Monday, November 06, 2006

The New Yorker: Holy Rollers

Image of bicyclist in Times SquareThe New Yorker for November 13 has this provocative article by Ben McGrath, HOLY ROLLERS: The city’s bicycle zealots:

"New York is by no means a bicycle haven, like Copenhagen or Amsterdam, or even San Francisco or Madison, Wisconsin, where cycling, despite hilly terrain, is three times as common as it is here. But a smaller proportion of New York residents own automobiles compared with any large city in the Western world, and the local bicycling movement now includes more than twenty groups, with names like Right of Way, FreeWheels, and Revolution Rickshaws, drawing inspiration from sources as varied as the French Situationist philosopher Guy Debord, the civil-rights leaders John Lewis and Hosea Williams, and the urban sociologist Jane Jacobs."

One major opposition to bicyclists in New York City is, surprisingly, pedestrians. When cyclists proliferate on sidewalks, as they seem to do in New York City, it's generally because the streets are perceived as unsafe. Create more bike lanes, and the sidewalks become less appealing to bikers. Most responsible bike organizations, such as Transportation Alternatives in NYC, or the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, strongly discourage sidewalk bicycling, which generally creates unnecessary enemies for bicyclists.

As I wrote on my Bike Commuting Tips website: Many beginning cyclists think that riding on the sidewalk is safer than riding in the street. They couldn't be more wrong. Cycling on the sidewalk means you have to dodge pedestrians, pets, scaffolding, garbage cans, parking meters and signs, vehicles exiting driveways and garages, landscaping, trees and leafy debris, motorists turning off the street, pedestrians leaving buildings without expecting a high velocity traveler sharing their space, and police officers with a ticket quota to meet. Ride in the street. It's safer.

See: Times Up NYC
Image: Web capture

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

It just depends on where you live....NYC sidewalks have tons of people on them, but where I live in Williamsburg, VA....I hardly encounter pedestrians, animals, or driveways. And when I do approach any of those things, I use common sense and observe what is happening around me, slow down and am ready to stop at any moment. I use crosswalks at intersections and ride very slow or walk my bike when near pedestrians. It works better for me. I also use bike lanes when I can and the road if the lanes are wide, and I even go off road when roads are very skinny. I just feel so much more relaxed when a car or bus or semi-truck isn't riding my ass waiting for a time when they can pass me and then suck me into there airstream as the pass by. I basically ride like I did as a child and hey, I made it alive through childhood! :)

Anonymous said...

Unless there is explicit signage denoting the adverse, piloting a wheeled vehicle on a pedestrian walkway is against the law. This includes any wheeled vehicles such as bicycles, pickup trucks, steamrollers, rollerblades, and the list goes on. The series of laws supporting this allows law enforcement to give out tickets (fees) to discourage any adverserial behavior. The reason this behavior is adverserial in nature is that sidewalks were explicitly built for pedestrians, and using a vehicle on a sidewalk is a violation of the intended mechanism of action, not only that it is disrespectful to pedestrians and bikers everywhere. If you ride on the sidewalk (or run reds, or stop signs) your actions tell pedestrians that you don't respect their right of way; why be surprised when you're slapped with a fine, and your bike is confiscated? On top of that you disrespect the bikers in your community by fronting a bad image to the rest of the public, and failing to exercise your right as a vehicle to operate in the road.