Live in NYC? Want to start bike commuting this week?
The full restoration of the subway system is days, if not weeks away. And if this morning’s gridlocked traffic is any indication, driving or even taking the bus is the proverbial slow boat to China. Maybe it’s time to get on a bike? Here are my tips from years of bike advocacy (and commuting) in NYC.
Most people are worried about riding in NYC traffic. The good news about gridlock? The cars aren’t going very fast.
If you use a little patience, and remain aware, riding a bike in this city is a fun and safe way to get around.
Rules of the Road
- Bicycles are vehicles & must obey traffic laws. Ride with traffic—not against it. Obey red lights & other traffic rules.
- Stay off of sidewalks and always yield to pedestrians. It is illegal to ride on the sidewalk. So don’t. Pedestrians always have the right of way, so be respectful of their vulnerability.
- Avoid car doors - Stay at least four feet from the nearest parked car and don’t hesitate to use a whole lane - it’s your right. Getting “doored” is the number one cause of bicycle crashes.
- In wet weather, go a bit slower, leave yourself more stopping room, break with a series of short pumping actions instead of slamming on your brakes, and avoid metal plates/grates.
- More info on NYCDOT’s bike safety page.
Need a bike or a tune-up?
At a minimum:
- Check your tires, if they feel squishy, they need some air. Most shops offer free air.
- Check your brakes, do they work? If not, time to visit a shop.
- Check your seat height. Your knee should be slightly bent at its lowest point as you pedal.
- Get some lights — front and back ones please! Use front and rear lights during darkness. Flashing safety lights, red for rear & white for front, are required by law and are available at bike shops and many hardware stores for $6-$10. They could save your life, or at least save you from a traffic ticket.
- Get a lock. Bring your bike inside if you can, or park it at the growing number of NYC parking garages that accept bikes. If you’re parking outside, use a sturdy lock. Lock through the back wheel and the frame to a secure object like a bike rack, signpost or parking meter and take the front wheel with you. Or, use two locks and lock the frame and front wheel to a post, and the back wheel to the frame. If you can, take the seat, or chain it to your bike. Or see how Hal does it.
Need extra support?
Transportation Alternatives is organizing commuter encouragement events check out http://bikenyc.org for details.
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