Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Route 9W

Those of us in New York City who feel the frustration of dealing with red lights every tenth of a mile and a world-class levels of automobile congestion, there is always Rt 9W, and Nyack.

It's easy to get to. Ride up Manhattan in a leisurely warm-up pace via the West Side Bike Path or Central Park, and cross the George Washington Bridge. If you're sentimental, take a moment to appreciate the feeling of being hundreds of feet over a mile-wide river.

There, in New Jersey, is the ride for area cyclists. Oh, there are other rides and other routes of course, but Nyack is the quick and easy choice. It's as close as you can get. The road is well-paved with a generous shoulder. There are lengthy flats, a few rolling hills with short climbs and quick descents that make for enjoyable terrain.

When out there you will see other cyclists. Hordes of them. Impromptu pacelines may form amongst strangers - we exchange a few words of greeting and rely on our common language: a flick of an elbow, a sweep of the hand. If you flat, whether or not you're alone, somebody will slow and ask if you've got everything you need.

And I'm quite certain that car drivers are used to seeing so many cyclists, in groups, gaily dressed in our tight, colorful finery, that it's generally safer to ride there - even while cars fly by at 55+ mph - than it is in many other places.

So it comes with discomfort to hear the news of a terrible crash a few days ago, that left a cyclist being treated while in a medically-induced coma. Details are scarce; several days ago I had heard the rider's description in an effort to identify him.

Best wishes to Camille Savoy, and to everybody else on the road. And a reminder - carry identification and emergency contact numbers. And, among the thrill of 29 mph pacelines and 50mph descents, ride with a healthy sense of self-preservation. The fewer ghost bikes that are installed, the better.

And it should go without saying that those of you who are bi-curious in your transportation choices: when you get behind the wheel of a car, take care. Your sense of safety is dulled by your steel armor and the ease with which pressure on the pedal translates to acceleration. The people on the outside - in our neighborhoods, on our streets - are at risk.

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