Originally Written for TheBlot Magazine August 21,2014.
Dear Citi Bike & Biking
Like many people, I remember the day I had the training wheels on my bike removed. It is an important day for any kid, since it is one of the first real steps in establishing our independence, by allowing us to blaze our own trails while waiting for our driver’s license. For me, it has been years since I have ridden a bike, and with the way bicycle riding has changed here in New York, the love I once had for this form of transportation has turned to very literal hate.
I know that not all bikers are bad, however, since your inception, Citi Bike, the overwhelming majority of riders have proven that yes, you can in fact forget how to ride a bike. Many of your riders prove that they have no idea what they are doing on two wheels, and they are becoming a threat to an already-congested cityscape.
In the past year, I have personally witnessed four people get hit by bikes when they clearly had the right of way, including one pregnant woman who, after getting back to her feet, apologized to the biker for getting in his way, to which the biker said, in a very rude tone, “Watch where you are going next time” before riding off without making sure the woman who he hit was OK. Where does this sense of privilege come from?
Bikers who have just jumped on the bandwagon in recent years hide behind the arguments of biking for “fitness” and “protecting the environment.” Both are extremely valid points, but how does wanting to become fit or being a champion of the environment translate into you doing whatever you want on two wheels? Doing “your part” does not mean your reward is transportation immunity. There are rules in place for all vehicles, but somehow, most bikers do not feel the need to abide by these rules. Instead, they find a way to be overly vocal when something impedes their progress. Yes, it is unfortunate that a car, truck or bus may take up part of your bike lane, but that does not give you, the biker, the right to take your bike on the sidewalk where I am already weaving through a uncountable amount of brain-dead pedestrians.
Like any vehicle, a license should be required for the operational use of a bicycle. It doesn’t have to be a serious gut-wrenching process that the Department of Motor Vehicles is so famously known for, but if you are willing to operate something that could potentially cause harm to others, you should at least know what your accountability is when something goes wrong. This summer, the New York Police Department started cracking down on bikers by implementing checkpoints for the biking community. Even though people are pulled over for going through traffic lights, riding through or stopping in crosswalks, riding on the sidewalks and not having the proper equipment on their bikes, operators are still surprised and outraged — because they are completely unaware of the rules they are being fined for. Apparently common sense is beyond the grasp of the majority of those who are a part of the bike-riding community.
How can a company such as yourself, Citi Bike, as well as other smaller bike-rental shops allow the use of your vehicles without letting your patrons know what the consequences of their actions could bring? Especially in a city where people need arrows spray painted on the sidewalks so they know what direction to walk or a “Look” stencil put on the pavement at certain intersections to gently remind people (read: grown adults!) to look both ways before crossing. (Um, isn’t that a life skill you should’ve learned when you were 6 or so??)
The ticketing of bikers is a good thing for many reasons, although most bikers would argue against that point. It will help them to understand what dangers face them and those around them because of their actions and maybe make the city just a little bit safer. Until that happens, though, I will continue to watch for bikes blowing through red lights when I have the right of way — and just wait for the opportunity to throw a stick in their front spokes. Not that I have it planned out or anything …