Black Friday Biking in New York City

I'd much rather be on a bike than in a taxi.
I’d much rather be on a bike than in a taxi.

I am proud to say that I have some unique and interesting friends that present me with exciting opportunities for adventure and new experiences. When fellow biking buddy Brian was laid off from his job, he decided to take advantage of not having daily obligations and ride his bicycle from Iowa to D.C.

Brian’s cycling journey started in early October. His dad and I rode the first 40 miles with him as a send-off ride for his great adventure.

Brian's send off ride starting in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Brian’s Trek 520 fully-loaded for his send-off ride starting in Cedar Rapids, Ia.

Weeks later, Brian made it safely to D.C. and from there he headed to Brooklyn to stay with his brother, Lee, while looking for jobs around New York. As Thanksgiving approached, I was in communication with Brian and we started planning for me to visit. I booked a flight and made it to Brooklyn on Thanksgiving Day just in time for dinner.

The following day we planned to explore New York. Since we both enjoyed biking and the weather was unusually warm for November, we decided the best way to see the city would be by bicycle. I borrowed a bike from Lee and Brian rode his new used commuter folding bike. Brian was  excited to try out his Craigslist find. I was intrigued by this unique contraption and its compactness. When folded, it is about the size of a small suitcase. Brian showed me how it worked by unfolding it and securing various pins and screws that transformed it into something rideable.

Brian and his folding bike.
Brian and his folding bike.
NYC bike lane
We had the lane all to ourselves.

I’ll admit that I was somewhat nervous about riding a bicycle in downtown New York with it being Black Friday, but I was willing to give it a try knowing that bike commuting had been growing in popularity in the city.

Starting out in Brooklyn near Prospect Park we made our way to Manhattan Bridge to cross the East River and ride into Manhattan. The bridge has a two-way bike lane that made crossing easy and safe for cyclists. Once in Manhattan, there were plenty of bike lanes that took us where we wanted to go. Surprisingly, Brian and I had most of the bike lanes to ourselves allowing us to get to places like Times Square and Central Park with ease. It seemed that biking was a great way to tour the city as opposed to navigating the subway system or taking an expensive taxi.

The biggest obstacle for us while riding was the wall of shoppers crossing the street near Macy’s. I felt relieved to be in our seemingly protective bike lane as opposed to being on a sidewalk among mobs of people rushing around eager for a good deal.

On our way to Central Park we stopped for a quick lunch before checking out the famed Manhattan Apple Store. While stopped for a brief break, a man took notice of Brian’s folding bike and remarked about it being a great find and he knew some models could be very valuable. At this point I was so intrigued by the odd-looking bike with tiny wheels that I asked Brian if I could take it for a spin. I hopped on and took a brief ride. The steering was odd because of the small wheels and overall it felt a little rickety. I figured you sacrifice the solidity of a normal bike to gain the portability and utility of the folding bike. Or perhaps this was not one of those high-value folding bikes.

Heading back to Brooklyn we took the Brooklyn Bridge to Lee’s apartment. A well-marked bike lane took us across the bridge. This was the most congested part of our ride as we had to dodge a fair amount of bikers and meandering sightseers not paying attention to the painted lines dividing walkers from cyclists.

By the end of our cycling adventure I was getting the hang of navigating through the busy city. I am now convinced that biking is indeed a great transportation option in NYC.

Our bike lane was mostly empty while the shoppers filled the sidewalks and street.
Our bike lane was mostly empty while the shoppers filled the sidewalks and street.
Times Square by bike
We were the only bikers around Times Square.
brooklynbridge
Crossing the East River via Brooklyn Bridge.
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