Intrepid cyclists are taking to the streets with GoPros to show the uninitiated an all-too-real slice of their experience.
Words alone are inadequate to the task of depicting an average bike commute in New York.
“It’s almost comical,” says Christopher Robbins, an editor at Gothamist whose daily commute (video below) involves a 2.5 mile ride from the Lower East Side to DUMBO, in Brooklyn. “You’re going down Canal Street and there’s a construction site next to a woman pushing a shopping cart full of pineapples next to a box truck covered in graffiti; there are all the cars and the casino buses and the people double-parked outside the fire station.” And then, at the on-ramp to the Manhattan Bridge, there are the fellow cyclists, flying off the blind curve, oblivious in their delight at making it out of the thunderous tunnel that runs parallel to the subway tracks over the East River.
There’s a lot going on. So the folks over at Gothamist have equipped several editors, Robbins among them, with GoPros to more viscerally convey the sensory overload that is biking New York’s streets and bridges.
The point of the livestream series is twofold. “We want to encourage people who might be afraid to bike to work by showing that it’s something people do each day,” Robbins says. “This is the nuts and bolts of how to get from point A to point B in the morning.”
And then there’s the more obvious: the source of those fears. “There are some portions of people’s commutes that are fraught with danger,” Robbins says. Robbins’ video stream shows the wrenching agony of boarding the Manhattan Bridge, where the multiple blind spots and awkwardly narrow inclines surrounding construction have created a minefield. “This is what cyclists have to navigate to get to work every day,” Robbins says. “There’s cramming into a subway car with a million other people and trying to unfold your New Yorker or whatever,” he adds, “versus nearly being mowed down by a bus, or hitting a plank on Second Avenue and eating shit.” (Full disclosure: the latter happened to me last week.)
But Gothamist’s project is not completely of the bike-commuters-are-the-bomb-drivers-are-the-worst variety. “The cars are bad, don’t get me wrong,” Robbins says. But the closest calls he’s had have involved fellow cyclists. There are more bikes on the road now, Robbins says—which is a good thing!—but “that comes with its own frustrations around people following the correct etiquette and respecting their fellow man enough not to sideswipe or run into someone on the bridge,” Robbins says.
So cyclists, drivers, pedestrians: slow down, chill out, and if you have a particularly blood-boiling bike commute of your own, Gothamist is accepting submissions.