For Cyclists, It’s a PR War Out There

Consider this an open thread on Robert Sullivan’s piece in the Times’ City section this weekend, and his four suggestions for better cyclist PR.

The question of how cyclists should use the road is often framed as a classic chicken-or-egg situation: Which comes first, streets that accommodate cyclists’ needs or cyclists who use the streets courteously? I was glad to read a piece that takes the measure of how far New York City has progressed in each respect, but it’s too bad the Times ran it with a headline and above-the-fold photo that don’t match the intent of the story. Minimizing internecine conflict in any discussion about the ethics of cycling is already tough. The phrase "The Wild Bunch" doesn’t exactly move the conversation forward.

Sullivan’s four suggestions are posted after the jump.

NO. 1: How about we stop at major intersections? Especially where
there are school crossing guards, or disabled people crossing, or a lot
of people during the morning or evening rush. (I have the law with me
on this one.) At minor intersections, on far-from-traffic
intersections, let’s at least stop and go.

NO. 2: How about we
ride with traffic as opposed to the wrong way on a one-way street? I
know the idea of being told which way to go drives many bikers bonkers.
That stuff is for cars, they say. I consider one-way streets anathema —
they make for faster car traffic and more difficult crossings. But
whenever I see something bad happen to a biker, it’s when the biker is
riding the wrong way on a one-way street.

There will be
caveats. Perhaps your wife is about to go into labor and you take her
to the hospital on your bike; then, yes, sure, go the wrong way in the
one-way bike lane. We can handle caveats. We are bikers.

NO. 3:
How about we stay off the sidewalks? Why are bikers so incensed when
the police hand out tickets for this? I’m only guessing, but each
sidewalk biker must believe that he or she, out of all New York bikers,
is the exception, the one careful biker, which is a very car way of

NO. 4: How about we signal? Again, I hear the
laughter, but the bike gods gave us hands to ring bells and to signal
turns. Think of the possible complications: Many of the bikers behind
you are wearing headphones, and the family in the minivan has a Disney
DVD playing so loudly that it’s rattling your 30-pound Kryptonite
chain. Let them know what you are thinking so that you can go on
breathing as well as thinking.


Traffic Lights Don’t Belong on a Park Loop

Two separate crashes in which cyclists struck and killed pedestrians on the Central Park loop have garnered more media attention than any other traffic safety issue in the past two months. In addition to the inevitable reemergence of a few bikelash trolls, the collisions have led to a round of less spiteful stories that still miss […]

How Much Do Bicyclists Really Slow Down Drivers?

What’s really slowing these cars down? Probably not bikes. Photo by richardmasoner via Flickr. What is it about bicycles that drives some motorists so crazy? Anyone who’s ever ridden a bike more than a handful of times in this country has experienced it. The honking, the rude remarks, the vehicles speeding past with drivers shouting […]

“Don’t Be a Jerk” — The Wrong Message at the Wrong Time

This week, the New York City Department of Transportation began promoting its online (and thankfully multilingual) “Bike Smart Pledge,” asking cyclists to yield to pedestrians, stop at red lights and stop signs, ride in the direction of traffic, stay off the sidewalk, and have the proper lighting when riding at night. This will soon be […]

Shared Space on the Brooklyn Bridge

I’d bet that people walking outnumber people bicycling across the Brooklyn Bridge by at least 100 to one. I cycle across the wooden-slatted walkway that soars over the top of the bridge regularly now, and every time I do so I think about this. My rolling bicycle negates the space for scores of people every […]