Tag Archives: nyc

New York: Walking the High Line

The High Line
One of the highlights of our trip to New York was walking the High Line, a formerly abandoned, elevated train line in Chelsea that has been turned into an urban park/greenway. We visited on a warm, sunny Friday afternoon in October, and the High Line was packed with locals and tourists.

High Line Experience

The design detail that went into redeveloping the High Line is awesome. There are so many little touches that make it an interesting stretch to walk. If you look down, you’ll see remnants of railroad tracks and rugged shrubs and flowers. If you look up, you’ll see old brick buildings undergoing renovations to keep up with the interest the High Line has spurred in the area.

Benches on the High Line

There is plenty of seating along the route to stop, eat, read a book, or people watch.

Walking the High Line

High Line and London Terrace Gardens Natural Beauty on the High Line Highline Maintenance Trike Drinking Contraband Soda Undeveloped High Line New York Vertical Parking Lot

New York: Cycling Manhattan

Allen Street Separated Bike Lane
New York has made huge improvements to its walking/cycling infrastructure in the past five years, adding bike lanes, car-free zones, and greenways throughout the city. When we visited in 2007, the first bike lanes were just being built in Manhattan, and few cyclists braved the streets. Five years later, Times Square is a pedestrian-only zone, the High Line is all the rage (more on that in a later post), separated bike lanes cut across Manhattan, and cyclists are everywhere.

Brooklyn Bridge Cyclist

I was really excited to bike around New York and experience all the improvements firsthand. We rented bikes one day, and, unfortunately, had a terribly disappointing experience – the weather, construction, and cost all conspired against us. New York’s bike share program was supposed to be operational during our visit, but was delayed until March 2013. That forced us to rent expensive tourist bikes for $25 each for only 2 hours. The staff at Bike and Roll were almost useless on providing advice on where to go and sent us off with a map that promised separated bike lanes, but didn’t mention that large stretches were under construction and a mess to navigate.

Cycle Track Construction Begins Narrow Bike Lane During Construction

After we got through the construction under the FDR Expressway, we made the mistake of following the signs for the Brooklyn Bridge. The bike route to the foot of the bridge lead us down congested streets in the financial district without any bike lanes. It got especially hairy near the 9/11 memorial.

Nervous in New York Traffic Congested Bike Route

Things were a bit better once we got to the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge has a designated lane for cyclists, but it’s narrow and there are constantly pedestrians spilling into it. There was also more construction on the bridge, so the the first half gave us spectacular views of metal sheeting.

Brooklyn Bridge Bike Lane Brooklyn Bridge Metal Tunnel

The one bright spot of our ride was the last stretch on the west side of Manhattan. The West Side Greenway and Hudson River Promenade offered wide, smooth, uncongested bike lanes put smiles on our faces.

Enjoying the West Side Greenway Battery Park City Promenade

Maybe it was because we weren’t often out during rush hour, but there seemed to be less conflict between cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians in New York (compared to Vancouver), even though space is at more of a premium and we witnessed a lot more bad behaviour. Pedestrians routinely darted into traffic, cyclists salmoned up bike lanes, and cars routinely parked in bike lanes. Yet, we rarely saw angry confrontations. I guess everyone’s a sinner in New York, so there’s no sense being self-righteous.

Union Square Bike Lane Cars Parked in the Bike Lane

More pictures available on Flickr.

New York: Best Vegan Restaurants and Bakeries

New York Vegan Food Collage
While Emily and I were in New York for Ben and Brittany’s wedding, we did our best to eat at the best vegan and vegetarian restaurants. New York has several upscale restaurants that are strictly vegan, and we spent hundreds of dollars trying most of them. The only notable one we missed was Dirt Candy. Here are reviews of the 8 restaurants and two bakeries we ate at.

  1. Pure Food and Wine on UrbanspoonPure Food and Wine
    A raw food restaurant that impressed us with the quality and taste of the food. We ate a portobello and hemp burger and the brazil nut and sea vegetable croquettes, washed down with a bunny brew and red ginger pressed juice. Everything was extremely flavourful. It’s expensive, but well worth it. Everything is completely vegan, soy-free, and mostly gluten-free.
  2. Blossom on UrbanspoonBlossom
    An upscale vegan eatery in Chelsea (close to the High Line). I really enjoyed my phyllo roulade and the coconut crème brulée dessert was to-die-for. Emily enjoyed the ravioli with a cashew cream sauce, but her soup was bland.
    Blossom Dinner Blossom Vegan Coconut Crème Brulée
  3. Candle 79 on UrbanspoonCandle 79
    Another vegan fine-dining restaurant. I was blown away by the food when I ate here in 2005. It was my first introduction to upscale, vegetarian dining and it set the bar that I compare every restaurant to. This time we ordered the nachos, seitan steak, and raw enchilada. It was all good, but we probably should have ordered an appetizer that wasn’t so similar to our entrees.
  4. Sun In Bloom on UrbanspoonSun in Bloom
    A funky vegan restaurant in Brooklyn with lots of raw and gluten-free options. We went for brunch and tried the pancakes (tasty) and a tofu, squash tart (good but dry). There were lots of menu items that I’d want to go back and try. We sat at a big communal table and got to listen to the crumbling relationship of the couple next to us. It was awkward.
  5. Tiffin Wallah on UrbanspoonTiffin Wallah
    We had a tasty Indian lunch buffet here before we had to fly back to Vancouver. It was the cheapest meal we had in New York. Everything is vegetarian and mostly vegan.
  6. Red Bamboo on UrbanspoonRed Bamboo
    A Greenwich Village vegetarian restaurant specializing in mock-meat dishes with a range of flavours. Almost everything has soy, but I managed to find a black bean vegetable stir-fry that I could eat. This was one of Emily’s favourite restaurants and she really enjoyed the mock salmon and quinoa dish she ordered.
  7. Quintessence on UrbanspoonQuintessence
    A raw bar that we checked out for brunch. We had granola with coconut yogurt, walnut banana bread, and a savory crepe (tasty and impressive for a raw food restaurant). The clientele on a weekday morning were bizarre, but it’s exactly what I expected in the East Village.
  8. Caravan of Dreams on UrbanspoonCaravan of Dreams
    Another East Village vegan restaurant. We tried the raw quesadilla and seitan taquitos. Unfortunately, it was all a bit bland. It could have used more spice and flavour. The prices were similar to Candle 79 and Blossom, but the quality wasn’t nearly as good.

There was no clear winner in our vegan bakery contest. Both Babycakes and Blossom Bakery were amazing. The only difference is the part of town they’re located in.

  • Babycakes NYC on UrbanspoonBabycakes
    Located in the Lower East Side, Babycakes has a retro diner atmosphere and is loaded with vegan treats. We tried a doughnut and brownie, and they were amazing. They have lots of gluten-free and sugar-free treats.
    Babycakes Bakery
  • Blossom Bakery on UrbanspoonBlossom Bakery
    A block away from the Blossom restaurant in Chelsea, the bakery serves up sweet delights. We ate a pain au chocolate and coconut creme sandwich. Both were excellent.
    Dessert from Blossom Bakery

We also had really good vegan empanadas from the Nuchas food truck and vegan pizza and pasta from Nick’s Pizza.

Cycling Revolution Around the World

Work Commute
Cycling is enjoying a renaissance around the world, with more cities investing in cycling infrastructure, and more people using bikes as a means of transportation. It’s not too surprising considering that oil prices continue to rise, and bicycles are the most energy efficient means of transportation we have ever invented.

Copenhagen and Amsterdam
Copenhagen and Amsterdam have been at the forefront of cycling culture for decades. In both cities everyone bikes and bikes are used for every imaginable type of trip. These are the cities to look at for inspiring ideas that can make cycling safer and more accessible. Ideas like the Green wave, that times stoplights along bike routes to the speed of a casual cyclist – 15-20km/h.

Paris
In many ways, Paris kicked off the cycling revolution with its Velib bike-share program. Copenhagen and Amsterdam have always been the darling cities of cycling, but Paris showed how a city without a strong bike commuting culture (cycling was a sport – think Tour de France – not a means of commuting), can grow to embrace bike commuting. Before Velib was introduced in Paris, less 1% of trips were by bike. After Velib, that quickly doubled and continues to grow. The introduction of Velib was also accompanied by replacing many car lanes with dedicated bus lanes and bike lanes.

Montreal
Montreal has similar numbers of cyclists and bike infrastructure compared to Vancouver, but there is one huge difference between the two (and it’s not Montreal’s harsh winters). Montreal has created the world’s best bike-sharing program BIXI, which is now being licensed for use around the world.

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