Riding in NYC is dangerous. Full stop. I am an advocate of making it safer, but unless NYC has a bicycle transportation system like the Dutch, it will always be dangerous. I had two close run-ins again on my commute earlier in the week. One involved a bus (doesn’t it always?) where a bus passed me on the left and then pulled in front of me to let off/pick up passengers, trapping me against the curb. After slamming on the brakes to come to a stop before I hit both the bus and the curb, I then have to put walk my bike up on to the sidewalk, else the bus will run me over when it pulls away. When I ride in the city, I am hyper-aware of my surroundings. As I have said before, when you bike here, you have to leave your front door with the assumption that no one can see you. You are, for all intents and purposes, completely invisible to anyone driving a car.
The second incident was more nefarious, where a driver clearly saw me riding along the right side of the road during stop and go traffic, and pulled his car all the way to the curb in order to inhibit me from passing. I was able to get around behind him to weave my way through traffic, only to have him open his door, trying to catch me off guard and clip me from the bike. I knew I had two choices here. I could stop, get off the bike and get in to a pointless argument with someone who is frustrated that he is sitting in traffic for hours in a $50,000 metal box that has an in-traffic-top-speed of 8mph between lights, or just shake my head and ride on. I had somewhere to be, that somewhere being home where I could shower and eat dinner. An arugment with a stranger regarding HIS opinion of whether or not I should be advantaged on the bike in traffic was NOT on my list of things to do. I rode on.
Aside from the dangers of cycling in a highly urbanized area with congested traffic, riding the bike means that *I* choose when I suffer. I don’t have to get in to arguments over things in my way, I can just go around. I don’t have to deal with the guy in the car next to me blasting his radio at levels that make my ear drums hurt, I can just ride on. I don’t get frustrated by someone who decided to make a U-turn in the middle of a busy street or blocks traffic because they don’t know how to parallel park. I can stop, grab some water, breathe a little and relax. I have never had “Road Rage” while riding a bike. In the 30+ years that I have ever ridden a bike, I have never once felt frustrated by outside factors (aside from rain or snow of course). I believe the reason is that when I am riding, I am choosing my destiny for the next few moments. I am doing something I really enjoy, and no matter how bad the commute is, how many people cut me off, or honk at me, every day on the bike is a good day. I feel alive with the wind whipping over my skin, my heart pounding in my chest and my feet working the pedals in perfect circles.