Riding a bicycle is arguably the best way to get around a city like New York–with public transportation getting more expensive and less reliable, a cross-town trip by bike is a million times more enjoyable (not to mention way faster) than waiting for the M23. We all know how dangerous cycling in the city can be–check out this blog by Bespoken client and all-around superwoman Katie McKenna about her bike accident–but we also know that it gets safer with every new commuter who joins us on the road. Bespoken co-founder and daily #BikeNYC commuter Leah Bonvissuto explains how clear communication can help you stay in control, make a connection and #OwnTheRoad when taking to the streets!
No matter how aggressive some drivers may be, most of them don’t actually want to hit you. We all know how confusing and dangerous it is when vehicles fail to signal–that’s all the more reason for cyclists to clearly communicate every intention to drivers and pedestrians. Opt for simple hand gestures (an outstretched arm pointing right when you make the decision to turn and again as you make the turn will do) and make eye contact with drivers before entering their lane to be sure you’ve communicated effectively. You will be able to feel the connection (and they will appreciate knowing your next move!). Tip: Check out wayfinder Jessica Sato’s take on cycling in the city in this interview with Bespoken.
If you want your bike to be there after you get out of BAMcinématek, lock up to official DOT bike racks instead of traffic signs or scaffolding. With a basic toolkit, thieves can remove sign-posts and lift your bike over the top (or loosen scaffolding connectors). Tip: Click here to watch Hal from Bicycle Habitat rate New Yorkers’ locking techniques.
Not only is it illegal in NYC to ride without front and rear lights, being visible is a huge part of riding safely at night or in the rain. Be ultra-visible–wrap your bike with EL wire (avoid your break cables!) or grab these snazzy wheel lights to make sure you’re seen from the sides. Tip: We can’t wait for the US release of Volvo Lifepaint–this is sure to be a game-changer for cycling visibility.
Don’t get stuck between a truck and a hard place. Instead of making yourself smaller to squeeze through, fully “take the lane“–signal, make eye contact with drivers, and move into the middle of the full lane of traffic. It tells everyone on the road that you belong there too and does not allow a driver to take space away from you. It might cause momentary frustration for drivers but it’s way better than losing control of your position on the road! Tip: If you’re really in a tight spot, ring your bell, use your voice, wave your hands, stand on your petals–do everything in your power to make yourself bigger.
The biggest risk for cyclists in NYC is getting doored. Always ride in the bike lane–even if there isn’t one! Stay five feet away from parked cars to avoid the “door zone” and stay the course–if you weave from the “lane” to the shoulder when there aren’t parked cars, you might take a driver by surprise when you have to take back your lane. Tip: On one-way streets, stay on the left. While all cars have a driver, a much smaller portion have a passenger so you are far less likely to be doored riding on the left side of the road than on the right.
Just because you’re working out doesn’t mean you have to dress like it! Biking in NYC may necessitate a few wardrobe adjustments–fitted jeans over flowy skirts for sure–but it doesn’t mean you have to wear spandex and sneakers. Eleanore’s NYC curates a must-have collection of gear and apparel you never knew you needed from bike garters to helmet turbans to leopard-print helmets. And don’t settle for a helmet you’re not in love with–it’s another opportunity to showcase individuality while upping your visibility (and you’re more likely to wear it if you like it). Tip: We love Iva Jean‘s functional yet fashionable (and water-resistant) clothing for female cyclists.
Biking in NYC is a totally unique experience–those who’ve never done it just won’t grasp the intricacies and dynamics of #BikeNYC. Try to be patient with pedestrians and drivers–this whole thing only works when we work together. Tip: For first-timers, jump on a Citibike and opt for protected bike paths to optimize safety while you get the lay of the land. Download the Ride the City app before your first ride for a customized route based on your comfort level.
8. BeResponsive (but not impulsive!)
Doors fly open, drivers run reds, pedestrians dart off the sidewalk into bike lanes–much of this is unavoidable but up your odds by always remaining hyper-aware of your surroundings. Sometimes all it takes is half a second to veer and avoid the door of that SUV. Also, avoid substances that might dull your ability to react in the blink of an eye or cause you to act impulsively or out of anger–especially in the evenings when drivers may be drinking. Tip: In the warmer months when car windows are more likely to be down, listen for running taxi meters to avoid getting doored–it’s a sure sign that the door will soon fly open.
I know it can be frustrating when you get honked off the road biking to the corner store. Whether you’re just trying to commute, get some exercise or lower your carbon footprint, daily frustrations can make it hard to remember that you are riding for all the right reasons. Tip: Plug in one earbud (two is illegal and dangerous) or grab some speakers and curate a personalized soundtrack for your commute.
Chat with other cyclists at red lights. Complement a random pedestrian. Jam to the tunes coming off that truck. It’s the best part of NYC–and what makes the transiency of biking so attractive: We’re all in this together. Tip: Join Transportation Alternatives, ride with Bike New York and get to know the people who are on the road with you.