Arrived in Brooklyn NY safely and spent the first evening catching up with my old friend Carrie, who I was staying with. I had never been to Williamsburg before. I knew there would be bikes but I was not prepared to see so many. Bikes everywhere…all kinds…fixed, comfort, vintage ten speeds, beat up clunkers, bmx…we even saw one of these contraptions while walking to my car to get my clothing bag:
I noticed right away that NY people take the traffic lights and crossing signals as mere suggestions, opting intead to scan for traffic while simultaneously jamming into an intersection with wreckless abandon. The riding strategy seemed to be more “take the risk and hope for good results, and if not then correct your line or stop at the last possible second” than”wait til its a sure thing, then proceed with caution”. Nobody has time to wait in NY.
We turned in early because the next day was a work day for Carrie, and I wanted to get an early start so I could make sure to accomplish my riding goals, which were not terribly steep in physical demands, but required that I be on point in other areas. Mainly, I needed to be sharp about knowing where I was going, and also quickly get up to speed on how to ride in NY traffic…sometimes while holding a GPS device.
My first destination was King Kog, the fixed gear store that BSNYC loves to hate. The shop was only .6 miles from Carries hut, and the ride over was great. My primary goal on this trip was to get a feel for what it is like for someone who lives here to ride on their daily routines and such. Making my way through the neighborhood got me up to speed quickly. Watch for broken glass, watch for cars from every direction, watch hot girls walking down the street (they seemed to be everywhere), keep your eye on the street signs so you know where you are, and make sure to anticipate the moves of everyone around you whether they are in a vehicle on or foot. Sometimes you come across folks who are head down, ipod on, practically power walking on their way somewhere, who will inadvertantly walk right into your path as if they had blinders on. You need to be on point to ride here and not get killed. I’ll admit, at first I was taking it really slow, and stopping at stop signs for every intersection that had one. Because they are so close together though, it was easy to understand why most people treated the traffic signs and lights as just warnings and not commands. You could stretch a short ride out to a lengthy epic if you didn’t start to take some risks.
I had to break out the GPS every so often to make sure I was headed in the right direction. When I made it to King Kog, they were closed up tight, nobody around. My bad for thinking they opened at 10, which I thought I saw on the website but I was wrong, they opened at 12. Oh well, nothing to do but forge ahead.
My next destination was Trackstar, another fixed gear shop. Getting to Trackstar involved crossing the Williamsburg Bridge, so the entry point for bicycles and pedestrians was my first spot to find. It wasn’t too difficult. The railings for the bike/ped lane are painted red so once I got close enough to see the bridge it was easy to decode how to get on it. You can actually see the top portion of the bike lane from much farter away than this pic, the entrance that you see clearly here is obstructed from view until you are almost right up on it.
The grade isn’t too bad, but I creeped up the thing. I was passed easily by everyone from tiny hot hipster girls on fixed with waaay taller gears than I have, comfort bike riders obviously on their way to work on the Manhattan side in some kind of office, road bikers stomping up the bridge, and even a few supermodel types running internal three speeds. I didn’t care, I was in no hurry. But it did give me a feel for how fast this city goes. Even the folks not in a hurry are fast.
Saw TONS of graffiti.
Then finally, when you get high enough up the span, you get your first unobstructed view of the NYC skyline.
The Empire State Building is freakin HUGE, and the Chrysler Building is instantly recognizable. Man I would love to see this view every day! I couldn’t help but think about how unaffected everyone else on the bridge was…how they ride by this scene all the time and think nothing of it. To me though it was absolutely wicked.
The bike/ped path system on the bridge is kind of awesome. Wide enough for lots of folks, but I never could figure out the lane markings. It seems like they painted the directional indicators to say that both bikes and peds could go whichever way they wanted on whichever side…and folks did exactly that. The bridge is a lot bigger looking when you are actually on it. You can barely see the asphalt of the bike lane at the bottom of this pic
Mostly though people emulated the way cars drive, slower traffic to the right, left lane to pass etc. The bike/ped lane on the bridge runs both ways on both sides of the bridge, with one or two places where you can switch sides so you can exit on whatever side you need to be on when you get to the other side. Some folks were absolutely FLYING coming down the grade. Folks that ordinarily I would never think would go that fast on a bike based on how they were dressed…some of them looked really business-like. Maybe they were late for work?