If you’re in New York City on Sunday, Aug. 22, don’t be surprised. Yes, those are thousands of bike riders pedaling across the five boroughs.
It happens once a year, something like the appearance of cicadas.
But this time it’s going to be extra-special because the TD 5 Boro Bike Tour skipped a year. We all know why. Now, you’re going to have “only” 20,000 bikers instead of 32,000, swooshing down Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, dashing around Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza, Rider Avenue in the Bronx, Queens Plaza, and Hylan Boulevard in Staten Island.
The race has taken place in May since it began in 1977, but for many Covid reasons, and a shortened Staten Island ferry schedule, it’s going on now, with somewhat fewer cyclists. And there’s still time to be part of it: registration closes Aug. 13. Check it out at bike.nyc.
Ken Podziba, the fervent head of Bike New York, is beaming. For the resumption of the wide event means bike education, his baby, continues.
“This is the largest cycling event in the United States,” he explains. “We use the proceeds for bike education, free to mostly underserved New Yorkers.”
His organization has centers in city parks, teaching adults on weekends, and younger folks after school and in the summer. They learn balancing and rules of the road. Bike New York also has a program for the formerly incarcerated, teaching them bike mechanics.
The 40 miles of city streets, roads and bridges that the bikers straddle is a remarkable undertaking. And there are special rewards this year—sno-cones at the five rest stops and the finish site on Staten Island.
This massive cycling event—only one in South Africa is larger in the world—crosses five bridges and starts at 7:30 in the morning. If you want to pick a spot to watch—or join in—go to the bike.nyc website.
This moveable feast has little relation to its debut, when a grand total of 250 bikers showed up, and were escorted over the city’s streets by police cars in front and behind.
Back then the city wasn’t very bike-friendly. But during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s reign, dedicated bike lanes were installed, with the idea to cut down vehicular traffic and also give riders some freedom.
Now there are more than 500 miles of protected lanes among 1,300 miles of bike lanes in the five boroughs. It is a major reason there are more than half a million cycling trips daily in the Big Apple’s five boroughs.
The Five Boro ride also is quite inclusive—it absorbs people of all demographics and ethnicity. Diversity is one of its rewards as well as standards. As you pedal through, say, a largely Hispanic neighborhood you’ll hear music popular at 12 different spots. Same through other neighborhoods where you might hear rap or jazz.
One thing distinctly different about this year’s ride is mask-wearing—not during a ride, of course, but for those massing at the start in Tribeca, or spending time together at a rest stop, or when the adventure is over near the new Staten Island Mall.
“If I had one word to describe it,” says Ken, “it’s ‘fun.’” And he adds,
“The beauty of it is that it’s not a race—it’s a ride.”