As I've been keen to point out in the past, I grew up here in Manhattan. As such, I routinely biked around the island during eras when the mere notion of a bike lane was considered uproariously laughable. One had to respect one's place in the perilous food chain of the city street, where cars, cabs and buses confidently ruled.
Apart from once clumsily breaking my thumb in my teens, I was very lucky on my bicycle in NYC (and my thumb injury happened only about a half-a-yard away from my front door, and sadly did not involve any dazzling display of BMX ability). I continued riding my bike in the city into my adult years, albeit with decreasing frequency. I never used my bike as a practical means of transportation (like commuting to and from work). When I was on my bike, it was purely for the purposes of leisure and, as a secondary by-product, exercise. It was fun, pure and simple, and one of the best ways to explore the city.
Strangely enough, since the advent of the hotly-contest bike lanes, I've witnessed a striking uptick in bike accidents and bike-related agita. This year, after spying both a guy hit the deck head-fist (without a helmet) on West 23rd street after tussling with a cab and witnessing a disarming display of bicyclist-vs.-pedestrian fisticuffs on East 14th street, I decided it was time to throw in the towel. I packed my trusty sticker-covered Trek 820 into the storage compartment of a eastbound Hampton Jitney and relegated my riding of it to the leafy byways of the south shore of Long Island. I'm no longer willing to roll the dice on these busy streets for the sake of fun and exercise. I have two little children. It's not worth it. Of course, I could always get into a bike accident out on Long Island as well, but that's another story.
So, yeah, blah blah blah... why am I discussing any of this? Well, I recently stumbled upon a captivating photographic website called Downtown From Behind. In its own words: "DFB is a photographic series capturing subjects riding their bikes from behind on some 200+ streets, avenues and lanes below 14th stret in New York City."
The pictures are beautifully composed portraits of individuals on bicycles, cruising around Manhattan's myriad byways, side streets and avenues (like the lovely, seasonally appropriate shot above, snapped on Centre Street). It's an endearingly simple idea, and strikingly executed. It almost gives me second thoughts, making me want to go reclaim my bike from my mom's Long Island garage. Almost.