I'm in New York City this week for a few days for work meetings. NYC makes me feel so alive and is probably my favorite city. The diversity of food, people, languages- it's always so alive and happening!
Yesterday for my meeting in SoHo, I biked from Williamsburg and while it was fun and exhilarating and lovely, it was also a bit infuriating. And scary. I'll tell you why in just a minute. But first, I'm going to digress briefly into a personal history of New York, and then I'll get back to yesterday's bike ride.
I lived here for a short in 2007 when I had an internship in Flatbush, Brooklyn. That summer was actually one of the worst summers of my life. I was newly 21, kind of figuring out that I might be bisexual, didn't really have a good handle on my finances, and was working a really crappy internship. I didn't have a good idea of the hobbies I liked to do, wasn't confident in who I was as a person, and definitely didn't take advantage of all that New York had to do. I spent most of that summer going on awkward JDates trying to meet people, taking the Q line to Coney Island and Brighton Beach, and exploring some of New York (all by train.)
I've subsequently come back to New York a number of times since 2007 and the bike culture has exploded since then. This wasn't by mistake or happen-stance either. Janette Sadik-Khan (the bike tzar) was appointed NYC Transportation Commissioner in 2007 and served until 2013. During her tenure, she implemented tons of bike-friendly policies in NYC, including building over 400 miles of bike lanes and 60 pedestrian plazas. She also led the creation of , which now has over 56,000 bikes all across New York.
Seriously, the work she did is nothing short of transforming New York from an auto-centric city to a pedestrian and bike friendly city. You can now eat lunch in the middle of Penn Plaza (I just did today) and play ping pong, see art in the middle of Times Square, and ride your bike through dedicated bike lanes in Uptown. None of this was in place 10 years ago and it has totally transformed how people interact with the city.
Ok, so yesterday's bike ride. I'm staying at a great AirBNB in Bushwick, and it turns out, CitiBike hasn't quite made it out that far yet. The hipsters are there, but the bikes aren't yet. So I walked the half mile to the nearest station, installed the app, paid the $24 for a 3 day pass, and was off. CitiBikes are damn sturdy bikes and riding them feels good. No issues there.
I loaded up the route to Manhattan on Google Maps and had one headphone in, feeding me turn by turn directions. The ride was pretty uneventful, until I got close to the Williamsburg bridge. Here, bike traffic started to increase. I'm fairly used to Seattle super commuters passing closely and without warning, but this was on a whole different level.
Admittedly, I was going pretty slow, even by my standards. My foot is still technically broken and I wasn't super confident in where I was going, but I wasn't in people's way. I was riding to the far right of the bike lane, leaving plenty of space for folks to pass. And pass they did. Holy shit. So many people brushed by me with seemingly no concern that I was there.
Eventually we made it through the narrow construction zone (oh hey signs in the middle of the bike lane) and onto the bridge, where there was a decent climb up the span. Morning rush hour was crawling along side us and I kid you not, I got cat called 3 times during my ride across the bridge. When I got off the bridge and riding through Manhattan, I got hollered at 4 more times. I don't know if things are just different, or I looked really good yesterday, or what was going on, but I have never felt so objectified in my life as I did yesterday.
The afternoon commute wasn't much different. 5 men hollered at me on the way home, with 2 explicitly commenting on my ass. I also almost got rear ended once on Bowery Street.
So, while I was initially really excited about the prospect of biking in the city and how small it made this huge city feel, I'm not so sure how I feel anymore. I'll probably give it another go tomorrow, but I might stay on the Brooklyn side.