NY Mag Takes on Bike Commuting

nymagbikerack.jpgPhoto: Hannah Whitaker/New York Magazine

It’s probably a good sign that New York Magazine just published "The Everything Guide to the Bike Commute." When New York tackles a topic, it means it’s becoming more mainstream for their own particularly affluent slice of the city’s population. And the more people safely taking sustainable, clean forms of transportation to work, the better.

The guide is far from comprehensive, and is geared for the most part to those who are relatively new to biking the city’s streets, offering basic safety tips and recommendations on stuff to buy (this is New York magazine, after all). Perhaps the most useful item is a step-by-step guide to the city’s new Bicycle Access Law, for office workers who want their employers to offer bike parking.

And even the most dedicated bike commuters will likely be impressed by the magazine’s profile of Joe Simonetti. He’s a clinical social worker who for 10 years has been bike commuting 44 miles from Westchester to midtown — a three-hour ride he does twice a week, complete with illegal scenic shortcuts and a breakfast stop.

  • dporpentine

    The safety tips are so much more focused and useful than TA’s “biking rules” it’s not even funny. It’s like they’re worried about the safety of people on bikes, not the psychological comfort of people on sidewalks. I mean, they actually tell you to stop at red lights! What a crazy idea!

  • Marcus A

    A good start. However, there should be further requirements about providing parking/storage areas. Either the city needs to provide these, or require businesses to provide these.

    A further point about the rise in bicycling. Traffic rules must be enforced for cyclists. Cyclists are only harming their own cause by speeding through red lights and weaving through pedestrians. I’ve seen 3 cyclists in the past year alone pay dearly for this behaviour, being hit by cars and thrown far enough to incur serious injury (one looked near death but was under care of medics who quickly arrived).

    I have heard the argument that pedestrians routinely flaunt the law by jaywalking. This is also dangerous behaviour, but cycling is far more dangerous to others as well, not only to the cyclist, as serious injury to pedestrians can result with a pedestrian-cyclist collision. A pedestrian-pedestrian collision is typically far less risky.

  • I agree with dporpentine. The last time NY Mag covered biking in the city in such a guide was in July 2005. Number three of that issue’s “Top Ten City Survival Skills” was “Learn to bunny-hop.” This year’s tips seem a little more accessible.

  • All tips are going to be a mixed bag of self-validation and annoyance, but if you want commuter tips from the “Biking Rules” PR campaign they’ve got em:
    http://bikingrules.org/biking/tips

    And if you want to be told to stop at red lights, they’ll do that for you too:
    http://bikingrules.org/rules/rulesoftheroad

  • TA’s “Biking Rules” campaign is much more thorough than this article, but what took the cake was the lock that NY Mag showcased. There is no way that flimsy cable will survive a day on NYC streets. Get a chain or two big u-locks. I’d rather spend my money on a good Kryptonite than that ridiculous mini, which is about the same price.

    Chrome, as opposed to Timbuk2, also makes much better messenger bags in my humble experience.

  • Traffic rules must also be enforced for cars. Speaking for myself, if I saw cars getting nailed for all the dangerous stuff they do, I would not flaunt the laws I break, ( which only jepordize my personal wellbeing)

  • Funny thing about that lock, mcsladek, my spouse and I both have one and we’ve locked up at least 400 days on NYC streets. Don’t misjudge the cable; it’s for the wheels and is a lot better than most people’s free-for-the-taking wheels.

    Kryptonite sells a lot of crap locks actually, and had their famous bic pen vulnerability a few years back before redeeming themselves with the heavy-duty (and I mean heavy) New York Chain. In bike shops here I’ve seen those offered for a cool $100. People seem to have an almost mystical confidence in that chain, although, it’s just another point on the heavy/strong continuum, and Onguard sells an even heavier chain if that’s what you want.

    Okay that’s enough shilling for one day! But I would suggest that in choosing a lock people take into consideration the value of their bicycle, how much weight they can carry without cycling becoming a nuisance, and then look for the best lock within those parameters. If you tell everyone to get the same giant heavy $100 chain, a lot of them will just shrug their shoulders and buy some Bell u-twig.

  • Prudence

    Everyone should check out the show “This Bicycle is a Sculpture” at the Cooper Union. It is a masterfully designed show that is only going to be up for a few more days!

    This show details the students’ attempts at getting safe, indoor bicycle parking and how the administration has been extremely bull-headed about participating in an actual real discussion.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/scribe_arts/sets/72157622411315489/

  • dporpentine

    Nathan H.:
    I swear this is the last time I’m going to fight this particular fight, but the tips and the tiny-type line about stopping at lights are not part of TA’s main Street Code, which (as the giant letters at the top of every page indicate) are the center of that site.

    TA does great things, and there’s important information on that site, but the Street Code is a mess, not least because (unlike the article that prompted this post) it’s main emphasis isn’t on cyclists’ safety, but on somehow reforming cyclists so they will be better thought of by the world’s least coherent demographic: people who at that moment happen to be walking on the streets of New York City instead of driving or biking or skateboarding or taking a bus or a subway or a water taxi the way they were two minutes ago.

    It’s a pointless exercise and an infuriating decision on TA’s part. Pedestrians represent a real threat to cyclists. The only way to come close to putting an end to that (and an end to the real threat that too many cyclists represent to pedestrians) is to insist on lawful behavior from everyone–and TA’s Street Code doesn’t do that. It insists on bikers’ subservience to pedestrians and winks at cyclists’ unlawful behavior.

    And so long as I’m being this annoying I’ll add two more cents: any cyclist who wears a messenger bag who’s not essentially forced to by their profession is an idiot. Messenger bags shift around–just another distraction. Backpacks stay put.

  • And I swear, dorpentine, I do not care nearly enough about this to “fight” about it. Actually, I agree with what you say the Street Code is, and I agree that your disapproval of the bags some people wear on their bicycles is annoying. But unless you’ve got a chart correlating increased nagging to decreased fatality rates, I’m just not interested in that approach to safety.

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2009/06/05/safety-in-numbers-its-happening-in-nyc/

  • Lukas

    I am really annoyed about how NY Magazine quoted bicycle supercommuter Joe Simonetti as saying “the low point is the South Bronx” in terms of his ride to work. As I bicycle commuter myself (who commutes from the South Bronx to White Plains), I don’t understand what he meant about “It’s like running a gauntlet.” The South Bronx has bike lanes and paths that are arguably safer and less congested than what you’d see in Manhattan (particularly midtown!). Plus looking at his route via Rye he’s not using any bike lanes or paths in Westchester, and is probably riding on some serious high-traffic roads. So I don’t know why he has to take a crack at the South Bronx (or the people who live here). He sounds just like all of the other suburbanites from these wealthy towns like Pound Ridge who are so afraid of inner-city folks for very screwed up reasons. I’m sure one of my neighbors would be treated far worse by the people in Pound Ridge if they dared go for a bike ride in his town, than we would treat him if we saw him rolling down our streets. The Bronx is a very welcoming place, if only snooty suburbanites like Joe Simonetti are able to get over their outdated fears of our borough.

  • The Opoponax

    “weaving through pedestrians”

    What the hell are we supposed to do if we can’t weave through pedestrians? Last I checked, the NYC DOT hasn’t been able to suspend the laws of physics to enable cyclists to dematerialize and teleport ourselves through all spaces we have to share with pedestrians. Until the city does so or manages to build a whole separate city for cyclists that keeps us out of the line of sight of any pedestrian who might be annoyed by our existence, we’re going to have to continue respectfully sharing space with pedestrians. And pedestrians are going to have to get used to that.

    When I’m sharing space with pedestrians, I try my absolute hardest not to monopolize the space and watch out for oncoming ped traffic that might not notice me. I’m also exceedingly respectful of pedestrians by making sure to pass slowly and with a wide berth. I even try to stay out of crosswalks wherever possible while waiting at lights (yes, I wait at lights). But no, sorry, you’re not getting rid of me, no matter how much you wish you could.

  • peejay

    dporpentine

    I don’t know what messenger bags you’re referring to, but mine stays put. Until I need something from it, at which time, I can access it without having to remove it from my back, unlike a backpack. I hardly think messengers would settle on a bag style that flops around all the time.