Is There Such a Thing as NYC Bike Culture?

Michael Auerbach of local advocacy group Upper Green Side files this brief from the first New York City Bike Culture Summit.

Last Thursday night’s Bike Culture Summit, hosted by Transportation Alternatives, convened a panel of cycling luminaries to help "define what it means to be an urban cyclist." On hand were David Herlihy, historian of cycling and author of Bicycle; Caroline Samponaro, director of bicycle advocacy for Transportation Alternatives; and Eben Weiss, a.k.a the Bike Snob, making a stop to support the release of his new book.

The Snob supplied an early contender for quote of the night when he was asked to define bike culture. "I don’t like the phrase," he said. "It makes me feel sad and excluded."

After an animated discussion about whether you can apply a blanket term like "bike culture" to the many sub-cultures that New York City cyclists identify with (or reject), the night settled into an extended Q&A. Personally, I wanted to hear the panel spend more time debating some of the more difficult issues facing the cycling community, like how to make bike advocacy more inclusive for groups that have long sat on the sidelines, such as delivery cyclists. But the audience seemed more intent on discussing what you’d call bike etiquette. (Stop for the whole red cycle, or just long enough to see that the intersection is clear?)

That said, there were several questions that led to some lively and open-ended debate. So, in the interest of continuing the discussion, here are a few of the hot topics from the summit:

  • Are cyclists better off when the proportion of women cyclists rises, or is each additional person who chooses to bike equally good for the cause, regardless of sex?
  • Will bringing your bike inside to work ever become easy?
  • Does Bike Snob want you to buy his book, or does he not really care?
  • Does New York City have a strong bike culture, or none at all?