This past weekend, Transportation Alternatives had the pleasure of providing Bike Valet Parking for Bike New York’s big bike expo. (Thanks, Ken Podziba!)
We parked 3,000 bikes! When i saw this scene I thought immediately of the sea of bikes outside Centraal Railway Station in Amsterdam. It’s a spitting image, right?
I would really love to have your help in our move from park slope to cobble hill this Saturday! the first shift of fun starts at 9am in park slope (587 11th street) ; second shift at noon in cobble hill (37 douglass) . we’ll be wrapping up around 4pm for beers and brats. In addition to beers and brats (did i mention beers and brats?) you may also receive a special magic spell from wizardress Anna Jane, promise of future favor, and quality hand-me-down bike stuff. if you just want to stop by either location and lend supervision and moral support, we’d love to see you!
In town to promote his family’s wines, on Sunday morning, April 21, cycling legend Franesco Moser rode north from Manhattan’s Central Park, across the George Washington Bridge, over the Hudson River into New Jersey, up the Palisades’ scenic River Road and to the destination where Lance Armstrong, Erik Zabel and other cycling dignitaries always seem to end up when visiting the Big Apple: Bunbury’s coffee shop in Piermont, New York.
Accompanying Moser on the 65 mile ride was his son, Carlo, and local NYC oenophile and fellow wheelman, Marco Pasanella. They were joined by 42 members of Transportation Alternatives, including local professional cyclist and bike advocate Neil Bezdek. Transportation Alternatives is a New York City transportation advocacy group founded in 1973 to “reclaim the city from the automobile and promote cycling, walking and public transportation” .
The ride, which ended back in Manhattan at Pasanella and Son, Vintners in South Street Seaport, raised over $5,000 for Transportation Alternatives’ efforts to win better bike lanes and safer streets throughout the five boroughs. Says Transportation Alternatives’ Executive Director, Paul Steely White, “We definitely slowed ‘Lo Sceriffo’ down today! But it was for a good cause. It’s a testament to the strong state of modern bike advocacy that a world renown champion like Franceso Moser is lending his star power to local fights for safe streets.”
Franceso Moser and Transportation Alternatives member Neil Bezdek at Bunbury’s (behind them are photos of Lance Armstrong and Erik Zabel sitting on the same bench) photo: Haig Marino
Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White, Franceso Moser, and Transportation Alternatives Board Member, George Beane, at the post ride tasting at Pasanella and Son, Vintners
jttarleton asked: Hey Paul ,Hope this finds you well. I work with Urban Omnibus, a publication of the Architectural League of New York on cities and design. In our Roundup this week, where we touch on relevant topics in news of the city, we'll of course be highlighting the first bike share dock rollouts, and your photo is one of the best out there at the moment. Would you allow us to use the image in your recent post, crediting you and linking back to the tumblr? Many thanks for your assistance, Jonathan
of course! but pls just credit “Transportation Alternatives” thanks!
photo courtesy Harry Zernike of 9Wmag
“Woman Bicycle Power!” yelled a spectator in the crowd with an accent I couldn’t place. I looked over and saw that she was about my age and aiming her words and motherly smile at some racer lined up behind me.
I turned around and a few rows back spotted 19-year-old Olympian Ingrid Drexel. A beautiful Ingrid smiled back to the stands and waved, looking like a happy daughter who was a tad embarrassed. Of the eight women in the qualifier, four were here at the start line with me waiting for the start bell. Kacey Manderfield Lloyd, winner of the first Red Hook Crit back in 2008, was right behind me, seeded 50th. A few laps into the race Kacey would speed by me and eventually finish 36th.
The race started. Lap 1 of 24 total laps. I clipped in and mashed the pedals as hard as I could. The accelerating pack squeezed around the first turn like a school of angry fish darting around a reef. I was trying to get to the front. At the pre race dinner the night before, I managed to corner 2012 Red Hook Crit winner Dan Chabanov. Since he wasn’t racing this year,* I thought I might tap him for some pointers. “Get to the front early”. Easy for him to say.
I was counting on my newfound fitness to bring me to the front. I hadn’t felt as light or strong on the pedals since my 1998 northern India bike trip, when I was 180 lbs thanks to a combination of 110 degree heat, 80 miles a day up Himalayan foothills, and a stubborn stomach parasite. 13 years and countless IPAs later, in 2011, I topped out at a portly 225. A few T.A. board members and some friends actually commented on what a “dumpling” I had become. At first I was a silently offended, especially at the person who said, “it’s not becoming for the ED of Transportation Alternatives to be so rotund.”
I went to the doctor and found out that in addition to being obese, my blood pressure was high. I started with the obvious: riding more, often squeezing in a few Prospect Park laps before or after my commute to work, and juicing and eating a lot more greens. I also joined siggi’s nyvelocity and learned a lot about proper training.
Fitness is only part of what you need to win a race, especially this one. With the dense pack elbow-to-thigh and everyone jostling for position I began to lose my nerve at the second and third corners. Behind my nerves was my embarrassing crash history. The broken arm at 7 while literally chasing a girl in upstate New York. The shattered hip at 35 riding through late-night Williamsburg. The near severed finger at 42 in a Prospect Park race.
Kacey zoomed past me on one of those early laps, weaving her way forward like a heat seeking needle. I tried to follow her but felt clumsy and slow. I stopped going all-out with the rationalization that I could surf wheels to the front after the race thinned out a bit. My cowardly plan didn’t work.
photo courtesy Brendan Gray
I only managed to stay in the race though thanks to the good wheel of Bill Ash, a strong 23-year-old from Philly with an amazingly aero riding position and fluid pedal stroke. He was in arrears with the likes of me only because he got caught behind an early crash. Bill was now riding hard and wanted me to ride harder so we could have a chance of moving up. But I was already riding at my limit. Bill kept gesturing for me to take a turn in front and do some work but I couldn’t. Every so often he would spit, not bothering to spit downward as etiquette commands but up and out and into the wind. I felt the slippery spray on my beard. Did he do that on purpose? I didn’t care.
The hurt in my legs was now creeping to the rest of my body. I went with a 50 x 15 gear ratio this year, a bit taller than the 49 x 15 I ran last year. Dumb move. My legs were leaden. When would this end? I saw a woman in the stands with black hair cut like my sister Christina. I remembered her counsel from our lunch earlier that day: you have all the oxygen your body needs. It’s ok. Just breathe.
I looked into the crowd again. Way more people than last year. A few days later, ESPN would dub the Red Hook Crit “strangest, hippest, greatest bicycle race in America”. And maybe the loudest. Every cowbell clang heralded the post Sandy return of Red Hook and you could feel it. The crowd was loving us, and we pressed and boomeranged that love back through the pedals and the turns. The crowd loved us more. It was a 1.2 km feedback loop. Or particle accelerator. At every corner there were flash bulbs going off and friends were yelling my name. It felt so good. Now I didn’t want it to end.
photo courtesy Anthony Benavides
Bill and I caught up to three other riders, including a still very strong looking Mattie Davitt from Kissena. Despite our group now working together (including me doing a few short pulls) we were not going to catch the front group. But we could now hope to finish, which at the Red Hook Crit is a supreme honor.
Around lap 21 David Trimble yelled through his megaphone: “You can finish this race! You CAN finish this race!” .
And then a bit later I heard the motor creeping up behind me. I heard a beep, which I thought meant that it was time for me to pull over because we had been lapped. I did not want to repeat my mistake at the qualifier. I slowed down, pulled over and stopped. Oops. the guys i was riding with would go on to be the proud last finishers in the race.
I was a spectator now as I watched Neil throw up his arms in victory, then take his victory lap. It was his win, but he had won enough bike races to know how to do it well. On the podium he represented Red Hook, and maybe a much larger group of riders, strivers and city folk who love their bikes and their neighbors. We were all up there with him.
* After winning the Crit a total of three times, Dan was sitting this one out but taking lots of heat from friends and fans, prompting him to tweet, “I think I got less shit for dropping out of college then I did for not racing the #redhookcrit” The word is that Dan and Neil are both racing the Red Hook Crit Navy Yard on June 8.
April Stations bring May Rotations! First #bikenyc #citibike stations planted in BedStuy.
Lining up to do battle: Addison Zawada, Matt Davitt, and me. (photo courtesy Marc Agger)
After my double diss to the Davids Trimble and Vollbach, I was happy to get off the course and out of sight. But before I could even settle into a good solitary sulk, I saw a smiling Mark Gorton.
I met Mark when I first started at T.A. back in 2004. Besides laying out a vision for many of our big street transforming breakthroughs the last several years, and giving many $millions to bike boosting and car reclaiming causes in NYC, the US and the world, he’s also been a good friend, spending some bro time by my bedside, for example, when I was laid up six years ago with a shattered hip. A lot has been said & written about Mark: Visionary activist. Subversive techie. Wall Street Wunderkid. Whatever, Mark has the bike gene, double dominant. We had plans to chill out between the qualifier and the big race later that night.
“How did it go?” he asked. As we walked our bikes towards the culinary delights of Van Brunt Street, we ran into some guys who confirmed the results via iphone: I did not qualify. It was the news I both dreaded and silently hoped for: I would not have to race that night. It was for the best. I was still wrestling with the fear of crashing, and the image of my lovely little Anna Jane weeping last year when I injured my finger in a Prospect Park race was still seared somewhere deep in my head.
What was I doing out there anyway with the likes of recent Monstertrack champ and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s stunt double, Austin Horse, and other racers less than half my age? The day before, perusing the race favorite page at redhookcrit.com, my heart sank a bit when I read about twenty-year-old Addison Zawada:
[Addison is] a serious competitor who knows how to win. He has that ‘youth’ strength that can’t be earned no matter how hard all the 30 somethings train.
What about the 40 somethings? I had spent the last few months shoehorning morning workouts in Prospect Park trying to earn that strength, dammit! Maybe it was the natural order of things to go to dinner and drink beer with my 40 something friends than try to hang with Austin and Addison. I called Zoe to break the news. She was tender and supportive as ever but there was deep relief in her voice.
Then I ran into Vollbach. He had bloody knees and arms but was grinning ear to ear. I practically laid myself at his feet. Oh my god David I am so sorry! What had I done? He conceded he was probably going too slow and inside in that turn. I said no, I was riding out of control trying to stay in Neil’s wheel. We met somewhere in the middle and did a bro hug. He qualified and would be racing. I would not know until later that I had fractured his collarbone. In characteristic form, later David would tell me, “Crashes break bones, not friendships. Cheesey but true.”
As we neared the exit, I ran into some others who gave me some jaw dropping news: I had in fact notched the 45th best time of the qualifying rounds, putting me in the top half of the 100 starting riders. A whipsawed mix of fear and joy welled up in my gut. I felt just like going around that hairpin turn. I would be racing after all.
After a light dinner with Mark and some other pals I headed back to the course, ready to do battle. It was packed. It looked like twice as many people as last year. Later, aerial photos would confirm that 8,000 spectators were there to see what the Red Hook Crit was all about. I went to my hard-earned spot in the line-up, spot #45. Next to me at #44 I saw a tatted out and thunder thighed Matthew Davitt from Kissena. To my left in #43, I saw none other than Addison Zawada. Oh shit! These kids looked strong. I was feeling fearful and began retreating into my thoughts and then I heard my name. “Paul!” it was Marc Agger, a Transportation Alternatives Advisory Council member. Ever on the front lines, and sometimes drawing them, Marc was there reveling in it all. He took our picture as I was trying to get a grip on the mayhem that was about to ensue.
“Paul White! Get off the course NOW!” Being publicly berated at bull horn volume by David Trimble was humiliating, but not the worst part of my short pre-race qualifying round for the 2013 Red Hook Crit.
About 30 seconds earlier I crashed into Kissena Cycling Club’s David Vollbach, effectively separating his shoulder. Both Davids were friends, and both had selflessly helped me with my advocacy work at Transportation Alternatives in the past year. With a field of top local and international talent, I was pretty sure that I would ultimately lose that night’s race. What I didn’t anticipate was losing valued friends before the real race even began.
trying to keep Neil’s wheel during the qualifier
The qualifying round was new this year. 200 contenders were grouped into four qualifying groups of fifty riders each. Judged by our single fastest lap time notched during 30 minutes of spinning around the course, only the fastest 100 riders would advance to that night’s big race. 30 minutes was enough time to get in several laps, but only one—our fastest— would count.
I was pretty confident that I would qualify. I was feeling fitter than last year, and I had an ace up my sleeve named Neil Bezdek. Two-time Red Hook Crit winner and professional level rider, Neil was heavily favored to win later that night. Our friendship, forged by our respective interest in bicycle advocacy, meant that if I played my cards right I could draft behind him during his fastest qualifying lap, easing my way into a top starting position for that night’s race. That was the idea, anyway.
Our qualifying group started at 5:45pm with warm-up laps. Neil said he was dropping back, making some space between him and the others before trying an unfettered fast lap. Or maybe he was just trying to tell me to get lost because he didn’t want a Fred like me glomming onto him, cramping his style or his qualifying time.
I decided to try a fast lap of my own, attaching myself to a group of passing Italian riders led by Milano’s legendary Francesco Martucci. I hung on but would not know until later if that lap was good enough to qualify. No matter. I had now reconnected with Neil and he said that after we took a few recovery laps from my hard effort, it was time for us to go for it.
The most technical part of the twisty 1.25 km course is the hairpin turn near the end. After rounding the hairpin at casual speed, Neil told me it was time to hit the gas so that we started our fast lap at full speed. My legs were already hurting as I followed Neil across the starting bump. Halfway through our lap I was barely managing to stay on his wheel. I dug as deeper as we zoomed down the straightaway approaching the hairpin. Slowing down for that hairpin is the hardest part of the course. Because fixed gear track bikes don’t have proper brakes, you only slow down by applying leg-searing pressure backward into the pedals.
We leaned hard into the turn. I cut it clumsier and a bit later than Neil, giving me a wider line after the apex. I saw another rider on my right, but misjudged his speed. He was doing a slow lap. I crashed into him with my right shoulder, giving him a hard glancing blow. I looked ahead and saw Neil sprinting away out of the saddle and to the line. I looked back to my victim, a guy in a Kissena jersey. I saw legs, arms, bike and maybe a little blood all jumbled in a blurry abstract mess. Just short of the finish line, I pulled over to barriers in shock, wondering who I just took out. It was Vollbach. That is when Trimble yelled at me through the bull horn. Stopping on the course was prohibited, dumb, and a sure fire way to cause another crash. I slunked away sure that my race was over before it even began…
Stay tuned for part II, featuring:
* A crazy plot twist that puts me back in the race
* David Vollbach racing with a separated shoulder
* Guts, glory and much, much more…
The Daily News editorial board says the letters they print are representative of the letters they get. Over past 3 days, they’ve printed 7 pro biking and safe streets letters in response to Denis Hamill’s morbidly nostalgic “I Hate Bike Lanes” rant. So far, no letters supporting Hamill’s plea for a return to the good old days when bike lanes didn’t mar the deadly dangerous streets of yesteryear.
Here are the letters printed today from some friendly neighborhood New Yorkers:
Brooklyn: Re Denis Hamill’s anti-cycling screed (“Wheely lame lanes,” column, Jan. 30): Every day, I ride my bike from Smith St. across Jay St. to Tillary, where I must swerve in and out of designated bike lanes to avoid cars double-parked outside the courthouse. I am certainly not alone. According to a Hunter College study, there’s a 60% chance a cyclist will obstructed by a car in a bike lane. Yet never have I seen a police officer ticketing a car in one of those lanes. Cyclists should be applauded as part of the solution to climate change, not subjected to harassment or intimidation. Benjamin Shepard
Brooklyn: To Denis Hamill: I am a 34-year-old woman who rides a bike on a daily basis. I am not wealthy. I am not a kid. If a bike lane enrages you because it is a reminder that you need to share the road with others, I am not sorry. Driving a car clearly has not made you an adult. Laura MacNeil
Manhattan: Re Denis Hamill’s column: I must ask when bicycling become an act of privilege. While a few cyclists might fall into the category of those traveling “Hipster Highway,” most of us are taking the healthy and frugal path to work, school and recreation. Pedestrians who are not cyclists benefit, too, from shortened street crossings and reduced auto speeds on streets with bike lanes. Shouldn’t safety and frugality for all be prioritized over the expensive and privileged automobile? Joseph Borkowski
last time i met with the Daily News editorial board, they said that the letters they print are representative of all the letters they receive on a particular topic. this week, the News has printed FOUR pro bike letters in response to Denis Hamill’s “I hate bike lanes” screed, and ZERO anti bike letters. Who has Denis’ back on bike hate? Not many, apparently.
Vicious cycles I
Astoria: In “Wheely lame lanes” (Jan. 30), Denis Hamill paints a picture of the good ol’ days when he was a delivery boy, toughened up by a lack of bike lanes and an increase in scrapes. He ridicules safety equipment (“kids dressed like hockey goalies”) and complains that sheltered, helmeted kids are overly protected. As a helmeted adult who rides both in bike lanes and with traffic, I can assure Hamill that the city is still a dangerous place for cyclists, made worse by reckless drivers (and writers) who mock bike safety. I’ve got the MRIs and X-rays to prove it. Miles Kahn
Vicious cycles II
Brooklyn: Drivers of personal automobiles who make a point of regularly driving in our city and then decry the utilization of our public ways for other means of travel do not deserve even one-tenth of the column inches the Daily News has inked for them these last few years. Get over it. This city was built and is kept alive by people, not cars, and certainly not by solo commuter drivers. James Nadeau
Vicious cycles III
Brooklyn: I read with dismay Denis Hamill’s column in which he says children should face vehicular injury and/or death just to make a political point about his personal displeasure with bike lanes. I am shocked at such hateful, threatening language directed at kids. What is wrong with him? Joanna Oltman Smith