Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

16 July 2013

A First, But Not A Latest

According to sociologist E. Digby Baltzell, Philadelphia is a city of "firsts", Boston a city of "bests" and New York a city of "latests".

The last part of Baltzell's observation makes perfect sense if you ride along the Ocean Parkway bike lane, as I did today.

Many histories, and the New York City Parks Department, maintain that it is the country's first bike path.  Whether or not such a claim can be made for it, the five-mile ribbon of asphalt and concrete is almost certainly the oldest bike lane continuously designated for the purpose.

Baltzell's observation might well explain why I rode the entire length of Ocean Parkway in both directions and saw only one other cyclist.  Granted, the temperature reached 34C (94F), but one might expect to see people--whether or not they are "serious" cyclists--riding to Coney Island, at the southern end of the path.

But I rode in the morning, before the worst of the heat baked the path, so I would have expected to see more riders.  

Aside from the heat, I think one reason why there was only one other cyclist--and there weren't many more when I rode the path about two weeks ago--is that the younger and hipper cyclists are riding the newer bike lanes, like the ones along the East River in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and along the Hudson on the West Side of Manhattan.

Also, there are no Citibike ports anywhere near the Ocean Parkway lane.  The nearest ones, I believe, are at Prospect Park--at its northern end, near the Brooklyn Museum and Library.  Ocean Parkway begins at the southwestern end of the park, about two miles (three kilometers) away.  So, if one were to take a Citibike from the Prospect Park park, he or she would not be able to return it in time:  One-time renters must bring the bike back within half an hour, while those with annual memberships have 45 minutes.  Even if one is in shape to ride a major race, he or she would have great difficulty in riding to Coney Island (or even halfway there) and back, especially given that Citibikes are not built for speed.

In any event, I hope that the Ocean Parkway path is not forgotten.  I suspect that Citibike ports will be installed along its length, and in Coney Island itself.


  1. My daughter, living in Sunset Park, also told me that there are not many riders on this bike lane. I'm really surprised to read and hear that this is not frequented by more people.

  2. Chris--At least your daughter has ridden it. Many other cyclists in New York cannot say the same thing.

    Great to hear from you again!