A few years back it was estimated that New York City drew in around 51 million tourists, of which only 10% visited the Bronx. The 10% who managed to get up there divided their time between three areas in particular: The Bronx Zoo, The Botanical Gardens, and Yankee Stadium, a total area that covers only a fraction of the borough's 57.5 square miles. Why such small numbers and only in three locations? Olga Luz Tirado, the director of the Bronx Tourism Council, believes that the Bronx has established a not-so-great reputation among visiting tourists as well as full-time residents of the city. It is an unfortunate impression that has marked the Bronx as an area unaccommodating to visitors in some circles.
It's a reputation like this that prevents not just tourists from exploring a large part of NYC's vast space, but also residents. Its reputation, soured by old opinion, sticks with potential younger visitors as well. Millennials who might find interest in touring the wide-ranging neighborhoods of the Bronx are halted at the get-go with false impressions and inaccurate assumptions about the options the borough provides. Those interested in getting the most out of a city with so much to offer would do well to check out the northernmost borough of the Big Apple, however, thereby improving and renewing its original reputation. One such way in helping out with this cause is about to happen this weekend.
One of the great events provided by a joint effort between the Bronx Tourism Council and Transportation Alternatives is the annual Tour de Bronx, a cross-borough bike tour promoting exploration of one of the city's most underrated areas. The name conjures up many images of the well known Tour de France. The Bronx race may not cover the same ground in both length or publicity, but it does provide the largest free bike race in the entire city, which is something to appreciate in its own right.
Tirado, in an email, talked further about the race. "We get nearly 6,000 riders on an annual basis who come to ride these courses. We make it free so that as many people as possible can participate. The Tour de Bronx is designed so that sponsors who want to promote healthy lifestyles help offset costs in order to get our borough active and healthy. Moreover we market this event as a great way to visit different parts of the borough encouraging tourists to come and join us."
The race itself demonstrates a diversity not just of riders but of modes of transportation as well. Thick-tired mountain bikes, sleek aluminum-framed road racers, or what-look-like recliners with wheels all accompany riders on this race.
"There are two courses, the 25-mile course for the casual cyclist and the 40-mile for the enthusiast," Tirado said. "The routes are created with the input of the Office of the Borough President and Transportation Alternatives. They are designed to get the maximum impact athletically while also covering a broad range of what The Bronx has to offer." The race takes riders from the center of the Bronx, through SUNY Maritime's campus, around City Island to the north, and through the center of the historical Woodlawn Cemetery (among many other places) over the course of its length.
It provides one of the more fun and engaging ways to check out a vibrant community, and the more young people that can participate in this event the better the perception of the Bronx can become. It helps get the word out. With a city as sprawling as NYC, it can be an overwhelming task to check out everything it has to offer, but the Tour de Bronx encapsulates a general sense of the whole borough within a span of 42 miles. By experiencing this tour, millennials can give themselves a chance to examine the Bronx in a new fashion, and bring their positive perceptions back with them after the race is over.