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May 11, 2022 / bikesbytesbites

Five Boro Bike Tour

(Ok, posted somewhat late. The tour happened on May 1.)

For many years I have marshalled at the Five Boro Bike Tour. I usually ask for a position in lower Manhattan, so that, once my volunteer shift is done, I have a chance to ride the route, or most of it. I did the same thing this year.

I was assigned to a team in Manhattan South, Team SoHo. A few days before the event, the team co-captain, Matt, texted me. We had a nice conversation, and I picked the corner I wanted to work at, Sixth Ave and Greenwich Ave/8th St. My job, with one other person, would be to allow pedestrians to safely get across Sixth Ave, by stopping the flow of bicyclists when there was a lull in the flow.  To do the job, I left the meetup/breakfast place, Duarte Square at Sixth Ave and Canal Street, carrying a stop sign, a bright red banner, and a whistle. All proved useful.  The corner was easier to control than corners I’ve previously covered since there was no vehicular traffic; at 14th St and 6th Ave, for example, we needed to sometimes allow police and emergency vehicles through.  The job was also easier than in previous years because there were more start waves: six, rather than four, taking up an extra hour.  Consequently, the bicyclists were more spread out, so it was easier to find “lulls” to get the pedestrians (and bicyclists who wanted to go cross town) across. (There is actually a subway stop a few blocks away, at West Fourth, but you need a metrocard to get from the uptown side to the downtown side, ie, to cross (under) the street).

At the expected time (10:30) the last wave started.  A little sooner than anticipated (10:45/10:50), Matt came by, telling us it was ok to leave our posts and start riding.  So, I headed up Sixth Ave. I had just dropped off my stop sign and red banner at the designated point (the corner of Sixth Ave and Central Park South/59th St), when I received a phone call I was expecting.  Peter, a friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen in years, was in town and planned to do the tour. His plan was to start riding at 10 AM near where he was staying, 100th St on the Upper West Side. We had arranged for him to call me when he was approaching the Ed Koch aka Queensborough Bridge. Given our respective starting times, I figured that if he did the entire ride (through northern Manhattan, the Bronx, and down the FDR Drive), and I skipped the part north of the QB Bridge, we could probably meet up.  That turned out to be a good prediction! We met at the Trek tent in Astoria Park (a visible landmark), and he only had to wait for me for about 10 minutes.

We rode the rest of the ride together. I stopped once (on the approach to the Pulaski Bridge) to say hello to a friend who was the captain of that team and happened to be checking on her team members on the bridge at that very moment! We bypassed the remaining rest and water stops.  As usual, I enjoyed going through the ever changing neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn (Navy Yard, Williamsburg) and riding on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. The Verrazzano Bridge was a bit windy but the ride went smoothly. We then went around the back side of Fort Wadsworth (new route, since we weren’t going through the fort) until rejoining the traditional route on Bay Street.

View of Manhattan from the Alice Austen House

Peter had bought a VIP ticket, so we were definitely going to stop at the Festival so he could have his VIP lunch. The Festival, at the Empire Outlets Mall, was a bit chaotic (what? no VIP bicycle parking?), but signage was fairly good. We found the VIP lunch on the upper (4th level), but I wasn’t even allowed in!  (Peter reported that the food, a hot lunch, was excellent, except for the chocolate chip cookie.) Instead, I went down a level, got my bag lunch from Volunteer Check-In, and ate at a sunny spot on that level.  There was a vendor booth set up near there. It happened to be for a vendor that I know and love, Cleverhood. I went over to say hello and ended up with a nice pair of free socks. Peter then joined me, and we headed for the line for the ferry.

Alas, there was no special line either for VIPs or volunteers.  When we got on line, I guessed that we would be there for an hour. After about 50 minutes, another ferry started loading, and the line advanced rapidly. I thought we would get on that boat but, no: when the line stopped moving, we were in the second row of bicyclists still waiting.  Sigh. Another 20 minutes.  But then I happened to look up at the four people who were managing ferry boarding: one of them was another old friend, Steve, that I hadn’t seen for many years.  So, I ducked under the barrier rope to say hello for a few minutes, until he had to get back to his ferry duties.

Bicycle Parking and the Line to Get into the Festival

Peter and I got on the next boat, careful to sit on the side of the ferry that would have a good view of the Statue of Liberty. (He got a great picture.) We got to the ferry terminal in Manhattan a little after six.  We said goodbye and I headed for Brooklyn, while Peter headed for the Upper West Side.  I finished the day with a ride on the bike lane recently added to the Brooklyn Bridge followed by the “usual” ride to Gowanus. (I used to avoid the Brooklyn Bridge — too crowded –and take the Manhattan Bridge.)

A great day!

Marshal Vest and FBBT Medal

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