I love New York like you'd love your kids. You know their faults, you sometimes wish they'd grow up or stop acting up, but on the whole, you'd defend them with your entire being.So, finding myself in New York with my bike again, I couldn't help thinking about the current helmet/bike lane debates and all things Cyclechic.With this in mind, and my life in their hands, I've ventured to suggest top tips for pleasurable cycling in New York. Tips are for cyclists and city planners alike and are based on a non-scientific study of the differences between cycling in New York and other cities....
Tip# 1 - don't baulk at paying taxes
Now, I might be old fashioned but I understand the sometimes nebulous relationship between taxes and basic infrastructure (ie: roads).
This is a good road surface in downtown Manhattan
If you're driving a runabout like this one, you've probably never borne the brunt of these potholes. For the cyclists among us, surfaces such as these make for tricky relations off the bike.** This runabout, complete with what we would call "roo bars" (as in Kangaroos) took off from lights at about 200 kilometres an hour.
Tip# 2 - don't name your trucks
Nasty Boy here, a 10,000 tonne dump truck, was found hurtling through a square filled with pedestrians and cyclists. Something tells me that Nasty Boy wouldn't have thought twice about barelling over any of them. The best we could hope for is that he's civically minded enough to scrape the remains into his truck.Nasty Boy took off at a breathtaking speed soon after the "roo bar boys" had passed. The pedestrian on the right was looking quisically at the back of the truck. Perhaps there were some cyclists hanging there.Tip#3 - provide somewhere to park the bike
David Byrne bike racks not withstanding, I searched for about 20 minutes till I found this site to lock up my bike
No sooner had I locked Betty, (my Dahon) Houdini style onto the shopping cart and pole, than a man went and stood next to my bike. I waited for twenty minutes till he moved away, finally outstaring him!Tip#4 - don't make security a fashion statement
Now, I'm a relatively fit woman for my age but I balk at the idea of wearing a 50kilo lock around my neck just to offer the sembance of certainty that my bike will still be there when I return. Perhaps if there were more bike racks (see Tip#3) and fewer renegade roo hunters, (see Tip#1) bikes would be safer in New York! Then again, it could be that safety is relative in New York (as BikeSnobNYC suggests!)I snapped this photo within a minute of leaving the hotel. Not wanting to behave erratically, I didn't chase down the cyclist to get a closer shot, so instead, I found some bikes locked together with the same accessories.
Note what the locks do to the paintwork!Tip#5 -don't underestimate the Christmas tree effect
The last time a bike accompanied me to New York (about 6 yrs ago) I was stunned by the lack of lights and helmets on New York cyclists. I mean, if you're going to wear a 200 kilo chain around your neck to protect the bike, why wouldn't you don some blinking lights when the sun goes down? I understand that the New York officials have even been known to give out lights.... and finally
Tip#6 - learn some road rules
I've worked with graphic designers for over 20 years and I've come to understand that they truly believe that their work means something. Think of their horror if, having designed a street sign (for instance STOP or YIELD), they discover that the contemporary fondness for interpretation and meaning making reduces those signs to odd-shaped pieces of metal in our city scapes. Spare a thought for those underpaid designers and give them a little pleasure in their otherwise undervalued existance. (That goes for lighting designers as well: do you have any idea how long it takes to come up with the right Kelvin to produce that particular shade of red?)So, while I had hopes of wearing my lovely new high shoes while cycling in New York (CycleChic style - I've seen the photos), I've resolved to continue wearing my non-Satorialist styled bovver boots. I've bought some army fatigues and some very tasteful fairy lights and I'm keeping the helmet firmly attached to my head.
Decked out in this way, I can continue to enjoy the cultural highlights and cycle safely in New York. If you see me coming, and lord knows you can't miss me, come say hello, or at least, Merry Christmas.