This past weekend was the occasion for the second annual New Amsterdam Bicycle Show, a one-stop expo for a diverse group of cycling-related brands and upstarts. While it's quickly become one of the major cyclist-centric events in the city, marking the felicitous intersection of Dutch sponsors such as KLM and New York's own Transportation Alternatives, the show is still an order of magnitude smaller than similar events on the West Coast.
Nevertheless, the strong attendance—some 4,500 cycling enthusiasts over two days—affirmed the growing popularity of pedal power, not least because the crowd represented a reasonably accurate cross-section of the NYC cycling faithful. In addition to the exhibitors in the entrance hall and the main atrium, the New Amsterdam programming included a solid lineup of notable speakers.
The panel on bike lanes—featuring writers Tom Vanderbilt and Matt Seaton alongside Caroline Samponaro of Transportation Alternatives and Lara Lebeiko of Bicycle Habitat—was interesting for its breadth, as the issues surrounding infrastructure served as a point of departure for a variety of topics related to cycling in the city. (I, for one, learned about the "Idaho Stop" law.)
Yet it's more or less a given that these types of events are a canonical case of 'preaching to the choir'—literally, in the case of Eben Weiss, better known as BikeSnobNYC, who suggested that cycling become a religion for greater legal recognition. The Brooklyn-based writer and sometime competitive cyclist attracted the largest crowd of all the speakers, filling the makeshift auditorium with longtime readers (myself included), who relished the rare opportunity to hear the inimitable BikeSnob speak in person. True to his uncompromisingly snarky web persona, Weiss delivered an incisive, entertaining presentation on both cycling policy—in short, money, if not religion, is required to grease the wheels of justice—and his bread-and-butter of quotidian grievances. Ever the lovable curmudgeon, Weiss decried (among other things) cycling epiphenomena such as "shoaling," "salmoning" and "circling" with the gusto of a stand-up comedian working the crowd... or, perhaps, an evangelist and his flock.
As for a takeaway message, every single one of the experts agreed that the conversation needs to move beyond traffic laws themselves towards an ethic of non-alienation: in short, to always yield to pedestrians. In his talk on Day Two, Ben Fried, Editor-in-Chief of Streetsblog, admitted that he'd roll through a light if he thought it was silly to wait, but that he always stops for pedestrians, even if he has right-of-way. Caroline Sampanaro of TA advised cyclists to adopt the practice as a sort of 'golden rule' of cycling; Tom Vanderbilt spun the saying "a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged" into "a conservative is a pedestrian who's almost been hit by a cyclist (in a crosswalk)."
Lastly, the forthcoming bike share program also came up in various contexts, specifically as a potential 'tipping point' for what Fried called the "mainsteaming" of cycling.
More bikes, gear and donuts (!) after the jump...
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The Outspoken Cyclist