Tour De Queens — A Leisurely Stroll Through My Borough (on Two Wheels)
If you think a Corgi wouldn’t enjoy a 20 mile bike ride through New York City’s most diverse borough, you’d be wrong.
The pup was practically grinning when we passed him Sunday around mile 13 of the Tour de Queens, bike-focused nonprofit Transportation Alternatives‘ annual 20-mile jaunt across Queens. He was strapped into a blue backpack worn by a rider, and he was clearly having an incredible time.
He wasn’t the only dog in the race. Check out this happy furred friend:
So were the rest of us, for the most part. Billed as the biking equivalent of a “fun run,” the Tour de Queens featured a route that rambled from its departure point at Astoria Park under the RFK Bridge down Vernon Boulevard past Gantry Park, along Woodhaven Blvd out through Elmhurst, Corona, and Forest Hills and then back to Astoria.
1300 riders gathered at the start early Sunday morning and the tour departed with great fanfare and little actual forward motion at 9:30AM (see video above). Bicycle backlog was a significant challenge throughout the day; we pigpiled up at least four different times during the three and a half hour ride for ten to fifteen minutes each time. “This is more like the three mile an hour tour of Queens,” one cyclist grumbled.
Yet the opportunity to discover the less-travelled, mostly residential streets of Queens, home to citizens from every single country in the world, made the inconvenience worth it. The mood was certainly lighthearted as we pushed up a few gentle slopes and glided down others, passing several parks and stopping for our 10-mile break and snacks in a Juniper Valley park in Middle Village. In particular, the beautiful homes and gardens of Forest Hills made an impression on me.
Offering a relaxing break for those of us accustomed to riding through traffic on the way to and from work each day, Transportation Alternatives shut down streets for the Tour de Queens, making the ride safer but causing audible frustration to the drivers who were stopped, waiting for the tour to pass. Police escorts and volunteer marshals in bright oranges vests rode along the left side of the group, keeping us in line. The volunteer marshals (but not, surprisingly, the police officers) patrolled the intersections and were responsible for maintaining crowd control — not among cyclists, but among the vehicles that were piled up waiting for the tour to pass so that they could move forward.
Loud honking could be heard at many of these, and in one neighborhood in Corona, I observed a driver exit his vehicle and walk angrily toward a marshal in what appeared to be a menacing manner. But you can’t stop on a group ride, or you endanger the riders behind and around you — so I missed out on what happened next.
Trans Alt’s next group ride is the NYC Century (“A Ride of Passage”), which I rode in last September. I did the 35 mile version, but I’m planning on going for the 100 miles this year!