Tuesday, July 7, 2009

On Bikers, Or 'How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Accept That No One Can Cross The Brooklyn Bridge At Anything Greater Than A Snail's Pace'


A couple of weeks ago Jeff and I were walking over the Brooklyn Bridge and almost got sideswiped by an overzealous biker.

“Did you know that in New York you are more likely to be hit by a bike than a car?” I said.

“Are you making that up?” Jeff asked. I was, but I bet it’s true. Bikers in the city are on my shit list. Before anyone gets upset, please understand that I do not hate all bikers. Biking is an environmentally-friendly, healthy mode of transportation and if we all rode bikes instead of driving cars the world would be a better place (albeit a place in which commutes might take days). However, in a crowded city where bikers must share the road with vehicles and pedestrians, rules must be followed.

Bikes are technically subject to the same rules of the road as cars. I know this because I didn’t learn to drive until I was 25, and so actually studied the lessons in my driver’s manual. A bike is legally obligated to stop at stop lights (and stop signs), yield for pedestrians, and not weave blindly around giant vans in an effort to get somewhere more quickly. I realize that pedestrians—especially in New York—are not saints, and that we dart across streets against the light on a regular basis....however being hit by a pedestrian is also highly unlikely to result in massive head injuries.

The Brooklyn Bridge walkway is particularly hazardous, and it’s not really the bikers’ fault. The city decided to draw a line down the center of what cannot be more than a twelve foot-wide walkway. The reasoning was simple: walkers on this side, bikers on that side. But crowds of tourists are not particularly skilled at walking in compact formation. They spread. They slow down. They stop and turn around for no reason. They do not respect the line. If I was on a bike, I am certain that I would want to hit them (Fun fact: When I am driving a car I call pedestrians assholes for crossing the street too slowly. When I am walking I call drivers assholes for trying to turn while I am still crossing the street.) Still, it’s hard for me to understand why bikers are so angry on the bridge. They go at speeds more suited to the Tour de France. They yell as they approach but don’t slow down. Some of the real dickheads carry a whistle in their mouths as they ride and use it liberally (they blow, and not just literally). I understand the sentiment, don’t get me wrong. In a perfect world, bikers would be able to go as fast as they wanted all the time. But in a perfect world I would be able to magically part the sea of shoppers on Broadway so that I could walk at my preferred 5 mile per hour rate. We all have to deal.
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