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What Happens When Bikes Replace Cars in NYC

Jo Piazza

What Happens When Bikes Replace Cars in NYC

(Courtesy: Bike New York)

There’s a special chaos at the start line of the annual Five Boro Bike Tour in New York City. Bright and early Sunday morning, more than 32,000 cyclists converged on Lower Manhattan to jostle one another before taking off on the 40 mile-long ride through blessedly traffic-free streets.  

It’s hard to say what makes the Five Boro Bike Ride such a delight. Traversing five bridges and so much road can be exhausting, for sure. After completing the ride only hours prior to writing this, I can attest that I can hardly sit as I type these words. And yet the ride is a pretty special thing. If you missed it this go-round here are 11 reasons you should definitely do it next year.

1. New York City looks pretty amazing when the streets are closed down, almost like it does in post-apocalyptic disaster movies. For one day only, the roads are yours, the bridges are yours, and you can’t help but wonder, why do we have cars at all?

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(Photo: Jo Piazza)

Fun Fact: If the same number of cars drove 40 miles, they would burn more than 60,000 gallons of gas and emit more than a million pounds of carbon dioxide.

2. Celebrities do it, too! This year New York City’s beloved news anchor, NY1’s Pat Kiernan, got in on the race.

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              (Courtesy: Twitter/@PatKiernan)

AND Bronx-native Dominic Chianese, Uncle Junior from the “Sopranos,” sang the “Star Spangled Banner” at the start line … three times!

3. It reminds you that New Yorkers are, at heart, a helpful group of people. Over 2,000 volunteers work to make the ride a success and they are all awesome. They are right there when you fall off your bike, screaming about an impending “hella” big pot hole or warning you that you may want to use this set of porta-potties because the ones at the next rest stop are “nasty.”

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(Photo: Jo Piazza)

4. You get to ride on the FDR! It isn’t every day that you can go this fast on the FDR. Every time I drive my car on this highway alongside the eastern bit of Manhattan I am crawling at a snail’s pace.

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(Photo: Jo Piazza)

5. Costumes! Check out these folks, who proudly told me they call themselves the “trumpet heads.” I personally think they could have gotten more creative with that name. We get it, there are trumpets on your helmets, but you’ve got to give props to the guys willing to wear a spandex super hero costume all day. Also, Superman. 

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(Photo: Jo Piazza)image

(Courtesy: Bike New York)

6. You actually do see all five boroughs of New York City. To be fair,you only ride in the Bronx for about five minutes. But that’s better than nothing. The 40-mile tour begins in Lower Manhattan, heads north through Central Park, and continues on to the Bronx before returning south along the East River on the FDR Drive. From there, cyclists cross into Queens (via the Queensboro Bridge) and then into Brooklyn, where they hop onto the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway before crossing the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge into Staten Island. When else are you going to get exposure to so many different neighborhoods in just five hours? Never. More than that, people in each hood come out of their homes to cheer you on and sometimes even give you a beer.

7. They shut down the Queensborough Bridge. This bridge is hell to climb on a bike, but the views of four boroughs can’t be beat from its midway point, plus there’s the added bonus of trying to race the Roosevelt Island tram across the first half of the bridge.

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(Photo: Jo Piazza)

8. You can do it as a twosome. Tandem bikes are commonplace at the Five Boro and they’re a pretty great way to see the city as a pair.

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(Photo: Jo Piazza)

9. You can do it on a unicycle. How this guy managed all 40 miles on just one wheel, I don’t know (core strength?), but he did it and he did it with flair.

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(Photo: Jo Piazza)

10. Kids of all ages are welcome. This is not a race. It’s a ride and anyone can do it. I saw dads pushing their kids up bridges and grandmas lapping me on Kent Avenue in Brooklyn.

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(Courtesy: Bike New York)

11. The views are awesome! From the Chrysler Building, to the Statue of Liberty, you will get to see (and snap) just about every landmark that New York City has to offer. 

 image(Courtesy: Bike New York)

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