Empty Days

Monday, February 09, 2004



Downtown biking

Looked up up that bicycling weblog, Velorution. This reminded me of an old urge (never satisfied) - to bike in Manhattan.

There is this crazy idea that there is too much traffic in NYC, both motor and pedestrian, that drivers are particularly aggressive and mad (they are), that unless you're a cut-throat bike-courrier you'll get run over. There is some truth to this but mostly - it's a lie.

You don't have to be a pro-rider, all wired up, with another pair of eyes in the back of your head. No - none of this is required. All you need is a quiet disposition and a fearless heart. Which is the kind of thing that comes to you naturally whenever you've spent some time getting used to downtown traffic conditions - in NYC or anywhere else for that matter.

I had great pleasure biking in Toronto, despite the fact that it's a much more congested city than Montreal. The pleasure came from a flat landscape and fairly wide smooth-paved streets. It absolutely doesn't matter that cars are blazing past you at terrific speeds - what matters is that you know you have enough space to cut your own slim side-line.

Manhattan is a bit like Toronto in that sense. It's flat. Streets are either very wide or single-laned which is just as good. Who cares about traffic, I ask you?

The worst city to bike in is Paris (I don't know about London etc). Most streets are too narrow. Side-walks are too narrow. Cars and people barely manage to squeeze by - forget biking in downtown Paris at rush-hour. I've had a reasonable time biking in Berlin and Amsterdam. They have dedicated bike-lanes and such. In Amsterdam the hardest problem is not bikes-vs-cars, it's bikes-vs-people. Just way too many bikes. I love that city though - and I love Dutch bikes (it's hard to get these models in North America, but they're great, only for flat-landscapes though).

So all things considered, I would have had a great time biking in NYC if I had gotten that chance. But nops. I visited NY pretty regularly once upon a time but I could never get myself a bike there. And at this point in my life I know I will never go to NY again. I used to love travelling - not anymore. All gone.

***

PS. Another city you don't want to bike in is Moscow. Forget it. Eight-lane high-speed roads with no traffic lights. You can't cross on foot (people do, of course, but only after years of exercise in precision and fast-running), and you *will* get killed on a bike.





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