new guide to cycling in nyc isn’t just for tourists

The new Bike NYC, The Cyclist’s Guide to New York City will appeal to anyone who wants to experience, from the seat of a bicycle, the richness of New York City’s storied urban landscape, historic neighborhoods and vibrant cycling culture. That includes not only visitors, but also casual riders out for weekend recreation, as well as the growing numbers of people who use bicycles for everyday transportation.

Three authors bring a wealth of cycling experience to the new book, out this month from Skyhorse Publishing: writer Marci Blackman and photographer Ed Glazar are avid riders and bicycle tour guides, and Michael Green is a filmmaker and creator of the popular New York City bicycling blog

The compact volume gets rolling with essential safety tips and NYC cycling rules. The authors’ advice on how to avoid getting “doored” by parked cars, the most useful that I’ve ever read, may alone be worth the price of the book.

But the main attraction is the rides. Bike NYC lays out eight routes, ranging from 10 to 40 miles, that offer fun and adventure in all five boroughs. Most aren’t the usual suspects, so look elsewhere if you want a Central Park Loop outing. In sharing their favorites, the authors have assembled a uncommon selection of scenic and lore-laced journeys. Among them:

  • The “Cemetery Ride” guides cyclists through vast and lush Queens and Brooklyn burial grounds, with stops at the resting places of New York City’s famous and infamous citizens. (Pop Quiz: Within the context of section 9, plot 443 of Calvary Cemetery, what does the phrase “pulling a Brodie” refer too?*)
  • The “Dead Pool” ride to Rossville Boatyard on Staten Island reveals where tugboats and other maritime artifacts are scuttled at the end of their useful service lives.
  • The museum ride in Queens and Manhattan clues cyclists in to some lesser-know, but highly engaging repositories of art, such as the Socrates Sculpture Garden, 5 Pointz and the Noguchi Museum.
  • A bonus section on “Bombin’ Broadway,” invites cyclists to embrace their inner “fakengers” on a one-way ride from West 218th Street to Battery Park on the only street that runs continuously (except for a slight diversion at Union Square) from the top to the tip of Manhattan.

Each chapter is packed with history and entertaining anecdotes that reveal the novel and often egdy texture of the urban scene. Also included is practical information about local bike shops, restaurants and restrooms. Note to publisher: the nicely-illustrated maps and Glazar’s photographs could have been reproduced in larger format!

Even routes such as the one along the Hudson River from the Battery to the Cloisters, which are familiar to many regular riders, take on freshness. I learned from the guide about the Irish Hunger Memorial; bike messenger Brendan McMullen’s legendary, and illegal, ride through the Holland Tunnel; the origin of the name Hell’s Kitchen (the myth is juicier than the probable truth); and that Manhattan, originally an island rife with hills, was essentially bulldozed in 1811 to make way for the street grid.

If riding a bicycle creates a more nuanced relationship with the city — for those who ride here every day, and for newcomers or visitors — then Bike NYC satisfyingly deepens it.

* To perpetuate a dangerous or idiotic stunt. The expression refers to Steve Brodie who gained fame in 1886 for supposedly surviving a jump from the Brooklyn Bridge. His feat was later found to be a hoax.

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