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BIKE SURVIVAL IN NYC: 13 UNOFFICIAL RULES

  1. Assume that everyone else on the road is drunk and/or blind and/or learned how to drive 2 hours ago. Assume you are always obscured in blind spots, every is about to clip you, and every clueless pedestrian reading their phones will will step in front of you.
  2. Belligerence is a New York biker’s right. You are justified in yelling at every car that cuts you off or cuts across the bike lane. Carry on until they say “I’m sorry,” which you will probably never hear. But keep screaming at the violator. Then pedal on.
  3. Don’t ride in the middle of the bike lane, dummy. Ride on the right or the left to allow people (me) to pass you.
  4. If you’re “changing lanes” within the biking area, glance back and be aware of cyclists behind you. Just be aware, people! Be aware of everything around you. Bike traffic is like car traffic. You don’t change lanes without looking as you’re careening downing Main Street, USA, do you? Doubly true for bikes. Cuz we don’t have air bags. Or bumpers.
  5. Yelling at motorized delivery people clogging the bike lane is also an obligation. These poor guys speak zero English and are working harder than you or me for every extra quarter. They probably have horrifying “coming to America” stories, not to mention living in a stinky one-bedroom shared with six other smelly guys. But STILL: they are on MOTORCYCLES! They aren’t allowed in the bike lane! Yell away.
  6. You are obligated to yell at pedicabs clogging the bike lane. S14-2-pedicab-1Find a chance to pass, then scream, “YOU ARE NOT A BIKE!” Hopefully the Midwestern tourists in the back will be so embarrassed they’ll ask the “pedaler” to return to car traffic. Most likely the pedicabber speaks little English, so cut them a little slack. But they definitely understand “YOU ARE NOT A BIKE”. Seriously: they’re NOT. They’re over-priced taxis without credit card readers. We have to maintain some biking decorum, don’t we? So: yell away. These guys are justified in pedaling for every dollar, but NOT cheating and taking up the bike lane when I, er…I mean a cyclist…chooses to binge another episode of The Sopranos before leaving an insufficient 9 minutes to make a 14 minute bike commute.
  7. Don’t salmon (ride against traffic) ever.
  8. Except when you need to. Occasionally, we all need to. For example: 24th Street runs east. (Remember: “Even East”.) If I need to travel west on 24th Street from 6th to 7th Avenues, I am NOT riding up to 25th to come back to 7th and back down to 24th. I’m a New Yorker. I’m in a hurry. That’s why I’m on a bike. So I’ll salmon. But please, please give a nod and sheepish smile/apology to the other bikers (and maybe even cars) coming at you. We’re all in this together.
  9. Traffic lights are suggestions. But don’t scare/harass/petrify the pedestrians, in the meantime. And if you get hurt or honked at: own it. You broke the rules.
  10. Come on, people, do NOT ride on the sidewalk. It’s just obnoxious. If construction or traffic or San Gennaro festivals force you onto the sidewalk, at least do that college “swing-right-leg-off-while-left-foot-balances-on-pedal-and-right-foot-pumps-the-ground” thing. (Ya feelin’ me, Univ-of-Colorado-late-90’s brethren? No-mounting zone? Anyone? Anyone?)
  11. Don’t be a dick. If you take chances, be accountable. You cut people off? Excuse yourself. You bump a car? “My bad, dude.” You brush a pedestrian because you’re rolling through a crosswalk against the light? “Are you OK? So sorry. I just learned to ride 3 hours ago.” Don’t give the rest of us a bad name, jerk-wad.
  12. There is a hierarchy. Embrace it. Bike messengers do what they want. Don’t yell at them, unless you can pedal really, really fast. Citibikes are in the middle (but don’t knock them…they – meaning I – frequently pass bike messengers. But I still defer to them in the hierarchy.) European tourists are lowest on the totem pole. They amble along with fabulous scarves and no helmets because, “Oui, oui. We ride in Paris all ze time” Listen, Francois, this ain’t Paris. The rest of us have shit to do, not just go to cafes and look stylish.
  13. Don’t be a dumb European. Wear a helmet. Maybe even this invisible one?
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3 Comments

  1. Pingback: A Dad’s New York City Bike Riding Survival Guide -

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