Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bottleneck to end all Bottlenecks

I have not opened my blog for a while. And it's sad to look at that little list on the side and see one post listed in May, one post that was written about 8 hours into the month. But I've neglected to write about some fun and exciting things because I've been putting off the surely exhausting task of recapping the Five Borough Bike Tour. But I miss blogging and i have other things I want to share so here goes...

Pretty much right away, we joked that we were participating in the 5 Boros Walking Tour because we were doing as much of that as biking.  Early into the ride, I literally had the thought, how am I going to blog about this without totally bashing the ride. By the end of the ride, I was so ready to bash. Luckily, two weeks have passed and I'm ready to be mostly rational.

From the getgo, there were far too many bottlenecks where we'd have to stop and walk or stand with our bikes. Two blocks in, as we turned onto 6th Ave. A few miles later, as we entered Central Park. Somewhere inside Central Park. As we left Central Park just north of the Gugenheim. Waiting to cross the Manhattan Bridge from Harlem to the Bronx. On some parkway by the Hudson. Waiting to cross the Queensboro Bridge. Arriving at Astoria Park in Queens. Leaving Astoria Park. Under an overpass in Brooklyn.

It got old really fast. But not old enough to make me want to bash the establishment. Not until we rode up the BQE, stopped and walked our bikes for over two hours baking in the hot sun while also chilly in our sweaty clothes, with nowhere to relieve our bladders, refill our water bottles, or RIDE OUR BIKES, did I actually feel that I had simply wasted my day. I went from being glad to be doing this once but know I'd never do it again to just wishing I had never done it.

At least we weren't far enough back in the crowd to pop a squat, or watch pee drizzle on the non-absorbent concrete around us from others who couldn't help but pop a squat. Others weren't so lucky.

Eventually, amazingly, we arrived at the bottleneck to end all bottlenecks. We got through it and we re-mounted our bikes. We rode onto and over the Verazano Bridge into Staten Island.

At the finish line festival, all the good food was sold out (surprise!) so we hung out for a few minutes and rode the last three miles to the infamous orange ferry, where we herded ourselves like cattle and emerged, free at last, in lower Manhattan. We left New York by car around 8 pm and were finally home at 1 in the morning.

I told lots of people about this experience and I rarely shed a good light on the thing. I have since received apologetic e-mails from Bike New York, explaining that the BQE fiasco was unusual and regrettable. I do feel bad because, in theory, I think this ride is so cool. It's not every day that you can ride your bike, or even stand, on a highway. That you can ride up 6th Ave, through Harlem, across five bridges, one of which is a loooong and serious suspension bridge. That you can be a part of such a movement, of 30,000 bicyclists making their presence very known and heard in one of the worlds most urban centers. So I want so badly to have liked it, to feel compelled to encourage others to do it. But sadly, I didn't and I don't.

I believe that they heard and appreciate all of the criticism about this year's ride. And I believe that they are working to ensure that nothing like the BQE traffic jam happens again. So I'm not saying don't ride the 5 boros. Looking back, I'm glad to have done this once. If nothing else, it makes for a good story- probably a better one than I'm telling in this rambling blog post. I'm just saying, think hard about what 30,000 humans and their bikes will look like on 42 miles of city streets, park, bridges, and ferry. And if you're a more chill, no frills, actually want to feel butt on bike seat kind of person then I have your answer: Ragbrai. Or just plan your own ride. I'll join!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Manhattan start

This is how far back we are in the mass of 32,000 people waiting to ride their bikes through the five Burroughs. We are at the corner of Church and Murray streets a few blocks north of Battery Park.

We're having fun eating bagels, talking to fellow riders from Salisbury and Maine, and wondering what perent of participants are local. We're also taking pictures and blogging as we wait for the 8am start!