Yesterday I was up bright and early to volunteer for the 5 Boro Bike Tour which I was quite excited to do. As an enthusiastic bike rider I had considered biking in the event but this being my first year in NYC, I thought I'd volunteer so I could see how it all works from a ground level. And whoa, did I ever get the ground view of this amazing event.

Here's a little bit of info about the ride from the Bike New York website:
The Tour is co-produced by Bike New York and the New York City Department of Transportation. The event provides participants the unique and fun experience to bike through all five boroughs – a 40 mile, traffic-free ride for 32,000 cyclists. Starting just north of Battery Park, the tour runs up Manhattan, through Central Park, around a brief loop in the Bronx and down to the Queensboro Bridge passing countless New York City icons on the way. After a ride over the Pulaski bridge passing through Brooklyn, riders enjoy an incredible view from the lower deck of the Verrazano Bridge. The tour lands on Staten Island for a lively outdoor Festival, including bike demos, giveaways, games, food, product samples, stretching, massage, photo booths, and official Bike New York merchandise on sale.

Arriving at 6:30am, our group was stationed at Pier 3 along the East River and a short distance from the Brooklyn Bridge. We started our day by setting tables full of energy bars, apples, bananas, pretzels and water to replenish the riders as our rest area was the final rest area before they’d hit Staten Island.

I walked around the area to check out the food tables and watch the band setting up the stage for the day. I was pretty excited at the thought of live music in our area. As word spread through the volunteers, I heard that the first wave of riders would be in our area in about 15 minutes, around 9:30. I walked out to Furman street so that I could snap photos as the riders came in and then I’d return to the rest area to hand out food. But as I stood there with camera in hand, someone asked me if I could stay stationed there and help direct the riders as they came through our area.

So what I ended up doing was standing front and center as wave after wave of bikers passed by and directing them to the right for rest or to keep moving on the left. I’ve got to say that I think this was far better than standing at the pretzel table handing out bags of Utz’s pretzels. This spot was such a great place to be for the day. I was able to cheer the riders on, help them find a place to rest and in general be the first smiling face they saw at our stop.

At the end of the day, hoarse and hitting precarious levels of low blood sugar, I was exhausted and a bit cranky. But you know what made it worth it? The riders. All of those folks who brightened up at my encouraging words of “only 13 miles left!”; those who got off their bikes with wobbly legs, fell, and that I helped up off the ground; and those who grinned widely as they slapped my hand passing. Thank you riders! I felt the shared spirit of the joy biking gives me.

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