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Bike Polite

In honor of Bike Month, Transportation Alternatives' Executive Director shares his rules of the road.

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.

Chicken Underwear May 03, 2011 at 01:09 PM
I follow the biking rules. But car owners don't http://whatyourdonotknowbecauseyouarenotme.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-we-need-raised-pedestrian-islands.html
Jeremy May 03, 2011 at 03:47 PM
Considering the dangerous behavior by cyclists that pedestrians are obligated to deal with every day, and the fact that "Biking Rules" has been a TA initiative for two full years, it's clear that this effort at self-regulation has been a total flop. Thank you to the NYPD for picking up where the cycling advocates have been completely ineffective, and protecting pedestrians from dangerous cyclists.
Janet May 03, 2011 at 05:11 PM
Why should we believe people will be polite on the roadways considering that it's-all-about-me everywhere in this town? Too many drivers, cyclists and pedestrians disregard the rules, and I've come around to believing that along with more consistent ticketing of drivers for moving violations (I see cars going through red lights every day, and I'm only looking when I'm hoping to cross the street) we need enforcement of rules for cyclists and pedestrians, many of whom will otherwise do whatever they can get away with.
Sally May 03, 2011 at 05:53 PM
Considering the dangerous behavior by drivers that pedestrians are obligated to deal with every day, and the fact that the Vehicle Code has been a NY State initiative for fifty years, it's clear that this effort at regulation has been a total flop. With millions of red lights run every day, hundreds of people killed year year, and thousands more injured, the NYPD has been completely ineffective in protecting pedestrians from dangerous drivers.
Mike May 03, 2011 at 07:57 PM
Please remember- Adults riding bikes on sidewalks is against the law-
Chicken Underwear May 03, 2011 at 11:24 PM
Jeremy. Do you have any science behind your "this effort at self-regulation has been a total flop", or is it just an assumption. The NYPD has been ticketing low hanging fruit. Just a political cash grab. Do you have any data on how this "dangerous behavior by cyclist" has actually caused any injuries?
George R. Fowler May 05, 2011 at 04:20 PM
Geo - Are there any volunteers to instruct food delivery cyclists re the 'rules', such as: Lights after dark, follow traffic patters, don't ride on sidewalk, etc., etc., etc. Written rules should be provided to the shop owners. Perhaps ALL cyclists should be licensed - this would help pay for the bike lanes. Are runners supposed to use bike lanes? Who has right of way: Cyclist, runner, or pedestrian? Reply
Janet May 05, 2011 at 04:33 PM
What's the storekeeper's motivation? Until the consumers of delivered food let these places know that we'll stop patronizing places whose deliverers ride on the sidewalk, ride without illumination, and travel the wrong way on one-way streets, nothing is going to change.
tom murphy May 05, 2011 at 07:31 PM
I was just in Israel where the city walkways are only about a meter wide and the bikers ride only on the walkways, never in the roadways. No conflicts. Go figure. I guess getting pedestrians, drivers and bikers to tolerate each other here is still a work in progress.

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