#1 will surprise you!
Biking in NYC isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s surprisingly not scary. Traffic is traffic, but after three years of daily riding I’ve noticed a pattern of certain people and vehicles posing a greater risk to bicyclists. Based on my own experiences, here are my unapologetic picks for the 10 most dangerous vehicles on New York City roads. Keeping a wary eye out for them will make your bike ride a little smoother.
10. Jersey drivers
Before the NJ faithful kick and scream bias, this stereotype turns both ways. Home court advantage is critical here. Motorists from New Jersey are simply not adept on New York City streets. Likewise, Empire State drivers are terrible on Garden State roads. Two completely different kinds of driving. Bottom line for cyclists: beware of puke yellow license plates, especially on Friday and Saturday nights when weekend warriors from Bergen County drive in to slake their thirst for big city nightlife.
9. Minivans from South Williamsburg
Some drivers from New York are terrible on their own roads. Case in point: Hasidic men. Moses parted the Red Sea, but these guys can't make a clean left? Maybe it’s the five distracting children in the back seats, but have you seen their driving along Flushing Ave? Jesus Christ. And guys, the double parking in the bike lane on Bedford is out of control. Please stop.
▲ 8. Ambulettes
These drivers all passed their road test on the same day when no one was watching. Ambulette vans have large blind spots and are careless when it comes to respecting bikers. The worst offenders are Access-A-Ride short buses that are notoriously terrible turners. When in doubt, give up your right of way or risk becoming a client of theirs as a disabled passenger.
▲ 7. Airport shuttles
Like an ambulette for tourists, airport shuttle vans loop among midtown hotels with plenty of preoccupation. They’re probably running 40 minutes late getting a bunch of hot-blooded Italians to JFK. Shuttles cut corners, run lights and block bike lanes. Here’s some advice. Tourists: take a taxi. Drivers: follow the rules of the road.
▲ 6. Monster postal trucks
These woolly mammoths on wheels have the most frighteningly large wheels I’ve seen outside a monster jam. As these trucks roar down roadways, don't count on their drivers seeing bikers from that high. Dear postmaster, what justifies the need for tires larger than the average human… is the mail really that heavy? And, off topic, but why don’t postal vehicles have license plates?
5. Livery cabs
It’s common for non-riders to assume that yellow cabs are the bane of a bicyclist’s existence. I find traditional taxis no worse than other drivers. However, when I see an Arecibo or other livery sticker on the back of a beat-up black sedan I grit my teeth. Their oblivion to bikers becomes especially dangerous at night.
▲ 4. Private carting companies
Another nightmare are private sanitation trucks hauling commercial garbage off streets when traffic is light. Makes sense, except when they block intersections, park in bike lanes and cut across three lanes to their next collection point. When moving, they travel fast and furious. Best to give them a wide margin of error whether they're rolling or not.
▲ 3. Pickups with extended cabs or asses
The extra room seems to include an assholio superiority complex. These road hogs drive like the bike lane is theirs too. My least favorite breed have a double-wheeled rear, which is difficult to pass on side streets in slow or stopped traffic. Beware of antler-sized side mirrors—a perpetual protruding hazard to clip bikers.
2. Contractor vans
Workmen got work to do and don’t give a flying &*^% about you. Their mentality: bikers are a wimpy nuisance, but bike lanes are perfect places to pull over for a deli sandwich or unload piles of tools. Contractor vans come pre-scuffed, so another dent isn’t coming out of fat Frank’s paycheck.
1. Other bikes
Sad but true, cyclists are their own worst enemy. The problem is that bicyclists don’t respect fellow cyclists or pedestrians, which is ironic because all bicyclists are also pedestrians. Despite other road dangers, my closest calls on a bike have always been with other cyclists, who are legally obligated to observe the same laws that apply to motor vehicles.
What to watch out for: Lycra-clad speedsters using the bike lane as a racing course. On the amateur end, some Citi Bikers wobble like dinosaurs trying to dance, unable to find rhythm or stability, and take up the entire lane going 5 mph.
But most infuriating are Asian men on e-bikes who sneak up without a grunt of warning. Electric bikes have quiet motors and sustain speeds unnaturally faster than any push bike. Swerving to get out of their way, you're faced with another common threat: a "salmoning" delivery guy going the wrong way (upstream) with a basket full of pizza boxes.
Bikers of all stripes: slow down and respect red lights, one way streets and one another. We’re all in this together and have enough other things to watch out for.
You've read my top picks. What’s your #1?