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Why I Don’t Bike to Work

December 30, 2008
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Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from a friend of mine, Daniel Norton. Daniel lives and works in Manhattan. In this post, he gives us a first-hand description of the great improvements NYC has made regarding bicycle infrastructure and why it still needs to do more to encourage more people to get out of their car and onto their bike.

Since I moved to New York  in 2005, I have seen a city actively transforming to become a more pedestrian and biking friendly place.  This has been really exciting for me as a cyclist especially one moving from Atlanta, GA – one of the worst biking cities.  And the city got into high gear with Bloomberg’s announcement of PlaNYC and the transportation initiative.  So far, he is living up to the promise.  The DOT has built over 80 miles of bike lanes since 2006 including some great separated bike lanes on 8th and 9th Avenue in Chelsea.  I use these bike lanes for lots of recreational rides, and they are impressively complete.  My favorite ride goes from Prospect Park in Brooklyn out to the beach at Jacob Riis Park.  Almost the entire route is on dedicated bike paths, and it’s a fun excursion from Manhattan.

However, all of these improvements still aren’t enough to get me to start biking to work.  There are a few remaining impediments in the way, although the city is working to address a couple of them.  Here is a brief run down of why I don’t bike to work.

1. The bike route from my apartment to work is not continuous.

Take a look at this recent image from http://nycbikemaps.com.  You’ll see that no matter how I attempt to get to work, there are still large chunks of the route where I have to share the road with vehicles.  This is fine on the weekend when traffic is thinner, but it can be dangerous to try to share space with taxis and delivery trucks during rush hour.

 

2. There is no safe place to put my bike.

If you ever visit NYC, you’ll see bikes chained up with these huge, 3/4″ chains rather than the typical U-Locks you see in other cities.  That’s because enterprising criminals here have figured out how to pop those locks, and most U-Locks have explicit clauses that void their warranties in New York City.  There is a bill in the New York City council to allow bikes in buildings.  When that passes, I won’t have to leave my bike to defend for itself.

photo courtesy of 1yen

3. No shower

Even if the city makes my ride safe and ensures that I have somewhere safe to put my bike, this is a show stopper.  I’m a sweater.  New York City after May is a pretty hot, humid place, and I have a hard enough time making it to work without stinking with no physical exertion. I don’t think that the 4 mile ride between home and work would be far enough for me to get a real drenching, but it would be enough to make me uncomfortable for the rest of the day.  And there’s nothing the city could or really even should do to fix this problem.  I suppose I could join a local sports club and shower at the closest location to me (in my case, there is a New York Sports Club on my block.)  However, I just don’t think it’s worth the extra $80 a month. 
I want to bike to work… I really do.   Of my excuses for not biking, I think that the first two problems will be resolved in 2009.  Showering?  Well, I think I just need to suck it up and be okay with a little sweat.  During the dog days of the summer, I often ride the subway wearing running shorts, running shirt, flip flops and carrying a huge bottle of ice water.   I suspect that I wouldn’t get any sweatier biking to work.  So, here’s to 2009 being the year of the bike. 
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5 Comments
  1. Nicholas Beck permalink
    December 30, 2008 11:35 am

    Dan, very interesting post. Do you find that these bike lanes in the city are congested with people who do not walk on the sidewalk? If yes, are there are laws that restrict walkers from using this lane?

  2. December 31, 2008 12:01 pm

    I do see people walking in the bike lanes, but I don’t consider that to be much of a problem. In fact, I often use them when the sidewalks are overly crowded. As a biker, it’s easier and safer for bikers to deal with pedestrians than with vehicles.

  3. Chris Eaker permalink*
    December 31, 2008 2:12 pm

    Daniel, do the police in NYC enforce bike lanes? i.e. when cars park on them do they receive a citation?

  4. December 31, 2008 7:14 pm

    They are supposed to enforce the parking laws, but the NYPD is notorious for using the lanes for parking themselves. Some conscientious objector here created http://nyc.mybikelane.com/ to humiliate violators.

  5. Chris Eaker permalink*
    January 1, 2009 10:03 am

    Are you familiar with the website Bicyclinglife.com? There is a great article on summer cycling here: http://www.bicyclinglife.com/PracticalCycling/SummerCycling.htm.

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