22 August 2016

A Season In The Boogie Down?

My academic year begins on Thursday.  Today I rode to the college for a meeting and workshops.  

Through the Spring semester (which began a couple of days after a blizzard struck this city), I saw gradually-increasing numbers of cyclists on the RFK Memorial Bridge lane and on Randall's Island on my way to the college.  I saw a similar slow but steady increase in the number of bikes parked in the racks on the college campus, and along the streets surrounding it.  Those increases, of course, could be attributed to the warming weather.  

So, perhaps, it was no surprise to see more cyclists crossing the bridge than I've ever seen on a weekday.  Some looked like they were riding for fun or fitness, but others seemed to be on their way to work or some other obligation.  More than a few, I'm sure, were motivated by the the clear skies and mild temperature, and not deterred by the brisk wind.  Then again, that wind some of them across the island and bridge as I pedaled into it.  

It also wasn't a surprise to see only two other bikes in the racks.  No doubt there will be more once classes begin.  I wonder how many students, faculty and staff will continue to ride as the season grows colder, and possibly wetter.   Three subway lines stop right in front of the entrances of the campus's two main buildings, and four bus lines stop within a block.  So, I'm guessing that some of the bike commuters are "seasonal", if you will:  They use mass transit when the weather becomes less favorable for cycling. 

Perhaps the most interesting development I noticed is that on the South Bronx streets between the bridge (and Randall's Island Connector) and the college, I've seen more cyclists than I've ever seen before.   Some were riding the old ten- and three-speeds (Nobody calls them "vintage" in such a neighborhood!) in various states of disrepair--or with seats, handlebars and other parts that clearly are not original equipment.  You see people riding bikes like those all the time in low-income communities:  They have become basic transportation vehicles and, in some cases, beasts of burden that tow shopping carts or baby strollers piled with that day's shopping, or cans, bottles and other items that are being hauled to the recycling center.

I did notice, however, more than a few bikes that were clearly not being used for such purposes--and riders who almost certainly have never ridden their bikes in the ways I've described.  As we say in the old country, "They sure don't look like they're from around here."  I even noticed two people riding Citibikes, even though the nearest docking station is about 5 kilometers--and a world--away.

Will I see those non-utility cyclists in the South Bronx come November or December?  For that matter, I wonder how many of the riders I saw on the bridge or the island today will still be on their bikes as the season turns in "the Boogie Down". 

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