Although the dates have yet to to be announced, I am already planning for Summer Streets 2013. Summer Streets is a highlight of the summer because to put it simply, we bike and eat our way through one of the greatest cities in the world! Most people ride their bikes, but there are walkers, runners, skateboarders and strollers as well.
2013 will be our fourth year participating in this event. It is usually held on the first, second and third Saturday in August in Manhattan. The route, which goes from the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, up Park Avenue, all the way to Central Park is closed to traffic from 7:00 am to 1:00 pm. There are side streets that run cross ways to Park Avenue. A great majority of these streets are closed where they intersect Park, but there are a few that are open. They are staffed by NYC police or competent volunteers, which manage the flow of traffic and cyclists.
We drive to downtown Brooklyn from our home in New Jersey and find a place to park our car for the day. We are usually just blocks from the bridge and are able to use bike lanes in Brooklyn to get to the bridge. Then starts our ascent on the Bridge. It is a bit of a workout, but just a bit if you are in moderately good shape. This is one of my favorite parts of the trip. It is fun to immerse one self in the culture of the walking, working , travelling hordes of city dwellers and tourists. The lanes on the bridge for walkers and bikers are clearly marked and separate. However, there are many more walkers than bikers and sometimes the walkers absentmindedly meander into the bike lane, so careful riding of your bike is essential. Truly an urban experience not to be missed, complete with great views.
As with many large, planned gatherings in NYC, there are usually protestors, or others trying to make a point about one thing or another. This event is wonderfully apolitical and free from hecklers. It seems to be a day where the city comes together for the love of the great outdoors. Yes, great outdoors in Manhattan! It is amazing how differently you see the city when you are on bike, as opposed to whizzing by in a car or sitting glumly in traffic.
Some of the fun scenery that was seen from our bikes:
One of our traditions is to stop at Liquiteria Juice bar in the East Village. We get off of the route for just a few blocks to get a delicious smoothie at this long standing institution of healthy and delicious items. At this point in the day, it is usually 11:00am and we are ready for a little post breakfast fuel.
The problem with having had a green tea in the morning and a large smoothie in the mid-morning…is well, I am sure you can guess. One thing that is in short supply are bathrooms. This absolutely lovely Episcopal church allowed me to use their bathrooms. I am indebted to their kindness.
It is our goal to reach Central Park by 1:00PM. That is when the “clock strikes” and it is back to business as usual. We get through the park and then find a place to have lunch. This is usually the pinnacle of the day. We happened upon a great little restaurant called Hummus Place on Amsterdam Ave and 71 St. It was on a corner and thus open on two sides. We were able to park our bikes right outside and sit at a table right on the edge of the restaurant. Perfection in terms of location, ease of bike storage, delicious food and welcoming service. An added plus was the fantastic sangria. Being already “drunk” with nature and good vibes, my husband suggested we share a pitcher! Knowing that we had to deal with traffic and be alert for the remainder of the trip, I gave him a resounding NO. But I did enjoy one glass.
Part of our route over to the West Side was going through this boat house:
After lunch, we ride along the water on the west side of Manhattan. At this point, we are mostly on designated bike paths and parks, so there is little interaction with cars, that is, until we have to venture slightly inward to get back to the Brooklyn Bridge.
Being a little tired at this point makes the Brooklyn Bridge seem something more to be “conquered” than enjoyed, yet it is still pleasant. If time allows, we have dinner at The River Deli.
The River Deli, is not a deli at all, but a small, very casual restaurant run
by natives of Sardinia. http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/river-deli/.
It is the perfect end point to our day of riding and feasting. There are no airs here and the lack of airs is what allows me to throw a sundress over my bike shorts, use a few wipes on my neck and arms and walk right in.
After this early dinner, we get in our car and drive home, planning and hoping to participate either next week or next year.
Tips if you go:
1. Wear sunscreen and don’t forget a hat and sunglasses.
2. Consider bringing a lightweight ‘string’ back pack for any goodies you may collect on your trip. It is especially good for picking up a few goodies at the Union Square Greenmarket.
3. We’ve never brought a bike lock with us, but consider bringing one if you want to stop and go in places where you won’t be able to see your bike.
4. Leave a cooler in your car filled with ice and some water bottles, it is a welcome gift to yourself when you are finished your tour of NYC.
5. Start your tour from downtown Brooklyn and ride over the bridge. Although not part of the designated route, it adds greatly to the experience.
For more information, check out : http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/summerstreets/html/home/home.shtml