Call it cyclist’s ed.
The Police Department is in the middle of a two-week crackdown on bike riders, so we figured we would drop in on a class to teach newbie cyclists the rules of the road at Red Lantern Bike, a combination cafe and bike shop in Fort Greene.
“Rules are there for a reason,” said Dan Suraci, an instructor with the group Bike NY. “They keep the roads predictable.”
Suraci ran the class that instructs neophytes how to use the city’s bike-share program along with basics including signalling, when to stay in a bike lane, and which part of a car lane it’s okay to occupy. The city has done a good job of encouraging cycling with the roll-out of the CitiBike fleet and the expansion of its network of bike routes, but new riders aren’t getting taught how to navigate Brooklyn’s streets, meaning their first trip could be a crash course, Suraci said.
“Education is really the missing piece in general,” he said.
Demand for it is also lacking, if the attendance at a Thursday class is any indication. Only four bike-riders-in-training turned out for the session.
The quartet showed they were serious about safety in more ways than one by forgoing the beer on Red Lantern’s menu.
The overview explained that bikes should be driven as if they were cars, obeying the same laws and rules, including traffic signals. And if they fail to follow the rules, cyclists are subject to the same tickets as motorists, Suraci said.
“According to the law, bikes and cars are exactly the same,” he said. “They have the same rules, rights, and responsibilities. And they’re also subject to the same fines and violations.”
Bikes should travel in designated bike lanes as much as possible, but riders are allowed to leave a bike lane if it is obstructed or unsafe, and when not in a designated lane, bikes are entitled to an entire lane of traffic, Suraci said.
One of the biggest no-nos is riding the wrong way, he said. Bikers call this “salmoning” because it is akin to traveling upstream, he explained.
The Police Department announced last week that officers are cracking down on bicyclists who disobey traffic signals and signs, ride in the wrong direction, ride on the sidewalk, and fail to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk. It also noted that cops will be on the lookout for drivers blocking bike lanes, but as smartphone-wielding commuters documented in the first week of the crackdown, police including Commissioner Bill Bratton are among the offenders.
“The NYPD asks all persons bicycling and driving in the city to make safety a priority,” an NYPD statement says.
Another notice, this one from the department’s Community Affairs office, reminds riders that every bicycle is required to have a white headlight, a red taillight, a bell, and working brakes.
The crackdown is supposed to run through Aug. 26.
Even with the crackdown, one of the bicyclists-in-training said that going two-wheels is the best way to get around Brooklyn, even for beginners.
“I just learned to ride last week,” said Sheepshead Bay resident Anastasiya Matveyenko, a student at Hunter College. “I’m all for it. Bikes are better than cars.”