Honestly, if you live in New York City, you don’t need to drive — you don’t even need a driver’s license. However, if taxis are nowhere around (because you don’t live in Manhattan) or the only way you can get somewhere is by bus (because you don’t live in Manhattan), then having a bike can be helpful. There are a few rules of the road you'll need to know before you get on two wheels, though.
1. Everyone Hates You
You’re riding down a busy intersection, fearing that that person texting to your left won’t see you and will cut you off. You, being the more alert and safer one, slow down and go on the curb to avoid getting hit. A pedestrian then shouts, “Sidewalks are for people.” You are filled with rage and adrenaline and yell, “Then what am I?” Now you continue on your route, feeling pleased with your well-timed comeback, all while avoiding danger.
The thing is, people hate bikers for no reason. Drivers get angry because they can’t make those illegal turns or speed up with you around. Pedestrians will never understand that you’re on the sidewalk for a total of five seconds and you have better coordination than their multitasking selves can handle. And even then, they can never understand that you’re taking a safer route than crossing a very dangerous road (like Queens Boulevard, coincidentally named the “Boulevard of Death”).
2. Idiots Will Be Idiots
No seriously, go ahead and make that illegal turn. Sure, it’s OK for you to cut through a gas station to save 30 seconds at the red light. No, why would I be mad if you double-parked when there was a completely empty spot available literally right behind you? The first thing you’ll learn while biking is that the stupidity level of people is just off the charts. You would think that that people would have learned something from their driving test or mandatory five-hour class, but that’s only a dream. I am convinced that the DMV only passes people with sob stories and anyone who pays them a fee.
Sooner or later, you will realize that if you worked for the police, you would hand out enough tickets to get New York state out of debt. For now, you’ll have to live with the people who refuse to signal and the jaywalkers who believe it’s OK for them to walk at a red light but it’s illegal for cars and bikes.
3. It’s Free Exercise and Transportation in One!
I’ve just told you why it sucks to bike ride in any city, but let me tell you why it’s amazing. You sail on by joggers, dog walkers, pedestrians, drivers, motorcyclists, and boarders. When you weigh the pros and cons of it all, biking is technically the best form of exercise and transportation. You get to places faster, you use muscles not used in other transportation modes, and you even get to rest and still go places. You basically are “fun exercising.”
Mayor Bloomberg has caught onto this fact, and is taking the initiative to make New York City healthier. More bike lanes, stairs, food ratings, calorie counts, anything to do with smoking, trans fats, salts, and more. And those are the ones that got passed, not like the infamous soda bans and taxes on sugary drinks. The best part? New Yorkers hate him but love his initiatives.
What am I saying? Take a walk instead of a bus for three blocks, or ride a bike that mile to the shopping center. It’s way better than sitting down across someone who just won’t stop staring at you in that creepy way. Or even when there’s no subway to a place that’s five miles away, just take the bike out and ride. The main thing is, biking places is so much easier since you’re reliant on yourself to get somewhere, you are getting there quicker by avoiding traffic, and you’re helping the environment as well as your body. And for the drivers out there — learn to follow the rules of the road, and I hope you learn that those three seconds you save speeding or cutting people could cost someone a life.