It is no wonder that the 32,000 slots for this year’s TD Bank Five Boro Bike Tour filled up in record time after they were first opened – the 42-mile tour, which is presented by Con Edison, travels through streets and highways, across bridges normally clogged with car traffic or closed entirely to bikes. The tour takes the cyclists into the literal heart of New York’s neighborhoods, which you appreciate from the window-free perspective and at the pace of a bicycle (or sometimes, just walking where the bikes themselves make a traffic jam).
Founded in 1977 with only 250 participants, this scenic, non-competitive ride has grown to involve some 32,000 cyclists and 1,500 volunteers, including fitness enthusiasts, families, andfriends from all across the world (we met people from the Netherlands and Canada) – making it the largest bicycle tour in the country. For the fourth consecutive year, the Tour filled up well in advance—a record 25 days after slots were first opened.
Starting at Battery Park, we cross the start line amid shooting pyrotechnics, ride through Manhattan’s canyons of skyscrapers, into the tranquility of Central Park in the pastel colors of spring’s blossoms and into Harlem, where riders were greeted to the gospel music of Gospel for Teens Choir of Mama Foundation for the Arts.
The Tour began in Battery Park in Lower Manhattan, and . Taking advantage of car-free roads, the route travels north through the heart of Manhattan to Central Park and continues on to historic Harlem.
After passing through the Bronx, we return south along the East River on the FDR
Drive, where you have this surreal experience of riding through its tunnel. From there, you have one of the greatest highlights of the tour, riding over the 59th Street Bridge, rechristened for former Mayor Ed Koch.
In Queens, where the first rest stop is located at Astoria Park, you begin to appreciate how much waterfront there is in New York City, and how the city has developed these beautiful parks giving people access to the parks. You also discover museums and cultural places you perhaps had heard of but never saw: the Noguchi Museum and the Museum of the Moving Image.
We ride into Brooklyn, through these extraordinarily colorful neighborhoods – Williamsburg, DUMBO (under the Manhattan Bridge), and then to the Brooklyn Bridge, where there is the most charming Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Then we take over the highway, elevated over the Brooklyn streets. The only glitch in an otherwise masterfully coordinated event is at the Gowanus, where thousands of us wound up waiting for hours to go the few miles because we had to funnel from four lanes into one, but people take it in stride and good humor, using the time to actually find out who they are sharing the road with. Then it is smooth sailing over the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, before making the exhilarating mile long climb up–then down–the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
The Tour ends with a celebratory Festival on Staten Island. After enjoying the entertainment,
exhibits, and food concessions, we ride three more miles through Staten Island, where I discover a historic site I had never known about, the Alice Austen House (she lived from 12866 to 1952 and was one of America’s first and most prolific female photographers, I learn), just beside this charming pocket-park on the water, before we arrive at the Staten Island Ferry (one is named for Alice Austen), for what feels like a cruise back to Manhattan, with the most stunning views of the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan’s skyline, completing the most ultimate of New York experiences.
The route map and an interactive photo tour are available at BikeNewYork.org/rides/fbbt/route_map.html.
“The Five Boro Bike Tour is a 42-mile celebration of car-free cycling, with riders of all ages and skill levels enjoying the sights and sounds of the city in a whole new way,” said New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “New Yorkers are biking more thanever, and we’ve seen a 66% increase in bike commuting in the last two years in conjunction withthe rapid expansion of our bike network, showing that if you build it, they will ride!”
The TD BANK FIVE BORO BIKE TOUR receives valuable support from its partnerships with sponsors. TD Bank (www.tdbank.com) returns for its fourth year as title sponsor. Long-time presenting sponsor Con Edison returns as well, and the Tour also welcomes back WPIX, Fresh 102.7 FM, Lärabar, Bonita Bananas (thanks for the bananas!), Jamaica Hospital Medical Center (thanks for the medical assistance), the New York Sports Club,and new media partner the New York Daily News.
“TD Bank is proud to again be the title sponsor of the Five Boro Bike Tour,” said Greg Braca, regional president, TD Bank. “We want TD Bank to be as green as our logo. This is another way for us to support our green strategy while sharing with others an environmentally friendly way to enjoy the City.”
Through new partnerships with more than three dozen local charities, including Achilles International, Trips for Kids, and Voices of September 11, an unprecedented number of TD Bank Five Boro Bike Tour riders are using the event as a fund-raiser. In return, they receive a pass to start in the front of the Tour as well as other benefits from the charity. The designated charities are expected to raise more than $750,000 as a result.
Bike New York’s Bicycle Education Program is a primary beneficiary of Tour proceeds. Its offerings this year include a full schedule Learn to Ride sessions for families and adults, Savvy Cyclist classes for adults, bike commuting seminars for employee groups, and trainings for educators and community leaders. Bike New York also produces smaller rides outside NewYork City, and cyclists may register for those events now as well.
Bike New York (BikeNewYork.org) is a non-profit organization that promotes and encourages bicycling and bicycle safety through education, public events, and collaboration with community and government organizations. Best known as producer of the nation’s largest recreational cycling event, the TD Bank Five Boro Bike Tour, Bike New York also organizes smaller rides and runs a Bicycle Education Program offering free classes and workshops for adults and children.
–Karen Rubin, National Eclectic Travel Examiner, with David Leiberman and Neil Leiberman
© 2011 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit icedjamb.com/eclectic-travel-in-national/karen-rubin, icedjamb.com/eclectic-traveler-in-long-island/karen-rubin or www.travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com.