Biking in NYC

Today I took my bike out for the first time in the city. First of all, I have to say, that my timing was amazingly stupid, because today was genuinely hot. A high of 92. For the most part I was in shade by the river, but still. It was hot. Hot. Hot, I tell you.

I was expecting to be frightened and tense while biking–I mean, it’s New York. I’m used to Portland, where the cyclists are plentiful and respected. We all know how crazy traffic in NYC is, right? Yeah. Here’s the interesting thing. Traffic in the city is slow.

I didn’t think about that until I was on the bike. Even obeying all the traffic laws, I was always moving faster than vehicular traffic. Why? Well, first of all, I planned my route so I was on bike lanes almost the whole way. So, when there was an obstruction, I just sailed past it. Second, cabs stop all the time to let people out.

By the end of the ride, I wound up being more aggressive about merging into traffic when someone was stopped in the bike lane. Again, I expected that would be scary, but really, I’m going the same speed as traffic. I’d look. Signal. Change into their lane. Not once–and this is NYC–not once did anyone honk at me. I even had a cabbie, a cabbie mind you, wave me ahead.

I think because I was behaving like a vehicle and they’d seen me stopping at traffic lights (there was a long stretch where I was next to the same three cabs) they were inclined to not hate me for making their lives difficult.

I, on the other hand, began to loathe the other cyclists and pedestrians who just wander out into the street as if no one is going to run them down.

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7 Responses

  1. -e-

    People in Portland are always impressed that I learned to drive in Manhattan, until I explain that I never had a chance to go more than 7 mph till I moved here…

  2. Chris Billett

    I have my bike down in Brighton at last… but I haven’t taken it out yet! It’s funny how unnerving it is in a new place, eh? Brighton’s meant to be the best place to ride around in the UK, and it still gives me the fear.

    Well, my front disc brake is also locked on because of the heat, I guess… but I could easily bleed some fluid off that.

  3. Mary Robinette Kowal

    -e-: Yeah, all that us out-of-towners every hear about is the crazy traffic. I never dreamed that crazy would mean slow until I got here.

    Chris: I know what you mean. I needed to go over to the Eastside the other day, and the easiest thing to do would have been to hop on the bike and cut through Central park. Except I was strangely terrified that I would get lost in it–in broad daylight, on a bike lane. The mind is funny.

  4. Chang O.C., the Original Changsta

    Please tell me you’re wearing a helmet!

    I had 120db airhorn on my bike for a while. It was awesome! Buses would crowd me into parked car and then “WEAAANGGGHHHH!!!” and the bus would stop dead in its tracks. As would all traffic. I bet it would work even in NYC.

    It might also make you a wee bit deaf. Wear earplugs.

  5. -d-

    Every time I have driven in NYC I felt like I was driving “too fast for conditions” even at 7 mph.

  6. David Loftus

    I haven’t ridden a bike regularly since I was a kid in Eugene. Here in Portland, I’ve cursed drivers — even wrote a memorable letter to the editor that appeared in the Oregonian about slapping unruly cars, but I don’t think it’s available on the Web anywhere, anymore — but of late I’ve found myself being angry at the thoughtlessness and self-centeredness of too many fellow pedestrians. Traffic is a dance, at all levels, styles, and speeds, and alertness and consideration should be practiced by all.