week’s Montauk ride was the wind on the Greenport ride was “favorable.” It was mostly from the north but later in the day, the wind began pushing us east. It was a welcome respite from the Montauk ride the week before.
The easy riding conditions made it so that we weren’t too hungry. Instead of eating at the crowded and expensive deli in Miller Place, we instead used the opportunity for a brief rest. A shaded porch welcomed us, but some big-city skepticism made us resist the temptation. We continued eastward.
As we usually do on these rides, we stopped for pie. Another group of cyclists also arrived at Briermere Farms in Riverhead at the same time as us. Their aim was to eat a strawberry rhubarb while we set our sights on a blueberry crisp.
When I asked where they were riding, one rider told me they were headed to Orient to catch a ferry. Their ultimate destination was Boston over a four-day period. It so happened that one of my friends was doing that same ride and, as soon as that thought crossed my mind, he rolls up to the pie stand. Hello Harry L!
About eleven miles later, partly on my insistence, we stopped at Lieb Cellars, a winery in Cutchogue. I had been there in January on a day trip, and I really enjoyed the dry sparkling cider. We split a bottle before heading out on our final eleven-mile stretch to Greenport.
Is there liquor in cider (“inside ‘er”)?
After a few sandwiches and a few beers, and yes, that pie, we were on our way to the train.
The pie after riding in my backpack for 22 miles from Riverhead to Greenport.
The only thing that is a big minus about these rides is the amount of time one spends on a train at the end of the rides. Each ride, from Montauk or from Greenport, takes about three hours to return to New York. Doing this on consecutive weekends can test your patience.
It might be time to ride somewhere else this coming weekend.
Danny bought this bike at the end of the summer and just a few months later had it stolen. He’s experienced both the joy and agony of owning a bicycle in New York City. A bicycle provides an unparalleled level of mobility if you live in certain (expensive!) parts of New York City. A bicycle makes getting around a lot quicker and more pleasant, which is odd considering that the first emotion you probably feel when you ride a bike in the city is heart-stopping terror.
But with the dizzying high that accompanies bicycle ownership, there is the crushing blow that we all experience: the agony of having that bicycle stolen. It’s a surprisingly deflating experience, something much worse than losing your phone. I’ve described the emotion of having your bicycle stolen as somewhere between losing your wallet and the death of a cherished pet.
Because he has surveillance footage of the theft, he has attracted some attention from the local media. But despite the minor celebrity Danny has become, I feel his pain and further empathize with him for a couple of reasons.
He believed in the kindness of witnesses to stop the crime. After reviewing the video, he noticed that his mail carrier walked past the theft in progress. Casey and Van Neistat taught us, back in 2005, that nobody will stop a bike thief in progress. Nobody.
I can attest to this as I had broken my bike key inside my lock some years ago, and I spent several hours picking the lock to remove the broken piece. I was on the corner of First Avenue and 61st Street, in front of the Bed Bath and Beyond store, where there was a lot of foot traffic. Only one person asked what I was doing. He accepted my explanation at face value and went on his business. No one else—not even the security guards at the store—took any action as I attempted to pick my bike lock.
Casey Neistat recorded an updated video in 2012 and found that some witnesses would intervene. In his video, he found that the police did stop him from stealing his own bike but only after he used a conspicuous angle grinder for several minutes mere feet from several police officers at Union Square. The officers he spoke to admitted that none of them had ever stopped a bike theft-in-progress until Neistat all but screamed “hey, I’m stealing a bike!”
He hopes that the police will catch the bike thief. NPR’s Planet Money did an enlightening story on bike theft in 2012. In the report, we learn that, on the streets, a bike is a form of currency. Cash, drugs, and sex are the others, and a bike can be exchanged for any of them. But unlike other crimes, bike theft carries no risk of being caught or punished. None.
And like all of us who have had a bike stolen, Danny has learned a hard lesson. Treat your bike like your wallet and your pet. Like your wallet, keep it within your control at all times. And, like your pet, and don’t keep it outside.
Earlier this week, The New York Post published a front-page propaganda piece about the reason why vehicular traffic in Manhattan has been getting worse. The story claims that it’s a conspiracy, between two different mayoral administrations, to “shift as many drivers as possible to public transit or bicycles.” Talk about blatant lies.
Of course, the story quotes two unnamed sources within the NYPD to base this conspiracy, and you should be really suspicious about the story. First, the whole story relies on anonymous sources. Who are these guys? Traffic beat cops? Second, these sources don’t point to any directive or mandate from one of their superiors or from the mayor’s office. They just know…like in their gut. Or maybe they overheard something at a station house. We don’t know because they don’t say.
Not only that, the article lets one of the sources claim that traffic is being engineered for partisan reasons to “blame congestion on President-elect Donald Trump, whose Trump Tower in Midtown is now ringed with security.”
Clearly, the whole traffic-engineering conspiracy theory is partisan propaganda: to support the flooding of Manhattan streets with automobiles and reverse just about every traffic calming measure the city has undertaken to make the streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists—and other automobiles, too.
Since what this story propagates is bullshit, what is the real reason for traffic? According to De Blasio spokesperson, Austin Finan, who was the only official source to go on the record, the increased traffic is a healthy sign of “economic growth, record tourism, construction activity and a growing population.” The streets, he continues, “are overburdened like never before.”
But since The New York Post is listening to crackpot theories, here is my list of reasons behind the insane gridlock on Manhattan streets:
Deliveries: It’s the Christmas season, and there are an insane number of delivery trucks circling the streets to drop off your Amazon purchases. That’s a lot of additional traffic. And in Manhattan, it’s not like they can pull up to a parking lot. They usually have to double park.
Double parking: I don’t understand how on-street parking is legal in Manhattan. When all those spots are taken, others resort to double parking to pick up and drop off passengers or goods.
Dignitaries: And, even if Trump wasn’t President-elect, Manhattan streets were already crowded with all kinds of VIPs who drive and park as if they’re above the law. These dignitaries take up bike and car-traffic lanes to park their vehicles.
Those who complain about traffic forget that the purpose of streets is not to maximize the number of cars it can carry, but to transport a maximum number of people and goods.
For example, Los Angeles learned this lesson after spending five years and $1.6 billion on expanding the perpetually congested Sepulveda Pass on Interstate 405. Adding 15% more automobile capacity on that stretch of freeway didn’t reduce commute times. They actually increased, on average, by a minute. How is that possible?
According to Juan Matute, who is the Associate Director of UCLA’s Institute for Transportation Studies and also spoke on the record, “increases in traffic generally correlate to economic activity. When construction on the Sepulveda Pass began in 2009, the country was in the midst of an economic recession. As the recovery progressed, more people began traveling for work or to go shopping or out to dinner.”
“Moving more people,” he says, “is a social benefit in and of itself.”
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I learned this years ago when I used to live off Washington Square and in the West Village.
The fastest way to get crosstown on a bicylce, from Greenwich Village to the East Village, specifically between Sixth Avenue and Avenue A, is along 8th Street and Saint Mark’s Place.
And about a month ago, I noticed that the Department of Transportation began to mark a bike lane on 8th Street, between 6th Avenue and Astor Place, to give cyclists an initial clear path along this crosstown corridor.
To be sure, there are other bike routes. You can ride eastbound on 10th Street and westbound on 9th Street. You can also navigate along Bleecker Street, to get from the west side until the street terminates on the Bowery. And, although it doesn’t have marked bike lane, you can take 4th Street from the West Village all the way to Avenue D. But the problem with these routes is the incessant red lights. A speedy but safe cyclist will encounter a red light at just about every intersection.
However, whether it is by design or by coincidence, you get a pretty consistent wave of green lights on 8th Street and then on Saint Mark’s Place, until you get to Avenue A at Tompkins Square Park.
Although it came a decade after I left the neighborhood, it’s great that we cyclists have a safe efficient route to get cross the downtown area.
Home | TripMode | Your mobile data savior.2017/03/01 MacSparky suggested this to help you save data transfer when tethering. Looks reasonable for those of us considering switching to an unlimited plan with tethering.
The Jobs Americans Do - NYTimes.com2017/02/24 An enlightening set of portrayals of nine job Americans do now. An old college chum, Eric Steuer, penned on of the portraits in the series.
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