Winter is here, and there will be fewer bicycles on the streets until spring returns. This was a tragic year for bicyclists, with 25 deaths thus far and mounds of negative publicity and blame hurled our way.
As a bicyclist, that is what I'd like to address. There seems to be a growing rift between those who bicycle and those who don't.
It wasn't more than just a years or so ago that bicycles were lauded as a good mode of transportation. Economical, good on fuel, no pollution, exercise, great for the mind and heart, and they reduced traffic and were a quick way to get around in a city where parking is often a major problem.
We bicyclists have taken our share of flack as our numbers have increased and we must share the roads with drivers and pedestrians. We have been blamed for accidents, taking away parking spaces, closure of longtime businesses in Rego Park, and colliding with pedestrians.
Bike lanes have removed only a small number of parking spots in some neighborhoods, and none at all in other communities. In some cases, such as Queens Boulevard, it was done for safety due to the large number of pedestrian accidents.
In other cases, it is part of the city's determination to discourage automobiles. As for businesses closing in Rego Park, that is due to the change in demographics; bicyclists play no role in that.
Despite speed limits, they are plenty of drivers who ignore them on both main and residential streets. A major cause of accidents are people who open car doors as a biker approaches, throwing us into traffic.
I would like to see a massive public service campaign advising drivers and passengers on the traffic side to look for bicyclists before opening doors.
There are measures all sides can take to make roads safe for all who use them. I feel all bicyclists need to wear helmets and need to follow the rules of the road.
Unlike Europe and much of Asia, we are not a bicycle-oriented society. That will take time, and until then all sides are going to have to adapt, whether as drivers, pedestrians or bicyclists, as we inevitably learn to share the roads.