I went to the dentist today: from Bed-Stuy to Flushing, Queens. Instead of enduring the 1.5 hours long commute (2 subways and a bus), I decided to bike — and ride along ‘my’ home street, Myrtle Ave.
FYI, as Wikipedia tells us:
Myrtle Avenue in New York City, New York, United States, is a 8.0-mile-long (12.9 km) street that runs from Flatbush Avenue Extension in DowntownBrooklyn to Jamaica Avenue in Richmond Hill, Queens.
Our part of it, in Bed-Stuy used to be called Murder Avenue. You can guess why, this is what Wikipedia explains:
There are references to Myrtle Avenue in hip-hop culture and rap music, reflective of the street passing through African American neighborhoods in Brooklyn. The popularity of the nickname “Murder Avenue” dates back to the minor 1993 hit of the same name by the Geto Boys.
Now Myrtle Ave is quite something else — and yet many, many things. Check out these pictures, from the beginning of Myrtle in Queens to the Chocolate Factory, where I live.
[I walk the last mile of Myrtle, until Downtown BK, every morning with the dogs when going to Fort Greene Park. Pictures and info of that last stretch of the ave, in Clinton Hill and Fort Greene fo Brooklyn, can be found from this wonderful website: http://www.myrtleavenue.org/]
Not that I don’t like subways, the quintessential New York mode of transportation. But summer heat and crowded platforms, let alone a broken ac in a car during the evening rush hour.
Many locals know this, some visitors try this in Central Park, but really: The best way to get around everywhere in NYC in summer time is to bike. It’s easier than you think.
- Bike routes are everywhere, marked well. You can find the specific map here, and a comprehensive printed version in most bike stores.
- Bikes are everywhere. You can rent one from many rental shops, by the hour.
- Also, like in many cities in Europe, NYC also offers (inexpensive, not free) ‘Citi Bike’ bike sharing system with special parking spots. You have to get the bike for a day, or for a week. This is the way many now commute to work. There is even a special site, and classes, to teach you how to be a cyclist commuter.
- For those interested in more sporty cycling, there are many bike tours, the most famous being the one through every 5 boroughs (always in May). Many of the tours are all-family events, but there are also more competition-oriented bike clubs, including triathlon clubs, and rides. Many practice in Prospect Park or Central Park.
My own experience is, biking around NYC is an escape from the urban jungle, even if I would be cycling by Times Square. The feel for ones surroundings is just different — you are not underground, or in the stop-and-go rhythm of taxi rides, or elbowing your way through the pedestrian crowds. You are moving along, often quicker than cars that are stuck in traffic.
At the same time, biking is the fastest way to realize the diversity of New York.
For example: Ride from the Upper West side along the wonderfully landscaped Hudson River Park, then across the Brooklyn Bridge (but be aware of the sightseers who do not respect bike roads when taking pictures), then through the brownstone neighbourghoods to Prospect Park, through the Jewish hoods by Ocean Parkway — and then you are in Coney Island and Brighton Beach — by the beach. And: This all in a leisurely 1.5 hour ride.
A couple of things to always have, though: Bike helmet, sunglasses, and the famous ultra-heavy Kryptonite bike chain.