Photo credit: @julesdwit.
A not-for-profit media organization supported by people like you.
No matter who's at fault or what the rules are, in a crash between a car and a bike that bike rider is going to be the looser. Be careful.
Pedestrians are the scariest traffic violators in this city. Countless times I've been on my bike, following all traffic laws, and a pedestrian has jaywalked brazenly out and almost hit me. License plates for pedestrians! Insurance for pedestrians who want to walk in the street!
Hey 63, my mother taught me to look both ways, but that was on two way streets. On one way streets the traffic should only be coming from one direction, and that includes bikes. I remember the PSA from 1970s TV "A bicycle is a vehicle, just like a car is. Obey the rules of the road. Ride with the flow of traffic, not against it." And I agree with the countless others in stating that adults riding bikes on sidewalks is against the law.
I'm surprised to see that so many people fear bikes more than cars. It is an unfortunate fact that there are lots of reckless cyclists out there. Still, while bikes may startle, annoy, and occasionally injure pedestrians, cars maim and kill every day.
I guess people are so used to motorized mayhem that it doesn't register anymore, while cyclists are unfamiliar because they have been under the radar until the recent upswing.
Jefferson Thomas,The question in the headline is poorly chosen; of course cyclists shouldn't run red lights. The question should have been whether the law ought to be changed to reflect that bikes are quite different from cars.
It is an absolute enigma to me how pedestrians and bicyclists pick on each other in this debate. I am a bicyclist and always thought we are on the same side: We use our own manpower to maneuver through town and oppose the noisy, stinky and dangerous 4-wheeled vehicles that rule our streets. Pedestrians and cyclists should stick together. If we -cyclists, skaters, pedestrians- do not realize that we are on the same side and all disobey the traffic laws for the same reasons, we won't get anywhere. Obviously we all agree that cars more than anybody need to obey traffic laws as to not injure or kill anybody without a metal enclosure to protect them. Pedestrians have a safe sidewalk for themselves, bikers sometimes but rarely have a bike lane (they share with cars and cars ignore the bike lanes) to ride on(not so safe). The only time the two possibly should interfere is at intersections where we all need to be careful and alert to not get in each others way (green goes first!).Pedestrians running red lights constantly get in the way of cyclists, and cyclists browse by pedestrians at intersections. It’s both not ok. Caution rules -always - on both sides! If we respect and acknowledge each other on the street I feel it would be in order for cyclists and pedestrians to use red lights and stop signs like yield signs, which is what we All want (and ALL already do). More of all of us - less cars!
Bicycles are vehicles. They need to obey the same laws as other vehicles for the safety of the pedestrians and other vehicle drives. Since I live in an area served by public transportation, I very seldom drive in the city, but I grew up in a small city. I know as a driver my reactions to avoid hitting a bicyclist speeding through a red light would be the same as to avoid hitting a pedestrian. The evasive maneuvers could and probably would put other drivers, pedestrians, other bicyclists and myself in danger. Drop the macho...push for better and more public transportation!
Cyclists generally have no respect for pedestrians. I experience this countless times daily and have been hit or nearly hit many times every day. I don't see anyone taking this issue seriously.
Preserve the traffic laws' application to cyclists. However, they don't obey them at all.
This is a very serious matter.
Im weighing in way late on this one, but honeslty there's a lot of pedestrians weighing in on cyclist, but not a lot of cyclists weighing in on pedestrians. Im a cyclist. I obey laws, I never ride the wrong way, Im curteous and try to be a good riding citizen. Am I likely to hit a pedestrian? Yup. Because they're standing out in the middle of street because they didn't hear a car coming, and stroll out without looking. Ive got the right of way. Im not out of control. I think riders, drivers, and pedestrians, all need to take it easy, and realize that there's a way to die on every corner of New York City, and act accordingly. It's safest for riders to be careful, slow down when you have to, and hopefully ride in bike lanes at somepoint in a perfect future.
People who are inconsiderate, whether in cars, on bikes, or on foot, may be dangerous. My girlfriend was riding her bike in the bike lane down Second Avenue when a drunk pedestrian ran out into the lane and knocked her over into a cab. Many, many cyclists are also "doored" by inconsiderate motorists, who are rarely ticketed for their extremely dangerous behavior.
Pedestrians are also disrespectful when jaywalking in front of cyclists who do have the green light; this happens frequently when I am riding my bike, since car traffic speeds ahead and I may be entering an intersection after the cars have gone through and people have begun to jaywalk, not looking out for cyclists.
A great way to solve this problem, and the entire problem of red lights and bikes, is to do what they've done in downtown Portland, Oregon: time the traffic lights to turn green in a progression that matches the speed of a cyclist (12mph or so) instead of an automobile (22 mph, as is the case on avenues in Manhattan). Because the lights are currently timed against cyclists, cyclists have to deal with many more red lights than motorists. Timing lights at 12mph would make the city safer for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists.
I don’t think Alex Marshall’s piece adds anything constructive to what is becoming an acute quality of life issue in NYC if judging only from the overwhelmingly negative comments above. This is not about kids riding their MTB’s on sidewalks, or the old man slowly pedaling the wrong way from the bodega. It is all about a distinct subculture of narcissistic “off the grid” type urban cyclists plying layers of self-justification and self -idolization on blatant and arrogant disregard for civil order and the safety of others. Want to talk about some law in Idaho, how things were in the 1930’s when there were no traffic lights or one way streets? What is the population of the entire State of Idaho anyway, a million? What is really galling is the idea that exempting cyclist from traffic laws would be coupled with the automatic liability of the motorist in the likely event of injury or death resulting from the cyclist’s failure to yield. Marchall says that the piece was meant to be provocative. It might be if the starting point was regimented obedience. Given the reality, it just comes off as a diminutive jest.
I was stopped on my bicycle two years ago on the car entrance ramp into Central Park at W. 85th St. Two officers told me I had run a red light. I was mystified, since I had received a ticket two weeks earlier at Broadway and 80th St, on my way to shop at Fairway, and was now scrupulous about red lights. I kept trying to get the officers to explain what I had done wrong. Four more officers showed up. I eventually realized my crime was to wait for the traffic light to stop the auto traffic on Central Park West at 85th St., so that I could cross safely into the park. I was, the officers said, not a pedestrian, and had to take my chances getting across the avenue into the park just like any car (no matter that this happened on a rainy November day, during the time the Drives are closed to cars).
I am a slow-peddling, middle-aged woman, who hates those delivery guys going the wrong way (driving me, who can't see behind me, into traffic) even more than pedestrians do. I just wonder who gets the tickets -- the guys who are reckless and deserve them, or the people who look as though they have a driver's license in their wallet, who can be threatened with points and heavy fines?
I agree that Alex's reasoning is flawed. A better historical argument for bike's right to use the roads would be the fact that new york's roads were originally paved specifically for bicycles years before cars even existed. (not that this should entitle us to disobey the law)
how many of you whining liberals oppose the patriot act yet demand that bikes be registered?That's what we need in this town another B.S. tax and another reason for cops to hassle poor people.it's insane that the people that are assailing bikers are the ones who are declaring themselves "green".you haters should go ride a bike and stop being jealous.
MTA rules ALLOW bikes on the subway.
This is the problem with bicylists, in a nutshell...who would even ASK this question? It is the LAW, on a bicycle as much as a motor vehicle. The fact that this question is even being posed is a perfect reflection of how clueless cyclists are.
I suppose the next question is "Is water WET?"
The question shouldn't be framed in terms of 'Should a bicyclist obey traffic rules'; it should be framed as: 'Should bicycles be treated as motorized vehicles, or should they be treated in a different category?" Bicycles are low mass vehicles, sometimes capable of high speed. The same bicycle may at moments be similar to a sports car in traffic, ie fast and agile, other times it may be more like a baby in a stroller, ie fragile and incapable of jumping out of the way. If bicycles are to be allowed in traffic at all, the rules have to consider that bicyles sometimes are out of place in high speed high mass situations (i.e., highways) and are more in place in low speed, low mass environments (i.e., side walks). There should be a separate set of rules that govern high speed low mass traffic: bicycles, roller blades, skateboards, etc.
Let's talk about something very specific -- why does the city keep the traffic lights on in Central Park during times when cars are not on park roads? This causes tremendous risk to tourists, who assume that bikers, bladers and joggers will obey the lights when it is patently ridiculous for them to do so. As a biker, I ignore them but am tired of feeling even slightly guilty for doing so, and it just encourages running REAL red lights elsewhere. The park drive stoplights should be flashing yellow at these times or turn off completely.
I'm an avid bicyclist and there are two important points nobody has brought up here yet: first, bicycles are classified as vehicles in the vehicle codes (laws), and so should obey all laws, including those for red lights. I do this not just because I should and because it's safer if we all obey laws, but I also do it to try to keep the karma good out there. Too many of us cyclists are giving biking a bad name among motorists.
Second, Alex's blog entry is guilty of weak reasoning. All of his "evidence" for his argument is actually just historical context. If one follows his inappropriate use of context-as-evidence to the extreme, we could argue that just because the Ancient Romans had no bicycle laws, we should not either.
I got hit by a bike a few years ago -- it was going north on 5th Avenue in the Village -- I had the light and the guy was really irritated that I didn't hear him yelling at me to stop. You have to look both ways on one way streets and you have to do it twice.
I notice that many bikers I know say they obey traffic rules but go through red lights, don't stop at stop signs and go the wrong way on one way streets.
And let's not even talk about delivery guys!
Be, you're not entirely right. Far too many cyclists don't pay attention and think they don't have to obey traffic lights and whizz through lights if they think they can get away with it and hitting a person walking while you're going 15 mph on a bike can cause a lot of damage to you both.
Also, people who bring bikes on the subway during rush hour are a pest and a nuisance and I believe they are breaking a rule: that is one may not transport large items on the subway during rush hour. There's not enough space. There is a whole contingency of people who for some reason think New York ought to run more on bikes. Most of these people live downtown. Look at the legacy of Robert Moses (not that I agree with him) and just try and reverse it. It's a pipe dream. I am orginally from Oregon and there we bike. I never owned a car, but rather I had an awesome bridgestone MB6 Mountain Bike that I saved all summer working 2 jobs to buy. I cycled everywhere, to class, the gorcery store, to meet friends. New York isn't the same kind of place as the wide open west and to try and make it's quaint and idealistic to try and make it so.
Yowzer! Such a topic, so many good opinions! I think that, while moving, a bike is a vehicle, and thus follow vehicle rules. OTOH, if there are no cars in area, and pedestrians aren't trying to cross, then a cyclist should be free to move. Pedestrians don't wait at corners for lights to turn, when there are no cars. Bikes don't need to wait either. OTOH ... any cyclist who thinks riding against traffic is safer is an idiot. Period. The laws of physics don't support this (head-on adds forces, in-line subtracts). And riding without a helmet? Equally idiotic. I know a few folks whom I hope are in heaven ... I admire cyclists for their bravery. I am way too scared of cars in this town.
The problem lies partly with how pedestrians in NY behave when crossing the street. Many take ridiculously large "lead offs" from the curb, thinking it will save them 2 seconds when they eventually can cross the street. Why not wait on the curb instead of turning into a human obstacle? It would facilitate the overall traffic flow considerably...
As a bike commuter I am on my bike almost every weekday--so thought I should contribute to the debate. I lived in Oxford UK for 2 years, a very bike friendly city, there I followed all traffic rules, because they had bike specific traffic rules! And lanes! And cars were respectful! It was amazing. Biking in NYC is entirly different so I bike in a different way. Often it is safer for me to go though a clear (no traffic coming or pedestrians crossing) red light as when I wait for the green light the cars behind get impatient with me and either get right behind me and act aggressive or zoom past me very fast and close. If we are going to talk safety and enforcement lets focus on the entire issue-- how aggressive EVERYONE (cars, buses, trucks, peds, bikes) are in this city not just the bicycles.
As a daily bicycle commuter I would like point out that cars, cabs, delivery trucks and even police cars regularly and repeatedly misuse the bike lanes throughout the city. Ride up the bike lane on Lafayette on any given day and you will see countless vehicles fully parked in the bike lane.
I don't believe bikes should be exempt from the rules of the road but shouldn't cars have to follow the rules of the bike lane (and respect the fact that bikes are allowed on the streets when there is no bike lane)?
Also, what is the point of adding bike lanes if the NYPD is not going to ensure that they are used correctly (by keeping them clear)? It currently ends up as a parking/loading lane with fancy lines painted on it.
I feel there is a fairly equal level of disrespect for the laws and rules of NYC streets by all users, cars, bikes and pedestrians.
In my day-to-day preambulations around the city, whether by bike (frequently), foot (constantly) or motor vehicle (occasionally) the thing I see most often and which, to me, is the cause of the dozens of near-misses I witness each day, is that everyone is afraid that they'll miss something important if they have to give up as much as 10 seconds of their time to allow someone else to proceed, regardless of their manner of so doing. Laws and regulations will never fix this. As for me, I cross between and not at the green, 'cause when traffic's at a stand-still, mid-block is safest.
Mr. Freilich is quite clever,
Always ready with a pen.
Does he stop at do-not-walk signs?
I'll bet he does, now and again.
Re sharing space with bikes on the Brooklyn Bridge; I don't think it's about being sure to walk toward oncoming bike traffic. There are two lanes on the bridge, one for bikes, one for pedestrians. Bikes should stick to theirs, and vice versa. I don't think it matters which part of your lane you are in as long as you're on your side of that line. And I'm sure it's infuriating when large groups of people amble across the bridge occupying the whole span, incl. the bike lane.The guy that hit me was overtaking another cyclist -- both were heading toward me. Short of climbing up onto the railings, these two guys left me nowhere to go. And yeah, believe me, I was paying attention. A looming collision that you can't avoid tends to do that. Since then, I pay a lot of attention to where bikes might be hiding and try to avoid the folks who want to avoid the minor inconvenience of slowing down or -- gasp -- stopping at a red light. Much of the time, it's possible. Sometimes, it's not.
Cars are easier to spot, and less likely to zoom through red lights or onto sidewalks. When they collide with cyclists or pedestrians, they cause much more damage. But vis a vis pedestrians, at least, they seem a bit more aware of what damage they can cause. Like all cyclists, I wish that awareness extended to people on bikes, mopeds, etc. sharing the streets with them.
To be or not to be
A safe pedestrian?
When cyclists run red lights,
It's wholly out of the questian.
ab, Bob Henk, and others:
Regarding your anti-cyclist rage and your accusations of cyclist self-righteousness, it is absurd to conclude that cyclists are more dangerous than cars. Hundreds of pedestrians and cyclists are killed every year by autos, tens of thousands are injured and maimed. There are far more cars and trucks than bikes in NYC, and as many people have pointed out, they are ten times as HEAVY as cyclists.
Of course cyclists should use more caution, just as peds and drivers should, but it is simply irrational to say they are more dangerous than automobiles. Alex Marshall's proposal is hardly controversial. If all riders judiciously scoot through red lights, we'd be doing well.
As for self-righteousness among cyclists, we lapse into that unpleasant tone because we are a very vulnerable group - unwelcome on both streets (until the NYPD starts enforcing bike lanes and the law) and sidewalks (which should be the case). I commute to work every day by bike and it's horrifying to see how drivers disrespect my safety. So, yeah, I yell at peds crossing against the light (which happens A LOT) and at vehicles willing to risk killing me just to make their trip more convenient (which happens even more). Add to that the knowledge that cycling is pollution free, improves health, and is generally a good thing for the city, and it's hard not to be self-righteous.
As a bicyclist in a small city (Rochester), I obey every stoplight, even though there's often no cars visibly approaching. I do this because I think drivers are rightfully afraid of hitting red light-running bikers and this makes them resent us. My hope is that if bikers respect traffic laws, drivers will learn to trust and respect us.
Well said Abby.
It's silly to give anecdotes and argue about whose fault it is. There are bad/good courteous/discourteous bright/idiotic alert/distracted pedestrians, cyclists, drivers. Whether we're in a car, on a bicycle, or on Shank's pony we need to be alert for our own safety, whoever has the right of way. However, people who violate the rules (hey, we're New Yorkers) need to be doubly alert and assume the risk for themselves. If you're jaywalking, riding a bicycle the wrong way etc, you have no business pointing the finger at anyone else.
Concerning the comments of fining riders, especially delivery men: I think this kind of reasoning is what raises costs of living in all aspects in the city. Yeah, fine the delivery men, but get me my kung pow here in less than 10 minutes, and make it cheap! A certain level of danger has to be accepted, from all parties, without it enraging us all. If cops could be allowed to use more common sense rather than ticketing riders for minor infractions, then a rider cautiously crossing a red light could be viewed differently that one speeding through recklessly.
1. Liability should depend upon the circumstances. If someone goes the wrong way on a one-way street, especially when entering an intersection, especially when the light is against them, they should not be free of liability in case of an accident. Otherwise, we are endorsing reckless behavior.
2. We are in crying need of true bike lanes. They would do more for traffic and pollution then congestion pricing. A true bike lane system as in Amsterdam would be a boon to the city for the entire population. These lanes have curbs so there is no double parking problem. These are true, dedicated lanes where no pedestrian with any sense would walk.
As a long-time cyclist, I disapprove of “running” red lights, that is, riding through with a full head of steam. It angers drivers and risks retaliation. Nevertheless I strongly approve of cyclists going through red lights after they have come to a stop, purely for safety reasons. Starting off from a dead stop at a light, I am literally creeping along for at least the first few seconds, no matter how hard I hammer on the pedals. And that occurs in exactly the wrong place, when I am actually in the intersection. Creeping along at 5 MPH leaves me completely unable to defend against a car turning either left of right, right into me. We all know that intersections are where the majority of car-bike accidents occur. In fact, that is where many car-motorcycle accidents take place as well, and motorcycles get up to speed a lot faster than bikes do. The only statistical study of motorcycle accidents (the ominously-named Hurt Report) showed just how many motorcycle accidents occur at intersections. So the safest tact is to get out of danger – meaning get out of the intersection – as quickly as is safely possible. Crossing against the light when there is no green-light traffic in sight makes the most sense, since it is the safest time to cross.
I'd like to respond to some specific comments and write more, but no time. So here's just three comments to add:
1. Riding with the traffic on a crowded city street strikes me as dangerous as walking with traffic on the side of the traffic lane. Pedestrians are told to walk against traffic, but that causes significant problems for everyone if bikes do that. Yet adults shouldn't bike on sidewalks, for equally good reasons. What's a cyclist to do? Walk the bike? There are some blocks where that might even be best, but I don't hope to convince many of that.
2. When crossing a roadway, pedestrians should (a) be courteous -- go across in groups, so that cars can also turn; (b) watch the oncoming traffic, minimizing conversation if necessary; (c) realize that crossing against the light (or middle of the block), wearing dark or grayish clothes, at dusk or in rain turns ordinary driving into a very harrowing life-and-death video game.
3. Delivery cyclists should be REQUIRED to wear safety-orange vests, at least at dusk and night. A pole with a flag on it would probably be practical, but might be worth testing. And if travelling the wrong way or on the sidewalk , that IS a case where they should get off and walk.
I find it hard to believe that all of you cycle-fearing , self-righteous pedestrians wait for every walk sign at every intersection you wish to cross. in fact, I'd be willing to bet that there isn't a single one of you posting here who has never, or doesn't regularly run across an intersection against a light.
Further, I'd be willing to bet that the majority of the close-call incidents you allude to having had with cyclists occur when you blindly follow the rest of the pack out into a quiet intersection before you actually have a walk signal--pecking away at your blackberry while you listen to your iPod at full volume.
Pedestrians have a far more infuriating sense of entitlement than any other mode of transportation on the streets. They're also absolutely oblivious to their effect on traffic and the impact that their shortcuts up the bike lanes of crowded streets or blind sprints into traffic have.
About the bridge, I do notice that pedestrians walk the wrong side... should be walking toward the oncoming bike traffic so you won't get nicked from behind.
But then again... who looks at the signs anyway?
While I agree completely that riding on sidewalks and against traffic should be ticketable offenses for bicyclists, there are times when a bicyclist is forced to behave more like a pedestrian than a motor vehicle. Foremost among these times is when we must merge into traffic when coming off a bridge. I commute from Brooklyn to Manhattan most days and have crossed the Williamsburg, Manhattan, Brooklyn and 59th St. bridges many times each. All of these bridges have bike/pedestrian lanes that are, of course, off limits to motor vehicles. The only access point into traffic on the Manhattan side of the Williamsburg bridge (and most or all of the others) is a cutaway into a CROSSWALK. Therefore, bicyclists are forced to enter traffic via a crosswalk. What are the rules in this instance? I'd have thought that since I am entering traffic from a pedestrian-and-bike-only path, pedestrian rules would apply; especially since the alternative would be to block pedestrian access to the crosswalk, wait for the light to turn green and merge onto Delancey St. traffic from a standstill. Apparently this is not the case, since I received a ticket for running a red light there.
I know this is a lengthy post, but I think it is illustrative of the gray area that bicycles inhabit in NYC traffic. At times, they have to share space with pedestrians; at others, they absolutely must not. Applying the same traffic rules - and fines - to bicycles as we do to motor vehicles doesn't make sense.
This comment was removed because it was deemed offensive.
Yes Be I'm so sure that the cyclist who came FROM BEHIND that lady on the brooklyn bridge, I'm SO SURE it was HER fault. Sheesh.
Don't assume it's the cyclists fault if they hit a pedestrian. I have been in one near collision (I swerved and was able to avoid hitting a lady, my handle bar nicked her purse intead, but I almost fell off my bike and could have been seriously injured.) I had a total green light, and the lady and decided to strat crossing the street while talking on her cell phone and looking at her shoes, I yelled, and rung my bell (legally required) but unfortunately, bikes cannot break as well as cars, so I almost hit her. And I was and remain pissed about this because I try to ride responsibly but too many pedestrians are irresponible with their own and others' lives. I should mention that 5 years ago, I literally saved a girls life. She was about to cross Broadway at Union Square, and she was talking on her cell phone and began crossing the streeting and a bus would have hit her if I didn't step into the street and grab her by the collar to pull her back. She didn't even thank me, although I suppose she was in shock.
The problem, as always, is that few people in general use common sense. People can complain-in many cases, with justification-about the difficulties of getting around New York City, but the reality is that everyone is pretty much out for themselves in the end. So, these debates and complaints will go on and on, but none of this is anything new, nor I doubt things will change much.
I've been riding bicycles in New York City for nearly 25 years. All I can do is look after my own behavior on a bike. I've seen all sorts of nuttiness from pedestrians, other cyclists, and motorists. As my late father once said when he taught me how to drive: "You can be the most careful person in the world, but you don't know about the other guy."
Getting around the city on a bike is a challenge-but you deal with it. It's not always easy, but what in life is? And the same goes for pedestrians and motorists. There's no difference. You just do the best that you can, and try to treat others with respect as you commute. There will be others who won't be as courteous. It's annoying and aggravating, but there it is. You deal with that reality the best way you can, and move on.
In 14 years in NYC, I have not once been hit by a car. I have been hit three times by cyclists. The first time was walking to work across the Brooklyn Bridge, when a cyclist straying on to the pedestrian side of the pathway knocked me over. Rather than stopping to help, he cursed at me for slowing him down. The second occasion was a cyclist riding on a narrow sidewalk, something that exempting cyclists from motorized traffic rules wouldn't deal with, as cars thankfully don't routinely blast down sidewalks. The third occasion occured just this past Saturday afternoon, when, walking home, I crossed a street at a green pedestrian light. The cars were waiting their turn; masked from my view, however, a cyclist -- decked out in all kinds of safety gear, from lights to helmet -- did not. Scooting up on the left side of the traffic on a one way street, she didn't even pause to see if there were pedestrians on the sidewalk, but blasted right on through.
I'm a cyclist. But pedestrians do need protection from cyclists as much as cyclists do from maniacs behind car wheels. And I feel that my safety is far more at risk by idiot cyclists.
We'll never solve this until cyclists realize that pedestrians are slow moving turtles they cant be blamed. You cyclists are the fast darters who act like animals. Case closed.
I agree with the speaker that protecting pedestrians is the most fundamental purpose of these traffic laws, but bicycling is *extremely* dangerous in this city. Cyclists weigh the same as a pedestrian plus maybe twenty pounds at most. Light cars weigh more than a thousand pounds. Cyclists are intrinsically predisposed to attempt to conserve their momentum, for understandable reasons. If cyclists must drive in the road, then they should have specially provisioned lanes as often as possible, and the fines for motor vehicles abusing these lanes should be *severe* (as it is currently routine for them to do so). Cyclists must also be legally supported in defensive biking practices. Clearly bikes and cars fall in the same general speed bracket apart from pedestrians except in special circumstances like bridges, so when a pedestrian walks in to the road they should keep that in mind, and signage should assist them in this practice.
Bikes are scarier because it's a lot easier to see a truck coming.
Myself and many fellow cyclists are increasingly receiving questionable parking tickets and tickets for minor offenses, including no bells or helmet, riding outside the bike lane on streets with no bike lane,etc...
It seem that the NYPD are giving tickets just to make a quota instead of for concern for public safety.
Most of these bogous tickets are usually dismissed when it makes it to court. But the point is maybe they should be focusing more on cars running red lights (which I see constantly)then cyclists not having bells.
Bicycles absoultly should obey the traffic laws. Just last week I almost hit a cyclist while I was making a left turn. He was riding in the street, legal, against the flow of traffic, illegal. I observed pedestrians on either corner and no vehicles of any type approaching me. As I made the turn the bike suddenly flashed accross the intersection feet in front of me going the wrong way.
Certainly CH above would also advocate pedestrians always obey traffic lights/walk-don't walk signals and never jaywalk or otherwise walk in the street. PERIOD. Also that motor vehicles never drive or park in bike lanes and never double park. PERIOD.
As someone who has spent a great deal of time driving, walking, and cycling, i have had many more problems as a cyclist. i've had motor vehicles used as weapons against me. i've had many pedestrians step right out in front of me, look me in the eye, and dare me to hit them as they jaywalk. I have had far far fewer experiences of similar situations while either driving or walking.
it's ludicrous to say that bikes are more dangerous than cars. As a cyclist, i'm constantly amazed at how upset pedestrians get when I ride near them. here's the point: I watch the pedestrian, anticipate his movement, and try to avoid him. Generally, the pedestrian is NOT paying attention, and is thusly shocked when I "come out of nowhere."
Didn't your mother teach you to look both ways before you cross the street?
One place, at least, where many bikers need to show much more civility -- Central Park, when the roadway is closed to cars. There's a light at 97th Steet. I've seen high speed bikers even appear to AIM at pedestrians who were crossing WITH the light! I'm not saying the bikers should necessarily stop, but they should slow and yield, especially when the light is against them. On the other hand, although bike traffic was light at the moment, yesterday I watched two women cross with baby strollers against the light. It works both ways.
If the bike lanes arean't inforced in your neighborhood move to Bay Ridge. If the tire of your car is so much one millimeter in the bike lane $105.00 ticket! (thankfully I learned my lesson) I thought the bike lanes were put in to increase the cities revenue.
I once spoke to Mayor Bloomberg about this when he visited Brooklyn Heights. I suggested to him that bicycles might have license plates as cars - at least that way they could be identified, even photographed, when they rode on the sidewalk, which is my real complaint. He said "Yes, we had them when I was a kid" but he said there wasn't much interest in it. I also suggested - which I still do - that all bicycles must be outfitted with loud bells on the handlebars - as they are in England - so that if a bike rider was flouting the laws at least a pedestrian would have a slight chance of getting out of the way! Again, no interest from the Mayor at that time.
i'm an avid cyclist, but i'm often a driver, motorcycle rider and pedestrian. i really don't understand why there is always such a concentration bicycles. it seems to me that although many cyclists may not ride safely, the inherent danger of automobiles makes the comparison to cars completely ridiculous and unfair. 3000 lbs of metal, plastic and glass or 20 lbs of aluminum. one is going to do more damage than the other.
If bicyclists actually do act like cars i.e. take up a full lane of traffic on a very narrow street or on any street, we get cars coming dangerously close to us and honking in a rage. If as bicyclists we are supposed to obey the traffic laws then we should be protected by police when we take up a full lane of traffic and cars threaten us. Until cars are ready to drive behind bicycles without honking and threatening us as we take up a full lane then we bicyclists should not be expected to follow all the laws of cars.
Cars kill 190 pedestrians and cyclists every year and injure more than 10,000 people. Bicycles are not the danger, we just seem to be ready to live with the constant danger posed by cars.
I regularly bike, drive and walk throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. I think there are some basic infractions that cause greater road delays and raise the potential for accidents.
(1) Walkers who stand 'slightly' in the road...delaying the flow of traffic for both cars and cyclists.(2) Cyclists who weave in and out of traffic--relying on the car/truck drivers to avoid cyclists.(3) Double parkers--125th street is one of the most congested street in the city and difficult to navigate for cyclists and drivers.(4) walkers who text and talk on the phone are oblivious to other traffic.
On a recent visit, I was almost mowed down. If a bobby saw that, he should react, and then, arrest.
Why don't we try to reduce car traffic in Manhattan, by eliminating all much of the free parking, creating segregated bike lanes and enforcing the laws against everyone (cyclists, pedestrians and especially crazy cab drivers).
Crossing the street while the light is still red is often safer than waiting for the light to change. Every day cars speed to the corner and turn with complete disregard to the fact that a bicyclist is approaching and crossing the intersection. I feel safer if i look for the intersection to be clear, and then to cross before the rest of the traffic begins to rush through when the light is green.
Interesting the comment that against traffic is safer. Personally I don't know BUT when I was growing up in the 50s and 60s the law used to be that bikes go against traffic. I don't know when that changed but I assume in the 70s.
Let's face it. The problems is New Yorkers and their personality. In Amsterdam, the people are stoned. It's mellow. Here, this iconoclastic action vis a vi an agression and an attitude on the part of New Yorkers you coulc create 10 0000 roads it would not matter because New Yrkers are essentially aggressive.
a few observations:
1. i think we really need to re-think our traffic laws over all to be friendly to pedestrains and cyclists. traffic regulations tend to be excessively automobile-centric, and it can be worse outside of NYC. (there are many places where pedestrians need to push a button to get a walk light. can you imagine requiring drivers to do that?)
2. one of the nice things about bikes is that they're quiet, but that all means that if a bike comes at you from the wrond direction on a one way street, you may not hear it.
3. it might be easier to keep cyclists off the side walk if there was enough space between curb-side parking spaces for cyclists to get off the street in mid block.
Cyclists on the SIDEWALKS are a huge problem. It is against the law in NYC for adult cyclists to ride on the sidewalk. My observation is that very, very few NYC cyclists are aware of this law.
When I have tried pointing this out to cyclists, I have more often than not ended up on the receiving end of a string of obscenities.
I agree with the guest's idea that in a pedestrian/cyclist collision it should be assumed the cyclist is at fault...that will be the case 99.9999% of the time anyway
Why can't pedestrians and runners in Central Park run outside of the BIKE LANE. Runners have their own path, and when the drives are shut down they can take the ENTIRE road. Yet they still go in the bike lane, and they run with headphones on so they are oblivious.
These runners are being completely irresonsible, dangerous, and disrespectful.
What about sidewalks. Bikes charge down Village asidewalks when they can't get through the streets. Mny people are hit by them daily. As I had surgery now and need a cane I have to watch my sidewalk as much as the street. They need to be severely fined as they have no respect for pedestrians while they whine about the streets access. Rude can be hostile
As a pedestrian, I'm more afraid of cyclists who run red lights and ride the wrong way up streets than I am of cars. At least cars are somewhat predictable because of the rules. Few things make me more angry than a cyclist telling me to watch out when I'm on a sidewalk or yelling at me when I'm crossing a street legally and they are blowing a red light. If one on these idiots hit me and don't injure me badly, then I'll become a VERY dangerous obstacle.
Absolutely not. Cyclists have a responsibility to follow the rules as they exist. Its very tempting as a cyclist to run red lights but....also cyclists at night should be prosecuted for not having lights on their bikes and they should also wear reflective armbands. There should also be more cycle lanes. Drivers need to be prosecuted more often for blocking intersections and pedestrians in Manhattan are insane. I have to drive across the city every morning and it is very stressful. Pedestrians pay absolutely no mind to lights. Police manpower is obviously an issue so they should target a few high profile areas to put the scares in to people.
I believe the basic idea here is traffic laws, traffic...ped, cycle, or motor. Traffic laws should be obeyed. They exist for all of our safety.
First of all, I am not aware of any cases of pedestrians being killed by a bicycle, injured yes, killed no. Only cars kill pedestrians in this city.
Secondly, as a cyclist, I feel the most vulnerable when I am starting to move from a complete stop. Inertia prevents me from maneuvering as effectively as when I have momentum and am riding at my cruising speed, I can safely react to cars. Having half a block where I can take a whole lane of traffic to get up to full speed. So treating red lights like stop signs or yield signs makes total sense.
Cyclists shouldn't ride the wrong way on one way streets. Its dangerous, and it bugs me when I see other cyclists doing it. That said, on some occasions I will ride the wrong way, but do it slowly, cautiously, yielding the right of way to those who get it legally. I also never do it for more than a block either near my origin or destination.
Pedal cyclists should obey the traffic laws, and, more to the point, the NYPD should be enforcing the law. I am, as a pedestrian, fed up with having to jump out of the way of cyclists running red lights, going the wrong way up one way streets and riding on the sidewalk. This last is the most dangerous of all to pedestrians. I believe that the fine for this is $300, and if the police were to start handing out a few of these summons then the message would soon get through.A lot of these offenders are delivering food, the the restaurants should be fined as well as the riders.
Amsterdam is the city I hold up as the model. I don't know their accident statistics,lol, but I find the traffic movement be it bikes, motor vehicles, pedestrians, etc to move so smoothly. Maybe I just miss the accidents because I must admit, I have seen a lot of near misses.
The problem is that all motorists are insured because they can hurt or kill pedestrians. Why not mandate that NYC cyclists have liability insurance?
Driving in Manhattan the scariest is not taxi driver, but red-light running bikes, as well as bicyclists that go in and out of traffic.
They are scary because there's nothing to protect them if they did something silly. Most drivers DO NOT want to hit anyone on a good day.
But it seems many are just testing the limits of drivers' sanity.
Be a responsible NY-er and OBEY the laws that the rest of us try so hard to obey.
the key for getting more cyclists on the road is to enforce the current laws regarding moving violations against motor vehicles
I can't believe the pedestrians in this city, the same ones who walk out into traffic and crowd intersections on red lights, who listen to their iPods and tune everything else out, who talk and text on their phones while walking, can have anything to say in this argument. They are just as much to blame as anyone else.
I think there should be a separate set of traffic regulations for cyclists based on common sense and above all pedestrian and cyclist (and even motorist) safety - some shared rules (like having to stopat a stop sign) and other unique rules for cyclists (don't have to obey rules for cars if it will put the cyclists' life in danger).
thanks for the conversation!
What a laughable "debate"! I agree with previous posters - I fear bikes in this city most of all. Who are these mythical riders who actually obey traffic laws now?!? Having lived in NYC my entire life, I can count on one hand the times I've seen a bike stop at a red light. I've come close to being hit a number of times and have seen a woman bleeding and going into convulsions in the middle of Times Square after being hit by a biker who did not stop.
RIDING AGAINST TRAFFIC SAFE NOT RECKLESS.
Brian, yes, I agree that the law is too harsh on bicyclist. Back in 1990 I was ticketed for running a redlight on 23 and 3rd Avenue. There was no traffic and I was doing messenger work. I did not pay the fine as I did not know that it would be applied to my license. Low and behold I was a courrier in NJ 6 months later and arrested for driving with a suspended license. What a bunch of crock. $500 later and a night in jail I always said that this law was dumb. Yes, there are wreckless riders in Manhattan who should be stopped, but if they are doing the enviormental thing and there is no traffic, I do not see the harm in running a light. If that is the case there should be 1 zillion tickets for walking on a don't walk sign. That law does not seem to be applied to the outer boroughs.
As mentioned in a previous post, my biggest issue with cyclists is the self-righteous sense of entitlement they seem to have. What justification is there for a cyclist to run a red light? Why is that even a question? Why should pedestrians give up what little safety is available during a walk signal to a messenger who might run them down?
Why is it more important for a cyclist to get where they are going than it is for a pedestrian to cross the street safely?
As mad as I am at cyclists right now, even though I am frequently on my bike, I have to agree that it is the pedestrians, cyclists and drivers who don't pay attention/act selfishly who are the problem more than any form of transportation per se.
Traffic rules aside, why are so many cyclists incapable of following rules in Prospect Park about which lane to ride in?
a bicycle (in a commuting sense) occupies a gray area that is simultaneously neither an automobile nor a pedestrian, and also a little of each. The rules ought to reflect the differing circumstances cyclists are bound to find themselves. In certain circumstances, the bicycle clearly behaves more a like a pedestrian, and in certain cases, it is more like a car.
bycyclists are (largely) a pretentious and self-rightous group. there is no reason they should be exempt from traffic laws.
BICYCLE RIDERS IGNORE THE LAWS ANYWAY. SO SUPSEND THE LAWS. BUT DONT TELL THEM THEY'LL GET MORE BRAZEN. BUT I SAW SOME ONE WHO OPENED A CAR DOOR AND KNOCKED A MSNGR ON HIS BUTT. THESE GUYS DRIVE RECKLESS.
what's really needed is to start enforcing traffic laws against motor vehicles. i can never walk 2 blocks without having to cope with cars going thru red lights, pushing into crosswalks, switching lanes recklessly, speeding, etc.
let's start by enforcing all laws and moving violation penalties against motor vehicles, and then fine tune traffic rules for bicycles.
one fundamental principle should be that drivers of motor vehicles must be held responsible for any harm caused by their vehicles.
What? Cyclists and bicycles are holograms, so there is no problem if there is a collision?
I ride a bicycle, and a motorcycle. Having had two cyclists nearly bring me down on my motorcycle by running red lights, I've stopped being an idiot when I'm on my bicycle. I stop at red.
As a rider of bikes in this city for over 10 years, it is clear that the number of cyclists is increasing readily, and has done so especially in the past few years. Stan's assertion that "nobody" is getting out of their automobiles and getting on a bike is unsubstantiated and, likely, untrue. In fact, I am a person who often eschews my car and the dirty, crowded, and unreliable train for bicycle transit. Due to growing riders, it seems that the city will need to reconsider how cyclists are treated and PlaNYC indeed indicates that it is desirable to do so.
A bicycle is a wheeled mode of transportation, a vehicle. Vehicular laws SHOULD be applied to ALL wheeled modes of transportation.
NO RIDING ON SIDEWALKS. period.NO RIDING IN PEDESTRIAN CROSSWALKS. period.NO PASS-THROUGH RED LIGHTS. period.NO RIDING AGAINST TRAFFIC. period.
And so on. I am very tired of having to avoid bikers on streets and in cross walks. And I have very little sympathy for bikers who weave through traffic, ignore traffic control signs and lights, ride with headphones, or ride facing traffic rather than with it. All vehicle operators have a responsibility to abide by the law. PERIOD.
I am a cyclist from Toronto who bikes year-round. I will say this, cyclists are among the worst traffic offenders out there. Running red lights and stop signs is absolutely foolhardy. Against a car, you will lose every time.
The author who sparked this debate is advocating laziness and stupidity.
The City needs to focus more on making the streets safer for cyclists, and less on ticketing them for petty offenses. A few weeks ago, a customer pulled up from the street onto the side walk in front of the book store where I work. The store is on a corner and he may have wheeled three feet onto the sidewalk. He was then ticketed by a nearby officer.
I ride my bike to work and am on the street almost every day of the year. I do go through red lights - being extremely careful in the process. I also go out of my way to yield to pedestrians - who by the way, are in my opinion much more dangerous to cyclists than cars are.
I would also add punishment for riding the wrong way on the street as is often the case
People who claim bikes are scarier than cars are just plain nuts.Cyclists should obey traffic laws.Why should they be exempt?
Ummm...perhaps again because we've been almost hit MANY more times by bikes as opposed to anyhing else...as was said...repeatedly...read above and you will find your answer and will no longer be "amused"
I ride my bike to work. I think that as long as there are no segregated bike lanes and the NYPD refuses to protect cyclists, that we should be exempt. It is in our interest to move ahead of traffic as a means of self-protection and survival.
exempt bike rider from the traffic rules? aren't bike rider dangerous enough already?in Europe some cities have special bike lanes with raised curbs to protect riders. why can we?
I don't think they should run lights UNLESS there is an obvious break in cross running traffic just like we the "perfect" pedestrians (tongue-in-cheek) do. So you're stopped on your bike at the light all the cross traffic has moved and the next car is nowhere in sight or far enough away and no pedestrians crossing, why not go thru that light. I don't ride a bike, never even learned but I respect the riders as if they were cars. This is the ONLY condition I think it's okay to pass the light, they are vehicles, after all.
But I'd like to add that bike riders really ought to be strenuously, yes STRENUOUSLY, punished for riding on the sidewalk. There is no reason ride on the sidewalk, not even 1/2 block away from the place you want to go. There are quite a few folks who ride only the sidewalks and that really sucks.
Also, bikers are not quite vehicles. WHen you use a bike, you are somewhat a pedestrian. You are not protected as you are in an automobile. You can fall, be ejected off the bike, and can suffer great harm. Equally, you can be run over by a car or truck.You are very similar to a pedestrian in this regard to the damage that can be done to you. Also, (this is not as important) but the root word of pedestrian "ped", using your feet, applies equally to bikers who use their feet on "ped"als.
I really just want these ideas to be considered as part of the discussion. Overall, I would argue we need more bike lanes like they just built on 9th Ave (it's great, check it out), more education about bikers rights to the road, and I think that bikes should only go through a red light if the intersection is free of pedestrians and they can safely avoid and not interfere with oncoming traffic. Basically, I think bikers should be treated the same as jaywalkers - tolerated as long as donesafely.
As someone who primarily bikes and rides, rides the subay, and walks, but also drives in the city, I think that we should start with the premise a large number of pedestrians, bikes, and cars do not obey traffic rules. Jay walkers, blocking the box, going through red lights, going the wrong way down streets, etc... But, we're New Yorkers and we all take and accept a certain amount of risk with the liberties we take in using the streets.
I think that the traffic laws ought to take into account the level of damage that can be done to, and done by pedestrians, bikes, and cars/ trucks. Automobiles can do the most damage and it's users are have the most protection from a collision with either a bike or a pedestrian - so traffic rules should be most stringent with automobiles.
The difference between pedestrians and bikers however is not as clear. A biker hitting a pedestrian who is jay walking (or if the biker is at fault) can be as injured or even more so than the pedestrian when he falls of or flies off his bike. Also, a pedestrian who is being responsible and actually paying attention (looking both ways, listening - instead of looking at her feet, using cell phone, or ipod) can easily avoid a bike, by side stepping it or merely continuing forward progress. A bike cannot sidestep. It can only swerve and brake imperfectly to avoid a collision. This usually has to be done while also attempting not to get hit by a car or truck nearby.
Being as objective as possible, my observations is that very few of us, it seems, obey traffic laws in NYC. Cyclists are succumbing to the anarchy that has become the streets, sidewalks and intersections of The City. I've noticed that above pedestrians are upset at "cyclists" nearly running them over, etc., but take no culpability at the many, many times they also disobey traffic laws and nearly cause, say, a cyclist to crash. I've come close as a cyclist to hitting pedestrians and never would it have been my fault (you should look when you cross on the red, no?). I've seen peds nearly crushed by motorists thinking that no one should be in their way. I see very little courtesy towards anyone, by anyone.
I find it amusing that pedestrians find cyclists to be the scariest thing on the streets of NYC. While both riding and walking, I have observed pedestrians to be more likely to yell at a cyclist running a red light versus a car or truck running the same red light. Why are pedestrians more tolerant of dangerous behavior by objects weighing thousands of pounds compared to something that probably weighs no more than 250 pounds? I would prefer to be hit by a speeding bike rather than a speeding truck or cab - death is not certain when being hit by a pseeding bike.And, I am curious as to how many pedestrians have been killed by bicycles in NYC - anyone have the numbers? So, should we be more scared of bikes or cars?
Nobody in NYC is getting out of their automobile and getting on a bike. A small, very vocal group ride their bicycles with entitlement and abandonment as an alternative to mass transit. This is New York City not Sioux City.
Why should cyclists be exempt from red lights. Quite frankly the cyclists are more dangerous than the cars. I have had any more close calls with cyclists zipping through lights, coming out of nowhere and riding the wrong way than any car. I wonder how many people are hurt by cyclists running into them because they don't obey the traffic laws....
We have the same debate in Boston about whether cyclists should obey all traffic laws to the letter or not.
My opinion is that bicyclists should take the high road and obey all traffic laws. Just because motorists and pedestrians don't always do so is not a reason for bicyclists to ignore them.
Sure, there are many cases where bicyclists could safely proceed through an intersection on a red light (after yielding appropriately) or could treat a stop sign as a yield sign, however until the law reflects that it's important for bicyclists to respect other road users as well as the law.
At the same time, if bicyclists thing the laws should be changed, they should pursue that as an advocacy goal.
Without a doubt, I fear cyclists more than any other person on Manhattan's overcrowded streets - primarily because they're not obeying the traffic rules. They can come out of nowhere and I never know what they're going to do.
And I think it's a great idea to have bikes registered, so (if there was a plate on the bike) a victim of hit and run can identify their perpetrator.
I've been ticketed for running red lights and know many, many other riders who have as well. The reason you don't see it is because the traffic cops who write red light tickets hang out at quiet intersections where there are no pedestrians to get in their way.
The day that I was ticketed, I'd just hopped a curb to escape a massive truck that started backing up and could have killed me. I walked a half block to regain my composure, got back on my bike heading up sixth avenue. At 17th street, a remarkably quiet block, I stopped at the red light, looked around, saw neither cars nor pedestrians in any direction, and rode on. Apparently I missed a Cushman tucked behind the car at the corner. I paid $150 for treating the light like a stop sign.
If there aren't cars coming or pedestrians in the intersection it is *safer* for me to ride through intersection before the light changes and the cars behind me start trying to turn into my path or get to the curb to drop off a passenger. That is very different from careening through a crowded crosswalk.
I think the city needs better enforcement of dangerous driving and riding, but not blanket laws that aren't relevant to safety or reasonable riding in the city.
As a bike commuter who sees all sorts of good and bad behavior by cyclists, pedestrians and motorists every day, I don't think this will be a serious topic to debate until there are thousands more cyclists on the street every day. Only then, when the very mass of cyclists on the streets necessitates it, will the road rules be modified. Fortunately, I think that day is coming!
A pedestrian can be ticketed for jay walking, but a bicyclist should be free to ignore traffic rules? Walking over the Brooklyn Bridge is a frightening experience, especially at night when bicyclists without headlights zoom past pedestrians. Last month, I saw a young woman lying unconscious on the walkway, blood streaming from her head. She had been hit by a bicyclist. I don’t know if the bicyclist stayed, or was a hit-and-run driver. I have never seen a bicyclist ticketed, but I (a white-haired, small woman) have been cursed by bicyclists cutting in front of me and almost hitting me.
Let’s be honest. Bicyclists ride their bikes because they don’t pay the costs of maintaining roads or medical costs for the pedestrians they injure. Bicyclists should have to pay for licenses, same as cars, and they should have to pay insurance. Police should ticket them. Restaurants and stores that deliver by bike should be required to pay for a commercial license for both bike and rider, and workers’ comp. Let’s be honest again, these delivery men are exploited immigrants. The price of that morning cup of coffee should reflect the true social cost. Migrants should not be subsidizing an unnecessary convenience.
If bicyclists and stores have to pay for insurance and licenses, then maybe pedestrians will be able to walk more safely
If a red light against a cyclist is defined as "yield right of way" (a yield sign), that would make cycling much easier and safer and yet preserve the notion of legal culpability if a cyclist in such a situation has a collision with a pedestrian or vehicle proceeding on green.
This is so simple! What's the problem? When it's possible to harmonize safely the law with what people do anyway, that's the best solution.
I AGREE with Mollie above, that there should be clearly SAFER rules for bikers. So often pedestrians are injured or even killed in this city by bikers running red lights, or going the WRONG WAY. A bike is a vehicle and should be registered such just like cars. In New Orleans, all bikers MUST by law obtain a registration sticker/license number. New York is a PEDESTRIAN town!
I am in favor of SAFER rules for riders, because I dread the day when I see a cyclist hit by a cab. But what about pedestrians? How many of us have been nearly run down by someone speeding through an intersection against the red light? Many "professional" cyclists are very courteous of walkers, but what about that percent of the population with very little respect for other drivers or walkers?Whatever the rules are, they need to be POSTED and advertised, so we all know.
Email addresses are required but never displayed.
Brian Lehrer leads the conversation about what matters most now in local and national politics, our own communities and our lives.
Subscribe on iTunes
WNYC 93.9 FM and AM 820 are New York's flagship public radio
stations, broadcasting the finest programs from NPR, PRI and American Public Media, as well as a wide range of award-winning local
programming. WNYC is a division of
New York Public Radio.