It might seem strange that I write about urban cycling, as I live in a truly rural environment. I am, though a passionate cyclist and spent 25 years biking daily as a commuter in Manhattan, in all seasons and weather.
Before that, I biked in Toledo and Detroit. I always used a bike when I could. As a railroad employee, I carried my bike out to the middle of the Maumee River when I went to work at the night shift as a drawbridge operator.
I got to experience the major improvements in New York's biking environment when I was there in late September. When I lived there, biking was a dangerous sport. You learned to evolve a cab alert radar system and develop an enhanced vision movement detection system or die. I survived with only a few contusions and a dislocated shoulder...
Now, New York has added over 250 miles of bike lanes. A separate road system. To ride on Second Avenue to the intersection at Houston Street is pretty impressive.
The trails along the Hudson River, which enable you to ride unhindered from the Battery to above the George Washington Bridge is like being able to take a vacation in the midst of the urban insanity. I biked in comfort in places where years earlier, you almost had to cut your own trails anew each week.
It's fantastic that Manhattan has become a truly bike friendly place. Of course there are always those who resist change and cannot understand the necessity of pollution free and healthy city travel.
If you can't adapt, then the lanes seem to be a personal affront to your right to drive and park anywhere.
Then there was the protest by the Orthodox Jewish Community in Williamsburg who rejected the bike lanes because they brought scantily clad, sweating enthusiasts into their communities on the Sabbath.
I had a great ride in NYC along the Hudson using my buddy's new Elliptigo Cycle with no seat. I wouldn't recommend it for long distances, but we did a 30 mile ride and after a few awkward moments, I got the hang of it...I guess this is my "coming out" photo. Microdot on an Elliptigo.
Here are some other photos of the new bike lanes on the Williamsburg Bridge. The Bridge used to be a very scary place, in a constant state of disrepair and you never knew what you would find once you hauled your bike up the stairway....
Now you can ride your bike onto a beautiful lit bikeway suspended above the traffic and the subway cars.
But, New York is not alone as pioneering bike city.
It started in Amsterdam in the 60's with the idea of free bikes...an idea that of course was unsuccessful because it relied on the honesty of the people who took the free bikes.
I have seen the idea of urban "free bkes" working though. It started here in Lyon, France in the 90's.
Now with a little adjusting, there is a great Velolib System in Paris. The first half hour is free, you get a bike from a station using a credit card. Then you are charged a slight fee for any time over the half hour and damage.
I had a chance to take advantage of the system in Toulouse, which is turning into one of the most progressive green cities in France. The best new subway system, an extensive modern and green cheap bus system, a huge pedestrian oriented central city and a Velolib system which has been in use for 10 years now. The bikes are sturdy, with paniers built in for transport. They are a little heavy, but geared nicely. Toulouse is a relatively flat place so it's not a problem. Toulouse is also pioneering a energy generating sidewalk system which generates power by pedestrian traffic which is used for the street lights. On a dreary late fall day of nonstop rain and fog, I get pretty depressed. I am a solar powered being and I miss not being able to ride every day. I do try to ride when I can during the winter, but it's always an effort to psyche myself up. These memories go a long way to getting me fired up for some cold winter rides in the near future.