Cyclist Severely Injured After Swerving to Avoid Pedestrian in Central Park

A 67-year-old man was critically injured when he fell off his bike after dodging a jogger in Central Park last night.

The collision occurred yesterday at around 6:05 p.m. on East Drive near East 102nd Street, according to NYPD. Police said the cyclist was traveling northbound in the East Drive bike lane “when he swerved to avoid a jogger” and fell off his bike. He suffered body and head trauma and was rushed to Saint Luke’s Hospital, where he is currently in stable condition.

The cyclist flipped over his handlebars and flew 25 to 30 feet, according to the Daily News. NYPD says an investigation is ongoing.

Serious collisions between cyclists and pedestrians are rare, but they do happen, and the crowded loop roads of big parks seem to present unique risks. In the summer of 2014, 75-year-old Irving Schachter and 58-year-old Jill Tarlov were struck and killed by cyclists in Central Park. That period was an exception, however. In the last decade, most calendar years come and go without any fatal bike-pedestrian crashes citywide.

  • MatthewEH

    Interesting. I keep left, and move right to pass; it’s just the convention. I will move to the service lane if it’s necessary to be there to pass (a big cluster of slow riders, usually) and I’ve never gotten any guff for it.

    Honestly, I think you’re mistaken about being safer if you ride further from the ped lane; I think being in the expected place — and not in the way if a faster rider wants to pass — is a much better bet.

    Also, you won’t be in a position to have someone outside your visual scanning area suddenly step over the curb from your right, directly into your path. RIP Jill Tarlov. Sightlines to people in the ped lane are much clearer.

  • Simon Phearson

    I do all of the things you recommend – liberal use of the bell, giving a wide berth, keeping an eye out for predictable behavior, etc. – and even so I’ve had a few close calls and a serious crash resulting from my encounters with pedestrians/joggers in shared spaces. It makes me skeptical that you have much experience in this area.

    You can use your bell “liberally” and give joggers a “wide berth,” but an inattentive jogger can quickly close that “wide berth” without reacting to your bell until it’s too late.

    Indeed, this is precisely what happened to me when I broke my shoulder a few years ago. I was in Chicago, using a wide-open shared space for pedestrians and cyclists, with clear sightlines, clear separation of cycling and pedestrian traffic, few crossing points for pedestrians, plenty of room to avoid other users, etc. It should have been the easiest place to avoid pedestrian conflicts.

    I came up behind a jogger who was, as I approached, probably about 15-20 feet to the left of my path of travel and running parallel to it. But as I came closer, she suddenly chose to jog at an angle to my path of travel, crossing it, but with a direction of travel and relative speed that was difficult for me to discern. Seeing this develop, I began to blare on my horn, but this ultimately only seemed to confuse her, so she actually started going back and forth unpredictably. Not sure how to avoid colliding with her, I ultimately braked suddenly, which threw me over my handlebars and to the ground.

    Untouched, the jogger asked to see if I was okay. She helpfully explained her erratic behavior: “I’m from New York.”

    So, I agree with your advice to cyclists; it is something that I adhere to. And in many situations where the infrastructure is designed in a way that promotes predictable pedestrian behavior, it works rather well. But it’s very easy for me to imagine scenarios in which a cyclist does everything “right” according to your standard but still finds themselves in a conflict with a pedestrian.

  • ahwr

    Try to rewrite that scenario as a driver approaching a cyclist who does something unexpected. Don’t just ring your bell or honk your horn, slow down before you have to panic stop.

  • Vooch

    5. slow down around little old ladies

    6. smile

  • Simon Phearson

    I would not expect a driver to slow down in anticipation that a cyclist, riding in a bike lane some 20-30 feet off to the side, would suddenly veer into the driver’s lane of travel, without signaling, without any contextual clue that the cyclist might want to do so, etc.

  • Joe R.

    Sometimes slowing down in a situation like that is counterproductive in that it gives the person you’re approaching enough time to move into your path before you’re on top of them.

    I’m had surprisingly few problems with pedestrians. I attribute this to high situational awareness, plus anticipating worst case scenarios. What I might usually do when approaching a pedestrian on the street (typically a jogger in the bike lane where I live) it to keep a keen eye on them starting from at least a block away. I also get into the traffic lane roughly around then. Given that I’ll have to eventually to pass them, better sooner than later. I continue to approach them without reducing speed, but I cover my brake just in case. I also veer as far left as practical, often right near the center line of the street. Once I’m about 50 feet away (still enough time to completely stop if needed) I need to make a decision-stay at speed, or slow down. If they’re still in the bike lane then I stay at speed, the reasoning being even if they suddenly veered left, they couldn’t possible be in my path before I reached them at my usual ~20+ mph riding speeds. If they’ve already started veering left then I would adjust my speed according.

    I think what works in my favor with the above method actually is the fact I ride somewhat faster than most cyclists. This gives the pedestrian little time to be aware of me, or to react to me in an unpredictable manner, before I’m on top of them. I just need to keep aware of what they’re doing while putting myself in such a position that I can avoid them no matter what they do. Now if I automatically slowed down every time I approaching someone jogging in the bike lane, this gives them more time to veer into my path before I’m on top of them.

    That said, I think it’s important for all users, including pedestrians, to be predictable on multi-use paths. Such paths are dicey enough even best case. Why compound things by suddenly changing direction?

  • Joe R.

    I’ve noticed a increasing amount of the type of unpredictable behavior you described from all users—drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. I attribute this partially to distraction from electronic devices, and partially to an increased prevalence of drug use (both legal and illegal) among the general populace. Unfortunately, in a situation like you described, you’re damned if you, damned if you don’t. Braking suddenly often throws people over the handlebars but hitting a person can injure you just as badly. Shared space in general is a horrible idea when you have large numbers of users. Such space is often the end result of “cheaping out” on bike/ped infrastructure. We need to give each user their own space. We also need to make such space more attractive to them than the alternatives so they stick to that space.

  • ahwr

    Sometimes slowing down in a situation like that is counterproductive in that it gives the person you’re approaching enough time to move into your path before you’re on top of them.

    It gives you enough time to stop if they do.

    I think what works in my favor

    Besides riding in the middle of the night when few people are around?

    That said, I think it’s important for all users, including pedestrians, to be predictable on multi-use paths. Such paths are dicey enough even best case

    Drivers need to slow down off the highway, in part because expecting people on foot and on bikes who aren’t protected by a metal cage to behave perfectly is responsible for many deaths. This is true even when no highway exists to provide an alternative routing. Expecting pedestrians to behave perfectly on a shared path is unreasonable. The lack of user predictability you bemoan exists everywhere else. It’s inevitable on a shared path. So the faster users need to slow down for the safety and comfort of all. This is true even when no bikeway separate from motor vehicles appropriate for 20+ mph travel offering cyclists a better alternative exists nearby.

  • Joe R.

    My point is there’s not a need to automatically slow down every time you approach a pedestrian. You just keep aware of the situation. If they start moving left before you’re within about 50 feet of them, you start reducing speed. If not, you don’t. The end result is still the same, namely you’re able to stop if you need to.

    Besides riding in the middle of the night when few people are around?

    If you’re doing only recreational riding, which it seems the majority who ride in parks are doing, then it makes more sense to pick times to ride when fewer pedestrians are around. Same thing if you ride recreationally in the street. I still sometimes encounter pedestrians when I ride but my methods have worked flawlessly for decades. They work equally well when passing slower cyclists.

  • Frank Kotter

    I am often in NYC and can be found riding the loop on a citibike when I can fit it in. I am also a seasoned urban cyclist and ride all over the world through a mix of stashed bikes, friend loaners, traveling with my own and public bike shares.

    Although what you say may be true about enforcement, I have found that the greatest way to increase safety of road users is to establish and enforce a logical and inherently safe set of rules for all users or allow it to be a free for all with the expectation that all are responsible for their own and others’ safety. The worst-case scenario is what you have laid out in your post – not enforcing illogical and arbitrary rules. Central Park is the most egregious example of this. Chicago’s lakefront and Amsterdam’s Vondelpark offer great examples of functional anarchy.

  • Simon Phearson

    Expecting pedestrians to behave perfectly on a shared path is unreasonable. The lack of user predictability you bemoan exists everywhere else.

    No one expects pedestrians to behave “perfectly” or in a perfectly predictable way. The point being made here is that there is such a thing as behaving so unpredictably that no reasonably prudent user of a shared space could anticipate or prepare for that unpredictable behavior.

    That’s why the u-turning jogger is such a common complaint, amongst cyclists. Even if you were to perfectly match a jogger’s speed and give them a wide berth on a shared path, if they choose to turn around right in front of you without checking, you’re going to run into them. So your advice – slow down! – turns out to be completely unworkable in practice.

    It’s insulting, frankly, for you to blame me for my own accident, insinuating that I wasn’t behaving reasonably prudently under the circumstances. I was extremely familiar with the lakefront shared-use space in Chicago, was always highly situationally aware, and understood exactly what pedestrians were likely to unpredictably do, where. I rode hundreds of miles on that path, in a wide variety of conditions (including quite crowded ones and around children and unleashed dogs), and had only two incidents with pedestrians (striking neither, taking the fall in each case). What happened to me was tantamount to a grown adult running into a street, from between parked cars, almost directly in front of an approaching driver, despite there being no apparent destination being on either side of the street. If your advice in that situation, to that driver, is to be prepared for any such pedestrian, then your advice is worthless.

  • MatthewEH

    There’s wisdom in this, certainly.

    The worst-case scenario applies to good chunks of the Hudson River Greenway, too. I have heard of cyclists being ticketed for encroaching on the pedestrian areas, but never pedestrians cited for meandering in the bike areas.

  • ahwr

    My point is there’s not a need to automatically slow down every time you approach a pedestrian.

    I said to slow down when the person on foot does something unexpected instead of just blaring a horn/bell, not slow down every time you approach someone.

  • ahwr

    No one expects pedestrians to behave “perfectly” or in a perfectly predictable way. The point being made here is that there is such a thing as behaving so unpredictably that no reasonably prudent user of a shared space could anticipate or prepare for that unpredictable behavior.

    When it occurs, slow down. Don’t just ring your bell/blare your horn.

    insinuating that I wasn’t behaving reasonably prudently under the circumstances.

    You weren’t riding in a prudent manner. You waited to slow down until it was too late for you to be able to do so safely. It’s fortunate that you hurt only yourself.

    What happened to me was tantamount to a grown adult running into a street, from between parked cars, almost directly in front of an approaching driver

    In such a situation the driver should slow down, not just honk their horn and try to chase the pedestrian out of the way. If instead they honk their horn without slowing down, and then as a result a moment later they are too close to be able to stop before a crash occurs and swerve out of the way at the last second and damage their vehicle, someone else’s, or injure themselves or another, I would consider the driver substantially, though not completely, responsible for the crash. If they plowed right into the person I would consider them substantially responsible for hitting the person who ran in front of them.

  • Joe R.

    He’s talking about hitting a pedestrian who suddenly darts out from in between parked cars when you’re almost on top of them. In this case, there’s literally nothing the driver can do.

  • Joe R.

    To me blaring a horn or bell is pointless. If it captures a pedestrian’s attention at all, it’s just as likely to cause them to dart unexpected in the opposite direction you want them to go. In fact, the same thing is often said about motorists honking at cyclists. Almost invariably, this causes the cyclist to move into the car’s path.

  • Simon Phearson

    You weren’t riding in a prudent manner.

    Kindly fuck off.

  • ahwr

    A situation analogous to the one he described that led to his crash would be one where the driver decided not to slow down upon seeing the pedestrian step out, and instead decided to just honk his horn and try to chase the person out of the way, then at the last moment swerve out of the way in a panic and cause a crash. The driver, and Simon on his bike, could have slowed down. By deciding not to, they contributed to an avoidable crash.

  • ahwr

    Yes, that’s why my point is that it’s safest to slow down in the situations when many just turn to their horn/bell to try to chase someone out of their way. Simon chose not to slow down and crashed as a result.

  • Joe R.

    OK, but now let’s try the same thing but with cyclists and motorists. If I ride my bike on, say, Northern Blvd. and decide I feel like weaving back and forth across both lanes of traffic whenever I get the urge, do you consider it the motorist’s fault if they fail to slow down and crash into me, or mine for riding like a mentally handicapped 5-year old?

    Or put another way, if we’re going to hold pedestrians blameless for erratic, unpredictable behavior when they know better then why not extend that to cyclists who behave likewise among motorists? Heck, why not give me a free pass to fly through red lights without looking or slowing down, and blame the motorists if they hit me because they choose not to yield to me?

    So long as we’re talking about adult pedestrians, it’s not too much to ask that they not act like children. I don’t expect either pedestrians or slower cyclists to tow an arrow straight line. That’s why I give them a wide berth when passing (or slow down if I can’t). However, at the same time it’s not unreasonable to expect adults aren’t suddenly going to decide to scoot 15 feet over on a whim. Or if they do, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask them to look to see if it’s clear. I expect erratic behavior from young children and animals. I act accordingly around them. Dogs especially can be very unpredictable. Older children and adults I expect to behave at least semi-predictably when they’re in mixed company. That applies whether they’re on foot, on skateboards, on bikes, etc. Keep in a reasonably straight line. If you want to move over have the courtesy to at least look before doing so.

    If I wanted to assign blame in the instance Simon described, I’m putting 90% on the pedestrian and 10% on him. I’m not even sure slowing down would have helped. The person might have moved into his path when he was 5 feet away, once again not giving him all that many options.

  • ahwr

    The situation:

    Simon didn’t know what someone was doing, he was concerned and dinged his bell to try to chase the person out of the way. This was ineffective, and because he didn’t slow down initially (perhaps compounded by limited bike handling skills), he wasn’t in a position to stop safely, tried to panic stop, and crashed.

    An analogous situation could be you’re biking on northern, a driver sees you apparently swerving around nothing and honks, but doesn’t slow down. Because the driver chose to maintain his speed, and you responded to the horn by swerving back and forth in a panic, the driver was left in a situation where he was unable to avoid a crash. If he crashes into you, if he slams on the brakes and gets rear ended, if he swerves and crashes into someone else, he would absolutely be partially responsible for the resulting injuries/damages.

    Or put another way, if we’re going to hold pedestrians blameless

    I never said the person Simon crashed while swerving to avoid was innocent or blameless. Merely that Simon was not innocent or blameless. As described, he was partially responsible for his injury.

    Heck, why not give me a free pass to fly through red lights without looking or slowing down, and blame the motorists if the hit me because they choose not to yield to me?

    If there is an intersection where a driver would have time to stop for you when you run a red, but instead just blares his horn when he sees you, then the driver would share responsibility for the crash he could have avoided. Just because you could have avoided the crash too does not make him innocent. How do you feel when NYPD casts all blame for a crash on a pedestrian or cyclist for doing something illegal with no mention of what the driver was doing wrong?

    However, at the same time it’s not unreasonable to expect adults aren’t suddenly going to decide to scoot 15 feet over on a whim.

    It’ll happen from time to time. When it does, slow down or swerve to avoid a crash as appropriate. Don’t maintain your speed and blare a horn/bell.

  • Joe R.

    Just note there’s a major difference between the way the NYPD treats cyclists and pedestrians. It’s certainly true both are routinely blamed for their own deaths, regardless of what the driver was doing. The difference is that the NYPD typically responds to cyclist deaths with a ticket blitz—on cyclists. And they regularly set up dragnets to ticket cyclists as well. Obviously neither of these things helps much with safety.

    The point here isn’t that I want a jaywalking blitz whenever a pedestrian gets killed. Rather, I want any enforcement efforts done fairly. Yes, give pedestrians a free pass for jaywalking if they’re not cutting off cyclists or motorists. Yes, do the same thing for jaybikers. However, ticket dangerous, loutish behavior be either party when warranted. Cyclists rightly complain about ticket blitzes in places like Central Park where cyclists get a summons for passing an empty red light, but pedestrians can cross against the light all day long in front of bikes without so much as a glance from the police.

    I’m not 100% sure enforcement would stop all unpredictable behavior, but it might at least get people to think about what they’re doing.

    I also feel “mixed use” paths need to disappear yesterday in crowded cities. The fact they might work fine in some backwater doesn’t make them a good idea in crowded cities. You can’t legislate or enforce something most people are lacking, namely common sense.

  • Larry Littlefield

    All that is required is to fence off the part of the park inside the roadway and ban people from going there by crossing the road.

  • Simon Phearson

    Simon didn’t know what someone was doing, he was concerned and dinged his bell to try to chase the person out of the way.

    This is entirely your projection. I didn’t detail all the preventative steps that I took, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t start to take steps once it became clear to me that the person was doing something unexpected. The point I’d made – and this is why I chose the more apt comparisons that I did – was that the jogger began behaving unexpectedly without my having enough time to effectively slow down or evade them. I slowed down, tried to guess where she was going, and did everything I could to avoid her, including BREAKING MY FUCKING SHOULDER.

    I didn’t try to chase her out of the way. I barely had time to react at all. But in the too-short moments that I had, I tried to slow, I used my horn, I tried to figure out how to avoid a crash. The point is, she ran in front of me, without looking, without any kind of indication what she was doing – irresponsibly, unpredictably, erratically – and I was able to stop in time – if only with the consequence that I crashed.

    Are you really this dense?

  • ahwr

    OK, but now let’s try the same thing but with cyclists and motorists.

    http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/08/watch_teen_recklessly_rides_bi.html#incart_river_home_pop

    If a driver sees a cyclist ‘playing chicken’ and blares a horn but doesn’t slow down, and then a crash results, I’d see it the same. The point is that ROW is not absolute, and having the ROW doesn’t absolve you from a responsibility to avoid a collision if you are able to do so.

    If I wanted to assign blame in the instance Simon described, I’m putting 90% on the pedestrian and 10% on him.

    From a vague description of one side of a story in a jurisdiction you aren’t familiar with? Little info, we’re both reading into it with our own biases. And no knowledge of the regulations in force in Chicago. Could be 90/10. Could be 10/90.

  • Absolutely wrong. I can tell you that a horn is indispensible for waking up pedestrians who wander out into the street without looking. Upon hearing a horn, such pedestrains do not dart in any old direction; they stop and back up in the direction from whence they came (which is where we want them to go).

  • Joe R.

    But what about the ones moving parallel to the bike, as on a mixed use path? Back when I had a horn on my bike, I noticed using it when approaching such people invariably caused them to go left, right into my path. To this day I have no logical explanation why, but the same thing has long been noted of cyclists who get honked at by motorists.

  • They look over their shoulders and veer away from the sound. This is what happens on the Hudson River Greenway.

    Note that you can blow a horn in many ways. You can squeeze the ball in such a way as to give it a quick toot; or else you can sound it loudly in an aggressive manner. Likewise with a horn on a motor vehicle. In fact, MTA / NYCT bus drivers evidently have a policy of giving a quick toot on the horn every time they pass a bicyclist. This is helpful and appreciated; indeed, it’s almost respectful. It is not anything like the aggressive and spiteful honking that we sometimes get from the mindlessly hostile drivers who object to our very existence.

    I suppose that a person who is startled by a loud horn blast might dart off unpredictably. But in my experience, giving a reasonably modulated horn toot to a runner or pedestrian moving parallel to bikes on a shared path works just fine to alert them to move over.

  • Joe R.

    I’ve noted bus drivers both giving a quick, friendly toot and moving left when they pass me. I don’t know if this is policy or not but I like the fact they acknowledge our existence in a non-hostile manner. I’ve also had friendly encounters with bus drivers late nights where we’re alternately passing each other, with the bus tooting and moving left when passing me, and me giving a wide berth when passing a bus stopping to pick up passengers. It often ends up like an impromptu race. That time of night, sometimes the buses beat me, other times I beat them. I’ve done this many times on Union Turnpike, starting from a chance encounter with a bus, at, say, 164th Street or Parsons Blvd., continuing all the way to city limits. The drivers seem to enjoy it as much as I do. I’ve even had a few compliment me when they finally caught up.

  • ahwr

    So long as we’re talking about adult pedestrians, it’s not too much to ask that they not act like children.

    Older children and adults I expect to behave at least semi-predictably when they’re in mixed company.

    Do you really believe this? If that was a reasonable expectation, don’t you think more people would driver better?

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2016/08/30/todays-headlines-2456/#comment-2867207386

    If you think that people under 30 might as a general rule not be qualified to be drivers of emergency vehicles and you’ve said repeatedly that upwards of 50% of the driving population might not be qualified to drive period, how much do you really expect of them outside of a car? Is the point that walking in the manner you expect of pedestrians on a MUP is so many orders of magnitudes simpler than driving that anyone 15+ can do it? Or is the point that the capability of harm is reduced so much that people not behaving perfectly causes little damage? Probably some combination of the two. How much is really reasonable to expect of people 15+ walking on a shared path?

  • Joe R.

    I never said I expect “perfect” behavior. I just expect that adults or older children aren’t suddenly going to stop dead and change direction on a mixed use path without even bothering to look if it’s clear. In fact, it’s bad etiquette to behave like this even on a crowded sidewalk.

    Is the point that walking in the manner you expect of pedestrians on a MUP is so many orders of magnitudes simpler than driving that anyone 15+ can do it? Or is the point that the capability of harm is reduced so much that people not behaving perfectly causes little damage?

    It’s a little of both. It’s far easier to control your own body, or even your body on a bike, then it is to control a powerful multi-ton machine with cumbersome controls (i.e. I would use a joystick to control motor vehicles, not a steering wheel and foot pedals). Driving a motor vehicle also has less room for error. A pedestrian can easily drift a few feet while walking along a mixed use path without causing any issues. A motorist often can’t. And as you say, the probability of harm is dramatically lower if a pedestrian does something really stupid compared to a motorist. Almost anyone 15+ can competently ride a bike or walk in such a manner as to get along with other users on a MUP. The skill level isn’t that high. Rather, it’s more a matter of wanting to behave this way because you’re considerate of others. Sad to say, people are far less considerate these days than they were in my youth. And I might attribute some of that to our politics, and some to living in suburbia. Without a sense of community, it’s really easy to devolve into selfish, inconsiderate behavior.

    And then you have crowded conditions as another incubator of this type of behavior. On many levels, I feel NYC, particularly Manhattan, is just too dense for its own good. You can have cities dense enough for subways without the stifling density of Manhattan. You might have 6 or 8 story apartment buildings along the subway lines. As you move further away from the subway the average dwelling size decreases. Maybe you’re down to 1 or 2 family homes by the time you’re 6 or 7 blocks from the subway. If you aim for everywhere to be within 1/2 a mile of a subway station then after a few blocks the density starts going up, and you’re back to 6 to 8 story apartments by the time you hit the next subway line. Most people can use the subway for work. The density is high enough overall so everyone, even those in single family homes, can easily walk or bike to their errands.

    When you start increasing density further with taller apartments near the subways, fewer or no private homes, then all you do is end up with overcrowded subway lines, streets teaming with automobiles (even if relatively few people drive), the need for delay-inducing traffic signals at most intersections, and so forth. Even infrastructure ends up more expensive to build or repair with a complex maze of pipes under the streets. And of course people resort to selfish, inconsiderate behavior in an environment where forward progress is measured mere feet at a time.

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