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Bicycling

New York Cycling, as Seen From L.A.

11:42 AM EDT on May 8, 2008

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According to city statistics, over the last seven years the number of cyclists on New York streets has risen by 75 percent. With increased investments in infrastructure, overseen by a new, pro-cycling DOT commissioner, the city hopes to double the number of riders by 2015.

Of course, obstacles remain. As reported in a Los Angeles Times piece from yesterday on the current state of New York cycling, as their favored mode enjoys a renaissance that even a bike snob can't ignore, riders must nonetheless contend not only with careless motorists, but also toasted newspaper columnists, a hostile police department, and certain double-talking City Council members.

Police here largely ignore jaywalkers, cyclists going against traffic and taxi drivers bounding across lanes to pick up customers. And anarchy begets anarchy. Cyclists -- fearing for their lives -- ride on the sidewalk, and pedestrians -- to avoid the cyclists -- step into traffic.

Jessica Lappin, a councilwoman from the Upper East Side, hears the horror stories almost daily.

Seniors in her neighborhood feel "terrorized" by delivery people who barrel down the sidewalks on two wheels, causing elderly residents to duck and dive. "While I understand that the cyclists fear for their lives in the streets," she said, "the answer can't be whizzing by on the sidewalk at 20 mph and running into pedestrians."

Lappin added that she supported bicycling in general and -- if it was safer -- would probably bicycle herself.

Still, the article is mostly positive, profiling as it does an everyday Park Slope couple, Amy Cohen and Gary Eckstein. Both are in their forties, and both bike to work in Lower Manhattan after dropping the kids off at school. (According to the story, cycling is growing in popularity among the "middle-aged" set -- another positive trend.) Says Eckstein, who, along with Cohen, has ridden here for 15 years: "The city feels much safer than when we started. It even feels safe in the dark."

Photo: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times

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