Squadra di Vecchi Tori

Is New York the best bike city in the world? by kiwicyclist
June 3, 2010, 11:05 pm
Filed under: General, Rides

This evening I was indulging in a favorite pasttime, getting my haircut and shooting the breeze with my mate Eddie about bikes etc when the topic of New York came up – Eddie has just returned from a 2 week trip to the Big Apple and we spent most of the time discussing the merits of the Best City in The World.  I had urged him beforehand to do what I did on my last visit in November 2008 and rent a bike to get around.  Unfortunately his plans didn’t allow this but in the course of the conversation I was overcome with a distinct sense of nostalga for that trip.

I had travelled to NYC for a friend’s wedding, unexpectedly unaccompanied at the last minute by Mrs Kiwicyclist, and left to my own devices on a 5 day bender.    As I was on my own I had decided to make sure I got on a bike while I was there.  As luck would have it I found a hotel that had bikes to rent for $5/day.  I had researched various options and consulted Andy W (www.fyxomatosis.com) who had worked there as a bike courier – his advice was succinct and to the point – ‘get a bike, go explore and get lost’  – which is pretty much what I did.  

I spent the better part of most of the days (and some nights) meandering around the backstreets and byways of lower and mid Manhatten discovering many great spots along the way – how much better is life experienced in a foreign city by bike?   It cannot be beaten in my view.   I had my first experience travelling out at night on the bike to go to dinner, pedalling across from the Hudson River to midtown to catch up with everyone at a restaurant and then heading downtown to Soho to a bar after to catch up with friends.

The bike – more ‘beach boys hotrod’ than ‘gangsta speed weapon’ and perfect for getting around the Big Apple – singlespeed, coasterbrake, basket:

What made it so good was that New York has an incredible network of bike paths across most major roads, clearly marked in green with a separate curb at most intersections so that when you pull up to the lights there is a barrier between you and the cars – safe and sensible.  When you throw in the extensive one way system it feels even safer.  It impressed upon me how good cycling as a means of transport can be even in a congested city such as New York where the sheer numbers of bike riders has a certain critical mass and where the city provides well designed cycling infrastructure that works – it felt safer on their roads than it does commuting in Melbourne and changed my mind on how far I think we have to go here before our roads are as friendly to cyclists as they are in New York.

I also experienced a ‘six degrees of separation’ moment on the penultimate day of my trip – I had spent most of the day riding around exploring the Brooklyn area after negotiating the Brooklyn bridge and as the late afternoon wore on and I was making my way back up towards Chinatown I decided on impulse to head over to Williamsburg via the Williamsburg Bridge.  Followers of bikesnob http://bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com/ will know that Williamsburg is the first stop on the “fixed gear hipster silk route” and I wasn’t disappointed.  It is a low rise area populated by bars and restaurants and bikes, lots and lots of bikes.  While enjoying a late afternoon beer a couple of guys pulled up on two beautifully maintained classic steel bikes – which caused me a ‘retroboy’ moment of excitement.  I mentioned to one of them that I had a friend in Melbourne “who was a Merckx fanatic that used to work as a courier here and could I take a couple of shots of the bikes for him ” to which they said- ‘that must be ‘ozzie Andy, tall red head guy – yeah we know him, he used to race us at Prospect Park – man that guy used to kick our asses..say hi from us” – what are the chances?

Williamsburg bridge:

Williamsburg retroboys:

Trackstar – serious vintage and fixed gear bike porn and occupied by the ShifterDan of NYC – Zac, wheelbuilder to the stars:


Meatpacking district:

I’ve ridden bikes in a few cities –  London (terrifying), Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide Auckland and New York to name a few and the clear winner is New York – the best bike city in the world?  –  a big call but one that is getting it ‘right’ for the humble commuter/tourist.

Next time you go, rent a bike, and go and get lost.



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