Sure, I missed out on all the NY400 events (all things Dutch you can think of) this summer, but perhaps it’s better that way, cycling around the city on a regular day, without all the extra brooha.
Noel of newamsterdamize.com (yeah, completely meant to be, right) was our generous host for the ride.
After getting our rental bikes we crossed downtown Manhattan, turned onto the dedicated bike path of Hudson River Greenway and just enjoyed the spectacular views. It was just for a few hours, between lunch and rush hour, but very satisfying. Back in a city that has gone through lots of changes, but will always remain the same, that same vibrant and intoxicating metropole of the world.
What I observed was both exciting and sobering. First the exciting part. There are certainly more people on bikes, more than I’ve seen on any other visit or stay. And I’m not talking about fixie (male) hipsters (plenty of those), bike messengers and the countless(!) pedicabs.
Women on two wheels are well represented, which is a proper indicator. People with home-made utility contraptions, carrying just about anything.
In general, they are mostly young urbanites in their 20’s and 30’s. And pretty much a 50/50 split between the safety gear-crowd and the laissez-fair, aka those who just dress for the day and get on a bike. Right, ‘Cycle Chic’, aka a piece of Old Amsterdam in the New World. Not a bad score at all, could the paradigm really be shifting?
Second, the much publicized bicycle infrastructure. Of all that was put in place, I saw the right intentions. From pockets of lanes to long corridors, it’s emerging. And more to come.
On both accounts I also recognized the problems. Most cycling (and I emphasize ‘normal cycling’) can be witnessed in more quaint areas, like West Village and the Meat Packing District, where traffic is more permissive and cycle infrastructure more defined. You will only find the ‘die-hards’ and pedicabs on the main Avenues, where cycling provisions are scarce, if not absent. It’s not that it’s impossible to ride there, but when I think of cycling, it’s cycling for the lowest common denominator, that anybody should be able to do so. There’s certainly a lack of subjective safety, as David Hembrow would say.
Then there’s the issue of car drivers and pedestrians not respecting the bicycle grid, something very evident. I saw a lot of cyclists just avoiding the bike lanes because there would be too many people walking there or crossing without looking, (police) cars (double) parked or trucks unloading. I’d get tired of that, too.
But all of that doesn’t take anything away from the progress that’s been made in just a few years, the transformation that’s taking place in this great city. Hopefully, after returning a few more times things will have moved on even further, showing the decisive indicators for safe urban cycling…children and seniors on two wheels. That would be something, really turning the corner.
You’d certainly see more scenes like this too…or maybe not, she’s really one of a kind :-p.