Bike Hack: The Little Green Signs

A “little green sign” for Route 23

Source: By Fwgoebel – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10054106

Have you ever been driving (or biking) along somewhere in New York State and wondered about the little green signs that you keep seeing over and over on the side of the road? These little signs are actually reference markers put up by the NYS Department of Transportation after the Highway Safety Act of 1966 required that “each state shall have a highway safety program….(that) shall include, but not be limited to, provisions for….surveillance of traffic for detection and correction of high or potentially high accident locations”.

In short, in a pre-computer and pre-GPS world, each state needed to figure out their own way to reference every segment of state-owned roadway for traffic, maintenance and crash reporting purposes.

And, of course, New York State being what it is, came up with an ingeniously confusing, complicated, yet workable solution, which culminated in these little green signs that show an almost nonsensical jumble of numbers and letters.

But these signs are a great resource if you are ever lost on your bike and you need to figure out what road you are on. The top row of these signs is (almost) always the route number for the state road on which you are traveling. So in the absence of other signage, these little green markers can at least help you figure out what road you are on. On most 2 lane roads, they are every 0.2 mile, so you don’t have to bike far to figure it out. If you are riding on a 4-lane road, you’ll see them every 0.1 mile.

If you are interested in the real nitty-gritty about how these little green signs work, check out the NYSDOT Reference Marker Manual. It’s fascinating. It will make you appreciate the lengths that people had to go to to code highway segments before computers and GPS could just assign everything a coordinate.

And keep in mind, you will only see these signs in New York State. Other states have their own signs, which may or may not make sense.

Catskill Scenic Trail mile marker

Riding the Catskill Scenic Trail

Catskill Scenic Trail

The Catskill Scenic Trial is one of the most beautiful rail-trail bike paths anywhere near the New York Metropolitan Area. Framed by both mountains and farms, this 26-mile, car-free ride is a perfect outing for a day or a weekend. But the beauty of this trail is thanks to it’s out-of-the-way location that takes you along the headwaters of the Delaware River. Trail conditions are also somewhat rugged if you are used to riding on paved surfaces. But we believe this ride is so nice that it’s worth the effort. To see the most of this trail, it’s best to be able to ride it one way using a car shuttle. Gotham Bicycle Tours will be offering car shuttle services in 2020 on certain weekends.

Getting to the trail. 
Catskill Scenic Trail

One of the many wide open spaces the Catskill Scenic Trail will take you through.

The Catskill Scenic Trail is located in the northwestern portion of the Catskills, mostly in Delaware County, but also within a portion of Schoharie County. It’s about a 3 or 4 hour drive to get to the trail from New York City, depending on the route you take and the traffic.  The trail is not served by public transportation, so you must drive to the trail or find a ride.  But once you are there, you’ll quickly find out that it was worth the effort to get there.

A good place to start for planning your ride is to think about where you will park. The Catskill Scenic Trail website has a great map of the trail that shows the communities that the trail passes through, as well as where to park. The trail generally runs east-west in a upside-down U shape, and trail conditions are generally better for riding at the western end. There is a formal parking lot at the western end in Bloomville as well as trailside parking in Stamford. Hobart, located in between, also has some municipal parking lots near the trail. In addition, there are also less formal dirt lots near where the trail crosses roads. Wherever you park, keep in mind that you will need to ride out on the trail, and then turn around to come back, to get back to your car. Doing the ride one-way with a car shuttle allows for more flexibility, particularly if you are interested in doing the more difficult sections at the eastern end of the trail.

Catskill Scenic Trail mile marker

Most of the old railroad mile markers are still standing along the Catskill Scenic Trail, indicating the number of miles to Kingston.

The riding experience.

This trail used to be part of the Delaware and Ulster Railroad, which once chugged into the Catskill Mountains between Kingston and Oneonta. The last train ran in 1976. Since that time the 26 miles between Roxbury and Bloomville has been transformed into a bike path.  And the section between Roxbury and Arkville now operates as a scenic railroad. Most of the trail still has the old mile markers from the railroad’s days of operation, with distances shown to Kingston. The railroad generally made use of the flat terrain along along both the the West Branch and East Branch of the upper Delaware River, and the trail takes you near the headwaters of both branches, hundreds of miles away from where the river empties into Delaware Bay.

Bridge over West Branch Delaware River

A quiet bridge that crosses the meandering West Branch of the Delaware River.

The experience this trail offers is rugged and remote, although the trail is generally flat. The western portion of the trail, that runs along the West Branch Delaware River generally between Bloomville and Stamford, has the best conditions. But you should be aware that the trail conditions change back and forth between gravel, dirt, stone dust and grass. Depending on the season, the grass can be tall, so you will want to bring bug spray to spray your legs to protect against ticks and mosquitoes.

Rough conditions on Catskill Scenic Trail

One of the rougher sections of trail to ride.

In Stamford you reach the headwaters of the West Branch Delaware River and you begin to transition over to the East Branch. This transition area is one of the tougher parts of the ride, particularly the portion between Route 23 and Route 30 near Grand Gorge. This part of the trail is the only part that does not go along a waterway and the trail conditions are rocky and muddy, thanks to poor drainage. Take your time here and walk your bike if you need to.

Beaver tree fall

Keep on the lookout for beavers as you ride along the East Branch of the Delaware River.

Once the trail crosses Route 30, you will now be along the East Branch Delaware River whose source is a small pond behind a large pile of tires. The riding gets easier again here, although it still can be rugged thanks to the beavers who live here. It is not uncommon to find beaver dams that cause flooding along the trail. So be ready to ride through sponge-like grass and mud depending on the current construction projects these beavers may be undertaking. Also, the grass back here can be very high depending on the season, so bring bug spray so you can enjoy the beautiful views without getting bit by ticks and mosquitoes.

Beaver dam across Catskill Scenic Trail

Uh oh, some beavers built a dam creating a lake across the trail. Time to make a detour!

Services and restrooms.

Given the remoteness of this trail you should also carefully plan your day based around the services you can obtain along the trail, in addition to the parking lots discussed above.

Delaware River Headwaters

The Headwaters of the Delaware River are located right behind this supermarket in Stamford.

The largest commercial area along the trail is in Stamford, although you will need to ride a few blocks away from the trail to find the supermarket, a convenience store and an ice cream stand.  Services can also be found in Hobart, where the Village has placed a map showing where services are located along the trail. Roxbury and Grand Gorge have services, but they are a further ride from the trail (with the exception of Sundaes Restaurant and Tasty Freeze, just to the west of Grand Gorge).  There are no formal restrooms or portable toilets along the trail, but you can usually find restrooms at businesses located in these areas.  Please note that because these communities are very small, some businesses may not be open every day.  So call ahead before you start riding.  You don’t want to arrive at a restaurant hungry, only to find that it is closed that day!

Trenton, New Jersey: The Mid-Atlantic’s Bicycle Touring Hub

Now that bike touring season beginning, it’s time to start thinking about where you will ride.  One idea to get your thinking going is to consider starting or ending your tour in Trenton, New Jersey. There are lots of options for day rides and overnight tours that start or end in Trenton. And Trenton far surpasses all of the other small Northeastern cities when it comes to bike-friendly transit access.

The post below is a “re-print” of a 2017 post by Lukas Herbert on the Adventure Cycling Association blog page.  You can find the original posting here.

March 9, 2017 – Lukas Herbert kindly submitted today’s guest blog.

Gotham Bicycle Tours celebrated Adventure Cycling’s 2016 Bike Travel Weekend in Trenton and looks forward to this year’s event on June 2–4, 2017.

Trenton, New Jersey is known for many things … good things and some, well …

But Trenton has something that no other Mid-Atlantic city has: an abundance of bike paths and excellent, bike-friendly train service from two major metropolitan areas, Philadelphia and New York City. This easily makes Trenton my top launch point for bike tours that can take you to great places in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania, and potentially as far away as Delaware or New York State.

The first great thing about Trenton for bike touring is how easy it is to get there with your bike. Trenton is the only city in the Northeast where two major transit systems meet: the New Jersey Transit’s Northeast Corridor line and the Trenton Line Regional Rail. This means that no less than once every hour, a train arrives and departs Trenton for both New York City and Philadelphia, connecting Trenton to two vast systems of trains. Bikes are permitted on both systems. In addition, the River Line light rail also connects Trenton with towns in South Jersey along the Delaware River, expanding your choices even more. This means that you can easily do a day ride, overnight, or multi-day bike tour that starts or ends in Trenton and uses the train to get you home, or back to your start point.

The Trenton Transit Center is a hub for New Jersey Transit and SEPTA trains, both of which allow bikes on board for free. 

The transit connections alone are enough to make Trenton a sensible place to start a ride. But when you throw in the substantial number of bike paths that go through or near Trenton, you can really come up with a wide range of rides, suitable for all levels of riders. For example, the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park Trail centers on Trenton. You can ride the Main Canal for 34 miles northeast between Trenton and New Brunswick. Or you can ride 30 miles north along the Feeder Canal to Frenchtown. If you cross the Delaware River, the Delaware Canal Towpath goes along the Pennsylvania side of the river, part of the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, a trail that can take you as far as Wilkes-Barre, PA. And someday soon, the East Coast Greenway will slice right through Trenton on its way from Maine to Florida!

An off-road trail network goes right through Trenton.

If road riding is your thing, it’s not very difficult to get from Trenton to low-traffic roads that will have you riding towards the Pine Barrens where you can cruise along on relatively flat, scenic roads … most of which have bike lanes.

You can even ride to a growing number of wineries that are becoming a fixture of New Jersey’s landscape. (You didn’t know New Jersey was a wine growing state? You do now!) You can ride all the way out to the Jersey shore, and if you make it to Cape May, you can even take a ferry to Delaware for more great riding.

You’ll find many other options, like these examples, for loops and point-to-point routes …

  • Ride north along the Feeder Canal trail on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River, then cross over to the Pennsylvania side and ride back.
  • Camp or stay in a hotel halfway to make a weekend of it!
  • Or head south for a couple of days of riding and hook up with the NJ Transit Atlantic City Line or the River Line to get back.
  • All NJ Transit buses in South Jersey are also equipped with bike racks, so the ride combinations are almost limitless. Just use your imagination … then research your route.
Trenton is situated along the Delaware River which has bike paths on both sides.

But Trenton isn’t just a great gateway city for bike touring, it’s also a fun place to ride. If you like riding past historical sites on low-traffic roads, you can’t beat riding around Trenton on a Saturday or Sunday morning. The roads are completely quiet (thanks to State government being closed) and the City has done a great job of striping bike lanes in some parts of the city.

Trenton even has a great bike tour every year: the Tour de Trenton. We used this great tour as the starting point for our Bike Travel weekend ride in 2016. (Register your own Bike Travel Weekend ride for June 1—3, 2018.) After the Tour de Trenton, we rode to Cream Ridge Winery where we camped for the night as part of one of the tours we do with our bike touring company: Gotham Bicycle Tours.

So if you’re looking for great cycling destination in the Northeast, Trenton should be on your short list. It’s the center of bicycle touring for cyclists who are “in the know.” And now that you’ve read this to the end, consider yourself part of our elite group!

A great esplanade was built above a waterfront highway. Paving stones and archways present a timeline of the city’s history that you can read while you ride! 

Photos courtesy of Lukas Herbert

Get away to Randalls Island! An easy bike ride you can do in NYC.

If you are looking to get away from the hustle and crowds of NYC…but not leave the city, riding your bike to Randalls Island is a great way to spend an afternoon. It’s an easy, pleasant ride from Manhattan, Queens or the Bronx. And it’s also a good spot to take children to since there are plenty of car-free bike paths, and plenty of things to check out!

If you are coming from Manhattan, the best way to get there is to ride to East 102nd Street. Go down 102nd Street until it ends at the East River. Ride onto the sidewalk on the north side of the street, then make a left along the FDR drive an you will soon see a ramp going up to a pedestrian bridge. Take that to the island.

From Queens, you will need to ride to Hoyt Avenue North and 27th Street where the RFK Triborough Bridge sidewalk begins. Unfortunately, you’ll have to deal with a lot of stairs crossing over to Randalls Island, so be prepared!

But the nicest way – by far – to get to Randalls Island is from the Bronx, where the new Randalls Island Connector gets you to the island. Access the connector from 132nd Street between Walnut Avenue and Willow Avenue. That’s the way we did it. We made a great day ride using the Bronx River Greenway to go from the northern end of NYC to Randalls Island. The pictures below tell the story!

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We started the ride by going down the Bronx River Pathway with its beautiful autumn colors!

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There were plenty of playgrounds along the way for our son to stop and play.

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concrete plant park
A nice “bikes only” protected bike lane leads to Concrete Plant Park

Randalls Island Connector
Here’s the entrance to the Randalls Island Connector.

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The connector bike path goes below the Amtrak tracks…and then crosses the Oak Point Rail line.

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A nice view of the Hell Gate Bridge. Rail fans will love it!

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Bike paths within Randalls Island give an excellent view of the Manhattan skyline!

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A great spot for lunch!

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End the day with miniature golf!

Randalls Island has something for everyone! Check it out! Not only can you do miniature golf, but there are batting cages, nature walks…and concession stands where you can buy lunch. You can really make a nice day of it on Randalls Island.

National Bike Tour Weekend 2016!

travel weekendNational Bike Travel Weekend is June 3-5.  It’s a wonderful initiative being undertaken by our friends at the Adventure Cycling Association to get as many cyclists as possible out for a bike tour during the first weekend in June! And we want you to be a part of it!  That’s why we are proud to be offering our Beaches to Farms: A Winery Experience Bike Tour for National Bike Travel Weekend.  It’s a fabulous ride that’s not too far away….and you get a bottle of wine with your name on it at the end. This ride was actually featured on Adventure Cycling’s “Bike Overnights” website, which is a great resource to use for anyone looking for inspiration to plan their own overnight trip. Check out all the details about the tour here.

Frequently asked questions about this tour:

How long is this ride, and is it hilly?  This ride isn’t particularly hilly, since a lot of it is on rail-trails or canal paths. Each day you can choose the mileage you want to ride, ranging between 25 and 58 miles.

What happens if it 19074635318_ec73336f68_krains? We run the trip rain or shine. So we’ll be riding in the rain along side you!  But, you can always back out of the ride if the weather forecast looks bad. You only need to make a $100 non-refundable deposit to hold your spot, and then you can pay the balance as late as Wednesday, June 1. So if you don’t like the weather forecast, you can bail out and you don’t have to pay the balance.

Are there showers and flush toilets where we camp?  For this particular tour, we camp out in the vineyard behind the winery tasting room. So we have access to the tasting room bathrooms throughout our stay. For the shower, we rig up an outdoor shower using a forklift and a water tank where the water is heated.

I don’t want to camp. Are there other options?  Yes. We can shuttle you to a nearby hotel for the night if you do not want to camp. It’s only 10 minutes away in the support van. Then just start your ride from there the next morning.

Will I be able to charge my IPhone?  Yes, yes…you will totally be able to do this. You’ll need to keep your smartphone charged anyhow to take advantage of our GPS navigation for this ride!

Who comes on these rides?  All kinds of people take our rides. We generally get a wide variety of ages and abilities, and we make everyone feel comfortable. Most tours are limited to 9 riders for a small group feel.

AAA Bicycle Service!

Wow! We just found out that if you have a AAA Northeast membership, you are now entitled to up to 2 bicycle pick ups each year. This means that if you are out riding your bike and you have a breakdown, you can call them and they will drive you home or to a bike shop with your bike. As long as it’s less than 10 miles away, it’s free. Then it’s the standard towing mileage after that. What a wonderful resource! Check out the details at AAA.com/bicycle

Riding a bike to Montauk!

Gotham Bike Tours MontaukHave you ever wanted to do that one “big ride” to challenge yourself? Riding my bike to Montauk from my apartment in Brooklyn was the first time I had ever dared to ride more than 100 miles in one day. It was 1998. I was only 23 years old. I had just finished college. I had started a new job…and I decided to train all summer to meet this goal.

I wanted to do this ride one-way…and take the LIRR back home when I was done.  Back then, you couldn’t bring your bike on the LIRR Montauk branch before Labor Day. So I waited until the week after. I remember going to the Hagstrom Map Store on 43rd Street and 6th Avenue to buy all the maps I would need to plan my journey. The ride would be about 115 miles long…if I didn’t  get lost. I spent a ton of time trying to figure out what roads to ride, how to do this, etc. But I couldn’t wait! I had only been to Montauk as a kid with my parents. Now I was ready to go there on my own…on a bike!

The ride exceeded my expectations. And when I saw that lighthouse at the end of the ride it blew me away. I went down to the rocky beach below the lighthouse and I saw about a dozen fisherman casting their lines out into the surf. One guy was holding a huge fish he had just caught. I wondered if his feeling of accomplishment was similar to mine. I had caught a huge prize of my own…riding to Montauk!

Since that first ride, I have ridden to Montauk many times. Each time I learned a little more. I discovered how to use the trains effectively to do different kinds of rides. I learned where to camp. Where to get a good dinner. And were the best scenery was.

Three years ago I decided to put all of this knowledge into the first bike tour we ever offered at Gotham Bicycle Tours: Our Montauk and Eastern Long Island bike tour. It’s all the highlights of my many bike trips to Montauk condensed into a weekend that you can experience. Since not everyone wants to ride a hundred-plus miles, we have several different routes to choose from between 16 and 60 miles…each one designed to give you a feeling of accomplishment when you reach THE END!  And forget about pouring over paper maps!  We have all the routes figured out for you, and you can get turn-by-turn navigation from a GPS app on your smartphone.  Doing a bike overnight to Montauk and the Hamptons has gotten easier than ever!

Craft beer and biking!

A favorite pastime for many cyclists is to do a big ride that ends at a craft brewery destination. There’s nothing better than enjoying a beer at the end of a big ride!  But getting back on that bike after drinking that beer can be tough going…or even dangerous if you’ve had a few too many.  Unless the brewery you’ve ridden to is next to a train station, or you’ve made plans to have someone pick you up, riding those final miles after your brewery ride can be a challenge.CL

That’s why we came up with our Captain Lawrence Bicycle Tour. Captain Lawrence is a locally famous brewery…you can find their beers in many stores and restaurants throughout the tri-state region. And to ride to Captain Lawrence is relatively easy….its about a half-mile away from a great rail-trail.  But because rail-trails are in the locations where trains used to be….unfortunately there’s no easy way to get home with your bike if you don’t want to do any more riding.  And that’s the situation we were hoping to remedy with our bike tour.

Captain Lawrence is a great brewery to experience, and given its proximity to New York City, it should be easy ride for anyone from the city to do…and now it is!  Check out our ride details on our website!  With lunch, rail-fare and a ride back to the train included…it’s an unbeatable value for an all-inclusive day trip from the city!

 

Outdoorfest 2016

We are glad to be back for the second year of OutdoorFest! OutdoorFest is a 10-day outdoor adventure festival that aims to connect New Yorkers to live healthier and more adventurous lives. Look for us at the Outdoor Adventure Expo on Sunday June 19th from 12-5pm or ride with us the week before on Sunday, June 12th!

 

 

Celebrate National Bike Travel Weekend with us on June 3-5

Gotham Bike Tours is pleased to participate in National Bike Travel Weekend, June 3-5, 2016.

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#adventurecycling #biketravelweekend #bikeovernight

A Winery Campout in Central New Jersey

http://www.bikeovernights.org/post/a-winery-campout-in-central-new-jersey

Interested in Family Bike Touring?

Are you interested in the idea of doing a bike tour with your family (including your kids)?  During the past year one of the most frequently asked questions we received from potential customers was “Can I bring my kids on this bike tour?”  So we decided to try to put together a tour that was family friendly. And the best way to do this is to ask people with families what they prefer.

So please, if you are interested, take our quick 10-question anonymous survey at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/3MWL99L The feedback you give us will be immensely helpful!

Biking Just Beyond the Big City

As passionate cyclists and campers, Bronx residents Lukas Herbert and Laura Willis have introduced friends to their avocation and hope to see their fellow city riders discover the joys of multiple-day bicycle touring. But they know an impediment exists.

“While bike riding is becoming hugely popular here, a lot of people do not have access to personal vehicles, which poses a major obstacle for doing a bike tour,” Mr. Herbert said in an email.

Enter Gotham Bicycle Tours, which the couple started this spring to offer three-day, two-night bike tours just outside the New York City metro region.

“Fortunately, we have a mass transit system that permits bikes, so we are setting up these tours with 100 percent access to mass transit,” said Mr. Herbert, an urban planner with Westchester County, specializing in bicycle and pedestrian work.

“The idea is to remove as many barriers as possible to get people out on a bike overnight,” he said. “Then, if they do our tours, maybe they’ll graduate to a bigger, longer tour or strike out on their own. Regardless, the goal is to increase bike traveling, which is a good thing.”

Four tours are scheduled, two that traverse the Hudson Valley ($275 a person) and two along eastern Long Island and out to Montauk ($295 a person). The trips start at commuter rail stops outside the city.

Aside from not doing the actual pedaling, Gotham is making the outing as easy as possible for travelers by mapping scenic routes, planning meals and arranging accommodations (bed-and-breakfast options are sometimes available for noncampers).

Gotham staff will shuttle riders’ gear and even the cyclists themselves if they get too tired. Technical assistance is available for everything from a flat tire to tent setup (tent rentals are available too).

http://nyti.ms/UiGr7Z

Bike Overnights Out of the Big Apple

Adventure Cycling: Bike Bits Vol. 16, No. 10, May 21, 2014

Lukas Herbert of New York City recently launched a small bike-touring service called Gotham Bike Tours. It’s aimed at introducing people to the bike overnight concept by leading them on three-day, two-night tours just outside the New York metro region. “While bike riding is becoming hugely popular here, a lot of people do not have access to personal motor vehicles,” Lukas said. “This poses a major obstacle for doing a bike tour. Fortunately, we have a mass transit system that permits bikes, so we are setting up these tours with 100 percent access to mass transit.” The idea, he added, is to remove as many barriers as possible to getting people out on a bike overnight for the first time — or even the second or third time. “Then, if they do our tours, maybe they can ‘graduate’ to a bigger, longer tour, maybe even strike out on their own. Regardless, the goal is to increase bike traveling, which is a good thing.” Tours upcoming this summer include two in the Hudson Valley and another pair on eastern Long Island.

http://www.adventurecycling.org/index.cfm/adventure-cyclist/publications-archive/?PublicationsArchiveaction=main.display_bb&file=20140521.txt