Biking through the city for a good cause

Ride along.

On May 4, Bike New York and the New York City Department of Transportation hosted the 37th annual Five Boro Bike Tour. This year’s event produced another massive turnout of 32,000 bike riders.

“It was a great day. People have been saying this year was the best yet,” said Samuel Slaton, communications director of Bike New York. “The rain held off and the weather was great. We’ve gotten really positive feedback from staff, volunteers, marshals, riders. They’ve conveyed this to us through social media.”

During the sold-out event, cyclists were given the opportunity to ride their bikes 40-miles traffic-free. The tour began in Lower Manhattan, headed north through Central Park, followed by the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and concluded at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge into Staten Island. “It got real big real fast and it stayed big. It offers people unique way to see city. No other time can you bike along the FDR, BQE and Verrazano. The bridge is sort of the crowning part of ride,” said Slaton.

The price for standard registration was $90. Proceeds went directly to fund Bike New York’s free bicycle education classes. Last year, the program taught over 15,000 New Yorkers how to ride a bike safely. “If they already know how to ride a bike, we teach them how be more confident riding city, as well as winter riding and bike maintenance,” said Slaton.

The bike tour began 37 years ago, when it was called the Five Boro Challenge. Each year, the event has gotten bigger.

“Since 1977, the Five Boro Challenge, as it was then called, has grown from 250 New Yorkers to 32,000 cyclists from every state in the Union and 65 countries around the world. That’s fantastic, and we love how diverse the ride has become,” said Ken Podziba, President and CEO of Bike New York in a written statement.

Chris Najarro, one of the cyclists that attended the tour and a volunteer, had a mostly positive experience during the day. “Everything went pretty well for the most part,” he said. “This is the

first year I’ve done the tour.”

One minor hiccup occurred as Najarro wasn’t able to finish the race. At about his 34th mile, he was stopped by an officer who explained to the rider that he couldn’t have his pack while biking across the bridge.

Najarro insisted he followed the guidelines. “The rules were very clear. I was thorough in doing my homework,” he said. “I did not have a back pack on. It was a fanny pack and it was clearly below the maximum (allowed) which was 420 cubic inches. Mine was about 250 cubic inches.”

Despite the misunderstanding, he stated that it wouldn’t stop him from participating in future. “I would absolutely do it again.”

Slaton explained that the regulations are in place to keep the riders safe. “We do have bag restrictions in place on the heels of the Boston bombing which took place two weeks before last year’s tour and so we’ve kept bag restrictions in place for safety and for everyone to have as fun of a time as possible.”

He also believes the tour represents how the city embraces its bikers.

“It’s a great opportunity for New York City to showcase what it’s done in the past decade to make it better for cyclists,” said Slaton. “Ridership has quadrupled since 1990. It’s been an awesome way to kick off Bike Month. It’s a really unbelievable site and experience. I think it’s something everyone should experience if they get a chance. It’s not a race and it’s for all skill levels. Kids are there as well as adults in their 80s and 90s.”

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