It always pisses me off when people complain about bikes running red lights and not obeying traffic laws. Traffic laws are there for cars. Cars kill people. Not bikes. We wouldn’t need red lights if it weren’t for cars.
Running a red light on a bike is akin to jaywalking: nominally illegal but something we should all do because it’s smart, right, and prevents a fascist obedience to authority from developing. (But I also firmly believe that bikes should not ride quickly on sidewalks and always respect pedestrians in crosswalks if they have the walk sign).
Anyway, leaving aside my moral argument, bikes also don’t obey the law because we can’t. Sometimes obeying the law is dangerous. Sometimes it’s just plain bizarre. Let’s say I’m going from my place to Central Park (4 miles away) and back.
First you get to the Queensboro Bridge Bike Path. A nice green line on the bike map representing the best New York City has to offer bikes: a dedicated bike lane separated from traffic. Great. And it is pretty good. But not if you follow the law because you couldn’t bike on the damn thing. And once you get used to ignoring the no-bike signs on bike paths, well, you start to take all rules and regulations with a grain of salt.
The entrance is a bit of a traffic mess, but not too bad. There’s actually a sign indicating you’ve found the bike/pedestrian path. It might be nice for tourists to say, “To Manhattan” or something. But I’ll let it slide.
The first signs of trouble is the bridge closed at night sign.
I can’t figure out if these closing are over. I think they are, but I’m not sure. Anyway, I try to get back before 10PM because the bus shuttle is impressive to have, but still sucks.
And notice the first of the “dismount” signs. On the bike path. Look, bicyclists simply aren’t going to dismount. It goes against everything bikes are. And asking bikes to dismount just makes biking wrong. Besides, the bridge is a-mile-and-a-half long. I ain’t walking, damnit. Why not ask something reasonable, like slow down? I’ll slow down to be considerate to workers.
On the Manhattan side another sign saying bikes must dismount and walk bikes. Uh, why? Of course, nobody does.
The damn closed gate. This gate makes bike (and pedestrians) go a block out of the way to get on and off the path when this is the ideal exit. It’s something to do with traffic flow from the bridge, but the traffic just hits a light either way it goes. Something could clearly be worked out here. And when the gate was open for weeks, traffic flowed just fine.
Then you get more generic warning signs (that could be avoided if the gate was open).
Woh! Truck crossing?! Looks serious, but it’s not.
Finally you get to Central Park (S.E. corner) and your welcomed with a sign saying “do not enter,” “authorized vehicles ONLY,” and “entrance closed.” But this in the entrance you’re supposed to enter. You see, all this refers to cars, not the people and bikes that actually use the entrance. How about a sign saying “Welcome to Central Park. Come on in. Open! (closed to vehicle traffic).” Just an idea.
So you bike around the park, next to cars, and return to Queens. Here’s the Manhattan side of the bridge bike path. Does this look like a welcome path?
The sidewalk isn’t closed. It’s open. And it goes to Queens! It’s like they’re trying to keep it a secret. And because the gate above is closed, the path starts in the middle of a crosswalk, just begging for bike/pedestrian problems and red-light green-light confusion (because coming off the bridge bikes have to go North, but there’s traffic coming from behind, and oh well, trust me).
Going down into Long Island City, you hit the Walk Bike signs again. This one is pleasantly covered with graffiti.
Dismount 100ft ahead! Blocked by construction. But then we’re already supposed to be dismounted for construction.
More reminders, just in case you were thinking of biking. Again, one word: why? It’s a friggin’ bike path!
And finally, a double whammy of stop and dismount signs. And then the gate blocks off an unused lane that could be a bike path. Instead we all bike the wrong way down a one-way street. The space is there for a bike lane. The lane is even there. And yet, they make us criminal.
So what’s my point? Not that you shouldn’t bike in the city. I love biking in the city. But it is frustrating (but then so is driving. So is the subway. Biking is better). It would take so little for things to be so much better.
On this “Class One” bike path, there is a sign saying “closed” and then at least nine signs telling you not to bike on the bike path. And this is a major bridge we’re talking about. Everybody from Queens has to cross it to get into Manhattan (well, you could go over the Triborough, but check out this latest report of the crack addicts on that bike path). Making the bridge bike friendly—and what you do before and after the bridge—would be the easiest way to make biking more friendly.
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