On Two Wheels

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All summer – and even as the air starts to chill into Fall – my boss has ridden his bike into work. Recently, another coworker took a cue from our fearless leader and geared himself up for a cycling commute, too. Both make their way in from Brooklyn, no small trek.

I’ve always wished I biked more. Living next door to a bike path in Indianapolis, as every summer ended I always felt guilty I hadn’t taken more advantage of the chance to fly up and down the Monon on two wheels.

Now, I’ve spent Summer 2013 exploring NYC on foot, watching a good portion of the city zip by on their bikes – their own, tour bikes, or the ubiquitous Citibikes. Since launching in late Spring, and despite plenty of hiccups, the Citibike program has made an indelible impact on the city, as people who’d never have cycled otherwise are finding themselves in the bike lane.

Myself included!

When it came up in conversation on Friday that I’d missed my chance to snag a Citibike annual pass at 50% off last week (a Gilt.com deal that sold out before I could snag one), my boss graciously offered me his token to try out for the weekend. I gratefully (and excitedly!) accepted, and yesterday I picked up a bike at 28th & Broadway. 

Riding a bike is, of course, like riding a bike – you never really lose it. Riding a bike in Manahattan? That, friends, is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. As soon as I swung my leg over the frame and pushed off into the bike lane, the late-afternoon breeze picking up around me, I knew I was in for a rush. I zipped up 6th Avenue towards Bryant Park, figuring I’d just take a test run this time out to see how it went.

It went gangbusters is how it went. For 10 blocks (the short ones!), I zipped past pedestrians and alongside cabs, making my way north like something out of a video game. The bike lanes on the Avenues land between parked cars on the curb side and active traffic on the other. Which means at any given moment, a cab is stopping, doors swinging open to let out the latest fare; trucks are stalled, delivery guys hefting their wares to and from; an SUV is backing in to parallel park into a spot any onlooker can see won’t fit it; construction barricades line either side here and there, a crane overhead suspends beams intended for the building going up in the spot; a tour bus lumbers along making the same left onto 41st that you are, leaving – honest to goodness – no more than two-and-a-half feet between the parked cars and the behemoth bus.

I weaved. I dodged. My bag strapped to the basket in front, I rang the little bell on the handle and I nodded knowingly to the other Citibikers criss-crossing the busy streets with me. (Ok, maybe I only did this in my head. This is New York, after all. No one nods knowingly to anyone else.) I could feel my heart rate increasing, and not just from the effort to pedal. The exhilaration was palpable, watching these streets I’d walked any number of times move ever more quickly by me. My senses on alert, dialed up higher than I can recall in recent memory, it was like I’d discovered this secret New York, a cyclist’s New York that they don’t talk about in the visitor’s guides.

Today, the plan is to snag a bike near Central Park and ride through the changing foliage from 60th to….to as far north and back as my two wheels will take me. There’s not much time left in the season for pleasant rides – we’re heading to highs of just 50* or so in the ten-day forecast. So I may wait until the Spring (and maybe another steep discount), but I will be signing up for my own Citibike card. Now that I’ve discovered NYC by bike, I’m not about to leave it.