Life is easier when you're considerate. This isn't a cliché I picked up in a Cracker Barrel gift shop, it's a truism that's made genuine when you ride a bike in New York City. Here are some tips for being a Less Horrible Person (at least when you're on two wheels), which will hopefully come in handy this week—in addition to it being National Etiquette Week, Friday is also Bike to Work Day.
Yield to Sinners: Many laws are unjust and cruel, but Yielding to Pedestrians is a noble statute. Remember that you were once like them, slow and restless, senses deadened by loud music or urgent text messages or Life. Allow them to pass unscathed, even if they are jaywalking—especially if they are jaywalking.
Always ride behind the pack as they cross the street, never in front. If one of them stops to allow you to pass, make eye contact and say, "Thank you!" Or give them one of those nods that cowboys give the townspeople they just saved from murderous bandits. Yours is a sacred bond forever.
Cellphones Are For Pedestrians: Is your phone conversation important enough to imperil the lives of everyone around you? Even if you are rushing to the scene of a 5-alarm fire that is threatening to destroy your twin Shar Peis and the only way to save them is to bark instructions through the phone that's connected to a fireman's bullhorn, your heroic efforts will mean nothing if you fail to notice the minivan running a red light or the marble truck that just had a freak accident with Billy's Olde Time Artisenal Nail Wagon.
No, most likely you are telling your date you'll be 10 minutes late and to go ahead in order the mushroom panini. Put the phone away and arrive alive. Or stop and pull over to a safe spot where you can talk. When you get there you can tell them you have terrible Relationship Etiquette but excellent Bike Etiquette.
Two Abreast? Surely You Jest: Unless you're filming When Harry Met Sally 2: More Fake Orgasms and the director has cleared the Manhattan or the Williamsburg bridges of traffic so there's enough room for you to pedal and gaze into each other's eyes, side by side, do not ride two abreast. Riding two abreast makes passing and just plain Surviving difficult for those around you.
Pass With Class: Inform other riders that you are passing them with an audible "On your left!" or "On your right!" (though in most cases it should be the former). Give them a ring of the bell too. A garbled "HGGHNN!" as you blow by them, your cologne lingering on their noses as you rocket towards Greatness, will not do.
Only pass when there is ample room to do so and when you're sure the cyclist you're passing won't be trapped between you and that car door that's about to open. If you're thinking about passing—especially on a bridge—overestimate the speed and distance of the rider in the oncoming lane. If your pass feels like a scene in a John Woo movie, just wait a few seconds so you can do it safely. Your Shar Peis will understand.
Don't Salmon: Just don't.
Don't Bike On The Sidewalk: Unless you're under the age of 12. Wait, you are under the age of 12? What the hell are you doing reading this website? Go run and get an adult, and tell him or her to come click on the ads.
Humble Yourself In Elevators & Subways: People will complain when you bring your bike in these places. "It's illegal!" they'll hiss, even though it is not. Acknowledge their frustration with a simple, "I know, I'm that person with a bike on the subway. I also have Deftones lyrics tattooed on me!" or a series of appreciative, curt nods. These people will grow to respect you when you yield to them in a crosswalk, but for now, endure their slings with grace.
Be The Change You Want To See In The Lanes: Cursing out that delivery guy who cut his handcart in front of you will deliver a momentary jolt of dopamine and adrenaline to your brain, but it also blackens your heart. Five minutes into your heroic tirade against the cyclist ("Man, I haven't felt this exhilarated since I DEMOLISHED Sammy Susstein in Freshman Debate!") who grazed your backpack as passed you at an unsafe speed, you'll realize that you're just a sad person railing against an uncaring world. Expend that energy on worthy pursuits.
And someone will probably be recording it anyway. Don't make us shame you.