Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bike the Greenway

There'sBike the Greenway been much busyness off-blog lately, but I finally finished the striped cycling anklets and, inspired by the sign, took them on a 25-mile guided bicycle tour of a New York portion of the East Coast Greenway. Or perhaps they took me. In any case, I brought my own bike (rentals are available from the Bike and Roll stands along the Greenway).

The East Coast Greenway is the cycling analog of the Appalachian Trail,East Coast Greenway button except instead of linking mountaintops via ridgeline hiking trails, its growing network of bicycle routes will connect cities and towns on the East Coast from the Florida Keys to Canada. Like the AT, local ECG segments have their own names and are under local authority and care. Much of the extant route is car-free, but at present there are gaps, so the tour was a progress report of sorts.

The start of the ride was at Slave to the Grind near the Metro-North train station in Bronxville, which obligingly gave out free coffee to riders. It's hard to take coherent pix of a bunch of grumpy pre-caffeinated bicyclists, but I tried.

Bike tour start

The ride south through the Bronx was a tale of two cities, indeed, two worlds. One of the most telling gaps in the greenway is at the Bronx-Westchester border, which is barred like a fortress along an otherwise placid stretch of the Bronx River. From there, about half of the time the greenway makes easy meanders on unpaved bike trails through sylvan parks; the rest of the time it's on paved, very urban streets and includes inclines steep enough to make my bike throw its chain (which was easily fixed).

Once in northern Manhattan, we had to stop for a photo op, because there really is a Little Red Lighthouse under the Great Gray George Washington Bridge. By this time the cyclists were looking a bit more perky.

Little Red Lighthouse and Great Gray Bridge

I have never yet managed the arduous climb from the foot of the bridge to street level without dismounting. Coming the other way, the precipitous descent and narrow hairpin turn are even more terrifying! I bow low to all those who swept 'round and down without flinching – I flinched.

Shade garden

From the GWB south, the Hudson River Greenway is flat, graced with rose gardens, shade gardens, and many other amenities of a great city, and heavily used.Bike traffic signal There are long stretches that are completely car-free and other places that are car-free but crossed by auto traffic. Those intersections are equipped with the best traffic signals I have ever seen.

It's tempting to ride ass-out on the long straightaways, but that was where I saw the only accident of the day, when an adult cyclist not in our group crashed rather than run over a child who darted into the right-of-way. The kid was unhurt, there were no broken bones or bikes, but for a while the cyclist bled surprisingly copiously from a shallowly gashed calf. People who stopped generously proffered a wide assortment of hankies, tissues, wipes, sanitizers, antibiotics, band-aids, and potent analgesics in quantities sufficient to stun several charging rhinoceri. (Hey, this is NYC.) The injured cyclist was soon patched up and in the saddle again.

Ride's end was Battery Park, which was thronged with people enjoying the lovely day, not least those waiting to board the Liberty Island ferry. The observation deck in the Statue of Liberty's crown has been closed since 9/11, but on July 4 will re-open to the public. Yet another reason to love the current administration.

Line for Liberty Island ferry

(If I had to be critical of the ECG, it would be that it's very focused on bicycle recreation and tourism. I certainly enjoy both, but my own advocacy interests tend toward commuter cycling for commuters of all ages, such as Safe Routes to School. The difference between mindsets, bicycle = recreation and bicycle = transportation, can be small, but it's often profound.)

After a well-deserved lunch at L&L Hawaiian Barbecue and a long drive home in heavy auto traffic, my new cycling socks were still fresh and comfortable.

Striped cycling socks

I think I must make many more pairs.


Cindy G said...

What a fun excursion! And the ankles are darling (talk about perfect matching on the stripes, too).

Bezzie said...

Great tour--thanks for taking us along.

And wow, you got great weather. I'm loving this cruddy-week weather/pretty weekend weather cycle we've been having!

Alex said...

You should come to the Netherlands if you want to see biking as transportation and NOT as recreation! AND no helmets to be seen. AND in all kinds of weather.
We have those bike traffic lights at every lit intersection and bike lanes/paths just everywhere. It's really very nice.

Devorah said...

What fun! Did you walk down the Lighthouse hill? I finally got up the courage to ride down the top most stretch a few weeks ago.

Ina said...

On June 6 Beth left a comment on my January 3 post that would seem topical, so I'm reposting it here:

Your from-the-bike-saddle account of the May 31 ride from Westchester County (Bronxville) to Battery Park, at the southern tip of Manhattan, was a delight to read.

We members of the sponsoring New York Committee for the East Coast Greenway -- and our counterparts in New Jersey -- welcome the publicity, and links to our Websites.

But may I quarrel with your statement that the ECG is very focused on bicycle recreation and tourism, rather than on cycling for commuters of all ages? Members of the East Coast Greenway Alliance work to provide users with a continuous, comfortable, and safe pathway (still largely on paved roads and adjoining walkways) through cities and towns along the eastern seaboard for four reasons -- recreation and fitness, transportation, and tourism. By sponsoring recreational rides, we generate public awareness of the pathway, which we hope will in turn encourage them to use the pathway nearest their homes to commute by foot or bike to school, bus stops, and the local store and library.