A Beginners' Guide to Not Dying While Biking Around New Haven

If you’ve ever wanted to feel alive, then strap in and get down with everyone’s favorite death-defying activity in New Haven: riding bicycles.

You haven’t truly lived until you’ve had a car slam on its breaks mere inches before slamming into you because, for whatever reason, New Haven drivers think of red lights as suggestions. You know how it is. Those rules are just for other drivers.

Massively Distracted Driver

This image is actually pretty hilarious. Is this lady playing Warcraft?!

All in a day’s bike ride!

New Haven: Your Bike Can Get You Anywhere!

One of the best things about a smaller city like New Haven is that virtually anywhere you want to go is accessible via bike. Whether you’re in East Rock riding Downtown, or in East Shore and want to go to Westville, you really can get there by bike.

During the summers, I regularly ride my bike down to Lighthouse Park after work to enjoy the gorgeous sunsets and watch kids run around and play, remembering a time when I, too, felt alive. Ah, those were the days.

Whenever my friends in East Rock or Westville throw a party, I don’t get into my car and drive like some kind of idiot. No, I load up my bike with beer, wine, and snacks, and pedal my way to victory!

Bicycle Storage Attachments

Do you know how many beers and snacks you can fit on this thing?!

(Note: Riding a bicycle while drunk is illegal. You probably shouldn’t do it. No matter how hilarious or awesome it is. But I’m not the cops/your mother.)

Red lights? Psht. Those are for car drivers. (Also illegal but whatever, so is anal sex in some states.)

New Haven also has a great bike community. Devil’s Gear put on rides all the time as well as workshops for learning how to change a spare or work on your own bike. I strongly recommend stopping by there and saying hello if you want to be involved.

New Haven: Not Quite Bike “Friendly”

Of course, biking in New Haven isn’t all glorious wine transportation and sunsets and existential crises. In fact, people get hit on their bikes all the time.

Don’t get me wrong. New Haven is definitely trying to be bike-friendly. It’s wayyyyyy more bike friendly than New York City, with its imperial death cab army.

I love the new bike lanes with their sporadic green paint. Elm Street looks awesome. And more and more streets are getting proper bike lanes.

Which is way better than those “bike sharrows,” which is basically just a painting of a bike on a road and the fleeting hope that drivers will be all, “Oh, I guess bikers are people, too, sort of.”

Bike Sharrow

Not pictured: Anything resembling safety or respect towards bicyclists.

It’s the bike lane equivalent of this guy: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

But even with a few more bike lanes, we’ve got a long ways to go. Which means, as a biker, you gotta look out for for yourself and keep your wits about you.

How to Not Die

I’ve lived in New Haven a few years and while I’ve taken a few spills here and there, I’m totally still alive alive-ish. So I figured I’d share a few tips.

1. Take out your headphones, dumbass.

Seriously. The nice thing about cars is that before they slam into, they generate noise. Which you won’t hear because you’re listening to Yeezy’s new album. Darwin’s a real motherfucker.

2. Use bike lights.

Come on. You’re riding at night in New Haven. Just pony up the 50 bucks and get some bike lights. This isn’t ‘Nam. You ain’t tryin’ to blend in.

Bike Lights on Wheels

Plus you’ll look fuckin RAD.

3. Don’t ride on the sidewalks.

Just don’t do it. It’s douchey. It’s for pedestrians. Yeah, it’s scary on the roads. So what. You’re an adult (probably). Just suck it up and use the roads. Don’t make pedestrians dodge you. All the drivers already hate us — no need to create more enemies.

4. Ride the right way on one way roads.

Yeah, it blows. I have to go like 3 blocks out of my way on the way home from work cause of stupid Chapel Street and stupid Crown Street and stupid York Street (seriously, New Haven, get your shit together).

So what? You get some exercise and you aren’t catapaulting towards oncoming traffic at dangerous speeds for no reason.

5. You don’t have to wear a helmet.

Seriously. I don’t. Sure, massive brain damage is bad. But so is a bad hair day.

(But really, you should wear a helmet.)

6. Leave Enough Room for Car Doors Opening

People love to suddenly swing their doors open without bothering to look behind them. And while it’s hilarious when it happens in Wayne’s World, it’s gonna blow if you nail a car door on your bike. So be ready for that. Be afraid of that.

Open Car Door in Bike Lane

If your heart didn’t just skip a beat, you aren’t a proper rider yet.

7. Just be aware. Always.

This is the biggest thing. Just pay attention. Notice who has a green light and doesn’t. Just assume everyone on the road is a maniac. They probably are.

People are going to swerve suddenly or brake suddenly or blow red lights. That’s just the world we live in. But they’re in a giant metal cage and you’re not. So be aware.

Good luck out there!

(Note: This is the first and what I hope will be a continued series of bike riding series. Up next will be a piece on the best places to ride in New Haven!)