Ride And/Or Die: A (Reluctant) Beginner’s Guide To Biking in Brooklyn

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I am totally fucking terrified of riding a bike in New York, and based on the frequency with which I get clipped or nearly run down every day, the people who actually do it are terrible and want to hurt me. I don’t want to be one of them. Additionally, I try not to put myself in situations that involve helmets, which I think are lame and make me look silly.

If your first reaction to this was, “Why don’t we put this person on a bike in New York, ASAP,” then I guess you’d get along with my editors. And so here we are.

Professional obligations (and my many, many qualms) aside, I actually do want to learn. I live in Bushwick, and trips that are a 5 minute ride for my friends turn into a 20-30 minute solo walk for me. It’s no way to live, and if the spirit moves, I’d also like to be able to go on day trips to, say, Red Hook or the Rockaways without having to spend hours underground first. A person can only spend so much time living in fear of death, or in belligerent opposition to other people on bikes.

I also had to assume I’m not the only person with this problem. There must be an awkward stage in between “terrified pedestrian” and “seasoned urban cyclist,” and I may as well find out what that is. So, with these justifications in mind, I decided I’d try out try out some of the most common trips in the borough — a commute to work, a trip to and around Prospect Park, etc. It would be a week of fearing for my life, looking like a dweeb, and also getting around faster, seeing my surroundings in different ways, and expanding my horizons or whatever. Let’s learn together.

Around Brooklyn

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  1. Putting your bike on the last car of the train is not an MTA stipulation at all. But a lot of people think it is, so you’re just less likely to bug non-bikers this way.

  2. @Rich True, it’s not a hard and fast rule, but they do recommend either that or staying at the end of whatever car you’re in. Plus, as you say, way less likely to bug everyone else.

  3. Lights, Lights, Lights at night, I don’t care what color you are you can not be seen at night until a car is right on you. Do not keep going when I have the light. It’s not only me who has to make a short stop but all the others behind me. When you ride a bike you are no longer a pedestrian and you must adhere to the rules of the road just as a mororist does. We happily share the road as long as the rules are followed.

  4. My son Andrew works at Ride Brooklyn. They are great believers in going out of their way to help riders, especially new riders. I loved your piece.