New York has a long history of cycling; the first bike path in America opened in Brooklyn in 1894. But thanks to our city’s commitment to creating safe space on our streets for everyone, more New Yorkers are riding bikes than ever before. On any given day, over 200,000 people are cycling around New York. With so many New Yorkers choosing two-wheeled transit, it’s important that everyone is sharing our streets safely and courteously.
For bicyclists, the first rule of the road is simple: always yield to pedestrians. When we step off our bikes, we’re pedestrians, too, and we know just how vulnerable we are on foot in this fast-paced city. So it’s just common sense to give way for pedestrians once we hop back on to ride. Our responsibility to others on the street increases in relation to our potential to cause harm.
The second rule to remember is to take your time. A journey can be just as rewarding as the destination. Slow your roll, stop at red lights and you may even make a friend or two en route. We live in a city known worldwide for its vibrant street life, when we take the time to enjoy it we help to enrich everyone’s experience of our public spaces.
It’s also important to claim your space. Separate spaces for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers keep everyone out of each other’s way and out of harm’s way. So let’s stick to the bike lanes when they’re available and always leave the sidewalks to pedestrians.
Another tip: they’re crosswalks not crossrides. When you stop your bike, leave crosswalks free and clear for safe walking. A bike in the crosswalk can take up as much space as a car!
Finally, biking polite means biking proud. Cyclists should be seen and heard! Ring your bell to let people know you’re approaching and use front and rear lights to stay visible at night. When street users are aware of each other, we’re all that much safer.
In the past four years alone, New York has seen a 50 percent increase in cycling. Next year, our city is continuing its time-honored tradition of civic innovation with America’s largest bike share program, empowering New Yorkers with more transit choice.
In the face of our evolving streetscape, Transportation Alternatives stepped up to educate New Yorkers on the rules of the road with “Biking Rules,” a streetcode for cyclists. By sticking to a few common sense rules, New York City cyclists are taking the lead to create safer, saner streets for everyone.
Join the ride! After all, it’s Bike Month.
Paul Steely White is executive director of Transportation Alternatives and a Park Slope resident.