Bike-Riding On Long Island

This editorial looks at the hostile environment of bicycling on much of Long Island, and ties it to the precarious life of many immigrant laborers, who already suffer from apparent hate crimes. Sadly, riding a bike only increases their vulnerability
January 14, 2009, 1pm PST | Irvin Dawid
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"A well-worn landscape like Long Island's yields few surprises to the driver's gaze. Shops cluster by size and species: pizza with bagels and nail salons, Home Depot with Old Navy. But one roadside incongruity that always unnerves me is the sight of a person outside the shell of a car on purpose - like a man pedaling slowly beside a highway on a bicycle.

Bicyclists and suburbs are an uneasy fit. I don't mean the racing bikers who swarm like neon-colored beetles, hogging the middle of the road. I'm talking about the guys without helmets, on beat-up mountain bikes: restaurant workers wearing windbreakers over white dress shirts and ties; men in sweatshirts and baseball caps riding home from the store, plastic shopping bags hanging awkwardly off the handlebars.

Such sights are evidence of a valiant adaptation to a hostile environment. For immigrant workers, as with so many of us in the suburbs, life boils down to the job, the bed and the travel between. But when you live in a landscape designed for cars, and you are poor, and it is too far to walk to work, and there's no bus to take you there, the only option is two wheels. This is what is cheap and effective. It can also be deadly."

Thanks to Gladwyn d'Souza

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Published on Sunday, January 11, 2009 in The New York Times
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