April 17, 2012
Biketrain Breakfast — Thursday at Red Lantern Bicycles

UPDATE [Wednesday, May 2]: We’ll meet at Red Lantern each Thursday during Bike Month as per the below. Join us and invite yer pals!


Join us this Thursday, April 19 between 730 and 815 a.m. for the first Biketrain Breakfast at Red Lantern Bicycles in Brooklyn. Directions and location info: http://bit.ly/Js28ok

This is a casual chat with biketrain organizers and bike commuters who want to support safer, more social cycling in NYC and a great chance to learn about riding and running a biketrain. While you’re there, grab coffee and pastries at the coffee bar at Red Lantern and help support a great local bike business. We’re especially hoping to see folks who are interested in running a biketrain from Brooklyn to Manhattan one or two mornings a week and on Bike to Work Day (Friday, May 18).  

We’ll gather beginning at 730, and we’ll do some improvised biketrains into Manhattan, or other destinations, at about 815. 

Please feel free to extend this invitation to any cyclist friends or colleagues you think might be interested, and also to any newer cyclists you think might be more inclined to commute if they could rely on company for their rides. And let us know if we should expect you by e-mailing nycbiketrain AT gmail. 

Need more info on the biketrain? Check it out at bit.ly/osFsag

January 2, 2012
Biking the Bronx

Never a fan of the uniquely American strain of the gospel of self-improvement, I rarely find myself making any New Year’s resolutions on December 31. But this year I’ll go ahead and make one: spend more time biking the Bronx in 2012.

Living as I do, a 5-10 minute walk to the Bronx, it’s a little ridiculous that I don’t make it over the bridge more often. I also find it a little ridiculous that major events like the marathon and the Five Boro Bike Tour include the very smallest amount of Bronx turf they can possibly get away with and still claim to have covered the 5 boros. I know parts of the Bronx were, to understate the case, pretty rough in the 1990s, but I wasn’t living here in those days, so I’m going on my experience to date: there is some great urban and greenway biking to be done in the boro. Take a look at the city’s bike map (9 MB PDF): there are plenty of greenways as well as surface street infrastructure in the Bronx. I’m not sure how this compares to Brooklyn or lower Manhattan, but eyeballing it, I’d say the Bronx is doing better than most other parts of the city (I suspect much of this may be do to the early efforts of local organizations like Sustainable South Bronx, which got the transportation access and equity thing a long time ago).

One of my very first rides since getting back on a bike was up B’way through the greenway in Van Cortlandt Park that runs into a greenway up to Yonkers. It was a chilly March day, and my friends were leading me on an easy recreational ride as I reacquainted myself with the nuances of cycling, taking in the forest and the creek that runs along sections of the greenway.

And my few other Bronx rides have been pleasures. Once, en route to volunteer for Bike New York, I found that while the greenways of the Bronx could use some maintenance and have some flooding issues, they are picturesque and barely used even on nice summer days, and you can put on some pretty good mileage. More recently, on the way to meet friends, I took some extra time to try some of on-street bike lanes, from Macombs Dam Bridge to Gerard and then over to Grand Concourse. It’s built like sections of Riverside Drive, with separate (median- buffered) frontage style roads that have much lower traffic volume than the central lanes. The bike lanes are wide and often have the 2-3 foot striped visual buffer. One delivery bike passed me, while, alas, several more salmoned past — but this was along a few miles of barely-used lanes. Then I was off to the greenway for points north. I also rode some sidestreets back to Arthur Avenue, and the worst thing I can say is that I got the sense that people are not used to seeing bikes around that aren’t delivery bikes. I had a great night ride back to Manhattan via the greenway and through VanCortlandt Park and Manhattan College. It was a chilly winter weekend, far from weekday rush hour, so it’s hard to say whether the bike lanes of the Bronx are underutilized. Its greenways certainly are.

Since I used my bike to “portage” refreshments to my friend’s place in Kingsbridge (in the Bronx) on New Year’s Eve and stayed the night, the very first trip I made in 2012 was to ride home, on a bike, through the Bronx. Sure, it was just a few blocks, but I’m still counting it as a good start.

I plan to organize a few casual, leisurely Bronx rides beginning in the early spring, maybe sooner. One that mostly sticks to greenways, and one that is a mix of greenway and surface streets. If you’re interested in getting a heads up, send me a message with your e-mail and I’ll be in touch.

On the subject of biking the Bronx, I leave you with one of my favorite Streetfilms of 2011.

November 1, 2011
“It’s about %$^ing time!”

I couldn’t have said it better myself, and didn’t need to because a fellow bike share enthusiast who shares my impatience said it first. It is about time for NYC to have a world-class bike sharing system. And it looks like it will. 

A bike share demo finally came within riding distance of my office, so last Friday I visited Times Square to hop onto one of Alta’s test bikes. The verdict: I like!

The kiosk is easy to use, with clear instructions, and the bikes are easy to access, adjust, and ride. Plus the bikes have those handy front racks with a secured bungee so if you’ve got to lug a package or bag with you, you’re set.

I’ve heard some grumbles from folks because the bikes have only 3 speeds. But the gear range of these bikes is absolutely fine for the sort of short trips that bike share is intended for. You could take a mild hill without killing yourself on the lowest gear. Ditto for the 40-pound weight of the bikes – this is not a bike to fondo.

One criticism: for short people or just those who lack upper body strength: it does take some effort to release the bike from the stand — you must lift the rear wheel and pull the bike out. And then give the bike a good shove to place it back in the stand securely. Hopefully this is the sort of thing you’ll figure out once you’ve used the system a few times.

Full roll out isn’t until next summer, after some testing in the spring. Until then, you can learn more and suggest a station here

If you’re still unclear on the concept of bike share, I offer a quote from a woman who was momentarily perplexed, but quickly got it: “It’s like ZipCar for bikes.” Exactly (or, close enough)!

October 21, 2011
School Children Were Forced to Use Their Bicycles

I found this photo from the US National Archives here while looking for pix to use on the Westside Manhattan Biketrain Facebook page. The original caption rails against the cruel fate of school children forced to ride bikes to their extracurricular activities because of the fuel crisis of 1974. I noticed that this pic was taken in Multnomah County, AKA, PDXland, which is not known for particularly harsh winters. This might (might!) be less fun in Detroit, but these kids look like they might actually be having a good time. I know I would be.

October 20, 2011
All Aboard the Biketrain - Citywide

WHY A BIKETRAIN? To promote bike commuting, especially for newer, less experienced riders, benefiting from safety in numbers.

If you’ve heard of Portland’s Biketrains or Transportation Alternative’s Bike Pool, you get the idea: a group of cyclists who stick together on their commute home.

UPDATE [April 16, 2012]:

The biketrain is going citywide. If you’re interested in leading or participating in a commuter biketrain in NYC, complete the google form below (tell us if you’re interested in leading) and we’ll be in touch shortly. 

As of today, April 16, one biketrain runs every Monday and Wednesday morning from Inwood to Union Square via the Upper West Side and midtown:

Departs 215th & Park Terrace East at 745 AM

Stops 90th & Columbus at 830 AM

E-mail us to join at another point along the way and so we know to look out for you. It’s also great to know if you expect to join us at either of the above locales & times.

The approximate route:


View Westside Biketrain Route in a larger map

Please share widely with your NYC cycling pals, and especially with newer cyclists who might want a little extra company and the safety that commuting in numbers can provide. Everyone is welcome. Please be sure to read the Important Info section below. And stay tuned — we’ll launch the biketrain website soonish.

In the meantime, whether you are a new cyclist who’d like the safety of a group commute or an experienced cyclist who wants to support urban bike commuting, fill out this form and we’ll get in touch. You can also e-mail general questions not answered here or on the form to nycbiketrain AT gmail. And be sure to read on for important details.

IMPORTANT NOTES

  • You ride at your own risk.
  • Ride safe and leave on time, or let your fellow commuters know asap if you can’t make it. We’ll provide cell and e-mail info to groups.
  • An important goal of the biketrain to allow less experienced cyclists to gain experience and confidence — and provide safety in numbers — especially but not limited to riding at night and during the darker fall and winter months. That means it needs to be accessible to newer and possibly slower riders. If you’re speedy be prepared for a more leisurely pace. As participation grows, biketrains can always break into faster and slower packs.
  • Bells and front and rear lights are required by law. Helmets are encouraged.
  • Always worth repeating: You ride at your own risk.

RESOURCES FOR WINTER COMMUTING

Check back here for updates on the biketrain.

 

October 20, 2011
I am a bicycle. PLEASE handle me with care.
Found this last summer sitting atop my building’s trash heap.

I am a bicycle. PLEASE handle me with care.

Found this last summer sitting atop my building’s trash heap.

October 19, 2011
It Takes a Conspiracy

I once told Clarence from Streetfilms that this film is what made me start bicycling again. This shorter charmer charts Clarence’s commute from Jackson Heights in Queens to Chinatown (something like 10 miles). I lived in Woodside, the next nabe over, so it was one of those hey, if he can do it, why can’t I things.

It’s true that film did get me back on my bike by making me want to bike so badly that when I unexpectedly (thank you leaking roof and collapsing ceiling and rather crappy landlord) faced the opportunity to move, I moved to a neighborhood in an entirely different boro because it was a lot closer to a greenway and so gave me a much better shot at commuting to work regularly. It certainly lit a fire.

But it also took my neighbors, who served as bike escorts for my first test run of my commuting route. It took years of reading Streetsblog while my fear of taking to the streets on a bike duked it out with the cyclist in me. It took my coworkers and boss, who often biked to work and thus offered the comfort of norm enforcement. It took my boss’s closed-minded boss refusing to genuinely consider allowing bike parking in our office (they look “unprofessional” amid the empty cubes heaped with old computer equipment and abandoned desk accessories and the smudgy front of our suite door that hasn’t been cleaned since our group moved to this building) so that I got pissed and frustrated enough to join Transportation Alternatives and did some volunteer outreach. It took a half dozen classes from Bike New York. It took my old, crappy landlord who could not hire a decent repair person after 6 (count ‘em!) leaks in my ceiling, thus prompting my move. It took my getting sick and frustrated by my daily commute via that overcrowded Roosevelt Avenue subway stop.

So it wasn’t just one film, or organization, or person that put me back on my bike. It was a bunch of things, good and bad, that conspired together to put me back on my bike and keep me there.

October 18, 2011
"On your left"

— Polite cyclists everywhere.