Last weekend I dusted off my road bike, pumped up the tires, and joined thousands of other New Yorkers for a local August right of passage: Summer Streets.
For three Saturdays each summer, the city closes Park Avenue – a wide, two lane boulevard that runs through the middle of the island – and welcomes bikers, runners, rollerbladers, and pedestrians of all types to enjoy a rare, trafficless stroll down what is typically one of Manhattan’s busiest streets. There are rest stops with free water and lemonade, sponsored booths providing everything from bike maintenance to fitness assessments, art installations, and even a farmers market. But the real spectacle is the event itself: seven miles of open road through tree-lined neighborhoods and cloud piercing skyscrapers.
Having just moved here, I was particularly excited to use this as an opportunity to get to know the city a little bit better. My activity the past two weeks has largely been restricted to where I work and live, and I haven’t had much time to get out to the other areas of town just yet. Mercifully, my road bike made it through the moving-truck experience unscathed and I was able to take it on a maiden voyage through the city streets. Thank goodness I was able to ease into it during this event, because I’m not sure I would have had the gumption to take it into Manhattan traffic cold turkey.
My favorite thing about Summer Streets? The people. A tidal wave of humanity descending on Park Avenue with the common goal of enjoying an active afternoon in the city. There were bike riders, rollerbladers, walkers, runners, scooters, jugglers, recumbent bikers, pogo-stick riders, and skate boarders. There were entire families, herds of small children, couples on dates, friends, and everything in between.
I even ran in to a bike riding bird. No really. Check it out.
My least favorite thing about Summer Streets? The people. The tidal wave of humanity that descended upon Park Avenue was overwhelming. In fact there were so many people, particularly closer to downtown, that became very difficult to ride a bike safely. Wobbly kids were weaving erratically to and fro on trikes. Adults who hadn’t been on two wheels in ages tested out their muscle memory, sometimes stopping in the middle of the oncoming crowd to adjust a seat or take a breather. Or, even better, take a selfie. We were all packed so tightly together that it made biking uncomfortable at times and nerve-wracking at others.
Next year, I’ll try going earlier in the morning when perhaps the streets aren’t as full. I had grand plans of biking across the Brooklyn Bridge when I got to the end of the course, but by that point I had officially had my full of biking en mass, so I turned around and enjoyed the seven mile trip back uptown.
Summer Streets is really a neat event and I have to tip my hat to the city for making it happen. It’s no small feat to close down a major artery of the city for hours, and the sheer number of volunteers and police in attendance was staggering. All of the participants seemed to be truly enjoying themselves; there was an abundance of smiles, waves hello, and head back, mouth-agape, awe-struck stares at the buildings towering above our heads. Despite the hassle, the dedication to creating an active space for New Yorkers to enjoy a fun and healthy afternoon is impressive and makes this fitness blogger one happy lady. Way to go NYC.
After making it back home safely, I payed a visit to one of the juice joints in my neighborhood for a snack. Fourteen miles isn’t the Tour de France, but it’s certainly not nothing either, and I was in the mood for a smoothie packed with greens to cap off my active morning. Luckily, I found just what I was looking for. There’s no shortage of smoothie and juice places in New York City – you can get them everywhere from shiny brand name franchises to tiny hole-in-the-wall bodegas. I’ve been here less than three weeks and have already sampled five different varieties. Guilty! But there are worse things to be gobbling up on the regular, like those delicious black + white cookies beckoning to me on my walk to work every day.
So, a Saturday of bike rides down Park Avenue in the morning and great big green smoothies in the afternoon? Oh yes, I think I’m going to like it here.