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Top Ten City Survival Skills

Bike messengers tell their secrets.

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1. Ride in the center of the car lane. That way, you’re a safe distance from opening doors and you won’t have to share a lane with moving traffic. But if the avenue has a bike lane—there are still too few in New York—don’t ride in the middle. It’s a cab-door zone. Instead, ride on the outer edge, closest to traffic.

2. Don’t come between a cab and its fare. Steer clear of signaling pedestrians and the bevy of cabs they attract. If a cab is pulling up, assume doors will be opening.

3. Learn to bunny-hop. It will increase your maneuverability around potholes and curbs and save you money getting your rear wheel straightened.

4. Monitor drivers’ body language through their car windows. It will tell you more about where the car is going than often-unused turn indicators.

5. Watch out for light rain. The water mixes with oil on the road to become extremely slippery—more so than after heavy rain, when oil gets washed away. Also, look out for grease slicks where old food has been dumped outside of cheap restaurants.

6. Avoid the most dangerous streets. Messengers single out Herald Square; Canal and Bowery; Broadway and Union Square West; E. 23rd St. and Park Avenue; and the Holland Tunnel area.

7. Take shortcuts. The fastest way downtown is Broadway. To get crosstown, take 14th, 23rd, or 34th—they have multiple lanes. The Park Avenue tunnel is a quick if sketchy way to buy ten midtown blocks.

8. Buy a bell. Since the cyclist-protesters of Critical Mass were arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention, the NYPD has been clamping down. Simple infractions like running red lights are harder to get away with, and the police have been known to hand out tickets for missing reflectors—on both bikes and clothes—and even for not having a bell.

9. Get the right tires. If you have a cyclocross or mountain bike, put slick street tires on your wheels in place of the knobby ones—they’re for off-road riding.

10. Leave the iPod at home! And take the cell-phone ear buds out. You can often hear what you can’t see.


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