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Steve Nelson

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New York Bike Lanes Are All the Rage

Posted: 10/17/11 05:33 PM ET

Bike lanes in New York City are all the rage these days. And I do mean rage.

For 55 years I've ridden and raced bicycles. In these years I have never run into a human being. I even avoid riding over insects. The respect is not reciprocal. I've had beer bottles thrown at my head. I've been the target of water balloons tossed out of cars. I've had car doors swung open at me at 60+ miles per hour. I've been cursed at and pushed off the road more times than I wish to remember. Yet New Yorkers seem acutely interested in seeing that I, and other cyclists, mind our manners.

Here's a diary of one ride on September 21st:

Leaving my home at 80th and Columbus, I followed the bicycle lane south. At the corner of 77th and Columbus Avenue, a family of four was eating Shake Shack burgers while standing in the bicycle lane. They seemed annoyed when I swerved around them.

Entering Central Park at 77th Street, several pedicabs blocked the ramp as it met the Park's West Drive. One did a U-turn without looking, calling into play my best bike-handling skills. The pedicab "driver" muttered what sounded like an expletive, evidently believing U-turns a protected class of maneuvers.

At the southwest corner of the park, a long stream of tourists, apparently visiting New York attractions on their mobile devices, crossed against the light without so much as a glance up.

As I reached the East Drive, a parade of yellow and livery cabs drove partially in the bicycle lane as they passed horse drawn carriages and pedicabs meandering down the road. One woman stood in the middle of the bicycle lane, taking pictures of a squirrel.

During the next quarter mile, several dozen folks ambled slowly along the traffic edge of the bicycle lane, apparently unaware that a sidewalk, designed just for them, sat on the other side of the wooden guardrail. At the crosswalk near the end of the Great Mall, several folks scolded me for passing too near them. They were in the middle of the bike lane and the light was green (for me).

I'll spare you the rash of similar experiences over the next three loops of the Park Drive, but it gets better.

Exiting the park, I rode west in the bicycle lane on 77th Street. A panel truck blocked the lane. As I steered around the truck, a Cadillac Escalade U-turned directly in my path. An older woman, jaywalking in the middle of the block, screamed (at me), "Get off the road and back in your lane."

A mea culpa: I turned uptown (against the directional arrows) in the Columbus Avenue bicycle lane for the short, three-block trip home. I peddled slowly. There were no other bicycles, but several pedestrians, evidently unaware of the broad sidewalk, recently refurbished at extravagant cost, alongside the American Museum of Natural History.

Approaching 80th Street, a woman with a small dog on one of those hideous extendable leashes, screamed, "You're riding the wrong way!!!!! It's one way!!! You're going to kill someone!!" I said, "Er, but, you are walking in the bike lane with a dog." Huffington Post won't print what she said next. Huffington Post won't print what I said either.

 

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