On a Monday morning in July 2015, a man rode his bike into an intersection in central Brooklyn. This particular stretch of pavement, where Flatbush and Atlantic meet and break around the Barclays Center, is a football field of grooved asphalt and multi-directional stoplights that’s always crawling with activity. The sun was shining and it hadn’t recently rained; road conditions were perfect for the 7am commuter rush.
It wouldn’t matter. At 7:05am, a driver on 4th Ave would lose control of his SUV, collide with a sedan waiting at the light on Dean St, and hurtle over the intersection’s concrete median. The man on the bike would be crushed by the careening vehicle, his handlebars and gears wedged in wheels. By the time the ambulance arrived just a few minutes later, the cyclist would be dead.
Ten blocks away and an hour later, I’d buckle my helmet, leave my apartment in Fort Greene, and make a mental note. What a beautiful day for a bike ride.
This is the devil’s bargain of riding your bike in New York City. It’s a glorious activity, right up until the moment when you get killed. “For me, cycling in NYC is 75% value, 25% burden,” Neistat, the filmmaker, hypothesized in an email to Thrillist. The upshots are many -- it’s convenient! Cheap! Fun! Healthy! -- and the downsides are few. But they’re also severe. You can die out there, and people do.
75/25 may be an acceptable gamble for some New Yorkers (Neistat: “That's a far better ratio than the subway or a taxi”), but riding a bike in NYC shouldn’t be a gamble in the first place. It shouldn’t be scary, or confusing, or expensive. “On the most basic level,” mused Samponaro, “the bike is a great way to take pressure off the [transit] system.” It’s inexpensive to both the city and citizenry. It's easy. It's sustainable. And of course, at its best, cycling transcends simple utility; it can be a thrilling experience. New York City should be the best biking city in the country. We’d all benefit -- pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists.
Without better infrastructure and enforcement, though, most of New York’s expanding population will continue to be scared to ride. People will pack into overcrowded trains, jam streets with more cars, and remain convinced that underserved cyclists are over-entitled assholes. Meanwhile, the people who do ride will keep getting ticketed for scofflaws and crushed by SUVs.
Does that sound like the best biking city in the country to you?
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Dave Infante is a senior writer for Thrillist. Follow @dinfontay on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.