04 March 2013

Dear Motorist: Why We Are In "Your" Lane

Last week, I was riding down Second Avenue in Manhattan.  I'd stopped at 37th Street, where traffic exits the Queens-Midtown Tunnel.  Even the most steel-nerved messengers can't cross that steady stream of cars, taxis, SUVs and livery vans without having green signal or being waved through by a traffic cop.

One of those cops, a young African-American with a boyish face, approached me.  "Miss!"  You're supposed to ride in the bike lane."  He pointed across the avenue to it.  "You'll be much safer there."

As I was focused on getting through that bottleneck--Below 34th Street, there's usually much less traffic on Second--I didn't argue with him.  I've "educated" more than a few police officers and other people in my time; some were receptive but others became more adamant in their assertion that if there is a lane, a cyclist must use it--or, worse,that bikes simply don't belong on the street at all.  

So, I crossed over to the lane and, after I passed the last clump of traffic at NYU Medical Center, I moved back into the traffic lane.

I hadn't been riding that line before I saw the cop because the section of it just below the Queensborough (59th Street) Bridge, which I rode into Manhattan, was blocked off.  And, when it opened again somewhere around 52nd Street, it didn't appear to be in very good condition.  In the last couple of years, there has been a lot of coonstruction along Second, where a new subway line is being built.

Poor surface conditions are just one reason why some of us don't use the bike lanes, at least some of the time.  I found this list of other reasons on NYC Bike Commuter:

The bottom line, dear motorist, is that we are in "your" lane because it's often safer for both us and you to be there.  In their infinite wisdom, the designers of lanes next curbs have--probably unwittingly--made things less safe for you as well as for us.  

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