NEW YORK (CBS 2) — More and more New Yorkers are getting to work by bike, as the number of bike commuters has doubled in the last five years.
CBS 2′s Tony Aiello now knows first hand it’s the fastest-growing way to get to work in New York City.
“It’s a workout and you’re having fun,” bike commuter Serge Primyakoff said. “I actually look forward to coming to work now.”
It’s also a leading source of quality-of-life-complaints for city-dwellers.
“I hate it with a passion,” one resident said.
As a pedestrian, Aiello said he ducked his share of rogue riders – on the sidewalk and the crosswalks, but never had taken a two-wheeler onto the streets of Manhattan.
That is, until Wednesday.
To get the biker’s perspective, Aiello put a camera on his helmet and hopped on a bike.
His tour guide was Caroline Samponaro, director of Bicycle Advocacy for Transportation Alternatives.
They started on the dedicated bike lane on Ninth Avenue, and other than a few pedestrians in the space meant for bikers, it was smooth sailing — for about five minutes.
Then they encountered their first problem: a furniture delivery truck was blocking the bike lane, leaving just a narrow space to get by.
“It is what it is. It’s a small city, and we gotta do it – nothing else we can do,” the truck driver said.
To have to squeeze between the truck and the traffic lane was pretty frightening. As an inexperienced cyclist in New York City, Aiello said it freaked him out a little bit.
From there, Aiello and Samponaro went down 14th Street, where there is no dedicated bike lane – and no telling when someone will open a vehicle door and send you flying.
They stuck to the rules of the road, even as a fellow biker showed off. They were at a red light, and with no traffic coming, he went right through it.
Despite that guy, Samponaro said the bike lanes have significantly improved biker behavior.
“Ninth Avenue, there’s been an 80-percent reduction in sidewalk riding because of the protected bike lane,” she said. “They not only make it safer to bike, they’re encouraging more New Yorkers to get out and ride.”
Compared to the relative safety of the bike lanes, riding on streets without them is a harrowing experience.
At one point, a truck behind Aiello and Samponaro was honking to them to get out of the way, and the driver had nowhere to go even if he passed them.
As bikers assert their rights to a piece of the street, Transportation Alternatives said they also have to embrace their responsibilities by following the rules of the road.
“That’s what takes biking from a fringe, renegade pastime to a mainstream form of transportation, which is what it’s becoming in New York City,” Samponara said.
Like it or not.
A new law also aims to keep motorists from hogging the road. It requires them to keep a “safe distance” from bike riders – or face a ticket.