Thursday, May 19, 2011

NY Biking

I'm thrilled about all the new bike lanes here (unlike many of my fellow New Yorkers, whom I disown from having such a viewpoint!), and I can't wait for some decent weather to dust off and tune up my Dahon bike, slap on mon casque and try them out, especially the busy network of new lanes in the East Village and Lower East Side.  We still have a way to go towards becoming a Berlin or Paris or Portland, but what's been happening, though controversial, is a great beginning.   At least I hope it's a beginning.  And I sense there ought to be more to come, especially if we are successful with the pilot Vélib-style bike sharing program I've been reading will arrive this summer.

In anticipation, I've been noticing some bike signposts.  But I find they're about as clear as mud, especially if I were to only see them for a nanosecond as I whiz by on a bike in the middle of a fast-moving pack of other cyclists, each of us either trying to understand and follow their guidelines, or worse (and more likely), ignoring them.
If I pass left, does this mean I have to go backwards?
This means traffic is moving in all directions?  How helpful.

In desperation, we'll just try to wipe out New York behavior.
And therein lies the biggest challenge - behavior.  We've got to somehow modify our cyclists' "Tour de France" mentality into that of a cycling commuter.  When I saw how cyclists rode in Berlin, I was in such awe.  For example, they stop at traffic lights, they stay in their lanes (and they expect pedestrians to stay in theirs) and they are for the most part commuters.  They're serious about their rules of the road - when I was sightseeing through Berlin on foot, I got a few choice words yelled at me in German (not that I knew what they meant, but they sounded frightening) a couple of times when I inadvertently stopped in the bike lane portion of the sidewalk to check my map or guidebook.  And when I was sightseeing by bike, it was such a pleasure.  Automobile drivers know to watch out for cyclists as well.  If we manage to get to this level of cycling civility before I get too old to ride as a commuter, I will be satisfied.

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