Chillin with Cool Cyclists

Earlier this week I had a rare night out. First stop, I meet up with Rydel, organizer and blogger with Miami Bike Scene for drinks in Bushwick at the Trophy bar.

He got a special deal through Jet Blue, which they DON’T seem to advertise much, where they allow bikes to fly for free in the month of July, waiving an annoying $80.00 plus fee. It’s a Tour de France deal and Rydel was keen to take advantage of this to visit friends in NYC, put in a ton of mileage from the Bronx to Ft. Tilden and hop in on some pickup bike polo down in the pit.

I have always wanted to meet this guy in person because he single-handedly transformed the bike scene in Miami, a city known for hyper aggressive drivers where hit and runs are common. He took over organizing the monthly critical mass rides back in 2007 and morphed a sluggish attendance into a thriving mobile party on the last Friday of each month into numbers topping 1000 riders.

He said the strategy that worked was less democracy. Ride routes are picked in advanced and rotated semi-randomly between 1-4 set paths. There are also dedicated riders who act as ride leaders, corking intersections and keeping everyone together.

We had a real good bike blogger pow-wow discussing each others cities cycling culture histories and what has worked and not towards our corresponding critical mass rides.

He seemed really modest about his involvement in the scene, but still with numbers into a thousand riders at their critical mass, in a such a car culture heavy city like Miami, he’s obviously doing something right.

Time Lapse – Miami Critical Mass July 2012 from Brian Wagner on Vimeo.

Then I went to meet with fashion designer and sister blogger, Nona Varnado of She has found some great opportunities in Los Angeles and sadly, will be leaving us within the month. We have been collaborating on few projects and she has vowed to keep her organizing of ladies events and female enriched cycling content alive and well no matter what coast she’s on. Besides, LA can use a real infusion of her community building, marketing skills, fashion sensibilities and bike culture creating. She was having drinks with Joshua Rechnitz, and wanted to introduce me to the wealthy patron and cycling enthusiast who’s donated 40 million dollars to Brooklyn Bridge Park in the hopes of creating NYC’s first indoor velodrome. This is the largest donation to an NYC park to date.

Oddly enough, that night was an article in the NY Times about the current status of Josh’s cycling dream.

A $40 Million Gift, a Proposed Bike Arena, and Now Skepticism in Brooklyn
By: Lisa W. Foderaro
Published: July 30, 2012
(photo by: Ruby Washington)

It may very well be the $40 million dollar gift horse.
In April, Joshua P. Rechnitz pledged that amount — the largest single gift in the history of New York City’s parks system — to build a field house in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The gift was heralded as a much-needed boost for the 85-acre waterfront park, which is still under development. But attention quickly turned to the centerpiece of the plan: a velodrome with a 200-meter inclined indoor cycling track and stadium seating for almost 2,500 spectators. At the track’s center would be limited space for more traditional sports like basketball, gymnastics or tennis.

Read more, here.

I can’t help but draw parallels to the new Barclay’s stadium about to open in downtown Brooklyn especially when listening to local community critics who seem opposed based merely on not knowing what a velodrome is. If rich rap star Jay Z can get his dream of bringing professional basketball to Brooklyn, why can’t Josh get a sports facility that has way more participatory potential and good for the health of NYC? This is also a facility that wouldn’t require any eminent domain to remove local businesses, but rather a vast improvement to an abandon space. Friends of mine often try and call me out on the Nets stadium, saying I wouldn’t be kvetching if it were the NY Rangers hockey team. I always tell them that’s not the point…Now if it were professional track cycling…I’d be in line for tickets faster then a Jewish Mom looking for seats to Barbara Streisand. Babs is returning to her home in Brooklyn, Thursday October 11th…I mean, if your into that sort of thing.

Weigh in your opinion on the Velodrome/Field House on informal poll or leave comments here.

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