New York City is full of surprises, and some of them aren’t pleasant. Like on my first trip here when I was fourteen. I spaced out while I was walking on the sidewalk with my school group, and I got hit square in the nipple with a cart loaded up with cardboard boxes. Nine years later, I moved here. After mastering the sidewalks quickly, I decided to move to a new challenge: biking. Riding a bike in New York is no leisurely cruise along a beach. The city is home to particularly bold breeds of pedestrians and drivers. Spacing out while you’re on a bike will result in far more painful consequences than a box to your nipple. But despite the car and people dodging, New York can be surprisingly bikeable, if you follow a few guidelines.
Protect your melon
Wear a helmet. Always. Yes, they make your head sweat. No, it’s not cool to look like Toad from Super Mario Brothers, but it’s considerably cooler than cracking open your skull on the sidewalk or hitting a metal pole with your face. Remember: spending $25 on a hunk of plastic-coated styrofoam is cheaper than being in a coma. (Note: helmets are designed for one good whack. Get a new one if you get into an accident). Another general safety note: if you’re too drunk to walk straight, you’re too drunk to bike.
Obey traffic laws
Don’t ride against traffic. If cars and pedestrians know where you’re coming from, they’re less likely to hit you. Ride in the bike lane, check out these maps to plot out a route. It’s tempting to pull a Cher from Clueless-style total pause when you pedal up to a stop sign, but come to a complete halt and look both ways, just like your ma taught you.
Pay attention to your surroundings
While biking in any of the boroughs, shift your vision between the cars, the pedestrians. Old ladies pushing carts appear out of nowhere. Giant trucks take up entire road lanes when they’re stocking bodegas. Cabbies stop for no one. Also, keep an eye on the road itself. Hitting one of the potholes big enough to swallow a small child can fuck up your wheels and/or make you do a face plant onto the asphalt.
Assume everyone else is going to screw up
New York is a highly populated city of people who are in a hurry constantly. When you’re biking, keep an eye on stroller pushers, other cyclists, puppies, mopeds, delivery guys… Swerve and brake if you’re about to get doored, hit another biker or crash with a minivan, etc. No one else has your back.
Don’t be an asshole
Some drivers like to hate on bikers. Prove them wrong.