Service of Exercise
July 2nd, 2012
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?
Routinely, 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!
Apart 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.
There 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?