I found it interesting to read this New Zealander's take on cycling in New York City.
Author Stephen Lacey came before the launch of the Bike Share program, but he identifies some of the things that will be necessary to its success--and to make New York a more generally bike-friendly city.
The greatest hazard, he says, are pedestrians. The problem is that they sometimes wander into bikelanes or try to cross them at mid-block. Also, runners as well as skateboarders and rollerbladers often use bike lanes as their tracks, where they indiscriminately step, turn or flip in front of cyclists who have no room to maneuver.
He attributes this state of affairs to something I've mentioned on other posts in this blog: the lack of what I like to call "the human infrastructure" of cycling. We can build all of the lanes we want and expand bike share programs, but they won't make this or any other city more hospitable for cyclists if pedestrians, drivers and others who share public spaces aren't aware of, or choose to disregard, cyclists. That awareness and courtesy is the real difference, I believe, between the more bike-friendly capitals of Europe and cities like New York.
Finally, Lacey noticed another difference that I have also seen as a result of having traveled: New York cyclists, he says, don't have the "cafe culture" that cyclists in his home country (and, I've noticed, much of Europe) enjoy. "We didn't see any road riders meeting in groovy espresso shops in Manhattan or Brooklyn for an apres-ride caffeine fix, " he says.
While there are a few bike shops that include coffee and snack bars, and some "groovy" cafes that try to attract and accommodate cyclists, I think he's right in noticing that there isn't a culture around such things, just as people don't grow up with an awareness of how to interact with bicycles.
Hmm...Could having more cycle cafes--or more cyclists congregating in cafes--be the thing we need to create a human infrastructure of cycling?