Bike the Strike: Tips, Pools, Etc.

Judging from this morning's commute, more New Yorkers are choosing to bike into Manhattan than did before the citywide transit strike, and more took to their cycles on day two of the strike than pedaled in on day one. The cycling advocacy group Transportation Alternatives counted more than 800 riders going across the Brooklyn Bridge between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m.

And on the Queensboro Bridge, the bike group clocked about 200 cyclists going across every 15 minutes yesterday afternoon.

"Yesterday I'd say we experienced about a three-fold increase in the number of cyclists, but today it's more like a five-fold increase," says Transportation Alternatives project director Noah Budnick.

No doubt many bikers were motivated by the parking lot conditions at the morning checkpoints coming into Manhattan, where police are stopping cars to ensure they have at least four riders. Not to mention the traffic jams leaving the city last night, and the huge lines to get on Metro North and Long Island Railroad trains servicing Manhattan.

But Budnick says folks are also being encouraged by the city's bike-friendly adjustments—like offering expanded bike lanes protected by orange cones to keep taxicabs from muscling into them.

"I think this shows that if the bike lanes were this nice all the time, more people would be riding on a daily basis," Budnick says.

Cyclists can also take advantage of the reserve streets set aside for emergency vehicles and commuter buses only—Fifth Avenue and Madison between 23rd and 96th, for example. Cars are kept out, but police have been allowing folks to bike freely.

And the Parks Department is offering guarded bike parking at Madison Square park, Union Square, Washington Square, and Tompkins Square. In addition, Transportation Alternatives is manning spots at Herald Square and Bryant Park, in collaboration with the 34th Street Partnership.

"It's kind of like valet parking for bikes," Budnick explains. "You bring your own lock and lock your wheel to the frame, then get a ticket to leave the bike in this protected area, where there is someone watching it at all times. When you want your bike back, you just present your ticket and go on your way."

The lack of secure bike parking was the number one reason New Yorkers cited for not commuting by bike in a 1999 survey by the Department of City Planning, so having safe places to lock down is vital to getting more riders on the road, says Budnick.

Meanwhile, Transportation Alternatives has a message board for folks organizing bike pools—basically groups of people who are biking in and out of the city together. "We want to build confidence among first-time bike commuters, and there's greater safety in numbers," Budnick says. (TA's website also has list of tips for traffic safety and weathering the cold.)

On Wednesday night, there's a bike pool leaving Columbus Circle at 6 p.m. and riding south down traffic-free Fifth Avenue. Riders can stop for hot cocoa at the headquarters of the bike group Times Up at 49 East Houston Street, or continue on across one of the bridges into Brooklyn.

Ditto for the bike pool on Thursday night, which is also organized by Times Up.

There's also a morning bike pool from Williamsburg.


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