Commuting via bike, Manhattan style

©By Pamela Rice, 2005

I been riding my bicycle nearly every day in the city for the last eight years. I've grown to love it to the extent that I actually feel sorry for anyone who still taxis, subways, walks, or even limos their way around.

Not only is travel via bicycle the fastest way to get from here to there in Manhattan in most cases—I've tested this assumption many times. Peddling gets my blood flowing, eyes widened, and tail bushy'd. And the rush of air across my face and through my hair is always a great pick-me-up.

Situated high up there above the pedestrians as I ride around, braving the dangers and abuses from vehicles, whatever the weather, you can get a little smug if you don't watch it. Without a doubt, riding a bicycle is a positive social statement. I don't put hydrocarbons into our fragile atmosphere. I don't raise decibel levels in the city. (Hey, I have to ring my bell to warn people I’m coming.) And I diminish the amount of congestion in this crowded town by a substantial amount. And I do just a little something to counter our nation's trend toward obesity.

As I see it, by being a bicyclist I'm downright patriotic. God darn it, the city should give me its key or something.

But on the contrary, New York treats bicycle riders poorly: On any stretch of avenue one can see SUVs parked in the bicycle lane. Why isn't the city ticketing them? When I have to veer around one of these blunderbusses, I become a hazard to cars in adjacent lanes, not to mention, I'm at a greater risk of being hit.

Then there's the thievery. The city could do away with bicycle theft—one of the only crimes that never diminished when the rest of the city became safer all around in recent decades.

For very little cost, Mayor Bloomberg could easily institute regular sting operations that could catch the thieves, making bicycle commuting more viable for more people. The benefits would easily pay for themselves.

Finally, the city needs to keep bicycle lanes in good condition, re-painting them swiftly after re-paving. We could use many more bicycle racks, too.

It baffles me why New York City favors motorists so much to the detriment of bicycle riders. Is it because there's so much money in the auto/truck business and relatively little in bicycles? Or is it that the automotive industry keeps politicians wallets well padded? Certainly, cars cost the city huge amounts in infrustructure upkeep. And let's not forget, the arctic clearly shows global warming taking hold with a vengeance these days.

Or does New York City favor motorists because the people who have to ride a bicycle for their job are usually members of the lowest socioeconomic segments of the society? If this latter reason be so, that is simply a disgrace.

New York City could do itself a good turn while doing the right thing by making this town friendly to bicyclists's needs? What is it waiting for?