The art of riding in New York City

The art of riding in New York City

Flushing St protected bike lane-1

Art infuses the bicycling experience
in New York City.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

As you might have noticed, there were many things I liked about riding through the streets of New York.

While their bike-specific infrastructure is nothing to ignore, one aspect of the New York City bicycling experience that might get easily overlooked by engineers and planners is its interestingness. Maybe it was just because I love public art. Or perhaps it was simply because I was a tourist with fresh eyes. Either way, I couldn’t help but notice all the paintings, murals and other interesting art as I rode around.

Some of what makes New York City street art so abundant is graffiti, but even the NYC DOT appreciates it enough that they actually have an official urban art program. The benefits of urban art — especially for bicycling — are obvious. For relatively little money, painted walls and infrastructure can create a more vibrant and welcoming space. When you’re trying to encourage people to use that space, it makes sense to make it as inviting as possible.

And it seems to me that public art has even more impact for people transporting themselves with human power. From the seat of a bicycle or from the vantage point of a sidewalk, people who are biking or walking are going slower and they have much better vision of their surroundings — both of which make it easier to appreciate public art.

For example, the barricades that create the protected bike lanes on Flushing Avenue were painted by artists Cara Lynch and Deanna Lee. They were funded through the NYC DOT’s Barrier Beautification program, which rotates exhibits every 11 months and pays artists up to $2,500…

Flushing St protected bike lane-4

Flushing St protected bike lane-7

Another project commissioned by the NYC DOT that caught my eye was a mural on the bicycle ramp approach of the Manhattan Bridge. The artist was Abby Goldstein…

People on Bikes - Manhattan Bridge-11

The NYC DOT also gets into the act of art with their public plazas. Here’s one adjacent to the bikeway on Broadway…

Broadway protected bike lane and plazas-37

And check out the art painted onto the ground at this public plaza on Pearl St. in the DUMBO area of Brooklyn…

Pearl St. Plaza in Dumbo-1

When the NYC DOT opened up their Greenpoint East River Ferry Terminal last year, they realized the road leading to it, India Street, was rundown and unwelcoming. A simple lane re-striping and the addition of a series of bold wall paintings changed all that…

Greenpoint Ferry-1

Greenpoint Ferry access

The DOT is far from the only source of public street art. 5Pointz is a legendary “graffiti mecca” in Long Island City. It’s a huge industrial building whose owner allows artists to paint sections of the exterior walls…

5 Points graffiti -1

5 Points graffiti -2

And the sidewalk next to 5Pointz is colorful too…

5 Points graffiti -6

And there were other, random murals and graffiti that caught my eye.

Mural in Dumbo, Brooklyn

Mural on Navy St, Brooklyn

Near the Brooklyn Navy Yards.
Kent Ave-4

Kent Ave.
Pulaski Bridge art

At the northern end of the Pulaski Bridge in Long Island City.

I didn’t have look hard to find great public art on New York City’s bikeways. And there were also signs of bike everywhere I turned. Both of these phenomenon are signs of a healthy bike culture.

Brooklyn Bridge Park-2

— This story comes from my recently completed trip to New York City, which was made possible by Planet Bike, Lancaster Engineering, and by readers like you. Thank you! You can find all my New York City coverage here.

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