If ever there was a city in need of more motorcycles, it’s New York. Yet after a week here I can count on my fingers how many bikes I’ve seen riding in the gridlocked streets of Manhattan – at least during the week.
Motorcycles would help alleviate traffic congestion, solve horrendous parking shortages and make the city far more mobile. However, the street surfaces would have to be improved.
Despite the many potholes, bricked streets, and the host of slippery metal grids, plates, sewer covers and subway grates, the dominant species of bike is the sportsbike. I would have thought the road conditions would better suit the adventure bike!
The NYPD uses a strange mix of scooters, Harley-Davidson motorcycles and horses! While the ever-present heavily armed patrol cars and vans instil fear in the public, it seems everyone wants to take a photo of a cop on a bike. They’re great for community relations.
Manhattan Harley-Davidson sports many gleaming bikes in their windows and I wonder who bothers to own one in this big anti-bike city.
However, salesman Luka says bikes are very popular, but few people ride them in the city.
“They’d get hit by a yellow cab or run into a pedestrian,” he says. “Most people ride about an hour upstate for a ride or go over to Brooklyn to do one of the many cafe runs.”
On Friday nights, the show-and-shine brigade come out on their disco bikes with coloured lights and plenty of bling. They don’t do much riding, just congregating in the streets and letting the tourists sit on their bikes and have their photos taken.
Despite the stop-go nature of the city and the grid pattern of its streets, the indomitable nature of motorcyclists mean there are riders out there doing what they can to enjoy their recreation in a city that doesn’t seem to care much about them.
There are several motorcycle clubs in town – Dirty Ones, Redrum and United Muslim Motrocycle Association – and there are many more who don’t belong to a club but just like to get on their bikes, mainly on weekends, and blip their throttles as they ride up and down the concrete canyons to hear them bellow back at them and attract the attention of the tourist crowds.
One of the problems with riding in New York is that it doesn’t have lane-splitting laws. I’ve watched riders sitting patiently in the clogged stream of traffic instead of slipping through the gaps and keeping the traffic moving. Meanwhile, kamikaze cyclists are performing daring moves slicing through delivery trucks, pedestrians, yellow cabs and stretched limos.
It makes no sense!
However, the only state in the US that has lane-splitting or lane-filtering laws is California.
Meanwhile, NSW has introduce lane-filtering laws, Queensland is considering them, and Victoria’s Liberal and Labor parties are at odds.
It seems governments are blind to the benefits for all traffic of introducing these laws.