At the foot of the bridge, Eckstein goes north, while Cohen heads south. She deftly weaves her sport bicycle through the crowd of bankers and secretaries flowing through the canyons of Wall Street. She locks the Cannon at the rack outside the Jewish Child Care Assn., where she works as a grant manager. On sunny days, the street overflows with bikes.
"It's a beautiful way to start the day," she said of her commute.
In theory at least, Manhattan is ideal for cyclists: a grid, flat and finite. But Transportation Alternatives estimates that cycling commuters make up less than 1% of New Yorkers. In contrast, almost 40% of Copenhagen's 1 million residents bicycle to work -- even during long, cold winters.
"We're not Copenhagen, but we can do better than 0.5%," said Sadik-Khan, the commissioner.
Among bicycle activists, hope is tempered with skepticism.
"For me, the level of frustration has never been higher because the potential has never been greater," said George Bliss, an inventor, entrepreneur and longtime bicycle activist. "This moment could pass, and we could end up with nothing."
On a recent Friday, Bliss, 54, rode in a demonstration that began shortly after 8:30 p.m. when dozens of cyclists fanned out from Union Square, closely followed by scooter-riding police officers. In the spring night, the swarm of cyclists brought to mind a colony of bats as they wove between the cars on the darkened streets, dispersing and gathering seemingly without aim. Soon the police lost the trail.
The idea for collective protest rides first took hold in the early 1990s with cyclists demonstrating for better biking conditions in San Francisco. In New York, protesters from the group Critical Mass now gather once a month for a ride through the city, often followed by police who try to ticket them for any traffic rule infraction.
After half an hour, Bliss peeled off and pedaled across town to the Hub Station, his bicycle shop in the West Village. The shop also serves as the headquarters of his other business, Pedicabs of New York, which offers trips by streamlined bicycle rickshaws.
For 20 years, he has fought to allow more bicycles on the streets, but he has recently tired of the protests.
"It used to be celebratory: couples on a Friday night going down to Union Square for a bit of pedaling," Bliss said. "Now it's a fight: anarchists and cop-haters playing a silly game with the police."
Because officers don't ticket drivers parked illegally in bike lanes, the paths often resemble an obstacle course of taxis and trucks unloading people and goods. Bliss said that if officers began clearing bike paths by ticketing and removing illegally parked vehicles, perhaps cyclists would stay in their lanes and order would eventually come to the streets of New York.
"This is a moment when everything can happen," he said, referring to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's willingness to work with the cyclists and the increasing number of cyclists on the streets. "But," he added, "there are some serious cultural structures that have to be dismantled."