July 16, 2014 – New York, NY
If you have ever wanted to ride in New York City but were too afraid to try, it might be worth going out with one of the bike clubs in the city.
The Five Borough Bike Club is offering New Yorkers two (free) opportunities to ride through historic Harlem before heading down to join Summer Streets on Park Avenue this August 2.
During Summer Streets the city’s Department of Transportation closes the avenue from 72 Street down to the Brooklyn Bridge so that cyclists, skaters, pedestrians and others can take experience a part of the public space without the fear and exhaust fumes that motorists cause.
Summers Streets was started during the Bloomberg administration and August 2 is the first opportunity for New Yorkers to enjoy riding down Park Ave. without motorist traffic. (There will be two additional Summer Streets this year, August 9 and 16.)
The club sponsored rides will take place on the first Summer Street (August 2,) and are open to non-members. The first ride is suitable for adults who have ridden in the city before, and the second is appropriate for newbies and children. Optional membership in the 5BBC is $25 per year, but both rides are free. Both rides offer the extra protection of riding with a group of people who know the way and look out for you.
There are always two leaders, one in the front (the Point) and one in the back (the Sweep). Whenever there is a turn, the Point leader asks someone in the group to “Drop” and make sure to point everyone in the direction to turn until the Sweep arrives to let them know that everyone has come through. “Because it would not be fun to get left behind,” he said.
The first ride is suitable for adults, starts in Central Park and explores some of the rich architectural history of Harlem and the Upper West Side.
“There are cool things to see when you ride in Harlem,” said one of the organizers Wendy Frank who lives in Harlem herself and conceived of the ride idea.
The ride leaders David Meltzer and Allan Friedman will take cyclists past historic gems from Colonial days including the Hamilton National Memorial in Saint Nicholas Park on 145th St. and Saint Nicholas Ave., and the Jumel Mansion on Jumel Terrace.
The riders will stream past the historic residences on Astor Row and Strivers Row. Then the group will check out the Bailey House at West 150th St. in the Sugar Hill section where a production company was filming a segment of Boardwalk Empire last week, said Ms. Frank.
Cyclists will also travel to Grant’s Tomb on 120th Street and Riverside Drive, where General Ulysses S. Grant and his wife Julia Dent Grant are really buried.
While there you’ll also get a chance to see the Rolling Benches, a sculpture consisting of seventeen concrete benches bearing colorful mosaics that were created around the monument years ago. Designed by artist Pedro Silva and the architect Phillip Danzig the benches were built with the help of hundreds of neighborhood children over a period of three years, and resemble Spanish designer and architect Antoni Gaudi designs from Spain.
Then the ride will go down to the beginning of Summer Streets that starts on 72nd and Park Ave. The ride ends at the Five Borough Bike Club’s table at Summer Streets below 32nd St. The organizers say to bring water, snacks, SPF, a lock, and a great attitude. Helmets are mandatory on all 5BBC Rides. Total mileage is 16 miles, at a moderate pace suitable for mid-level cyclists. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to join.
The second ride led by Ken Williams is for newbie riders and is child-friendly with parent waivers. This ride also starts in Harlem and takes cyclists down to the beginning of Summer Streets. Proceeding through Central Park, with one big hill and much smaller rolling hills, the ride will be between 15 and 22 miles, with many rest stops. “We will go easy and enjoy the downhills,” said the organizers. “This would be a great intro ride to group riding in a minimum of traffic.”
Frank says both trips are supported and endorsed by New York City’s Department of Transportation, who also devised a map showing the best bike routes to take through the area. Those routes, including bike lanes, make Harlem one of the safer places to ride said Frank.
Then the group will proceed to lower Manhattan via Park Ave., and will reverse and head north on Park Ave. to the start of the Summer Streets on 86th St. The ride will start at Lenox Ave. and 110th St at 9:30. RSVP at email@example.com.
For both rides, please bring one or two properly-sized inner tubes for your tire. Fixies are not recommended. Or you can access the Five Boro website for more rides being offered by the club all summer–and indeed all year round.
Rental bikes are available @ Larry’s Freewheeling, 3 blocks away @ 301 Cathedral Pky, b/t 8th Ave/ Frederick Douglass Blvd & Manhattan Ave.(212) 280-7800, for those who want to reserve a bike to rent. The shop opens at 9am.