How to Stay Safe During the Brooklyn Cycling Renaissance
There was a time when you would very rarely see cyclists in New York City. That was because there were few bike lanes, and a cyclist would have to be suicidal to get out in the street and test their mettle against taxis, trucks, and minivans.
Now, there are more cyclists on New York's streets than ever, particularly in Brooklyn and parts of Manhattan. There are bikes for rent everywhere, and there are more bike lanes than ever as well, with the city adding more to the network every year.
Biking is not only great exercise. It's also a way to get around that's much cheaper than public transportation or owning a car, which so many New Yorkers don't want to do. Finding street parking isn't easy, while you can pick up your bike and carry it into your apartment at the day's end.
Where there are more bikes, though, there are also more bike accidents. Let's talk a bit more about Brooklyn's cycling renaissance and how to stay safe if you want to be a part of it.
How Dangerous is Cycling in Brooklyn?
Here are stats that should quickly get your attention. In a recent ten-year period, Brooklyn saw a 30% cycling accident increase. Seven months during 2020 also shattered the prior five-year bike accident records.
Why is this happening? As we alluded to before, it's not just because biking suddenly became more dangerous. It's because cycling is something that appeals to more Brooklyn residents and tourists than before.
Consider this: those who needed to get to work during the pandemic all of last year did not want to take public transportation. A mask might have felt like pretty skimpy protection while standing or sitting in a crowded subway car full of other coughing, sneezing commuters.
The addition of so many new bike lanes also sweetened the deal. All in all, bike sales were one of the few areas that did well during 2020. New cyclists appeared on Brooklyn's streets in neighborhoods as diverse as Bed-Stuy, Brownsville, Williamsburg, and Park Slope.
How Can You Stay Safe While Biking in Brooklyn?
If you want to get in on the craze, even now, when the pandemic is slowing down and vaccines are available, it still makes a lot of sense. If you can cycle to and from your job, you'll likely save money that you would have spent on train or bus fare. You can also get a workout that you might be too exhausted to attempt on the weekends.
One way that you can stay safe is by only biking on nice days. If it's January and there's a foot of snow on the ground, you need to leave the bike at home and take the train. You might not enjoy packing in with the rest of the commuters, but snow, ice, or heavy rain are never your friends, even if you're a skilled cyclist.
You should also always wear a helmet. Some people even like to wear pads as well, but a helmet should be the minimum protection that you can't afford to neglect. If a car hits you, and you fall off, you can strike your head. You can sustain a concussion or a more serious traumatic brain injury if you don't have that helmet in place.
What Else Can You Do?
You can also stick to the bike lanes whenever you can. Being in a bike lane does not guarantee that you will not get in an accident, but most vehicles acknowledge and respect the bike lanes, and you're safer there than outside of them.
However, there are definitely parts of the city that don't have bike lanes, at least not yet. Whenever you find yourself in those areas, try to use your best judgment. Understand that when you get out in the street, and there are no bike lanes, you might have to deal with impatient taxi drivers or Uber operators who may not respect you as much as you'd like.
You should also watch out for individuals in cars who might not see you coming and who may decide to open a door just as you're cycling alongside them. If you see someone in a car, and you're coming up on that vehicle on your bike, try to stay out of the door's path. If you hit a car door at full speed, you can easily fly over the handlebars and break some bones.
Are There Any Additional Dangers?
Aside from all that, you should avoid riding at night whenever you can. Some New York neighborhoods don't have the lighting that you'd like to see, and others might have muggers waiting to drag you off your bike to see if you're carrying any cash or other valuables. Don't try to bike down dark alleys.
If you must ride at night, mount a light on your bike, and travel in groups. A robber is less likely to single you out as a target if you have some friends with you.
You should also carry a heavy bike chain and lock so you can lock up your bike when you get to work. Some jobs have now added bike rooms, so you don't have to leave yours out on the street while you work your shift. Spend to get a high-quality lock and chain, because if you don't, you might find that a thief with bolt cutters has absconded with your bike.
The good outweighs the bad with New York City biking, especially in Brooklyn. It's such a big borough, and there are probably going to be many times when biking to and from work or a friend's house is the better move than having to wait for half an hour till your delayed train finally shows up.
If you're unlucky enough that a car hits you while you're biking, you may need to contact a lawyer to go over your options, especially if the vehicle injured you.