Wednesday, December 3, 2008

First Impression Of New York City

Statue of Liberty

Getting around New York City for the first time on the recent Bike Kill trip, was an interesting learning experience. First of all, their Metro train system is amazing, and you can really get pretty close to just about anywhere in the city with it. When I first got there, one of the first things on the agenda after getting to Ridazz HQ (the sublet the Midnight Ridazz rented for the trip), was getting to the loft of friends of friends in New Jersey to buy a $20 beater bike to use for the weekend. We took the train to the World Trade Center transit center and got on the PATH to New Jersey.

My NYC Rusty Beater Bike
(My rusty ride at Coney Island)

Once Meghan and I had bikes, the feeling of mobility when combined with the trains and the walkable areas was amazing. Riding over the Brooklyn Bridge led by our New jersey cohorts was breath taking though not without some difficulty in avoiding wayward pedestrians who step into the bike lane while texting on their smart phones.

Riding bikes in the city there is quite a different experience from LA however. It is in some fashions safer but in others just as or more hazardous then LA. For one thing, traffic in some regards is a controlled anarchy. People walk whether it says to walk or not, and drivers frequently turn and change lanes without signaling (something not foreign to LA but it seemed a little more often in NYC). The blocks are much shorter and there are many more one way streets, and for these reasons most local cyclists treat red lights like stops signs and one way streets as suggestions.

This would all mostly seem like suicidal behavior in LA, but in NYC it kind of worked because drivers there are much, much, slower. Drivers expect all this behavior and so drive more cautiously, and if anything, seemed surprised when we would do things like stop at a red and actually wait for it to turn green. Riding there felt sketchy at times, but I never had an SUV flying past me going 50 like I do in LA. The key to survival there regardless of your vehicle or lack of one, is be alert.

There was a pretty expansive network of bike lanes and sharrows. One detail that felt odd at first from being used to always being on the right, is that bike lanes on one way streets were on the left with street parking on the right. This means cars opening their door open their door into car traffic and not cycling traffic, eliminating the door zone hazard for cyclists on those streets. However door zone dangers were plentiful on other streets and with the high number of taxis, it became necessary to be alert to the possibility of being doored from the left by exiting taxi passengers in slow moving traffic, in addition to the usual right by exiting parked drivers.

It was all a little crazy but we adapted and went with the flow. I'll write more about the trip and the insanity that was the infamous Bike Kill in an upcoming post. Alex T., who also went on the trip wrote a great piece looking at some of those traffic flow differences that you can check out here.

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