I know I’m not alone in thinking that the relative newness of hordes of cyclists in my city is a big part of the problem. Unlike many European cities, there is no longstanding cycling culture in New York and other American cities. The result is several generations of drivers who don’t even think about sharing the road and looking out for cyclists.
In New York in particular, this issue is complicated by the fact that pedestrians and cyclists, as well as far too many drivers, routinely ignore red lights. As a cyclist and a driver, I know that pedestrians frequently dart out midblock between parked cars and seem to assume we will be able to stop in time to avoid hitting them. A further complication: pedestrians often cross the street, with or without the light in their favor, while staring at their phones or wearing headsets that block the sound of my bell.
Aside from virus-related limitations, I have no plans to stop riding my bike, which I ride in all kinds of weather. In addition to being great exercise, it saves me time shopping for groceries, running errands and getting to appointments without having to use a car.
At the same time, I’m a strong advocate for cyclists learning to protect themselves better. Too many ride in dark clothes, even at night, without lights or helmets. The CitiBike program does not provide helmets, and fewer than half the people I see using the bike share bring their own head protection.
The jackets or, in warm weather, shirts I bike in are either bright red-orange or lime green, with helmets and backpacks to match, and there are flashing lights on my helmet and bike. After sunset or when visibility is poor, I wear a reflective vest.
I take pride in remaining alert. I don’t listen to podcasts or phone calls while riding. If I receive a potentially important cellphone call or text alert, I’ll stop on the side of the road to check it. Otherwise, I ignore it until I get home.
While riding on city streets, I check for cars about to pull out from a parking spot or a vehicle door that might open in my path. I’m especially wary of drivers who seem to be looking for a parking spot. Fifteen years ago, I was knocked down by a driver who passed me, then cut me off when she pulled headfirst into a spot. I use a full-arm signal when I’m about to pull into a traffic lane to get around a double-parked vehicle or other obstruction.