Two-Wheeled Jersey City Exploration with the Bike JC Ward Tour

Man, did it feel good to be back on a bike on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Except the part where I had a majorly uncomfortable seat and if we're talking literally, it didn't feel good at all. It hurt like hell. But ignoring that small huge fact, it felt amazing to hit the streets on two wheels again. During and post-college, I rode my bike e-ver-y-where. I routinely took part in Critical Mass and was a gentle advocate for bike culture.

Since then? Not so much. Not anti. Just dormant. My lifestyle has become so nomadic, I'm in a plane, train or automobile each month and a bike hasn't come with me in four or five years. Of course, when we're in Europe or Montreal or Toronto, or even Miami we always rent bikes. But I haven't had a bike to call my own in quite some time.

We'd just moved to Jersey City when the Bike JC Ward Tour took place last year, but My Love was dying to take part in it (he hasn't become so disconnected from his love for two wheels as I have over the years). But between the, I don't know, unpacking five million boxes, and the getting settled in the city we chose on a house-hunting weekend whim that we otherwise knew absolutely nothing about, it didn't happen. Really, I am sure we procrastinated, and then it was too late to sign up. Or something.

Point being, he was gunning for the ride this year and wasn't going to miss out. As we've upped our adventure ante this spring (I have very exciting things to tell you but I can't tell you yet), we've added a second bike to the family and a trailer for a certain human of the world's cutest variety. So it seemed a great time to make the #JCWardTour2015 a family affair.

Getting Elmo buckled in for the ride.
Getting Elmo buckled in for the ride.

I'm.so.glad.we.did. It was the most lovely, heart-swelling kind of day! Aside from the fact that I'm still walking like I rode a horse clear across America, I would do it again tomorrow.

First of all, it's a great way to see our awesome little city. For better or worse, I don't claim to blog about all of Jersey City or attempt to cover everything (well, anything by requisition) in every nook and cranny. I simply share our experience, when I can, which is based downtown. So I admittedly haven't seen a lot of the city and that radius only expands organically as we meet people or attend something in a new (to us) part of town.

But biking and running really are the best ways to explore a city; you keep things moving but you see so much more than you would in a car or walking. This is the path we took, and therefore what we saw of Jersey City this weekend thanks to the very organized efforts of Bike JC (so many new spots, so much fun!):

BikeJC is an advocacy group for better, safer and more accessible biking. I'd say, after more than 2,000 people turned out for this year's event, that they have quite a bit of support for their efforts here in Jersey City!

Exchange Place on the Waterfront, where the ride began, was absolutely jam-packed with people. But to Bike JC's credit, everything ran efficiently and everyone was shockingly nice and polite to each other. There were very few-to-zero 'tudes in the house that I encountered. It was very refreshing.

In a way, the Ward Bike Tour ride is symbolic of so much more in what it represents about Jersey City. There were thousands of people, as diverse as they come — racially, culturally, socially, linguistically, economically, religiously — who hit the streets together just to have fun, enjoy a gorgeous bluebird sky sunny day and explore and celebrate their pretty city together without incident. I am so proud to live in as diverse a city as Jersey City and this ride demonstrated that fact most tangibly.

Some riders — so very few, they are hardly worth noting, except for the hilarity factor -- stood out in their own way. Let's call them my top three favorite kinds of JC Ward Bike Tour riders (*sarcasm alert*).

  1. The Bell Ringers I was having flashbacks to Amsterdam at points during the ride with the bell-ringing and ding-a-linging around me, and I had to laugh. There were 2,000+ folks trying to stay on the right side of the road without crashing into each other, and you think I'm going to pull over and let you pass? Biker, please. The pace is the pace, and it's slow. This ain't a race. So slow your roll and enjoy your city and fellow citizens vibing on the Chilltown bike culture. Or make your way around people going slower than you quietly and calmly. Literally thousands of other folks are managing to accomplish that simple task, so I have all the faith in the world that you can silence your ding-a-linger and do the same.
     
  2. The Attention Seekers It doesn't matter the situation or scenario, there's always an attention seeker. The person who just has to be heard in the crowd and can't enjoy things as they are. What I loved most about the Ward Tour was how strangely peaceful it was, despite such crowds and you know, the city. But it was really lovely cruising along with the occasional biker boombox passing by. Until the Attention Seekers had to be heard. At one point, I was riding near a woman who felt it necessary to thank and apologize to every car sitting in traffic. Now, I get it. It sucked to be a car in Jersey City on Sunday morning (but isn't that the point)? No need to scream, "Sorry to keep you waiting! Thank you! Have a nice day!" to people who have their windows rolled up, mentally giving you the middle finger through their eyeballs. A smile, nod and moving the hell along out of their way would probably be more appreciated. I was saying sorry on the inside. Silently.
     
  3. The Mid-Street Stoppers Potholes aside, there is absolutely no acceptable reason to stop short in the middle of the street with (have I mentioned the thousands of) bikers all around you. We had to stop a few times to put the World's Cutest Human's helmet (ahem, "bike hat") back on, but I was a psycho about not stopping unless there was a place we could fully get off the road (especially with the trailer get-up we were rocking). But the no-obvious-reason short stop? I'm sorry, but you're asking for a well-deserved tire to the rear end.

Not that I'm the certified road police, but those three types of riders had me more than amused all day. I really mean amused, not annoyed, because I was so enjoying myself that nothing — not even the Lincoln Park hill — could get me down. Off my bike, yes. But not down.

Despite my top three favorite kinds of JC Ward Tour bikers -- or perhaps because of them because I somehow their quirks made the ride what it was -- and because of our diverse, bike-loving, Chilltown-exploring citizens, I felt so Jersey City-patriotic Sunday afternoon. Like the 4th of July, but waving my flag just for Jersey City. Like hell yeah, #JCisMyCity, and it's all of yours too.

Ride on!

Link up with Bike JC on the interwebs and mark your calendars for next year's #JCWardTour2016!