Be a Better Tourist in NYC, Even If You’re a Local
On Wheels and Water
Director of Marketing for Bike and Roll. Bikes can be rented by the hour or for a half or full day at locations around the city including Battery Park, Central Park Columbus Circle, Tavern on the Green, Riverside Park, Battery Park, Pier 84, and Brooklyn Bridge Park. Other locations (Governors Island, East River Park, and West Harlem Piers) are open on the weekend only. They also offer guided bike tours and itineraries for self-guided tours. Bike and Roll rents bike to about 100,000 people each year.
What do you wish tourists knew?
They don’t realize how much traffic-free biking there is in New York City. Beyond Central Park, you have the Hudson River bike paths, the one on the East River, Brooklyn and Queens. They’re all traffic free. Once someone does it and realizes they can ride for miles and miles uninterrupted, they’re thrilled.
Many New Yorkers don’t know it either, because they don’t live all the way over on the rivers, they might not realize it’s there.
The thing about living in New York is that you always have visitors. People’s guests want to ride. That’s when many New Yorkers come to us.
Lots don’t know how easy it is to ride in the city, either traffic-free or how to ride in traffic safely. For example, our office is on 30th between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, right in the middle of Midtown with all of the tall buildings and traffic, but there’s a bike lane on 29th and one on 30th so it’s really no problem to bike here.
There is a famous quote in my family, “if Lindsay can do it, how hard can it be?” When I was four years old, I used this logic while begging my dad to teach me how to ride a two-wheeler. He had recently taught Lindsay, my older sister, and thus, I was convinced I must learn to ride as well. The next morning, my dad placed one hand on my back and help the handlebars of my magenta bike with silver tassels on the handles and guided me down our driveway as I started to peddle and figure out how to balance.
This morning, sixteen years later, this memory came rushing back to me as I met Mara Wilson, the star of Matilda and little girl in Mrs. Doubtfire. With VH1 camera’s surrounding her for their new series called, “Miss You Much,” Mara endeavored to ride a bicycle for the very first time at Bike and Roll’s location in Central Park’s Tavern on the Green.
This whirlwind started when I spent the first 45 minutes trying to help one of the producers set up a bright pink Big Wheel that he had bought at Toys R Us a matter of hours ago. After completing this relatively demoralizing task, we finished setting up the real bikes, Catherine Reitman (host) and Mara Wilson (child star), came out of make-up and began filming. Take, after take, after take.
Now, I don’t want to give anything away, so you’re going to have to watch the show in early September for a couple reasons. Not only do I know you are curious what Mara has been up to but, see if she actually learned how to ride a bike!
oup of five mechanics building and fixing bikes in the corner. To my relief, the lead mechanic, Kate, who I had previously met in the office, hopped up to greet me. She expertly navigated through the myriad bikes and within seconds was tuning and cleaning up a bike that was my size.
from Streetsblog . . .
You could win a flat-screen television just for supporting eco-friendly businesses.
This spring, Earth Day New York is sponsoring a green-themed scavenger hunt throughout the five boroughs.
Earth Day New York has signed on 24 specific Earth-friendly businesses – including Bike and Roll New York City – and New Yorkers that swing by can enter to win a cash prize or electronics — such as a laptop or flat-screen TV.
People that visit 12 or more “green” destinations can win prizes including $500 cash, a Toshiba flat-screen television or a Toshiba laptop.
People that go to at least five destinations can win gifts such as $250 in gift cards.
Participants must collect stamps at each destination on their “Passport to Green,” which can be downloaded at www.earthdayny.org.
Earth Day New York hopes to raise awareness of the green places in the city and support environment-friendly businesses.
The contest runs from March 20 to April 21.
The following are participating businesses:
Bike & Roll NYC
Dos Toros Taqueria
Green Fitness Studio
New York Botanical Garden
Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanic Garden
Bike and Roll NYC has a new partner . . . ElliptiGO. These “bikes” (for lack of a better word) are elliptical machines on wheels. Imagine yourself on a bike, but instead of pedals your feet are moving forward and backward on platforms as they do on an elliptical machine. You’re standing up, so you’re much higher than you are on a bike, your hands are on handle bars with hand brakes, and you have gears so you can really get moving or up a hill. Unlike an elliptical machine at a gym, you’re not staring at a wall, a screen, a book, or a magazine, you’re out and about. It’s surprisingly easy!
We had the privilege yesterday of meeting Rick Hermelin, an amazing 71-year-old former Marine who is going to cross the country on an ElliptiGO to benefit the Semper Fi Fund. Starting from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina on March 23rd, Rick is planning to ride across the southern tier of the US in 100 days and arrive at Camp Pendleton in San Diego. The Semper Fi Fund gives support to injured Marines and their families during recuperation. We are still a nation at war with many injured service men and women returning home to the harsh challenge of rehabilitation. Rick’s journey is an honorable effort put forth by an honorable man.
Rick likes even numbers. He’s been running for 35 years and has completed 100 marathons, 100 half-marathons, and 100 10K races. He doesn’t look a day older than 60. He’s a lifelong athlete who knows how to take care of his body. He’s one of the most centered people imaginable — caring, easy, gentle.
ElliptiGO is a southern California company trying to get their product better known in the East Coast market. As part of their efforts, they have asked us to add several ElliptiGOs to our fleet of bikes and make them available for demonstrations and rentals.
So when Rick was asked to appear on Fox & Friends at their New York studio onFriday morning (and by morning, I mean real morning — 6am) to promote his journey for the Semper Fi Fund, we were asked to provide the ElliptiGOs, a couple of people to get the Fox & Friends hosts on and off the bikes, helmets, and general support.
The beautiful weather this winter has meant that our season has started earlier than usual. Sixty degrees in March isn’t unheard of, but a long stretch of 60-degree days gets everyone thinking about bikes and riding the city’s parks and bike paths. Translation: the ElliptiGOs were still in their boxes as we got our other fleet built, tuned, and distributed. But we jumped to it and got four ElliptiGOs built and ready for Rick’s appearance.
Fox & Friends is incredibly organized. I got a call at home at 5:30am to be sure that everything was going as planned. I explained I was only a 10-minute cab ride away and would be there on time (I got there at 5:45). Rick was already waiting. Two Bike and Roll assistants were there by 5:50 and the ElliptiGOs were ready to be unloaded from the truck, too. The plaza next to the studio where we unloaded them was too inviting not to take a test ride. As the sun came up we were riding and laughing and getting every passersby’s attention.
Rick was called into make-up at about 7:15, then mic’ed up at 7:20. At 7:25 he was asked to go out to the plaza for a “teaser.” He was joined by Brian Kilmeade who hopped on an ElliptiGO and rode like a pro.
Anchors being anchors, no helmet was used, but we always recommend the use of a helmet . . . on a bike, on an ElliptiGO. It’s just a wise habit to have.
After the teaser came the actual interview. Rick was fantastic. He’s a natural on camera. What was a bit unexpected, though, was that Steve Doocy immediately joined Rick and Brian on an ElliptiGO. The producer got on one, too. The newbies were all immediate experts. And the plenty-big plaza wasn’t big enough — suddenly they were going around to the 6th Avenue side of the building, out on the sidewalk, anywhere they could get some speed going. I was glad it was still early and pedestrians were few and far between. There was one near-collision by the corner of the building where there was no visibility, but no crashes.
Okay, so the coverage of Bike and Roll didn’t happen, but it did make it clear to us that the interest in the ElliptiGO is huge.
We packed up the bikes and helmets and headed off to our next stop — a media event for Rick at our Bike and Roll location at Tavern on the Green. It was still quite early and no media reps were expected before 10am, so we got to spend some time with Rick in a nearby cafe and hear about his life and his journey to this incredible trek across the country.
Born in Mexico City, Rick moved to the US with his family when he was 7. He grew up in Texas, then served a four-year stint in the Marine Corps after Korea and before Viet Nam. He served in Laos. As an athlete he became interested in physiology, which led to a degree in massage therapy.
“I’ve never felt pain,” he told us. ”It was only after I started to study massage therapy that I understood what other athletes felt. The ElliptiGO has no pressure points, so it’s great for everyone. If you can walk, you can ride one.”
After we set up at Tavern on the Green, several people came over to try out an ElliptiGO. One gentleman said, “I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but there’s just something really sexy about them.”
Once at Tavern on the Green, media reps from MSNBC and Fox News interviewed Rick. It was fun to see them courteously stay out of each other’s shots. When it comes to bikes, there is no politics.
After the interviews (where Rick was charming and informative — a natural), a man on an ElliptiGo road up. Richard, also 71, and Rick struck up an immediate friendship and talked for about an hour. Richard was looking for some advice on hills and Rick had it for him. As they were chatting, another man on an ElliptiGO road past on the park drive. I’ve seen an ElliptiGO twice in the past year, so seeing several independently seemed to imply some sort of harmonic ElliptiGO convergence.
The ElliptiGOs got so much attention that we left all four at Bike and Roll at Tavern on the Green. If you want to try one, take one for a ride, or rent one for the day, come to our Tavern on the Green location, open every day from 9am to 5pm. The weather is supposed to be in the 60s and even hit 70 next week, perfect for riding any bike: Comfort, Performance, Race, tandem, or ElliptiGO!
It’s a special day when the planets align and allow me to take advantage of an almost 60-degree day in February and let me ride to my office! My meetings today are with an extremely young entrepreneur and with a director at a school that wants to offer our Learn-to-Ride after-school program. Neither will care that I’m in sneakers and khakis. The daylight lasts long enough into the evenings so that I won’t have to ride home in the dark. My tires have been filled over the weekend. Everything I need to carry today fits in my backpack. It’s a go.
The bikes I see on the way in are few and far between, but I’m riding early and get to the office by 8. The ride just feels good and it’s fast. I can’t face the subway in the morning, so I walk to work. It takes about an hour. The ride is only about 20 minutes, even when obeying all the safe cycling rules.
The park is gorgeous and empty. The lake is full of mallards and northern shovelers. Daffodils are replacing snowdrops. Did I miss the crocuses entirely?
We’ve moved our offices since I last commuted by bike, so I need to figure out how to get there without riding the wrong way on New York’s one-way streets. It’s a piece of cake. I’m looking forward to hitting the Hudson River Greenway on the way home, where there may be more bikes but no cars.
Our Columbus Circle location is open today. The inventory there includes kids’ bikes. It’s a great day to take a lunch break wheeling through the park or to put the kids on bikes after picking them up at school. Our season officially begins on March 5th when our locations at Columbus Circle, Tavern on the Green, Pier 84 and Battery Park will all be open. Guided tours start March 10th.
It’s weird that we haven’t really had a winter, but taking advantage of a day like this for any kind of ride is just the right thing to do.
(Photo credits below)
This Twitter photo of LeBron James biking to American Airlines Arena before facing off against Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls last night has gone viral on sports news sites all over America.
There are some interesting sociological currents swirling around LeBron James, bike commuter. While the photographerlabeled James a “manchild” for taking to Miami’s none-too-friendly streets on a bike, the prevailing sentiment in the ESPN comments section seems to be that the sight of LeBron riding to work will help rehab his public image.
After the Heat edged the Bulls, James told reporters in the locker room that bike commuting is pretty routine for him. In fact, he seems to enjoy talking about the bike ride more than the basketball game:
LeBron’s best-known link to cycling is the charity “Bikeathon” he founded in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, which he still puts on every spring.The Heat forward isn’t as vocal about his modal proclivities as say, Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, but he sure has a higher pulpit if he ever chooses to speak up about street safety. Our friends at Transit Miami are hoping LeBron the bike commuter can quicken the pace of change in south Florida: “Maybe now we can get some Lebron-sized bicycle lanes.”
[When are we going to see some Knicks on bikes??? CG]
Using Hashtags to Build #Bike Community
Maybe I’ve been spending too much time in front of my computer this holiday season, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how lots of “next generation” bike commuters in New York are forging a useful and meaningful community via Twitter.
When I first started riding here, it seemed that every hardcore bike commuter I met (at the time, mostly older, most white, mostly men, mostly in spandex, who tended to go on and on and on at various community meetings or social occasions) read a listserv called e-bikes.
But e-bikes was often filled with cranky complainers and the tips and useful bits of information were few and far between. At that point getting answers on bike questions (such as, when is that new lane going to be installed, or when is that construction on the bridge going to be finished) was also much harder than it is today, so people turned to e-bikes for answers. And even if you had a “silly” newbie question like “How can I make sure my hair doesn’t look totally ridiculous when I arrive at work after biking 7 miles in a helmet?” you had to find an actual bike commuter (a rarer breed eight years ago), or risk putting that question out on e-bikes and being snarked at.
Today, all of those questions and more are being asked semi-anonymously through the #bikenyc hashtag, and many people are offering tips and encouragement using the same.
Consider this tweet (which was retweeted by several others) from @MikeLydon the other morning, the first brutally cold snap of this winter “Dear #bikenyc, you look beautiful all bundled up on the morning commute. Keep riding!”
A few other cities appear to be catching on and using a bike hashtag, I found a decent number of #bikeChi and #bikeLA tweets on a recent search.
As we saw this spring and summer in the Middle East, (and even earlier than that in Iran), Twitter and it’s hashtags can be a very powerful way to organize, or at the very least spread information through a diffuse community. Clay Shirky has written very eloquently about the political power of social media, if you happen to be more interested in this, than say, biking…
It’s worth advocacy organizations or even city governments promoting city bike hashtags. Twitter is a great way to distribute rapid bits of information (“Bridge closed for emergency repairs tonight” or “Careful for the big new pothole that just appeared on Maple Lane” or “Free bike lights being distributed this evening on Maple Lane”). And since the media increasingly monitors Twitter for tips and breaking news, important tweets are often rebroadcast outside of Twitter as well. Using a hashtag at the end of these tweets allows users to create a dedicated “search” for this information, almost like tuning their Twitter radio to your station if you need an old-school analogy.
Twitter hashtags are also a good way for communities of interest to share information and support each other. Even if you don’t know a bike commuter personally in New York (which now seems rather far-fetched), you can connect with hundreds online via #bikenyc. Sure, some are still snarky as hell, but many are friendly, or as friendly as New York City cyclists get anyway…at least you don’t have to look at any spandex. At least not until you go to one of those #bikenyc meetups. But even then I’ve been pleasant surprised to find that #bikenyc fashion has evolved quite a bit since I arrived nearly eight years ago.
Not that I’m the boss of this, but I’d recommend for cities that aren’t using a bike hashtag yet to pick a simple one, maybe just #bike + your city’s airport code, which would keep things short (important for Twitter) local and easy to remember (important for the overall usability/success).
That would give you #bikeBOS for Boston, #bikeMSP for Minneapolis St. Paul, #bikePDX for Portland, #bikeSFO for San Fran, etc…
If I missed any cities that are already making great use of a hashtag to build cycling community online, let me know. I’d be eager to take a look at some other examples and learn more about how others are using this technique.
Some basic do’s and don’t for hashtag use in case you’re new to Twitter and wanted some more tips.