In one of the largest events of its kind since the Boston Marathon bombings, New York City’s 5 Boro Bike Tour went off yesterday under a cloud of heightened security.
An estimated 32,000 cyclists pedaled the 40-mile route through city streets, punctuated with police checkpoints, bomb-sniffing dogs, and a finish-line party in Staten Island that friends and family weren’t allowed to attend. Backpacks, hydration packs, saddle bags and even front baskets were banned from the event for the first time in its 36-year history, limiting cyclists’ options for carrying supplies.
Instead they were allowed fanny packs, water bottle cages and small frame-mounted bags—all subject to a pre-race search by the police.
Participants told the Wall Street Journal that there were checkpoints at the bridges where police checked bib numbers, forcing riders to stop several times.
“It was slowing us down,” said one participant, Valerie Klein, to the Journal. “When you're biking, you need a little speed and then you had to stop at every bridge checkpoint. It was a little different.”
The shadow of Boston didn’t end there: Police on scooters and bikes rode alongside participants, mobile cameras and NYPD helicopters monitored the event, and even the Staten Island Ferry was escorted by harbor police, according to NBC New York.
All of this raises the question: Is this the new normal for big races in big American cities?
Ken Podziba, CEO of Bike New York, which organizes the event, told city blog Gothamist that he doesn’t think the restrictions will be permanent, and NYC police chief Ray Kelly told New York 1 that events like this will be evaluated on a case by case basis.
For now, though, the character of the nation’s largest celebration of cycling seems to have shifted towards that of an airport security line.