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Old 10-03-04, 07:35 PM
2-Cyl, 1/2 HP @ 90 RPM
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Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: NYC
Posts: 15,762

Bikes: 04' Specialized Hardrock Sport, 03' Giant OCR2 (SOLD!), 04' Litespeed Firenze, 04' Giant OCR Touring, 07' Specialized Langster Comp

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From there we took Neptune Avenue east, and were soon back on a bike path, the Shore Parkway Greenway. At first the path was not promising, with scrub brush to the right and a clogged highway to the left. Then, a twinkling vista of sailboats and glittering waves appeared, and the Marine Parkway Bridge beckoned. Before we knew it, we had crossed Rockaway Inlet, and the ocean air washed over us.

On the way home, Candace had a flat tire, and we discovered that we had left home without some urban-cyclist essentials: a spare inner tube or a patch kit and a pump.

Candace flagged down a cyclist who turned out to be a firefighter. He gave us a tube and even installed it, but it magically deflated near the A train at Rockaway Boulevard. We were deflated, too, and took advantage of one of the great benefits of cycling in the city, the ability to bring your bike on the subway.

To the Bronx Zoo

On the last day of the experiment, only one borough remained unvisited, the Bronx. (I disqualified Staten Island because it is not possible to reach solely by bike; the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge has no bike path.) I had never been to the Bronx Zoo, which is a good 18 miles from my apartment, so that seemed a reasonable destination.

First, Candace and I stopped at Spokes and Strings to make a minor repair on my bike. There we met Nita Zackson, Ann Hall and Joan Redican, three women from Bellerose, Queens, who were deep into a long ride that would take them over several major bridges in the city. "It is amazing how easy it is to ride a bike in New York now," said Ms. Zackson, 59, a Y.M.C.A. wellness coordinator. "It just seems to get better and better. Now you can go practically anywhere."

Inspired, we set off despite threatening clouds. We started at the Williamsburg Bridge, which has a terrific path except for one problem - huge bumps that have caused several cyclists to crash.

The East River path in Manhattan is a sorry mirror image of the Hudson River path. It is rutted, impossibly narrow in spots, and in Midtown it ends abruptly, spilling riders into a chaotic intersection off the F.D.R. Drive. Though the path continues uptown after 59th Street, we never got back on because the signs were confusing. Instead, we took First Avenue to the Willis Avenue Bridge. Here again, signs were sorely needed to help a cyclist cross the bridge safely, and it took considerable trial and error to figure out which side to use.

The bike lane system in the Bronx, as in the rest of the city, can charitably be described as incomplete. We followed a bike path on Prospect Avenue until it ended just past Boston Road, then muddled our way through Crotona Park and over to the zoo.

As we passed the polar bears, it started pouring. Determined to make it home on our bikes, we took Fordham Road to the University Heights Bridge into Inwood, barely escaping being mowed down at the bridge entrance, where again no signs indicated where the bike path was.

Candace gave up when we got to the A train in Inwood. But I pressed on. At first it seemed I had made a terrible mistake. The rain intensified, soaking me as I ground my way down the deserted West Side path. But there were compensations. Sure, I would have been dry on the subway. But I would not have seen how New Jersey floated like a shrouded outline, ethereal across the Hudson, nor the way a blanket of clouds muffled Manhattan's spiky skyline. I had the path to myself, and I sped up.

As I exited on the Brooklyn side of the Manhattan Bridge, my cellphone rang. It was Candace, who had just arrived home. I checked my odometer: I had traveled 42 miles, more than 200 total for the week. I was sopping wet, chilled to the bone and exhausted. I had never felt better. I stashed my phone in my backpack, threw my leg over my bike, and rode home.

Though calling New York bike-friendly would be a stretch, the frosty relationship between city and bike has thawed. Adrian Benepe, the city's parks commissioner and a lifelong cyclist, told me that one day he hoped to see ribbons of green joining the city's neighborhoods, a seamless network for cycling and nonmotorized forms of transportation.

This is a cyclist's dream. Clearly the city isn't there yet, but it has progressed. Or, as Mr. Benepe put it, pun perhaps intended, "We are on the right path."
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