Two wheels, four wheels or dozens - which is the fastest mode of travel in the largest and most congested U.S. metropolis?
The winner of the New York City contest: The bicycle, followed by a train and a car.
No great surprise there, especially since Friday's annual race was the idea of Transportation Alternatives, a nonprofit group that advocates biking and walking.
The starting line - at a Brooklyn cafe - had the cyclist off and pedaling the moment the race began. The subway rider, though, had to use his two feet first to get to the station and then transfer to a bus; the car contestant wasted precious minutes waiting for a cab.
While not scientific, all three participants initially swore by their choices, which took them to the finish on East 26th Street and First Avenue in Manhattan.
Luci Olewinski, a nurse practitioner who bikes to work regularly, was confident she would win even before she started. "I'll be relaxing in the park before my competitors even cross the East River," she predicted.
Phillip Pond, a Manhattan designer, opted for the subway, asserting that 3 million daily riders could not be wrong and swearing he would come in first.
When he arrived four minutes later and placed second, the Brooklyn assistant district attorney said: "I was shocked to find her (Olewinski) waiting here at the end."
While conceding that the car historically had done poorly in the annual contest, James Vincente said he would give it his best shot.
When he trailed Pond by four minutes for a last-place finish, he declared: "I'm very ashamed of myself. I'm ashamed of cars and our culture in general."
Environmentalists and alternative transportation enthusiasts have embraced Mayor Michael Bloomberg's recent proposal to charge motorists extra to drive into Manhattan's busiest areas, as part of his Long-Term Planning and Sustainability initiative for a greener New York.
"I think a bike is a great mode of transportation for getting around quickly, being healthy, and doing good things for the environment," said Olewinski, who clocked the 4.13-mile (6.65-kilometer) trip in 15 minutes. "I'll really feel I've won if it makes someone else go out and ride a bike."
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