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Bike New York


UPDATE: 5 September 2009

Please note BNY will no longer give away front line passes to recumbent riders.


Updated 2/23/06

FREE front line passes!! One of the best things about Bike NY is they treat us specially. We are entitled to free passes to the front of the pack, just for the asking!

Bike New York, aka the 5 Borough Bike Tour, is an amazing event. The largest organized ride in the United States, it draws literally tens of thousands of participants. The 2006 ride will be on Sunday, May 7. Registration for riders available as of now, with registration for marshalls and other volunteers starting in March.

To register, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to BIKE NEW YORK at
Bike New York
P.O. Box 310387
Brooklyn, NY 11231-0387

with your request for a Tour registration, or Marshal or Tour Corps application.

You can also download registrations and applications from the Tour web site or pick up registration brochures in your local bike shop.

Web site:
Telephone: 212-932-BIKE (212-932 2453)

Tips and tricks
Over the years we've accumulated some hard-won wisdom about participating in Bike NY, not all of which can be found in the brochure or on their Website. So the rest of this page is devoted to telling you what the tour orgainzers don't.

- GET THERE EARLY!!! The brochures and website tell you that you can get to Battery Park at 7:30 and it will be no problem (the tour starts at 8). Don't you believe it! If you get there that late, you'll be stuck in the back of the pack. Plan on walking all the way to Central Park if that happens.

Don't forget that if you have a front-line pass you actually have to make it to the front of the pack. The pass will not get you through the crowd... it only allows you to hang out at the front once you get there. If you take the 6 am Staten Island ferry, you probably won't make it to the front of the pack before the start. The boat to shoot for is the 5 am. In 2001, several of those heading over from Staten Island got going late and wound up starting way back in the pack... and they had a miserable day.

Do WHATEVER it takes to get there early enough to make it to the front in time.
- Bring warm clothes especially if you're parking on Staten Island and taking the ferry. It's anywhere from cool to downright frigid until at least 9 am. It should be quite warm by the end of the day, so do the layer thing and figure out a way to carry your gear once you shed it.
- Try bypassing the first stop on the FDR. If you pull off the road you have to walk your bike a long way to get back on, and by the time you get to Astoria Park in Queens the Porta-Potty lines will be getting pretty long.
- Leave the party early if you're taking the ferry back to Manhattan. At the end of the day everyone hangs out for a few hours, eats, listens to music, etc. What happens is that by 3:30 or 4, a lot of riders start thinking about heading home. The result is a long, long wait (possibly more than an hour) at the ferry terminal to get back into Manhattan. Try to leave by 3 pm.

DON'T jump the line!
In the past some people have avoided the huge crowd at the start by joining the tour after the start, somewhere after it leaves Central Park. This is not encouraged by the tour organizers. In fact, the organizers got very upset when they found our page discussing the practice and threatened to withold our front-line passes.

So here it is, loud and clear:

If you're going to ride, do it right and start at the starting area. DO NOT join the ride farther north.

Repeat: DON'T DO IT!

The organizers are doing us a huge favor by giving us free passes to the front of the line. Don't jeopardize this by going against their wishes. Please. We're begging you.

Getting there
There are three ways to arrive at the start: 1) Ferry; 2) Drive and park 3) Take the train and ride to the start. The Bike NY website has full details on getting to the ride. But here are some observations on the advantages and disadvantages of each method.

Staten Island Ferry
You'll have to take the ferry either at the beginning of the day or at the end. As noted above, there are good times and bad times to arrive at the Staten Island terminal. The short version: Grab the 5 am boat in the morning, or a mid-afternoon boat at the end of the day. The ride is free that day, and extra boats are run to accommodate the Tour participants.

The advantage of taking the ferry in the morning is that you don't have to wait in line for it at the end of the day, when you're tired and just want to get home. The disadvantage is that you have to get to Staten Island in the first place, and be there at a truly obscene hour on the day of the ride. Getting to Staten Island, from, say, Westchester adds up to a fair chunk of change in tolls and parking (forget about parking on the street) when all is said and done.

The advantage of driving and parking in Manhattan is that you have easier access to the start area in the morning. The disadvantages are: 1) if you park in a garage it costs a lot; 2) parking (and, for that matter, driving) in Manhattan is always a risky proposition, and 3) you have to get up early enough to drive into the city. Not as early as you'd need to get up to take the ferry, though.

NY Transit suspends bike restrictions on rail lines on the day of the Tour, and at least some lines also run special early-morning trains. I did this in 2001, catching a train in Fairfield, CT at 5 am. It got me to the start with plenty of time to spare. Had I driven to Manhattan, I would have had to leave home at 4 or 4:30, drive and find a place to park. As it was, I just had a nice relaxing nap on the way in and rode down the deserted streets in the early morning light.

There are two disadvantages to taking the train: First, you have to wrangle your bike on board a train that is also carrying 500 other cyclists and their bikes. Second, you have to get back to the train terminal in the afternoon, and there's plenty of traffic then. In past years I've ridden up the Hudson River Greenway path to 40th St., then cross town to Park Ave and up two blocks. Works well.