For more than a decade I flew all over the world for work, usually with a folding travel bike along with me. I’ve ridden in the majority of the states in our country including Alaska and Hawaii as well as in Canada, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Beijing.
During that same period I was also the President of the Rockland Bicycling Club, and have led countless rides in Rockland and in other parts of New York State.
With very few exceptions, the riding in New York State is some of the worst, least cycling friendly and difficult anywhere.
There are a few reasons for this but they boil down to two points: infrastructure and policy.
Generally speaking, New York has very few bicycle friendly roads. Rural roads often have high speed limits and unfriendly drivers. Cycle lanes are scarce and where they exist they are usually short and poorly maintained with a few notable exceptions for rail-to-trail mutli-use parkways like the North County Trailway in Westchester.
New York City’s vast and rapid bikeway expansion has made a huge difference in that city, but many other metropolitan areas developed bikeways as an integrated part of the transit and road system. Take Portland, where bike lanes tend to connect to each other and extend out to the suburbs, allowing cyclists to ride from home to work without incident. By comparison Manhattan’s bike lanes often feel bolted-on, rather than being part of a cohesive solution.
The second issue is policy—New York State does not do a good job of promoting safe cycling through the development of roadway transit systems for cyclists. Again, many of the infrastructure projects are recreational rail trails, and tend to be short in distance and limited in usefulness. New road projects are supposed to have bike lanes by law, but often a major roadway renovation will be labeled a “resurfacing,” which can skirt the multimodal cycling use laws.
But the state also doesn’t teach motorists about bicyclist rights, nor does it teach its public safety officials. The police often don’t know the laws pertaining to cyclists—I’ve known several cyclists who were ticketed for not riding on the far edge right edge of the road, something that’s the law specifically says is NOT required—and won’t pass laws specifying safe passing distances for motorists.
When leading club rides in the Rockland Bicycling Club we’d often start our rides by heading into Bergen, where roads are wider and better maintained than in Rockland, something that indicates the level of attractiveness of riding in New York State.
See also: New York State of Mind Not Bike Friendly, 6/6/2013