I’ve been meaning to write a post about biking in New York for some time, but
this little film says so much of what I wanted to say that you should watch
At the moment, everybody in New York hates the bicyclists – not only
the car drivers, but the pedestrians too. The reason is that we don’t have anywhere
to be: everybody’s trying to crowd into the same space, to disastrous effect.
And the absence of safe bike lanes means that there’s relatively few bikers,
which means that pedestrians, especially, don’t expect or think about bicylists
– which means that they’re perfectly happy stepping out into the road
without looking, especially if traffic isn’t moving (but bicyclists might well
It’s simply not realistic to expect drivers to think about potholes when they’re
driving down the street. Me, when I’m biking, I’m on the lookout for potholes
all the time. If I see one, I need to ride around it – and often that
means swerving out into traffic. But often when cars whiz past me, and taxis
are prime offenders here, they pass so closely that the tiniest swerve would
take me straight into them.
What New York needs is more cyclists. That will reduce traffic, and also increase
consciousness that we cyclists exist, especially on the part of pedestrians
who currently consider that they basically own the small margin of the streets
between parked cars and driving cars, which is the only piece of street real
estate where we cyclists are allowed. Think about it: when you’re walking in
New York and you hit a red light, do you wait on the sidewalk? Or do you walk
out a little bit into the street first and then wait? Thought so.
At the moment, New York is simply too dangerous to cyclists for the number
of cyclists to increase substantially. So separated bike lanes are a must. I
use the Grand Street bike lane now every day, and it’s certainly better than
nothing. But it’s not remotely good enough to increase the number of cyclists
substantially. Much more radical change is needed, and needed now.
One question for my bike-riding readers: I know we’ve all been in this situation
many times. We’re riding crosstown, and there’s a red light in front of us.
A car is behind us, and honks aggressively until we pull over, at which point
the car speeds past us and stops at the light. Of course, we reach the light
ourselves a few seconds later. Is there anything, at that point, we cyclists
can or should do? Or is the only thing to be zen and let it wash over us? I
get very angry at car drivers who think I have no right to be on the road and
who tell me so in no uncertain terms – is there nothing I can do about