Service of Exercise

July 2nd, 2012

Categories: Bicycles, Exercise, Tourism, Travel

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I am concerned about the mid-July rollout of a bicycle share program in New York City because I predict that there will be gory, even fatal accidents all over the place. If only the bike share program focused on less-traveled areas, but it doesn’t.

In preparation, bicycle lanes have cropped up all over the city. I pass one on my way to work every morning [photo above]. The setup in this spot can be scary enough for cars and it cries out for accidents without adding bicycles to the flow. Not only do some bikes ignore their marked lane, riding in and out of the space designated for cars, cabs can be parked to let off passengers to the left of the bike lane, [left as the traffic goes], and still other vehicles come in from the street to the left where there is only a stop sign. Pedestrians know that not all drivers interpret that sign as they should–do bike riders from out of town know this?

morebikelaneuse3Routinely, taxis, vans and speed demons skid and weave through traffic, accelerating with less than half a block of empty space, even on rain-slick roads, showing concern for neither pedestrians nor other drivers. Why will they suddenly become gentlemen and gentlewomen behind their wheels simply because there are potentially 10,000 rental bikes sharing their streets?

There’s little room for indecision in NYC traffic and my guess is that visitors from bike-riding countries, who might jump at the chance to use them, may not be sure of where they are going. Result: Bang, crash!

pedicabApart from messengers and pedicabs, New York City doesn’t have a bike culture although I have a friend who rides everywhere on his. Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch spoke about the failed bike lanes during his administration. On a radio interview last week he said that after they languished pretty much unused, he gave citizens a month to show him they wanted the lanes and when not enough did, he cancelled the program.

The difference is that now people will be able to rent the bikes where in the day, there wasn’t a convenient citywide rental program with 600 locations. Bikes take up a lot of space in people’s often compact apartments and there are fire laws that don’t permit bikes  to be parked in apartment hallways.

bikerhelmetThere are arguments pro and con regarding the benefits/necessity of bike helmets and the city program won’t require them anyway. Safety aside, who, apart from bike owners, would have a helmet handy? Tourists wouldn’t think of packing theirs. The thought of renting a helmet [with cooties] is not appetizing.

Bike riding is healthy sport–good for the heart–though maybe, given the exhaust in big cities, not so great for the lungs. What do you think of the bicycle share program? Will people figure out how to steal them by using fake ID? Will pedestrians be at risk? Will there be lawsuits when riders fall and claim their bike was broken?

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9 Responses to “Service of Exercise”

  1. JPM Said:

    Bicycle lanes are the dumbest, stupidest thing Mayor Bloomberg has done since he came to office. Instead of encouraging bicycles, he should ban them outright and thus protect city residents like me from vicious attacks by aggressive riders. At the same time, if he did this, he would make the city a better place to live by reducing traffic congestion as well as pollution and traffic accidents.

    A few years back when I was crossing a midtown street with the “walk” sign on, I was knocked over by a muscular “hit-and-run” amazon with short cropped grey hair in spandex running a red light at high speed on her “road racer” cycle. Fortunately, I did not suffer grievous bodily harm; unfortunately, neither did she. She was long gone by the time I got up to go after the b_tch, which is probably just as well, as no doubt she would have beaten me up, had I tried to do to her what she so rightly deserved.

  2. jmbyington Said:

    JPM,

    Glad you were not badly injured. Maybe there will be one good result of 10 thousand more bikes: Racers, such as the woman who felled you because she ignored traffic signals, will be forced to slow down.

  3. JBS Said:

    They started a similar program here in Minnneapolis last year. You pick the bike up at specific stands and you return it to one (it can be a different one if you only want to ride it one way.) I assume you might have to show some type of ID, but I don’t know the details. I understand from the media that it has worked beautifully, not one bike has disappeared in the year this has been in operation.

    (Now don’t ask me about the five-year-old who was sleeping on his grandmother’s couch and was killed when someone shot at the house, because they were mad at another member of the family. That happens here way too much!)

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    JBS,

    I don’t want to knock New Yorkers because I am one and I love the pace and life here, but some people are too frantic. I get the feeling that in Minneapolis, people are shoulder to grindstone, hardworking and sensible. Drivers seeing a bicycle would respect it and bicycle riders would follow traffic rules.

    OK, your city isn’t perfect–you have bullets killing people as we do….most cities do for that matter. Too many guns in the wrong hands.

    I’m glad that the system works in Minneapolis and would be gratified if it also worked here. Still dubious.

  5. DManzaluni Said:

    wow, i cant get past the imagery of an amazon in spandex hurling herself into me!!Sounds fabulous. Ya don’t get that in even a Lamborghini Murcielago?

    The dating possibilities alone are stupendous and make the whole scheme worthwhile!

    Bring it on: Who cares if a few bikes get stolen in the romance (which hasnt happened any other place in the world where these schemes do actually work)

    Sooner or later, they’ll stop

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    D Manzaluni,

    We’ll keep an eye out for news of romances that happen thanks to chance meetings via bike accident as well as bike theft figures. I wonder if in other cities citizens steal garbage pails because some do in NYC along with anything that isn’t nailed down.

  7. JPM Said:

    What the heck is a Lamborghini Murcielago? And how do you avoid them?

  8. jeanne Byington Said:

    JPM,

    Sounds like a stunning sports car that turns heads, impresses and inspires conversation–like a beautiful dog or a stunner who bumps into you on a bicycle. Trouble is, if they hit and run as your person did, you are left with your injuries and an empty little black book, virtual or actual.

  9. matt mecs Said:

    JB,
    I know that some bike riders can be reckless, but it is the same % as drivers, with a much less dangerous vehicle.

    I agree with your point on helmets, and it remains to be seen how long the bikes stay in good shape, but any substitute for more cars is a good one!

    Matt
    PS. If I had a Lamborghini Murcielago, I might feel different.

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