- With New York opening back up a little, I wanted to go visit a friend in Brooklyn with my roommate.
- My roommate is comfortable taking the subway, but I haven’t ridden it since March.
- We decided to race to see who would traverse the voyage across NYC faster: me on my e-scooter or her on the subway.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
New York City isn’t dead. In fact, it’s the site of my new reality show: Juliana’s Amazing Race.
You may be wondering what that means. Well, a few things. Simply put, my roommate and I wanted to go visit a friend in Brooklyn — around 10 miles away — and we decided to settle the debate once and for all: whether an electric scooter could outrun the subway on a journey across the city.
(To my knowledge, no one has posed this question and it is not an actual debate. But that’s because I’m here to settle it.)
Back during early quarantine, I purchased an e-scooter in order to help me traverse the city safely and speedily. (See also: because I was bored.) I then began scootering from Uptown Manhattan to Brooklyn to visit pals, and finally, restaurants in the city began to open for outdoor dining.
This confluence of factors led to my dear friend Maddy announcing that she’d like to go to a cafe. And not just any cafe: a small business near her apartment that had reopened under new ownership during the pandemic.
Maddy was adamant. She’d send me at least five to 10 of this cafe’s Instagram stories over a week, and I would reply that I would go with her soon. This did not satiate her. Giving into her relentless persuasion, I finally decreed that I would scooter to Brooklyn yet again to have this cafe’s (admittedly incredible) breakfast sandwich.
My roommate Rose, an essential worker who has been taking the subway for a few months now, wanted to join us. But my e-scooter seats only one, and I’m still a little hesitant to take the subway (although evidence points to it being safer than I initially assumed).
Obviously, the only logical conclusion was a race. Rose would take the subway and I would scooter.
When I informed Rose and Maddy that this venture would be the subject of a Business Insider article, I received responses that included: “You’re gonna blog it?” (Rose), “Why?” (Maddy), and “Can you highlight my skepticism?” (also Rose).
But I had faith. I was the scrappy underdog; Google Maps predicted my journey would clock in at around an hour and six minutes — and that it would take Rose 40 minutes.
However, things like transferring trains, randomly getting held in the station, and chronic underinvestment in public transit can all slow down that ride. If the train got held at just one station, I would have a fighting chance.
We began at the same time and place: the subway station
We both set off two minutes before the train was due to arrive. It takes me about two minutes to get from the subway entrance to the bike-path entrance, so this seemed like the fairest way to go about it.
I began my delightful scoot down the Hudson River Greenway while Rose boarded a fairly empty train. She texted me live reports (for journalism), including a screenshot of the Spotify playlist she was listening to.
Almost everyone on her train was masked (she reported one exception), and by Times Square, the entire car was wearing masks. While she transferred to a more crowded express train — the faster choice when compared to the local train, which makes more stops — at 96th street, it mostly cleared out by 14th.
Meanwhile, on the scooter …
I was having a delightful ride. The weather was perfect: a crisp sunny 70 degrees.
I passed an outdoor wedding on the banks of the Hudson. I waved at my familiar friends, The Bumps In the Bike Path (which someone has conveniently graffitied “BUMPS” on), and ruminated on the importance of well-maintained bike paths. I only got yelled at by one pedestrian after I stopped for her and she didn’t go.
But while I assumed my autonomy would be an asset — I didn’t have to depend upon a conductor or the whims of fellow trains — I fear it ultimately became my downfall. I kept getting caught in pods of Very Slow Bikers, which, solidarity, because I am also very slow when I bike.
Because the weather was so nice, the bike path became congested with them, and I wasn’t able to hit my maximum speed of around 17 mph. At one point, a biker simply just stopped in front of me on the Brooklyn Bridge; I appreciated the devotion to the views, but I feel that perhaps there are better places one can stop than in the middle of the path.
A combination of the MTA working extremely well and the unavoidable condition of other people enjoying a nice ride resulted in a sound loss for the scooter
Ultimately, Rose beat both me and her Google Maps estimates; it took her around half an hour to arrive. I rolled up a smooth half hour later.
While I was sad that the scooter didn’t win, I did find it heartening that subway service can indeed be reliable enough (even during a pandemic) to beat a time estimate.
It was also nice to see that so many people were enjoying themselves — at a distance, of course. I passed spread-out picnics, a distanced tai chi class, and a neat, masked-up line for a public tennis court.
In the end, I got to see my friends, support a small business, and spend some lovely time outdoors, so I really can’t complain too much.
But next time I am making Rose take the local train.