Thursday, May 17, 2007

Random Bike Stuff

May is Bike Month and, in particular, tomorrow (Friday May 18th) is National Bike to Work Day. Though biking is part of my everyday world, I've been thinking about various aspects of biking in the city quite a bit lately. I'm not going to bother trying to tie one story to the other, consider this post a series of mini rants.

God, I hate driving in New York
By "New York", I do mean New York City. It's a very common thing to, shortly after moving to the city, simply drop the "city" part of the name. After all, where else could a resident possibly be talking about...Albany? anyways, Two days ago, I was asked to drive to an area of Brooklyn called Bay Ridge. I was picking up cupcakes for a party and, being a short 90 blocks, it seemed relatively close. I borrowed my boss's car and started making my way there. No sooner had I gotten on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway before I was stuck in stopped traffic. The same traffic I see everyday. I ended up having to get off the highway, pump a bit of $3.15/gallon gas into the car and take side roads the whole way. Total time it took me to drive a total of 180 blocks: over an hour and half. To give this distance some perspective, I could bike there in less time. Truly, I have biked into that same area and, from my house, it takes just about half an hour. I don't understand this car culture in the city. When not only is the subway faster, but *biking* is faster (and completely free to fill up the tank! ;)), why do people still pile into their cars to wait and wait and wait!?

In Related News
I am heading to my first community meeting tonight. I will be there in support of a DOT proposed plan for a "road diet" for 9th St. The plan includes adding a bike lane to this street and is based on the idea that there is simply not enough traffic for the road (which results in people going too fast and causing dangerous conditions). Despite the fact that this road has been the site of many accidents, including a famous one in which a car crashed into Dizzy's Diner, there is actually a very vocal opposition to this plan! The opposition's viewpoint seems, to me, focused on two points. One, they don't want to encourage cyclists to use a dangerous road. This is neglecting the fact that cyclists, like myself, are already using the road and that the bike lane is intended to make the road less dangerous. The next point of argument is that people are afraid of losing the "right' to double-park on the street (parking in a bike lane is technically illegal). I say 'technically' because, in my time biking these city streets (and, as you readers know, I've biked ALOT of them), I have never seen a car get ticketed for being in the bike lane. That's not to say it doesn't happen. Today, on my way home from work, I counted 8 cars parked in the bike lane, in just a 13 block span. That's more than a car every other block. I don't think these people get (or care) about the impact of this. Everytime a car parks in a bike lane, the cyclists who are supposed to be using that lane are forced out into the main flow of traffic. Now, fast as bikes can go, they do not go as fast as a car, so cars behind the cylists must either move further to the left to avoid them or slow down to accomodate them. Though these sound like rational courses of action, I have learned that you can never trust a motorist to be rational. It remains the equivilent of waking into oncoming traffic. If everyone notices you, you'll be fine, but all it takes is one car to not notice you. You see, when two cars hit, the drivers walk out of their vehicles, maybe yell at one another, call the cops and exchange insurance info. If a bike and a car hit, while the driver may be fine, the cyclist can look forward to serious injury or perhaps death.
Update: The DOT's proposed plan passed!

Think Before You Act
I can not count the number of times I have been honked at by drivers. I actually had a delivery van curse me out the other day. (I called him a few choice words too, I should add). It's always ironic that, most of the time it happens, I am going with the flow of traffic and, if I were a car going the same speed, the driver would think nothing of it. In over half the occasions, I've even passed the driver later on, while I zoomed through stopped traffic. After driving in the city, I think it's the act of driving that makes people like that. Something about being in a huge enclosed metal box makes me people assholes. I'm not quite sure why. It's no wonder that a group of cyclists move like a silent stream while a group of cars is called Gridlock and is accompanied by the honking of horns and gnashing of teeth.

Well, I'm off my high horse for the day. Thanks!