Stephen Nessen, Reporter, WNYC News
Stephen Nessen reports for the WNYC Newsroom and can often be heard live on Morning Edition.
The city will celebrate bike month by closing 42 miles of streets for the sold-out Five-Boro Bike Tour on Sunday when 32,000 cyclists will pedal through the city in what is the 34th year of the event.
Bike shops across the city have been flooded with requests for last-minute tune ups, tire changes and gear tightening. Mechanics at Bike and Board in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, said they'll be up all night if need be in order to get bikes ready for the weekend.
"Five Boro is like one of those eye-opening things for a lot of people," said Chombo, a mechanic at the shop. "Maybe they will pursue more bike riding, and keep their bike nice and healthy so they won’t have to hear disappointing news from us, like 'Your bike is broken.'"
Hal Ruzil, of Bicycle Habitats, was on the very first tour in 1977 when there were only 250 riders. He said he prefers lone rides to Bear Mountain on the weekend: "I've never felt more unsafe than on a Five Boro bike ride. Too many incompetent cyclists in one space," he said.
Finishing one tune up, Ruzil is handed a shiny new bike rack to install on a beat up road bike. He said his store has been increasingly busy, and not just for the Five Boro, but biking interest is up in general.
"Gas is expensive, subways are slower than ever, so the bike is a good way of getting around," he said. "As long as the police don’t give too many asinine tickets for running a red light when there’s no traffic, I think bicycling will be on the increase."
Grunting as he hauled a silver road bike onto his work station and tossing back his dreadlocked hair, Ruzil continued to do what he's done every May: Like the cherry blossoms that perfume the streets, the squeaking of bike brakes signifies the start of the biking season.