We here at Untapped love all of DOT’s ventures, especially those pertaining to two-wheeled transportation. In our eyes, bike lanes are the bee’s knees and Citi Bike’s a triumph, never mind the latter’s losing money faster than your aunt playing slots. We have to admit, however, that the department may have stumbled when it published the uptight and naive Bike Smart Guide. How many real New Yorkers are going to “Stop at all red lights and stop signs“? Save that kind of talk for downtown Des Moines.
Though Untapped would never condone bicycle rule-breaking, we are, if nothing else, a practical gang. Temptation lurks at every traffic stop, and sooner or later even the best-bred cyclist skirts the letter of the law. So why not sin in style? Untapped proudly presents a biking guide for real New Yorkers.
Expert photoshopping by Matt Nestor
Let’s face it, few wait. Life’s too short to spend staring at red lights. But if you’re gonna jay-bike, jay-bike correctly. Traverse the forbidden street as far away as possible from cross-flowing traffic. This tactic not only aids safety by giving both you and driver more time to react, it also has the benefit of boosting pedaling efficiency. Think about it: if a car on the intersecting street is turning onto the same street you’re traveling on, then staying far away allows you both to carry on without slowing.
Attack of the blue meanies, by Matt Nestor
Biking the wrong way
Unless you’re a delivery man and just don’t give a shit, biking against traffic (aka “salmoning”) on avenues is a big time no-no. But what about those mellow cross-streets? We here at Untapped can’t endorse the practice, but even the best of us are tempted, and if you do find yourself heading upstream on, say West 37th, than at least have the courtesy to acknowledge you’re in the wrong: If a cyclist’s coming at you, stop your bike and let him pass. Jaded drivers will whiz by with nary a warning honk, but pedestrians are more dangerous. Not expecting anything from your direction, they pop out from between cars like whack-a-moles. Don’t whack them.
Proper passing technique, by Matt Nestor
The car lane
There’s a lot of debate here. Some advocates say cyclists should always ride in car lanes, because that way they’ll be super-visible. Meanwhile, millions of neophytes stick exclusively to the verge. For them, riding in the car lane is not only scary but perverse, equivalent to smoking a cigarette in your mother’s bed. Untapped doesn’t claim to have the last word on the subject, but we can at least share when the car lane felt appropriate for us:
– when we’re going really fast, like the same speed as traffic.
– when a great big delivery van/mail truck/gaping pit is blocking the side of the road. It’s almost always a bad idea to try to squeeze between a truck and a row of parked cars. Better to get into the lane of traffic well before you reach the impending obstacle–and if some cabbie has to slow down a tick because you’re in their lane momentarily, rest assured they won’t die of impatience.
Sneaking up on pedestrians; cutting them off in crosswalks; mowing them down on sidewalks: all are extremely easy to do on a bicycle (take a look at this video if you don’t think we cyclists are cavalier). The important thing to remember is, we’re on the same side! We’re out there burning calories, not oil. Cultivate good karma vis-á-vis pedestrians, and you’ll gain the right to be pissed off at…
Cars that sit in bike lanes/cut you off/door you
When dealing with naughty drivers, don’t get too self-important. We’re all entitled to equitable street space, sure, but if you’ve made it this far in the article chances are you’re no pavement saint either. You don’t want to be this guy. That said, if someone doors you, uncork the screams. Even if you weren’t hurt, the next cyclist might not be so lucky.
Taking bikes on the train
What’s the big deal? People might shoot you peeved looks, but they’ll forget all about it as soon as that three-man sax-and-break-dancing squad busts through the door. No one rides the L expecting the lounge car on the Orient Express. That said, the savvy cyclist will wheel to the very last door of the very last car and reserve the very back wall for his pitch-black carbon-fiber fixie, then kick his feet up on the frame like it’s a portable ottoman. We bikers are just cool like that.
(p.s. the really really savvy cyclist takes the A up to 181st, bikes over the GW, and gets the hell out of New York. River Road in the Palisades is beautiful right now.)