Archive for May, 2012

Riding in New York City

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Dotriderblog spent a few days at a Conference in New York City. Since he was staying down in the East Village and the Conference was near Times Square the foldy got brought along. Here are our impressions from what is admittedly a small sample of riding in NYC. We tried to take a few different routes and we did some minor exploration just to get a wider impression.

There are plenty of great bike lanes all over Manhatten going north and south as well as east and west. My favorite was the dedicated lane down Broadway that I got to tool down every night. It had a terrific feel and had just the right pitch of down hill that made for a pleasant late night gulp of air after a full day of conferencing and the accompanying schmoozing…

My sense was that there wasn’t an overwhelming number of riders out there. The foot traffic won out over cars, buses, taxis or bikes. The bike scofflaws were terrible. Many riders going the wrong way in the bike lane, running lights with impunity, not wearing helmets. I’d say most of Boston’s neighborhoods and certainly our neighbors north of the Charles surpasses NYC in the % of riders. The scofflaws are higher as well.

One odd feature was the high percentage of electric driven bicycles. They’re sort of cool but essentially not particularly necessary in New York as the slope isn’t particularly steep. It is down hill heading down town and up hill heading up town. Go figure… There are tons of delivery bikes which makes all kinds of sense. The electric and delivery riders add to the scofflaw impunity of bike riders as both groups were over represented when noticing anti-social bicycle behavior. There was a high percentage of folding bikes as well since storage space of any kind is at a premium.

Riding at my normally slow pace allowed for stretches of 5-10 blocks before the lights would time out. I imagine someone pumping hard and weaving mercilessly could keep up with the timing for longer than that. The one time we drove, we could make it 12-17 blocks during the middle of the day when the traffic was light.

The biggest danger I felt was the possibility of getting hooked. Every other block it was a challenge to size up the turning vehicles and to decide whether to pass them on the inside or the outside. Phew! The bike traffic lights designed to control this weren’t particularly noticeable and they were generally ignored. Buses were generally oblivious to riders. Since they acted oblivious to cars and taxis as well I didn’t take it personally and just acted accordingly in order to remain safe. The taxis seemed to be aware of bikes and they treated us with the same level of respect as any other competing form on the road….

The roads in general called for heavy duty wheels. YUK! Puddles in all the lanes when it rained. Tons of patches, bumps and hard scrabble surfaces. Take the Mass Ave stretch in front of the Christian Science complex and you have the idea of the condition of a disapointingly high percentage of the road surface. The dedicated lane on the West was pretty cool though.

We saw plenty of bike stores and if the bike share has been rolled out we didn’t notice it.  So bike culture is alive and well in New York, but there is plenty of room to grow and improve. But hey, that sounds like the entire U.S. of A. The bigger and more recognized it becomes in New York, the easier it is to spread the word around the country. So keep it up New York!