On September 8, 2019, I rode in the New York Century Bike Tour. Although it was my first time riding the Century, it was the 30th and last time they were doing the tour. It went through four of the boroughs (not Staten Island). Unlike the Five Borough Bike Tour, the streets were not protected. Thus, we were like any other cyclist dependent on whether there was a bike lane. We did ride on some streets without a bike lane, which upset some drivers. One woman driving on Myrtle Avenue threatened to run us over.
I have been on various bike rides by Montauk, Orange County, Hudson Valley, and New York City. The common equation is that the majority of riders have fancy bike helmets, biking gloves, biking shirts, and biking shorts. They also have road bikes. You can tell that some of them are very expensive. One time when I was doing the Tour de Staten Island, a middle-aged man said his bike cost $6,000. One reason they are so expensive is that they are lightweight and can go very fast. With these riders it is all about how fast you can go. I am one of the few riders who has a hybrid bike.
These are recreational riders. They do not use their bikes to ride to work. If they work in Manhattan, they most likely take the train to work.
During the week there are many more cars on the road than bikes. Although there are many more bike lanes than in the past, bike riding is still considered to be a hobby, a form of recreation, or a way to get some exercise. The motor vehicle is the king of the road.
It is different in Amsterdam. When I was there it appeared that there were more bicycles than cars. I was told that there are more bikes than people. I saw women in dresses and men in suits riding to work. Their bicycles were not fancy road bikes. They looked like worn “city bikes,” with thick tires and a heavy frame. Most recreational riders in New York would not want to be seen riding these bikes.
There were bike parking lots throughout the city. I never saw so many bikes at one location. I was a little surprised how few people wore helmets even though most of the riders looked fit. Even if there is less chance of being hit by a car than in New York, there can still be collisions involving bike riders that could lead to head injuries.
There has been a push in New York City for congestion pricing or other ways to reduce traffic. The goal is to change the mindset for more people to take trains into Manhattan instead of driving in. This should not be the focus. The goal should be to try to make bike riding the main form of transportation as it is in Amsterdam. The mindset has to change from thinking of bike riding as a recreational activity to a means of transportation. This would result in more people taking their bikes to work. It will reduce pollution and make people healthier.
It will not be easy, but it can be done. One of the main problems is where to put the bikes. Amsterdam has solved the problem with these bike parking areas. Also, there needs to be more and safer bike lanes so people have security and not fear that they are taking their lives into their hands every time they get on a bike. Once more people use the bike lanes for work, the opposition to them will decrease. It is understandable why many people are upset when bike lanes are built since it reduces either the number of parking spots or lanes for travel. In contrast, currently few people use the bike lanes.
Recreational bike riding is enjoyable. However, it will not result in a fundamental change in people’s conduct. It is time to learn from Amsterdam and, weather permitting, ride to work.