Contrary to popular opinion, most cyclists aren’t jerks. Yes, from time to time they ride on the sidewalk or run red lights or invade space otherwise reserved for people walking along the ground. But as TIME’s Bryan Walsh pointed out in July, an Australian study of vehicle-cyclist collisions found that 90 percent of cyclists were doing their thing safely and 80 percent of the time the driver of the car was cited. Bike lanes are supposed to keep cyclists and cars far apart, but do you think New York City has enough space for that? With no barrier between riders and cars, taxis swerve in and out of the bike lane, while bikers have to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting cars that make left turns.
But as bad as the cars are, the people are worse. I’ve been riding a road bike in New York for more than two years, and am constantly amazed that people often park, walk, stand, socialize and wander in the bike lanes, oblivious to the fact that the little picture of a bicycle on the ground means they might encounter an actual bicycle. Nearly every time I’ve gone over the handlebars of my bike in New York (and yes, it’s happened multiple times) it’s because someone darted right in front of me. Every time they have been fine, while my elbows and knees (and bike) have suffered some dings. Biking is a joy–it’s hard and fun and exhilarating, so I’ll keep it up and invite skeptical New Yorkers to try it too.