Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bikes of New York

Why do you hate cyclists?

Slate explores the facts and figures of this antipathy towards cyclizens. You hate them when they disobey traffic laws. You hate them when they cut you off. But did you know that cyclist-caused accidents have dramatically decreased in the past several years?
A recent study by researchers at Rutgers and Virginia Tech supports that hypothesis. Data from nine major North American cities showed that, despite the total number of bike trips tripling between 1977 and 2009, fatalities per 10 million bike trips fell by 65 percent. While a number of factors contribute to lower accident rates, including increased helmet usage and more bike lanes, less aggressive bicyclists probably helped, too.
And yet, despite these facts, despite the environmental contribution cyclists make, despite the sheer beauty of the the bicycle itself, people still hate us. The article adds:
Your estimate of the number of asshole cyclists and the degree of their assholery is skewed by what behavioral economists like Daniel Kahneman call the affect heuristic, which is a fancy way of saying that people make judgments by consulting their emotions instead of logic.
I prefer the term 'cyclophobia.' But that isn't quite accurate. Fearing bicycles isn't the same as violently hating cyclists' behavior, or generalizing behavior based on a few.

My own emotions while visiting New York City again, last June, for the first time in years, was one of wonderment, specifically while seeing so many bike lanes. None existed when I lived there, and not during the fictionalized time of my third novel, Cyclizen.

I was also struck my the mute beauty of the bikes themselves, creatively locked up in various positions, or to hundreds of added city-built stands. This wasn't the gritty, risky dangerous world I wrote about. People still rode swiftly, but with less reckless abandon. and the parked bikes each had their own personality.

Obviously, they still get stripped of parts.

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