The streets of New York used to be a uniform sea of yellow, with practically every vehicle on the road being a taxi cab. Today, those streets are filled with dozens of different vehicles of all different shapes, sizes, colors and speeds. Most notably are the vehicles that you yourself are probably riding if you’re reading this blog: the personal vehicles. It could be a regular bicycle, a long board, an e-scooter, an e-bike, or in a hipster area maybe even a unicycle. The point is, tons of people are riding these personal vehicles that weren’t taken into consideration when they paved four lanes of asphalt across 7th ave. In fact, most cities weren’t designed with bikers in mind and for a lot of people the thought of using a bike, scooter or skateboard in an urban setting can be pretty intimidating.
The truth is, if you’re intimidated by the idea of biking in the city you’re not crazy. There are many more hazards than there are in suburban and rural areas. The big hazard is cars, obviously. There aren’t a whole lot of things that can be more intimidating than a 3 thousand pound piece of metal barrelling by you at 45 mph. On top of that, there are tons of pedestrians cutting through bike lanes and crossing street, more litter and debris that can ruin tires and affect your balance; and of course, there are many more bikes on the road as well. However, once you get the hang of it it can be one of the most enjoyable ways to see a city-you just have to know what you’re doing.
The most important thing is to utilize the bikelanes, and to learn which bike lanes are better than others. Ideally you want to stay in protected bike lanes as much as possible. These are bike lanes that have some sort of barrier set up to separate them from the road. Protected bike lanes aren’t always available, and neither are regular bike lanes, but when they are: make sure to stick to them. Sometimes this means taking a slightly longer route but that’s ok! Enjoy the scenery.
Of course, bike lanes can only keep you so safe. Sometimes there isn’t going to be a bike lane to use. Sometimes even if you’re on a bike lane you have to mix with the cars and pedestrians anyway. It is extremely important to pay attention to the traffic signs at all times. Don’t go the wrong way on a one way road. Don’t run red lights. Stop at stop signs. If the cars have a left arrow green light, make sure no one is trying to turn before you go. Many cyclists get into trouble when they think the rules don’t apply to them, but its important to understand that these rules are designed to keep everyone safe. On top of that, you should always assume that cars can’t see you. Right of way means nothing if the person in the car doesn’t know you’re there. If you come to an intersection at the same time as a car make sure they know where you are. If you want to merge into a different lane make sure you have a safe distance between you and the nearest cars.
Above all, go at your own pace. You will see people flying down the street, weaving in between traffic, getting fast jumps on green lights and at stop signs, and you might be tempted to follow them. Don’t. Do what makes you comfortable. That other rider may get where they’re going a minute or two faster than you will, but you’ll get there a hell of a lot faster than the rider who got sent to the hospital.
Riding is one of the most enjoyable ways to get around. It lets you see your neighborhood from a whole new angle and gives you a breath of fresh air while doing so. Just make sure you are safe when you do it and there is nothing you need to worry about. Happy riding!