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I don’t know about where you live, but around here if you wanted to see fireworks on the 4th all you had to do was look up:

We watched in delight until a colorful scud went careening into a group of picnickers, at which point we adjourned to the safety of our abode. Watching amateur fireworks is a lot like riding in a Cat 3 race: exhilarating, but also an accident waiting to happen.

Speaking of where I live, that place is called New York City, and indeed my place of residence is contained in the very title of this blog. So while it may only be relevant to a small handful of the small handful of people who actually read this blog, I am going to apprise you of the status of certain bicycle paths in and around this oversized metropolis.

Firstly, in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, we’ve been awaiting the completion of the paving of the so-called “Old Putnam” trail. So eagerly anticipated is the opening of this particular path that I’ve had to rescue riders who have gotten stuck in it on more than one occasion, which is why I’ve dubbed it a “lobster trap for cyclists.” I’ve also witnessed the opposite, which is people who wish to use the path, encounter the locked gate, and loudly announce to nobody in particular, “What the fuck?!? This totally ruins my ride!”

Anyway, I haven’t been riding the path myself during construction, partially out of respect, and partially because I know all the alternate routes so don’t rely on it to escape the city limits, but last Friday I decided “fuck it” and snuck onto it for a preview:

There are one or two spots like this, but for the most part the paving is complete:

Between all the tire tracks and the trampled sections of netting at every access point it’s clear that lots of people have been riding it–some of whom I passed on this very excursion. This path will make life much easier for cyclists heading north to cross the new bike path on the Tappan Zee Mario Cuomo Bridge. (More on that later.) More importantly, it will make life much easier for me, since it will be a smooth, flat, traffic-free place for my kids to ride their bikes–though I’m sure as soon as it becomes a Strava segment we’ll have to watch out for the dipshits on their aerobars. (One good thing about the days when this trail was all mud bogs and railroad ties was that it was effectively triathlete-proof.)

Another compelling spot I sampled for the first time this past weekend was Shirley Chisholm State Park in Brooklyn:

[Photo via Wikipeda]

I’d been curious about this park ever since it opened last year. Not only is it open to bicycles, but the paths are made of gravel, which everybody knows is the hot surface treatment of the moment. In fact, gravel is so trendy that people now look visibly pained when forced to ride on uncool surfaces such as tarmac, sort of like I did as a kid when I’d have to put on a suit to go to a Bar Mitzvah.

Of course, it can be difficult at first glance to distinguish the pained expression of a cyclist forced to ride on pavement from the pained expression that a traditional roadie wears all the time. If you’re confused, look for telltale signs such as forearm and thigh tattoos, handlebar bags, comically flared drop bars, and tanwall tires; if a rider has any two of those then they’re probably a flustered gravelista. If, however, they’re riding a Venge or similar, its just another roadie with a bur in his or her chamois.

Alas, Shirley Chisholm State Park is a good 25 miles from me, which means it’s too far for me to just pop in on a whim. However, over the weekend we decided to load the bikes onto The Car The Bank No Longer Owns (in your face, bank!) and grind some gravel:

I must say that I was shocked there were no tire monitoring checkpoints to make sure that all visitors were maintaining the optimal pressure at all times. At the very least I’d expect signage advising people what pressure they should be running based on trail conditions or ambient temperature! You know, something like those Smokey the Bear signs:

Only instead it would be this guy:

And of course instead of fire danger the sign would tell you what PSI to run according to body weight, tire width, and wheel diameter.

Other than that, however, the park was fantastic, offering sweeping views of Jamaica Bay. And while there were people in knee-high socks riding the trails on their gravel bikes, there were also plenty of regular people riding them on regular bikes (I’d include us in that category), or simply walking. Obviously it’s a small park and you’re not going to go there to turn yourself inside out and replicate the Dirty Kanza (though I’m sure somebody will, since plenty of people will also hammer away in Central and Prospect Parks for hours on end, and frankly the advent of the gravel-equivalent of your typical New York City Park Fred is too horrendous to contemplate), but if I still lived in Brooklyn I would totally ride there regularly, since it’s right off the bike path that runs along the Belt Parkway and makes for a perfect moderate-length out-and-back. Head over the Marine Parkway Bridge and jump in the Atlantic before heading home and I daresay you’e living your best life. Something like that would almost make living in Brooklyn bearable.

And finally, as I mentioned earlier, I’d like to address the new bike and pedestrian path on the Tappan Zee Mario Cuomo Bridge:

This eagerly anticipated path finally opened a couple weeks ago, and while I haven’t actually ridden it yet (I plan to remedy that in the next few days since my seventeen (17) children just started day camp), I did walk part of it with the aforementioned children last week, and my impression is that they should have simply named the path “The Afterthought.” For one thing, it’s absurdly narrow: what you see in the rendering above is supposed to accommodate two-way bicycle traffic and two-way foot traffic, and any kind of volume would render the thing practically impassable for either. But that’s nothing compared to this:

Absolutely amazing. They should apply that same policy to the motorists.

I guess I’d better check the weather forecast before I head up there.

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