01 December 2010

Losing the Lanes

Last night, about two blocks from the end of my commute home, a van pulled up alongside me.  The passenger side window rolled down.  My heart was starting to pump:  I was only two blocks from my apartment, but I was ready to pedal just about anywhere else.  The light turned green and, just as I was ready to thrust my left pedal down, a man's voice rasped, "Hey, sexy.  Why doesn't a beautiful lady like you use the bike lane?"

Now, that was one of the stranger things I've heard on my bike.  But he's probably not the first to have asked the question, and I'm not the first cyclist to have heard it.  But, if I were to meet that guy again (not that I'd want to!), I'd show him this:

It's one of those photos I wish I'd taken, but not because it would establish me as the next Eugene Atget. Rather, it shows all too clearly one of the reasons I normally don't use bike lanes. 

Now, if it were only a matter of cars being parked, I could ride around them.  But parked cars mean people getting in and out and, in some cases, not watching where they open doors.  I learned a painful lesson in that about this time last year.  At least I lived to laugh about it, once the pain subsided.  Other cyclists, though, haven't been so fortunate.

The photo came from a website I just found:  My Bike Lane, which is devoted entirely to bike lane violatons. In addition to photos, the license plate numbers of the most frequent offenders are posted.  

Thanks to "Greg" for creating and maintaining the site.  


  1. You might also remind him there's a freeway down the road.

  2. Ewww! I hate it when people who don't know what they're talking about tell me to ride in the bike lane, but this guy had to go and add a whole creepy/sexist layer on top of it. Sharing stories like this is great, though, so female cyclists can see that they're not alone and everyone else gets a glimpse of what it's like to be a female cyclist.

    p.s. Love Eugene Atget!

  3. It's definitely a dilemma: Follow the structure or do what feels safest. So sorry you had a creepy experience.

    Peace and love--

  4. Thanks for the post, I never realized what went into city riding. I mostly ride in the parks and bike paths.

    Maybe I am just too old or been married too long (20 years). I look at the bikes rather than the riders. What kind of bike? What color? Accessories? Love those toe clips?

    Bill Carter, CPA
    Atlanta, GA
    Trek FX 7.9

  5. Oh, we had so many wrathful instances of double parked cars when we were riding up 8th. And the worst part is in two of the cases it was some chick running back to the car with two cups of Starbucks (whatever) and another dude with his Quiznos. We exchanged words with the latter guy. And it didn't end well.


  6. I live in Indianapolis and we (are being promised) a 10 year bicycle path and pathway plan that will double (or be more) than what Portland has. Go figure here in the Midwest! While super happy about this, I do worry that, like your post here, bicycle lanes in traffic isn't necessarily what we need. We need more pathways. Some of the bike lanes they've recently added still seem a bit scary to me, especially the ones on the 45mph car lanes! Don't get me wrong - I am glad our city is moving forward with promoting more bicycle use and I do see more bike riders out than ever before. I just always wish and hope for more full bicycle pathways. Something like widening sidewalks which we have plenty of and making two lanes out of them - biker/walker. Unlike NYC, our city and suburbs have much wider roads and greater distances of travel, therefore adding more speed to the cars in city traffic.

  7. Sarah, I'm sorry that your experiences didn't end well. I notice that those are the most careless and clueless are the ones who are most defensive and belligerent when they endanger others.

    Dottie and Cherilyn, Thanks for your comments. You're right: It's one thing when people simply can't or won't see the error of their ways. But to have that sexist undertone makes it all the worse.

    Christina: What you say about the situation in Indianapolis is interesting. I've never been, and am unfamiliar with the cycling scene, there. But it sounds as if you have, in some respects, a similar situation to what we have here in New York: Many of us who cycle support the building of bike lanes, as misguided as the idea really is, simply as a way of making cyclists visible and keeping the city from being, or forestalling the day when the city is, overrun by cars. It's usually safer for cyclists to ride in traffic on streets (I'm not talking about highways.) than on bike lanes.

    Separate paths are a much better idea, of course. But in New York--particularly in lower and midtown Manhattan--there simply isn't enough available space to build paths that would allow cyclists to ride from their homes to their workplaces, let alone to wherever they might shop, look at art or do whatever else we do. The Greenway along the Hudson River is lovely, but as it lies on the western extremity of the city, is not practical as a commuting venue for most cyclists.

    Steve: Ironically enough, you're right. If they'd continued on the street on which I had the encounter, they could've gotten to the Grand Central Parkway.