Colon to Not-Quite-New Cyclists: It’s Time For You To Get Radicalized

New cyclist too slow? You're ready to enlist in the War on Cars. Photo: Laura Shepard
New cyclist too slow? You're ready to enlist in the War on Cars. Photo: Laura Shepard
Dave Colon.
Dave Colon.

Don’t get mad at Errol Louis — get mad at everyone else.

You may have seen the NY1 anchor’s tweet the other day after he bought bikes for himself, his wife and his two children — only to find the newbie cyclists on the receiving end of rudeness by more experienced riders:

Is that really necessary? Of course not, but this isn’t a plea to be nice to Errol Louis. Instead, it is a call to stiffen your spine, take the lane and start getting angry at the right people.

If you’re skilled enough on a bike to get mad at the slow people in front of you in the bike lane, you’re clearly experienced enough to safely move into the motor vehicle lane and pass those people before getting back into the bike lane. Congratulations! Without even realizing it, you’ve leveled up as a New York City cyclist.

Now it’s time to take the next step. You need to get radicalized.

Think about it: Why are you competing for space in a five-foot-wide unprotected strip along with other vulnerable road users while drivers have multiple 11-foot wide lanes? Why does a signature city project like the raised and separated Flushing Avenue bike lane still not leave room for you to ride safely side-by-side with a friend? Why are some bridges open to cars closed to bikes? Why is the Queensboro Bridge such a goddamn mess?

Instead of yelling at the least experienced among us, take this as an opportunity to open your third eye and question everything you’ve ever thought about allocating street space, and then start yelling at the government. Why does New York City think parking spots are more important than your life? Why do you need to beg and plead for every inch? Why do you need to smile and listen as people say they don’t care if you get maimed or killed, you don’t deserve a protected bike lane because someone’s neighbor’s mom’s friend’s cousin saw a cyclist blow a red light one time? Why was it even a question whether bike repair was an essential service if the mayor of the biggest city on the Eastern Coast told people “Bike to work if you can”?

Ordinarily this process takes time, believe me I know. Nine years ago I was run over by a car driver, hospitalized and unable to walk for six weeks — and I still didn’t start thinking about bike lane politics for years after that. Right now, you don’t think of yourself as “a hardcore biker” and you don’t want to tie cycling to your identity.

But if you’re gritting your teeth in anger because you feel “stuck” behind someone unsteadily biking their first mile in front of you, you’re ready for the much bigger fight of your life.