New York streets entirely devoid of traffic are something of a rarity, to say the least -- but more than 32,000 cyclists had the chance to ride through otherwise empty roads Sunday for the annual Five Boro Bike Tour.
The event, now in its 37th year, is a 40-mile trek through New York City co-sponsored by the Department of Transportation and cycling group Bike New York. Several streets and five bridges throughout the five boroughs were closed to traffic through the afternoon, giving riders a clear path to take in the city's sights from their bicycles.
This year drew participants from "every state in the country and 65 countries around the world," said Samuel Slaton, Bike New York's communications director.
Bikers began early yesterdaymorning at staggered locations in lower Manhattan, making their way uptown through Central Park towards Harlem, into the Bronx and back down along FDR Drive. The route then took them over the Queensboro Bridge into Astoria, down through Brooklyn and, finally, over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge into Staten Island, where riders could stop for a festival at Fort Wadsworth before continuing the last three miles to the finish line.
Some riders, like the East Village's Jen Miller, 25, were frustrated by congestion early in the tour. "There were a couple walk-your-bike sections," she said, where too many riders in close proximity forced her to dismount until the streets cleared.
But for many, the novelty of the tour overshadowed its hiccups. "It's a real experience, just being on highways that you normally drive on," said Ira Seid, 60, from Randolph, N.J.
Seid, who has already done the bike tour twice before, was joined for the first time this year by his wife Nona Seid, 55. "There have been a few crazy people weaving in and out," she said, but described the overall atmosphere as positive: "People are in a good mood."