Cyclists expected at Tour de Queens in record numbers

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More than 1,500 bicyclists will take to Queens streets Sunday for the second-annual Tour de Queens bike ride that has attracted more than double the number of riders than the inaugural event — a sign biking is becoming increasingly popular and convenient in the borough, according to one of the ride’s organizers.

Wiley Norvell of Transportation Alternatives, the nonprofit presenting the tour, said the event’s popularity has skyrocketed since last year. When the group held an online registration for 1,000 spots a month ago, biking enthusiasts snatched them up in 12 hours.

“We’ve been doing tours in Brooklyn and Bronx for years, and all our tours have been growing year after year, but we have yet to see one fill up as fast as the Tour de Queens,” Norvell said. “We’re so enthused by the demand for biking, and there’s no reason this won’t become a yearly tradition that grows.”

There will be another 500 spots available for riders on a first come, first serve basis Sunday.

The interest in the 18-mile tour that starts and finishes at the Queens Museum of Art in Flushing Meadows Corona Park proves the borough is becoming more bicycle-friendly and Queens residents are increasingly opting for their bikes, not cars, to get them around the city, Norvell said.

“You see more and more bike commuters, recreational cyclists and bike lanes in Queens,” Norvell said. “We have more and better-designed bikes lanes. Routes like the Sunnyside Connector, Vernon Boulevard and routes in the Rockaways are contributing to the bike boon in Queens.”

Transportation Alternatives, which promotes bicycling, walking and taking mass transit in lieu of driving, found that those commuting from Queens to Manhattan via bicycle has tripled since 2000. Citywide, bicycle commuting rose 35 percent between 2007 and 2008, Norvell said.

The tour begins at 9 a.m. and will end sometime in the late afternoon. Bicyclists will make a clockwise loop across eastern Queens, beginning in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and travel through Fresh Meadows, Hollis, St. Albans, Jamaica, Kew Gardens and Forest Hills before returning to the park.

“This is a ride, not a race,”Norvell said. “It’s a leisurely tour escorted by the NYPD. We ride in one group, and the NYPD will close a street as the ride moves through and reopen the streets once we have left. There will be minimal impact on traffic as the ride moves through.”

LaGuardia Community College, Tom Cat Bakery and The Creek in Long Island City and York College and Bellitte Bicycles in Jamaica, the oldest continually operating bike shop in the city, are helping to sponsor the event.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

Updated 6:33 pm, October 10, 2011
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