September/October 1997, p.2

Are Cyclists Their Own Worst Enemy?

Read the latest news about this issue.

New York is an exceptionally flat and dense city with a fair climate and good subway access - a potential Utopia for urban cycling. But the question remains: when will cycling become a widely-accepted and highly-promoted form of transport in this traffic-clogged metropolis? When will cyclists get credit for choosing a low-impact method, whose very presence should make this city more livable?

The answer is never. At least not until we cyclists start respecting other street users
all the time. Our behavior as cyclists will make or break the future of cycling in
NYC.

With the agility afforded to us by our self-powered wheels, too often we let loose a surge of adrenaline and zip around obstacles - people or cars - that dampen our stride. Dismissing the soundness of mind to stop or slow down or obey traffic laws, we are often tempted by the quicker route, which may involve riding on sidewalks or going the wrong way on a one-way street. These brazen habits may shave off some
travel time and enable us to keep momentum, but as a result we perpetuate the per-
ception of cyclists as law-breaking inconsiderates who don't deserve to be on
the road.

I was recently taken down by a fellow cyclist while crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. The guy came out of nowhere, sideswiped me, and left me with three fractures in my
right arm. He never even slowed down to see if I was okay. I am still sure that crazy
and mean cyclists are the exception. But the reckless behavior of this jerk and those
like him provides an easy excuse to those who wish to disregard and marginalize cyclists.

All cyclists, knowingly or not, are participants in a movement toward environmentally-sound transportation that can make our air more breathable, our neighborhoods quieter, and streets much safer. As we ride in the city, we empower the movement. But the movement cannot gain momentum unless we, that means you and me, ride responsibly with high regard for the safety of others. That means always, always yielding to pedestrians - even when they are wrong - staying off side-walks, and keeping the other guy in mind.

Every one of us -recreational riders, commuters, those who ride for a living- rep-
resent the movement. Every day, every ride, short or long -New York is watching.
So take on the responsibility and help legitimize cycling. Your friendliness and
thoughtfulness will elevate the status of cyclists on NYC roads more effectively than
years of advocacy work ever will.

Susan Boyle -T.A. Program Staff