Manhattan like a messenger
Thu Apr 30 2009
Meet your guide
Michael Green, 38, has been blogging about bike culture—messenger events, alleycat races and Critical Mass—since 2005 at Bike Blog NYC (bikeblognyc.com). Green worked as a bike messenger for three years in the ’90s and is now a filmmaker with Play in Traffic Productions; he’s also shown documentaries in the Bicycle Film Festival (which takes place June 17--21 this year).
About this ride
“Bike messengers get a unique view of the city and acquire great handling and reflex skills,” says Green. “It’s an adrenaline rush.” This12-mile mock-delivery route gives you a taste of how New York’s couriers get it done. Those wary of Manhattan streets should start with the regular Critical Mass that departs from Union Square North at 7pm on the last Friday of every month.—Rebecca Dalzell
Scroll over each letter to see route highlights.
Photographs: Eric Harvey Brown
The sartorial influence of bike messengers goes beyond rolled-up pant legs and a worn-in Manhattan Portage. Gear up for your journey at Trackstar NYC (231 Eldridge St between E Houston and Stanton Sts; 212-982-2553, trackstarnyc.com). “They do repairs, but it’s more about the fashion,” says Green. “T-shirts, hats, track pads, waist belts to hold your U-lock.” Next, head to the Financial District, taking Broadway to Battery Place. The intersection of Houston and Broadway is particularly hairy, so it’s a good idea to make some noise and expel your stress. Says Green, “Nothing beats a primal scream!”
Pretend you’ve picked up a package on Wall Street to drop off in midtown: Bolt up Church Street onto Sixth Avenue to make good time. “Sixth is the bike-riding super highway,” says Green. “There’s a bike lane almost all the way to Central Park, or take the center lane like the couriers and weave through traffic.” Be sure to keep your distance from parked cars: Drivers will door you.
Once you’ve reached the park, turn around and bomb down to Union Square on Broadway while watching out for confused tourists and jaywalkers. “It’s a fun, straight shot,” says Green. “Everyone loves to ride through Times Square.” Messengers have to load up on cheap calories, so ride east past Union Square and refuel with chicken enchiladas ($8) at Zaragoza Grocery (215 Ave A between 13th and 14th Sts, 212-780-9204).
If you’ve busted a spoke, stop by Continuum Cycles (199 Ave B between 12th and 13th Sts, 212-505-8785) before chilling out at nearby Tompkins Square Park, a messenger hangout since the ’80s. Grab a brew at Lakeside Lounge (162 Ave B between 10th and 11th Sts, 212-529-8463), which hosts after-parties for alleycat races. With your new chain marks and their jukebox, consider the party started.
THE GRAND FINALE! This ride marks the fifth and final tour in TONY’s five-part series leading up to Sun 3’s Five Boro Bike Tour. Visit timeoutnewyork.com/bikeinnyc for more rides (including a spin through Pelham Bay Park and City Island), upcoming tours and festivals (Tour de Brooklyn, NYC Century Bike Tour, etc.) and our picks for the city’s best bike shops.
HOT BLOCK, COOLER BIKES
It’s officially Bike Month, and Williamsburg is pulling out all the stops. To start, 3rd Ward (195 Morgan Ave between Meadow and Stagg Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-715-4961, 3rdward.com/greenbikes) is giving a custom bike (sorry, Charlie—not the one pictured) to anyone who signs up for its annual $39 membership. It’s also taking over Stagg Street with a Green Bikes Birthday Block Party from 2 to 8pm on Sun 3. R.S.V.P. to firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to break in your new baby during a drag race, throw back free Colt 45s and groove to music by the Wild Yaks.
NEXT Pedel pushing
The top five places to rent a pair of wheels.
See more in Own This City
See more Bike tours