Sunday, March 08, 2009

Biking in NYC

A very thought provoking piece in the New York Times by Robert Sullivan.

I like his four rules (not that I always follow them):

NO. 1: How about we stop at major intersections? Especially where there are school crossing guards, or disabled people crossing, or a lot of people during the morning or evening rush. (I have the law with me on this one.) At minor intersections, on far-from-traffic intersections, let’s at least stop and go.

NO. 2: How about we ride with traffic as opposed to the wrong way on a one-way street? I know the idea of being told which way to go drives many bikers bonkers. That stuff is for cars, they say. I consider one-way streets anathema — they make for faster car traffic and more difficult crossings. But whenever I see something bad happen to a biker, it’s when the biker is riding the wrong way on a one-way street.

There will be caveats. Perhaps your wife is about to go into labor and you take her to the hospital on your bike; then, yes, sure, go the wrong way in the one-way bike lane. We can handle caveats. We are bikers.

NO. 3: How about we stay off the sidewalks? Why are bikers so incensed when the police hand out tickets for this? I’m only guessing, but each sidewalk biker must believe that he or she, out of all New York bikers, is the exception, the one careful biker, which is a very car way of thinking.

NO. 4: How about we signal? Again, I hear the laughter, but the bike gods gave us hands to ring bells and to signal turns. Think of the possible complications: Many of the bikers behind you are wearing headphones, and the family in the minivan has a Disney DVD playing so loudly that it’s rattling your 30-pound Kryptonite chain. Let them know what you are thinking so that you can go on breathing as well as thinking.
But I'm not a big fan of rules (and sometimes you have to bike the wrong-way down a one-way street. What I really don't understand is why anybody bikes the wrong way down two-way streets). Still, I figure every biker who does more stupid shit than me makes my ride just a little safer.

How about this one rule that covers all of Sullivan's four rules; applies to cars, pedestrians, and bikes; and still leaves you lots of room to not follow the law: don't be a dick.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yesterday afternoon, I, a pedestrian, was walking my dog in cobble hill, and as we were crossing a one-way street with the walk sign saying go, a biker going the wrong way down the one way street hit my dog and broke his back. My dog had to be put down late last night.

Please, bikers. Obey the traffic laws. It is illegal for you to be cruising along (she was going maybe 15-20 mph?) the wrong way down the one way street, and even if you don't care about the law, you won't see the lights changing against you if you're going the wrong way.

Your neighbor