A few somewhat interconnected thoughts with the common thread of “ride a bike.”
A Modest Proposal – Bikers, Take the High Road
Sometimes, when I am biking, I remember the ’80s, and I shudder. I remember, in other words, when biking was an extreme sport, when, if you were a biker, you had a lot of locks and a lot more nerve.
Just the other day, when I was enjoying the bike lane down Clinton Street in my neighborhood, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, I stopped at a red light. And after the crossing guard smiled and chatted with me, after the cars pulled up alongside me and did not honk, I experienced a flashback from 1987: my regular trip from West 113th Street to Central Park, navigating honks and taunts, the mayhem that was then on Cathedral Parkway.
In those days, when I got into the park, I thought I had really achieved something, in terms not of stamina or increased heart rate, but of survival.
…Today, the Transportation Department has gotten serious about biking, and in just three years, the agency has painted bike lanes (good), constructed bike lanes separated by parked cars (great) and bike lanes separated by medians or barriers (the best) and installed bike signals, bike signs and many bike symbols painted on the street. Some of these symbols are clear, although I’m not sure I understand others. What do the biker and double arrows mean when painted on a busy street without a bike lane? Good luck?
…There are still detractors; Fox News aired a report a few months ago blaming the new bike lane on Grand Street for not only clogging up car traffic in Lower Manhattan but — potentially! — putting pedestrians’ lives in danger. Less reported was the story of the biker who was — actually! — killed by a truck driver in a hit-and-run in October. But despite such criticism, people are gradually losing the car-centric view of Manhattan and are sensing that the streets are for more than automobiles.
We bikers, in other words, have been on the receiving end. Now, as much as we would perhaps prefer not to, we must stop to look at ourselves and realize that we have a little giving to do. I am talking about perceptions, about the things we should do outside the letter of the law, like the way we try not to kill the person in front of us in the revolving doors.
Next comes another species of biker, which I call the Really Cool Biker, because they are really cool — usually younger than the Lance Armstrong types, wearing skinny jeans and a windbreaker imprinted with, say, the name of a bar or a bowling alley, and riding a sleek, fixed-gear frame bike that I myself am too uncool to even adequately describe.
Now, as the Tour de France vs. the tourist melee is exploding, the Really Cool Bikers attempt to skirt the scrum of tourists, using the moment of chaos as an obstacle course, causing tourists to break like pheasants after a bad shot. The Really Cool Bikers speed silently around terrified bystanders, leaving a trail of bike-induced horror.
…Despite the presence of bike lanes, we see many bikes on the sidewalk, and the bikers riding the wrong way down streets, alarming cabdrivers at the light. For biking to make it to the next level, for bikes to be completely accepted as the viable form of city transportation that they are, bikers must switch sides. They must act like people and stop acting like cars.
…Which brings me to four sure-to-be-scoffed-at suggestions for better bike P.R.:
NO. 1: How about we stop at major intersections?
NO. 2: How about we ride with traffic as opposed to the wrong way on a one-way street?
NO. 3: How about we stay off the sidewalks?
NO. 4: How about we signal?
The high road is just another road. And it’s got one hell of a view.
Pedaling to Profit: The Upswing of Bike Powered Business
“I think the recent explosion in biking is both a return on our communities’ investments in encouragement programs and infrastructure – bike lanes, paths, bike boulevards, etc. – and a sign of increasing concern about economics, health, and the environment. We are seeing a much greater diversity of people out biking and even bike commuting these days,” says Stephanie Noll, Bicycle Transportation Alliance Programs Manager. Noll also points out that the reason for choosing cycles over cars is multi-faceted. “The increasing cost of driving or concern about the environment alone are generally not enough for most of our communities’ members to imagine themselves on a bike.”
Cutting costs might appear to be the biggest reason for transitioning to a bike operated structure, but just like individuals, the price of driving isn’t the sole force behind choosing pedal power over cars. “When we worked on our business plan, gas prices were low. We did a full price analysis that looked at cars, zip cars, scooters, electrical cars, etc. and for the price and brandability of those, bikes came out way ahead. There’s a low up front, low maintenance costs and you don’t have to worry about gas prices fluctuating,” says [Jed] Lazar.