Tag Archive | cyclists

I Can’t Drive 25

tortoiseFor most of my time in New York, I did without a car. After being poor and having cars break down on me at record pace, I was glad to be done with the world of automobiles. I was happy to leave the driving to New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority, though the MTA is poorly run and will always find new ways to make you late for important events.

But time has changed the game plan and I am now one of the lucky people in the five boroughs with a vehicle. Being in one of the farther reaches of Queens, parking is not as worrisome as it would be in Manhattan or other more densely populated parts of the city.

I still work in Manhattan and take public transit to and from work every weekday and will use public transit a lot on the weekends if driving and parking will be bothersome. So I have the dual perspective on city life as viewed from both car driver and mass transit commuter. Mayor de Blasio’s plan to lower the standard speed limit in New York City to 25 miles per hour is ill-advised, unfair and counterproductive.

The administration got the idea from a committee that proposed other measures as well, such as more red light cameras that would automatically dole out tickets and more speed bumps. But if you are serious about cutting down on traffic fatalities, getting bad drivers off of the road should be top priority. More aggressive enforcement is part of the new “Vision Zero” plan, but too much is going to hedge on the speed limit reduction. And that is a punishment to the entire city.

Trying to slow down the whole city won’t work. Driving 25 miles per hour is unrealistically slow for most drivers. Soon after announcing his plans for a change, Mayor de Blasio’s motorcade was caught speeding and violating other traffic laws by CBS News.

Real, aggressive enforcement of traffic laws would put the de Blasio administration up against a variety of groups that he would normally not want to upset.

When I was living in Northern Manhattan, I once saw a livery cab drive on the wrong side of the street in front of police in order to make a light and merge into traffic. I have been in cabs with drivers who lacked English proficiency needed for a New York State driver’s license, let alone a livery license. Cracking down on unqualified and dangerous cab drivers would make our roads a lot safer, but the ideas proposed by the Mayor include needlessly punitive things such as putting devices on cabs that would stop the meter if they were speeding. Cab drivers are opposing those new proposals anyway. You might as well get on their bad side with the right proposals for the right reasons.

Really cracking down on people who consistently violate traffic laws would be an improvement, but there is some evidence to suggest this would have a disparate impact on racial minorities. It’s politically easier to punish everyone with a lower speed limit than to target the drivers that are causing havoc on the city streets.

Reducing cyclist deaths would mean really stopping and ticketing the legions of bad cyclists who ride the wrong way down one-way streets and ride on sidewalks. That would put the Mayor at odds with more of his natural political allies.

We see this kind of response on the part of city government all of the time, when making things worse for everyone can also generate results that political leaders can point to and claim credit for, public be damned.

And here’s something else advocates of the plan fail to consider: A 25-mile-per-hour speed limit would also allow the police to stop just about any driver any time for speeding. It would be a city-wide speed trap that would put us on the same page as Podunk counties in rural areas that collect a large chunk of their revenue from unknowing out-of-town motorists.

The only people who would normally drive 25 miles per hour are the obese or elderly driving motorized scooters. No fully functional driver would drive that slowly without there being traffic congestion or inclement weather. Hopefully this proposal will be kicked to the curb.

Cyclist Jerks from Hell

cyclistjerkOne fine morning as I was about to cross a street in lower Manhattan and go to work, I had barely stepped off the curb when I heard the thin chimes of a bicycle bell. I looked to see a cyclist moving towards me.

“Get out of the bike lane,” sneered the cyclist as he pedaled past me.

Not only were we not in a bike lane, he was going the wrong way down a one-way street. I stood there flabbergasted as he rolled by. A few seconds later, I heard him ring the tinny bell once again from farther up the street.

That incident pretty much encapsulates much of the New York bicycle situation. A very large segment of the cycling population not only regularly violate all laws of traffic and common sense, they have an entitled attitude about it. They want all the rights of an automobile owner and none of the responsibilities of sharing the road.

Let me iterate that I am not against cycling or cyclists. I have many friends who enjoy riding bicycles and if I didn’t live 16 miles away from work, I’d gladly consider riding a bicycle to and from work. It’s good exercise, better for the environment and all that jazz. When I was a youth I rode a bicycle constantly and terrorized adults and other children with it whenever I could. I’m all in favor of bike lanes, bicycle parking and even the bike sharing programs that are finally starting to take shape in the Big Apple.

A good rule of thumb for cyclists is: If I can’t do it with a car, don’t you try it with a bicycle. That does not apply to keeping the bike in your apartment and walking it on sidewalks etc. If I drove my truck on a sidewalk, ran a red light and then drove the wrong way down a one way street, I’d expect to be arrested for reckless driving. Just because you can do less damage with a bicycle doesn’t excuse you from riding it recklessly, and the Big Apple is sick with reckless cyclists.

Walk the streets of New York and without fail you will see cyclists do one or more of the following routinely: running red lights; riding the wrong way down one-way streets; riding on sidewalks; passing traffic on the right, even passing cars making turns. It’s without fail. If a motorist is making a right turn and I try to pass them on the right, I’d be the biggest jerk in the world, yet a cyclist will yell and pound on a vehicle to protest their imagined “right” to be a reckless idiot. I’ve seen it happen.

They operate on the theory that they are an endlessly persecuted minority and thrive on being the victims of ignorant motorists, homicidal drivers and overzealous police.

In many cases cyclists are treated unfairly. Every cyclist I know has a litany of horror stories that involve being struck by car, hassled by the police or confounded by ignorant pedestrians. People that I know have been the victims of aggressive motorists who think they own the road, and I’ve had to break myself of the habit of prematurely stepping into the street before I have the right of way.

But bicycle culture has given us another urban horror that the city doesn’t need, that of a cyclist every bit as entitled and boorish as the most reckless motorist or thuggish pedestrian.

Witnessed one night on Stanton Street on New York’s Lower East Side: A van was driving the wrong way down this one way street. Next to the van was a man on a bicycle, yelling at the driver of the van for driving the wrong way while also driving the wrong way.

“You’re both going the wrong way,” I said to the man.

“I can do that faggot!” he called to me as he bravely sped away on his bike. Actually he can’t; cyclists have to obey the same rules of the road as cars. And unless he’s just won the Tour de France, a grown man in bicycle shorts has no business calling anyone a faggot. But more to the point, riding the wrong way down a one-way street is especially odious in New York, where pedestrians are accustomed to looking only one way before crossing a street because so many streets are one way. Yet many cyclists do this all the time and think nothing of it.

Many of the cyclists are good people trying to escape the dual hells of public transit and city driving. I can’t blame them for wanting the freedom to move in a city that is so often confining. But having a smaller carbon footprint doesn’t absolve you from the rules of the road or the precepts of human decency.

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