Jaynes Your Way

Here are my thoughts about films, life, and what not. If you don't like them I'll give your money back.

It's not just like riding a bike

07 September, 2010

I was running in Central Park this past Saturday, and I didn't enjoy it as much as running in Prospect Park. Central Park was a hilly loop, littered with with tourists and cyclists blocking the paths--the latter posing the greatest problems. Bikes were everywhere, which is great. I am all for cycling as a serious means of transportation. NYC is making a strong push to become more bike friendly. I didn't bring my road bike to the city, but wish I had now. (I sold it other wise it would be here now.)

I was hesitant to ride in heavy traffic because of my experiences on the backroads of South Carolina. Drivers in SC aren't good at many things, and add a bike to the equations and things get even worse. Luckily I was never run off the road, but I had friends who were brushed of the road, hit, or had other bad experiences with cars and bikes.

As a cyclist you learn to deal with it cars on a road. Cars will never really pay attention to you, they will always under estimate how soon they need to get back in front of you, they will never give you the right away, and at the very extreme will purposely mess with you because you are on their road. Bikes are considered second class vehicles on the road because obviously roads were made for vehicles, d'oh. The main problem is there is no formal education on how to "share the road." There are two questions on the written part of your license exam, but nothing  during the actual driving test.

Cycling in the city brings a new set of challenges I never thought of. Cyclists are infinitely more aggressive in the city, brazenly ignoring traffic lights, or weaving through traffic, showing little or no courtesy. Pedestrians walk in the bike lanes and step out into bike paths while lights are still green. This is even worse in the parks because tourists/normal people don't expect to have a peloton of 80 serious cyclist hurdling through the inner loop at 25+ mph, and the cyclist think they own the road. Again, there isn't an education project to teach cyclist how to safely move through the city. (If there is I haven't seen it and I guess many cyclist haven't either)

I blame this lack of safety on the old adage that "It's just like riding a bike." Yes, you can pick up riding a bike if you haven't in several years, but that doesn't mean you are good at it or really know what you are doing! In fact, if you pick up a bike after years of not riding a bike you are probably to nervous on not falling to worry about obeying any sort of rules or safety measures.

While running the inner loop of Central Park this past weekend, I hear this loud boom right behind me. A, I assume, tourist had flipped over while broadsiding a runner, knocking both of them down and sending the bike hurtling through the air. The runner immediately popped up dazed and looking at the bike says, "how the hell does that happen?" I and the other runners around stopped to make sure he was fine, he was, and we all started starring at the tourist. No one got mad, but this cyclist was a jerk. He merely laughed it off and got back on his bike and took off.

Again, how the hell does a cyclist hit a runner?

Several reasons:

1) Too many bikes were in a very small area
2) The guy hadn't ridden a bike in a while
3) People get too impatient and try to dart around obstacles.
4) Like cars on the main road, cyclist think they own the inner loops of the park (you don't)

So yes, please enjoy all the biking paths in the city--I plan to very very soon. BUT make sure you know what you are doing.

1) Read Bikingrules.org
2) Wear a helmet!
3) And I say treat pedestrians how you want cars to treat you. . . i.e. watch out for the and don't blow through cross walks
4) If you are unsure on any aspects of riding in the city http://www.bikenewyork.org/ offers free classes! FREE!

I really hope cycling takes off as an alternative to cars, but as it grows in popularity I hope people treat it with the seriousness it deserves. Again, if we stop treating cycling as a childish things and accept that it is dangerous and people get seriously hurt maybe pedestrians, cyclist, and drivers will start to behave with common sense on the road.


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