“Shifting Gears”

New Yorker Oct. 26 Cover - San Diego Scenic Cycle Tours

Cover by R. Kikuo-Johnson 2020

As covid-19 infection rates have risen in New York, and the city braces for winter, it can be hard to see a reason for optimism. For his latest New Yorker cover, R. Kikuo Johnson finds one: the welcome surge of cycling across the boroughs. We recently talked to Johnson about biking, working from home, and one of his favorite views in the city.

This is such a lovely image amid dark times. Was there a moment when inspiration struck?

When I think of New York City, the first image that comes to mind is the view from the Williamsburg Bridge. From the top, you see the whole city at once: skyscrapers, graffiti, at least four bridges, the Statue of Liberty, sweating crowds in a rush. For as long as I’ve lived here, the bridge has been my gateway to Manhattan, and then my link back home to Brooklyn.

How do you feel about the city being reshaped by the pandemic? The diminished traffic, empty stores and office buildings, closed restaurants.

I’ve been reminding myself that New York will, hopefully, never be quite like this again, and I’ve been trying to take stock of the good changes: parks where every blanket has a picnic and an open bottle of wine, the outdoor dining that I always envied in Europe, and streets closed to cars and covered in chalk drawings. When New York is back at full steam, I hope we’ll keep at least a bit of that spirit.

You’ve long got around the city on a bike. How does it feel seeing so many new converts to two-wheel locomotion?

I love that more people are discovering cycling. New Yorkers are used to waiting in long lines, on subways, and in traffic, but bikes offer freedom from all that. A few years ago, I moved away from the city for a bit, and, besides missing my friends, I thought I’d miss the restaurants, bars, and museums. Instead, I missed cycling home at 2ca.m., when Broadway was empty and I had the whole city to myself. Hopefully, as more people discover that joy, the city will become even more accommodating to cyclists.

Thanks for your Widsom Francoise Mouly and The New Yorker Magazine

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