or google SWIM maps.
I always take the Brooklyn Bridge to work, but after a frustratingly tourist-soaked commute yesterday, I’m trying to find a good route from the Manhattan Bridge. Well, google maps helped me find one…right up the East River.
It’s beta alright. I’ll stick with ridethecity.com.
I have biked over many bridges. I have biked over the Queensboro Bridge, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the Tappan Zee, the Kosciuszko, the Brooklyn Bridge. Over covered bridges in Vermont, over uncovered bridges in Hungary. But until tonight, I had never biked over the Manhattan Bridge.
And, look, I know this is old news, I know everyone else goes over it twice a day, knows its ups and downs, its curves and bumps, but man!–what a bridge. I warn you: this is an ode.
The Manhattan Bridge: so different from the Brooklyn Bridge’s steep climb, where you have to push up and up to prove something to tourists who don’t care and just wish you’d let them take their photo without running them down. (But you will run them down if they step over that line.) So different from the Brooklyn Bridge, with its deceptively friendly wooden-slat path and open views of Lady Liberty.
No, the Manhattan Bridge–it’s for real. The gradual slope, so that you don’t have to throw yourself over the side in shame when some guy on a fixie speeds by you. The view–oh, the view–of neon-lit curtains draped over the windows of the high rise buildings. I saw bedroom windows, beds in bedrooms-–the white comforter, rumpled–a TV on. You bike by the bedrooms, then the world opens up and your wire-gridded view turns down on three kids walking through a parking lot. And graffiti. Remember that? Weird metal work, strange stone arches. The dark unlit patch before more streaky neon.
And throughout: not a single pedestrian ducking and dodging with a camera and seven children. Just the cool night and the rush of the Q train and the smell, then the sound, then the sight of the garbage train heading home.
image from flickr user josh michtom
…is today! Though I really didn’t see all that many more bikers out on the streets than usual.
Transportation Alternatives had a table at the Brooklyn tower of the bridge. They were giving out apples, power bars, coffee, and lots of pamphlets. They were very friendly. In fact, it sounded exactly like they had just come from a meeting where someone informed them that bikers love to talk about their commutes and told them to “ask questions!” and “get people talking!” I was asked twice where I worked. I was asked where I was coming from and what my route was. And you know what? I love talking about my commute. I really did launch into the whole thing about how sometimes I take the west side bike path and sometimes I take 8th avenue and…. Then I asked my interrogator what her bike commute was like. “I work from home,” she said.
But a friendly interaction in the morning really does make a difference. It totally sets the mood for the rest of the ride and for the day. It’s not like on the subway, where if you run into someone you know you’re stuck making yawn-filled small talk for the next thirty minutes, until you transfer to the express just so that you can sit down and read your book. (I’m sure I’m not the only one who does that, right?) When you’re biking you can have a quick smile, a quick conversation, and move on. That’s nice. So yeah, I’d be happy if TA volunteers were out there every morning to cheer me on and ask me questions from a script.