Dress: Chaka dress by Horny Toad
Bag: Truckette bag by Queen Bee
Shoes 1: Mesh and Leather flats by Privo << the most comfortable and versatile walking/travel shoes ever!
Shoes 2: Strappy beweled heels by Nine West.
Monthly Archives: September 2011
Dress: Chaka dress by Horny Toad
You can’t say you’ve experienced New York City until you’ve ridden the subway. Besides, between the $30 per day cost of renting bikes in NYC and how intense our ride was yesterday, we opted to take the subway to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was also curious to compare taking the subway to taking the bike.
The Google Maps transit option recommended we take the A-C blue line from Penn Station to 86th, then walk across Central Park to the museum at 82nd and 5th Avenue. Buying subway tickets was fast, easy and not too expensive at $2.50. But Dick’s ticket wouldn’t open the turnstile, so he had to ask the ticket agent for help. Twice. Also, we had a hard time figuring out whether we should take the A and C lines. The fact that the subway didn’t having a system map posted in the station didn’t help.
But we made it to 86th Street and walked a pleasant 3/4 mile in light rain across Central Park to the museum. For the route back we walked to the East Side’s 77th St station and took the 6 line subway to 33rd and walked about a mile back to the hotel. Total walking: 2 miles.
Thinking back over our trip and comparing to our ride yesterday, which happened to take us past the museum, here’s my take on subway vs bike.
Time: Factoring out the lost time in the station it took us about 30 minutes on the subway. On the bike, the 3.2 miles would have taken about 15-20 minutes. Bike wins.
Comfort: On a bike with fenders, riding in light rain and walking are about the same. Sitting on a bike is more comfortable than standing on a crowded subway. Bike wins.
Mental stress: Riding a bike in city traffic, especially in the rain, is much more mentally stressful than the riding the subway. But the subway is LOUD. Not that the street is quiet either. Subway wins.
Physical stress: If you have foot problems that make walking difficult, note that the subway route requires significant walking, including stairs, so I had to wear comfortable walking shoes. On a bike I can wear heels, and on a bike I can comfortably carry more stuff: laptop, shopping bags, groceries, etc. Bike wins.
Reliability: Due to the number of riders it supports, the subway in NYC is very reliable. But if something halts the line, like a water main break, it can be long walk to an alternate line. On a bike on the street grid, there are almost always adjacent streets available if there’s a street closure. Bike wins.
Given the pros and cons above, which would you take: subway or bike? Does one factor trump all others?
Speaking of water main breaks, here’s my video of the break that almost kept us from using the subway.
With sunny skies and rain forecasted for later in the week, we hit the ground rolling on our first day in NYC. Not wanting our first pedal strokes to be in the heart of Midtown Manhattan during rush hour, we walked up 8th Avenue and rented bikes near Central Park. I’ve rented bikes in enough cities to keep expectations low, but I must say my “Mt Pocono” bike was the sorriest nag I ever swung a leg over. Nonetheless, Mt Pocono took me on an epic journey across 30 miles of noisy urban landscape.
The route took us through Central Park, up to the Upper West Side, down the Hudson River, through the Meat Packing, Greenwich Village and Financial Districts, across the Brooklyn Bridge to Brooklyn Heights, back across the Manhattan Bridge, through Chinatown, past Ground Zero and then back up the Hudson. We survived!
Of all the challenges we faced–cars, taxis, buses, pedestrians, double parked vehicles, navigation and bad pavement–you may be surprised at how we ranked them. The biggest challenge? Pedestrians. They stood, walked and ran in bike lanes, crossed streets against the light, and were willing to step right in front of not only bikes, but oncoming vehicle traffic. A close second was stopped vehicles, from taxis unloading passengers to delivery trucks to city vehicles. That video of the guy crashing in the bike lane was very accurate.
The surprising positive note were the cars, buses and even taxis–as long as they were moving. In general, they anticipated what you needed to do and would adjust accordingly. And they were cool when you wove through standing traffic or needed to take the lane to get around the all-to-common double parked vehicles. Another positive note was the way-finding signage the city has installed. It got us through almost everywhere, except the difficult Manhattan Bridge detour that dumps you onto the Bowery. That said, we’re not renting bikes again today. We need a mental break. Riding in NYC is INTENSE.
Where’s the most intense place you’re ever ridden?
Organized chaos or an unscripted symphony? The bike, scooter, car and foot traffic in this Amsterdam shopping district flows around obstacles like leaves on a stream. We drank our coffee and watched in amazement. Despite some close crossings, no one collided and we never heard honking or yelling. Pretty amazing since there are no stop signs or traffic signals, and there’s road construction to the left of the camera.
When I get back home and want to remember Amsterdam, I’ll grab a cup of coffee or glass of red wine, watch this video and be transported back to a rainy day with the traffic ballet. [see notes below to skip to the highlights]
Do you think this level of smooth interaction is possible in the US? Perhaps on a college campus?
Timecodes for interesting passersby
0:14 Two blondes on Dutch bikes; 0:18 Dad with kid in front seat; 0:37 Guy riding with cell phone; 0:57 Cyclists set up for full touring; 1:30-2:03 Fashionable women with boots, scarfs, mini-skirts; 2:52 Mom with toddlers in cargo bike; 2:50 Clueless male tourists; 5:48 Girl on bike walking dog; 5:50 Blonde with a cell phone; 6:26 Kid sitting on back rack
What we didn’t catch on video, but wish we had
Girls sitting sidesaddle on back racks of Dutch Bikes; Guy with cello on his back, resting it on his back rack; Guy with pink rollaboard suitcase on his front rack; Family on a triple tandem; Two moms with full cargo bikes stopping in the street to say hello; Guy helping his girlfriend fight the wind by pushing her back; Dad coaching 3-year-old on how to cross busy street.
Imagine a city filled with timeless, utilitarian bicycles with their own special charm. That city is Amsterdam.
[Click thumbnails for higher resolution photos]
If you could bring one of these bikes back to the States, which would you choose?
Last fall, when I told people I intended to ride my bike to work every day, I often got the response, “but what about the rain?” The truth was, I didn’t know if I would ride in the rain or not. I prefer to ride in my work clothes rather than carry them, but didn’t want to risk sitting around wet all morning. And I’m not brave enough to ride with an umbrella like people do in Amsterdam.
Thus I began my search for the elusive perfect cycling raincoat. The problem with most coats is that they are designed for walking, not sitting. When you sit, the coat spreads to expose your thighs–exactly where most of the rain hits you when cycling. I bought a vintage swing raincoat that’s full enough to cover my legs, but it’s a couple of sizes too big, and frumpy is not my thing. So I ended up using my standard poplin rain coat and settled for changing my pants to wool tights that stay warm when wet. An OK, but not ideal, solution.
So imagine my excitement when I found the perfect cycle-specific raincoat here in Amsterdam, with a special panel that protects the thighs when sitting. It’s made by Agu and runs large in case you want to buy it online.
And while I was on a roll, I found a few other awesome items, like these yellow panniers from Clarijs made from rain slicker material. I think they’ll look great on Zella, and will keep my groceries super dry.
I also found a rain cover for my saddle that should come in handy too. I appreciated it today when I came out of the Rijksmuseum to a dry saddle, unlike Dick who had to sit in the damp.
All this fab Dutch cycling gear almost has me looking forward to the California rainy season. Bring it on, El Niño!
Do you have anything special that you wear to ride in the rain or are you a fair weather rider?
With three days of Amsterdam cycling under our belts, we were ready to venture out after dark. Understanding the traffic rules was only part of the difficulty, it was also hard to navigate. For example, we couldn’t find a direct route to the Leidseplein, a popular eating and shopping district about a kilometer from our hotel. We kept riding in circles up and down canals trying to converge on our target.
But Friday night was Bike Date Friday night, so we had to risk it. We found the elusive direct route to the Leidesplein where we walked the square, had a tasty Dutch dinner, did a little window shopping, and pedaled back to the hotel through the Vondelpark with the unmistakable scent of marijuana in the air.
About Bike Date Friday: Since September 2010, my husband and I have had a standing date every Friday night. We eat at a different place every week and arrive by bike. There’s no better way to end the work week.