That Gentle Post-Apocalyptic Feeling

Saturday morning my friend Sacha called with a giddy edge to her voice. She was biking up Park Avenue, closed to car traffic for Summer Streets, and had just passed Grand Central Station.

“It’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced,” she shouted into her cell. “Miles of Park Avenue heading up to the Park, and nothing but bikes and pedestrians. Biking in New York with absolutely no fear!”

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photo via doddnyc/Flickr and Streets Blog

Now, I generally don’t mind the adrenaline rush of biking down Broadway, working my way between cabs and buses, but I wasn’t prepared for the euphoria to come when I took Sacha’s advice and started to bike uptown.

Nothing but bikes and pedestrians — and everyone smiling, glad to be alive? Kids on trikes, roller bladers with boom boxes and neon spandex, whole families on tandems and bicycles built for three. “Did you rent that?” I asked about the latter. “Oh, no,” the mother said with the deepest seriousness, her kid perched on the middle seat between her and her husband. “This one’s ours.” It felt like the morning after the apocalypse, venturing above ground and back into the streets with my fellow survivors.

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Heading north, I wasn’t sure where I would stop. At the bottom of the Park? No, 59th street came all too fast. At 72nd, where the ride up Park Ave. officially ended, I thought briefly about turning around and heading back downtown, but decided to ride over to the Park paths instead. Once there, I made the entire loop around the Park, something I’ve never done before, and exited again where I entered. The bikers in the Park seemed not to know that just off their hamster wheel was an open artery running straight downtown for miles, all the way to the Bridge.

The route is lined with volunteers warning you of the few upcoming required stoplights, or gently guiding bikes to one lane and runners and walkers to the other. Repair stands dot the blocks along with activities for kids, including helmet giveaways and bike care classes. The whole communal effort gives you something of the feel you get running or cheering for a marathon. But nothing quite matches the rush you’ll feel biking up the taxi ramp in front of Grand Central, heading smack up to the facade, working your way around to the East, then coasting down the hill behind, through the tunnel and into city sunlight.

Summer streets has one final installment Saturday the 23rd. Details here. Do you hear me, Mike Bloomberg? This thing better happen again next year and happen bigger!

Bottom photo via yyoyoni/Flikr

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