Cyclists Need Protection From Reckless Driving, Not From Themselves

The 19th Precinct, on the Upper East Side, tickets more cyclists than almost any other precinct in the city. So it was fitting that the above tweet this morning came from the 19th. It encapsulates NYPD’s failure to recognize how dangerous driving behaviors, not cyclists’ own actions, are the big threat to people on bikes.

The riding tips are all well and good, but will they “help prevent most collisions,” as the precinct suggests? The evidence says otherwise.

Of the 14 cyclist fatalities in New York City this year, 12 involved drivers breaking the law, according to data compiled by Streetsblog and Transportation Alternatives.

Five of the fatal crashes were hit-and-runs. Of those, one was the result of a driver failing to yield to Olga Cook; in another a driver ran a red light and killed an unidentified 41-year-old man; and a third was caused by a driver who appeared to deliberately strike Matthew von Ohlen.

In three other cases, evidence suggests cyclists had the right of way and were killed by drivers who failed to yield. Three more fatalities involved drivers impaired by marijuana or alcohol. And 33-year-old James Gregg was killed by the driver of an oversized truck on Sixth Avenue in Brooklyn, a neighborhood street where trucks are prohibited.

Meanwhile, motorists have killed at least 12 pedestrians in the 19th Precinct in the last two years while cyclists have killed none. Yet the precinct’s officers have focused overwhelmingly on ticketing cyclists. According to NYPD data, the 19th Precinct ticketed just 22 speeding drivers this year as of the end of June. Meanwhile, officers gave out 100 tickets to cyclists during a single two-day blitz in May.

  • Mathew Smithburger

    In June I witnessed a hit and run, where a speeding motorist, weaving in and out of traffic hit a cyclist on 8th Avenue and 50th Street. In July I witnessed a speeding moving truck run a red light and hit a person CAREFULLY entering a greenlight intersection. Everyday SUV (Uber, Gett, Lyft, taxi) drivers pass to close to cyclists, run red lights, speed, truck drivers, bus drivers and regular drivers run red lights, speed and endanger and challenge cyclists and pedestrians. In just the span of one day the City of New York could collect nearly a quarter of a million dollars in redlight and speeding fines. Yet the adminstration of the City of New York would rather hassel the victims because as we know “It’s insane to ride a bike in NYC”

  • notsurprised

    After all that they follow up with this…

  • walks bikes drives

    Honestly, I have no problem with this tweet. It drives me insane when people are riding around without lights at night. I have had enough near collisions on the Westside Greenway at night because I couldn’t see the oncoming cyclist because he didn’t have a light and my own light was on low beam so as to not blind oncoming cyclists.

  • notsurprised

    I agree lights are necessary, my point is made in context. this account earlier in the day posted a tweet claiming most collisions are caused by cyclists not following the rules, when NYPD’s own data shows exactly the opposite. Many users responded refuting their claim w/evidence. Then, instead of tweeting anything at all concerning drivers’ responsibility to not hit cyclists, they post another tweet under the general theme of victim blaming

  • harry smith

    Lazy, dishonest policing.

  • notsurprised

    And the hits keeps on coming (where is that helmet data from?)

  • AMH

    Good advice, but I hate stupid rhymes.

  • dpecs

    In isolation, I’m kind of okay with this — especially considering that, say, bikes wrong-waying down a bike lane can cause me to head into mixed traffic and get hit, that sort of thing.

    I think if this were coming from Transportation Alternatives rather than the 19th Precinct or the NYPD on the whole (which hasn’t done jack when it comes to the automotive side of Vision Zero enforcement), this wouldn’t be an issue.

  • It’s the wording: “following traffic rules will help prevent most collisions.”

    Nobody at TA nor any advocate believes this.

    I’m a huge TA supporter but would be immensely disappointed in them if they worded something this way.

  • walks bikes drives

    I agree that cyclists biggest threat is driver behavior. On bike, every time I’ve had a close call was based on a driver’s behavior or a pedestrian’s behavior, but I also ride very safely. But cyclists can also be a danger to themselves. Yesterday, while coming down the Rivington bike lane, a cyclist ran the red light, with two ear buds in his ears, and was almost creamed by a cab that was proceeding through the intersection with the right of way. Part of our problem with getting public opinion on our side is the agressiveness of some cyclists. While it is not all cyclists, it definitely a large number.

    But it makes no sense why the 19 precinct has their heads up their ads.

  • Simon Phearson

    Cue the usual Ferdinand response.

    I don’t necessarily disagree with you – I, myself, am a very “safe” rider, partly out of an interest in promoting good bike diplomacy, partly to save my own hide – but I’m not sure that browbeating other cyclists for their recklessness helps our cause. People ride how they want to ride. For the most part, they know the risks, and they take them, and they’ll continue doing that no matter how persuasive we are in telling them how they’re hurting the public perception of cyclists.

    It’s unfortunately a bit of a chicken and egg problem. Those cyclists won’t “behave” until they have cycling infrastructure that actually serves them, instead of simply shunting them to the side of infrastructure designed around moving car traffic. But getting the political capital to support better infrastructure seems to require more goodwill towards cyclists as a community.

    Personally, I think the way forward is not to browbeat cyclists but to educate drivers on the way that traffic works. Cycling misbehavior is a symptom of dysfunction and bad design, and it doesn’t make sense to point to it as a reason to endanger other cyclists by subjecting them fully to the risks of traffic. Cycling infrastructure isn’t a “benefit” or “amenity” that cyclists are asking drivers to provide to them; it’s simply a sane way of designing streets that both cyclists and drivers use, in the same way that sidewalks aren’t “gifts” from drivers to law-abiding pedestrians.

  • walks bikes drives

    It’s not the fact that they are saying follow the rules that is at issue, it is the fact that they are incorrectly putting the blame for most collisions on cyclists breaking the rules. While it is true that following the rules, whether the letter of the law or the intent, will lessen collisions, MOST is the issue.

  • walks bikes drives

    I agree. Is was speaking of the tweet in isolation.

  • walks bikes drives

    I hear you. And for a long time, I agreed and argued the same point. Your last paragraph, I totally agree with. But the idea that ALL cyclists would start following ALL the rules, or at least the important safety ones, once they have the infrastructure is complete bullshit, I have now come to believe. Intellectually, it makes total sense, but is not so in practice. One example: cars have infrastructure designed around them. But that doesn’t stop a lot of drivers from driving in ways that are not safe for themselves or others. Second example (and this is the one that really soured me to the idea): I live in the Columbus Ave and new Amsterdam Ave bike lane zones. I swore to my neighbors that, once the lane went in, the majority of salmoning would end in the Columbus Ave lane because northbound cyclists would now have protected infrastructure. Now, as someone wanting this result to happen, my bias would push me towards seeing this as reality. But, it is far from it. I have seen no change I salmoning behavior. And while it is mostly delivery cyclists, it is most definitely not all delivery cyclists. I also have seen little change in the instances of sidewalk biking, which I also expected to disappear. The anecdote in my post above was with cycling infrastructure in place. The area we were in was completely clear of obsticles in the lane. So while I agree that we can’t stop building infrastructure because of the reckless minority, this minority is disastrous in terms of PR, and they are not going to change with the addition of even high quality infrastructure. So yeah, we need more cycling infrastructure, we need driver education and enforcement, but I also think we do need ramped up enforcement on cyclists, but it has to be legitimate. T intersection stings, bell enforcement, etc is counterproductive. The police need to focus enforcement of dangerous driver behavior, over their current priority of tinted windows, and they need to focus on actual dangerous cyclist behavior.

  • Joe R.

    I tend to think the reason for the problems you see are still mostly the result of infrastructure. In this case they’re caused by substandard infrastructure rather than no infrastructure at all. Just slapping protected lanes on a Manhattan Avenue isn’t going to suddenly make it a cycling mecca. If the sidewalks are over capacity and they’re not widened, you’ll get pedestrians intruding into the bike lane. If a good number of people want to go both ways on the street in question, but the infrastructure is designed for one way only, you’ll get lots of salmoning. If you have traffic signals every single block you’ll get most cyclists ignoring red lights. If cyclists can’t safely ride at any speed they want they’ll choose not to use the infrastructure at all.

    Very little bicycle infrastructure in NYC meets the standards needed to ensure better cyclist behavior. We need infrastructure where cars and pedestrians can’t intrude by design. In general, bike infrastructure should be two-way even when the street is one-way for motor vehicles. We need enough room for safe passing. And we need to eliminate things which force cyclists to frequently slow down or stop, like traffic signals. Cycling for either transportation or recreation can be a joy with the right infrastructure. In NYC sadly it’s still mostly a tedious chore which only the brave or the really enthusiastic engage in. Put in infrastructure which meets all the criteria I mention and you’ll have a lot less bad cyclist behavior. Indeed, most “bad” cyclist behavior falls into the category of a cyclist failing to behave considerately when conflicts with other users occur. If bike infrastructure were properly designed, such conflicts wouldn’t even occur in the first place! Instead of expecting cyclists to slam on the brakes every block because people are crossing the street, how about we just design away such conflicts altogether?

  • walks bikes drives

    Again, I hear the argument. It makes sense intellectually. But it is still bullshit. The Westside Greenway is arguably the best infrastructure in the city, maybe the country, for cycling. Very few traffic lights to stop forward progress, bidirectional, essentially wide enough for safe movement, and yet, witness poor cyclists behavior. There are infrequent crosswalks across the Greenway that are clearly marked and it is known the pedesyrians have the right of way, yet cyclists violate that right of way constantly. Yesterday, as a gaggle of tourists were trying to cross in a crosswalk, I stopped for them but four bikes behind me pushed though, causing them to step back. Finally I swung my bike perpendicular to the path to block off the crosswalkso they could cross, forcing several other bikes to stop. It is a human nature thing. It is impossible to build the perfect infrastructure that will overrule human nature. Yesterday (I observed a lot in those 40 miles) a jogger on the path started tring to tell me that it was obnoxious to have my light on daylight strobe during the day. It would not have affected him had he been jogging on the beautiful pedestrian path where he was supposed to be, which happened to be fairly empty in the middle of the day. He had the availability of the highest quality infrastructure, but he still broke the rules. What’s the difference? Humans will be human, more importantly, Americans will be Americans. We want the infrastructure argument to work, I want it to work. It just doesn’t. Not in reality, because too many people are self-centered and self-righteous. If we want to really make cycling in this city safer, we have to address, somehow, the PR problem we have with safety issues. Just telling people they shouldn’t feel anger or hatred towards cyclists is not going to make them stop feeling those things, and it is not going to make them stop fighting the infrastructure upgrades. To this extent, I am all for a cop giving a cyclist a big as ticket for blowing though a crowded crosswalk against the light. Smack his ass with tickets for failure to yield and running the red light. But leave the guy who waits for the crosswalk to clear, and then proceeds through when completely safe, alone, because he is showing that he is exercising positive judgement. Even make a show of the tickets they are giving, as long as they are the right ones. I mean, give me a break, if drivers who have the best infrastructure imaginable with local roads up to superhighways still don’t “fall into step,” why would we put cyclists up on a mantle saying that we are better and would fall into step? We are just as human. We need reforms, but we are not going to get them easily if we keep making excuses for those that ruin our image and make it harder for these reforms to happen.

  • qrt145

    I’m very familiar with the bike lanes on Columbus and Amsterdam and I think they are pretty good. While you do get the occasional garbage truck etc. on the bike lane, pedestrians don’t use it as a sidewalk because they don’t need to; there aren’t the crowding issues you see in midtown.

    I can’t see what the benefit of salmoning would be unless both your origin and destination are on the avenue you are salmoning on and are very close. Why ride agains the green wave and get a red light every three blocks when you can ride with it and get one every ten blocks? (Depending on speed, of course.) I can understand the motivation for delivery workers, but for casual users, I say don’t be lazy and go around the block or walk.

    I’m not sure that having two-way bike lanes on Manhattan avenues would be very safe, but let’s leave that for some other time.

  • Simon Phearson

    I didn’t say that ALL cyclists would follow ALL the rules with perfect infrastructure. But anyway, I would note that one-way bike lanes on the avenues do not serve the needs of cyclists, so that’s why you see the kind of salmoning behavior that you do. Infrastructure for cyclists should more closely match what we build for pedestrians, in order for it to “work” for them; one-way bike lanes make about as much sense to the cyclist trying to get around as a one-way sidewalk would.

    I haven’t ridden the Columbus/Amsterdam lanes, but if they’re anything like the other pairs of uptown/downtown PBLs we have, I’m not surprised that people are still sidewalk riding, either, given that the PBLs we tend to get in this city are punctuated by mixing zones and don’t feel that safe, generally speaking.

  • Simon Phearson

    How many drivers on a highway would yield for pedestrians looking to cross the highway at a painted but otherwise uncontrolled crosswalk? There are probably better ways to design the Greenway/pedestrian conflicts you’ve described, that would encourage cyclists to stop when needed. And there’s probably an element of learned behavior at work, too – drivers typically don’t stop for pedestrians at uncontrolled crosswalks, while pedestrians typically wait for a break in traffic.

    But in any event, the case of the Greenway doesn’t really prove your point. The fact that cyclists still don’t observe all the traffic laws, all the time, while using the Greenway, doesn’t mean that having the Greenway hasn’t reduced the occurrence of bad cyclist behavior on other streets nearby generally. To really make the point you’re trying to make, we’d have to look to those streets – for instances of red light-running, salmoning, etc. I think we’d find that some cyclists in those areas do still violate the laws that apply to them, but the vast majority of cyclists who could be using those streets (and potentially violating the law) are instead using the Greenway. So overall red light-running would be down, salmoning down, but failure to yield to pedestrians along a narrow, specific corridor is up.

  • Simon Phearson

    Two-way bike lanes on Manhattan avenues, as the avenues themselves are currently designed, probably wouldn’t be that safe, no. But there’s no reason to take those avenues’ design for granted. The story might be very different if we had passenger car restrictions or – gasp! – actually took one of our avenues away from drivers entirely.

    The point of observing how one-way bike lanes on avenues fail to serve cyclist needs isn’t as much to argue in favor for two-way bike lanes but to explain why we’ll pretty much always see salmoning on the avenues.

  • If there were the political will, we could have on Manhattan avenues two-way bike lanes that are similar to the one found on Washington, D.C.’s 15th Street NW.

    But in order to get something like this, we’d need a lot of friends in the City Council. And to win friends in the City Council, we’d need to make the act of supporting bicyclists’ interests a less controversial and less politically risky thing for a Councilmember to do. And that we could do only by behaving better and becoming less hated — which is where the whole thing breaks down, because that seems very unlikely, on account of the attitudes and behaviours cited by Walks Bikes Drives.

    But, whereas he or she concludes that “Humans will be human, more importantly, Americans will be Americans”, I would take it down one level further and say “New Yorkers will be New Yorkers”. Bicyclists in Washington don’t behave like New York bicyclists. Neither do bicyclists in Philadelphia. In several trips down to each of those two nearby large cities over the past couple of years I can count on one hand the instances of wrong-way cycling that I saw. And I didn’t see a single instance of wrong-way riding within a one-way bike lane.

    So the problem is not human nature, nor even American disdain for regulations. It is something in our local culture. The barrier to the full mainstreaming of bicycling here in New York, and to the improvement and expansion of our bike-lane network, is probably always going to be the behaviour of too many New Yorkers who choose to ride, behaviour that makes bicyclists’ interests a topic which few politicians will wish to be associated with.

  • Nathan C Rhodes

    You’re missing a key aspect: the law is for cyclists to yield to pedestrians “within crosswalk” (read the signs on the Greenway). This means that if someone is already crossing on foot and is in the middle, cyclists must yield. It doesn’t mean that one person or a group of people can just start crossing and expect a group of people on bikes to stop. It is much easier and much more logical for a person to slow their gait by a step or half-step to wait for a cyclist or group of cyclists to cross than for the latter to come to a complete stop, then accelerate from zero again.

  • Nathan C Rhodes

    Furthermore, if you’re going to use anecdata, then I’ll use mine too. I see many more pedestrians crossing without paying any attention and nearly causing wrecks, or simply standing in the middle of the Greenway, or runners quickly changing direction without any indication of such, or pedestrians walking on the bicycle only section near Chelsea Piers, than cyclists blowing by pedestrians in the middle of the crosswalk or putting pedestrians in danger. Not to mention the dangerous crossings involving shared phases with right turning cars and bikes/peds, for example the one marked by a ghost bike at Chambers and the Greenway.

  • It doesn’t mean that one person or a group of people can just start crossing and expect a group of people on bikes to stop.

    Actually, it means exactly that.

    Furthermore, it means that bicyclists must yield to pedestrians who have not yet begun to cross. The pedestrians don’t have to place themselves in the path of bicyclists in order to gain the right of way; they need only to stand on the sidewalk and thereby indicate their desire to cross. We bicyclists have to stop for them; and when we don’t, we are being massive assholes.

    In your later comment you mention that many pedestrians walk on the bicycle-only section of the Greenway. This complaint if valid. I would love to see some attention paid to this problem, as well as to the problem of pedestrians on the bike paths of the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges, and pedestrians walking in the bike lanes of Eighth Avenue and of Clinton Street.

    But the complaint about “pedestrians crossing without paying any attention” is without merit. Every bicyclist — like every driver — has to be ready to stop at any moment.

    I as a bicyclist would greatly prefer if pedestrians behaved predictably and sensibly. But many of them, being self-absorbed idiots, do not. Still, this does not absolve me as a bicyclist from the responsibility of not hitting them. Pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users; and everyone else must legitimately accept restrictions and annoyances (such as the requirement that we come to a stop at a crosswalk and then start again from zero) for the sake of pedestrian safety.

    An important point is that whenever any vehicle (be it a bicycle or a car) hits a pedestrian, it is the always 100% the fault of the operator of the vehicle, never of the pedestrian, even when that pedestrian is crossing against the light, or crossing in the middle of the block, or walking into the street without looking, etc. If a driver or a bicyclist cannot avoid hitting a pedestrian who suddenly appears in his/her path, that means that the driver or bicyclist was going too fast, or not paying attention, or both. This is a truth that needs ultimately to be enshrined in law.

  • Nathan C Rhodes

    The letter of the law, as per the signs I read every day, is bicyclists must “yield to pedestrians within crosswalk”. We both know what within means. Can you support your response with the part of the code that says “bicyclists must yield to pedestrians who have not yet begun to cross”? If so, how close do the pedestrians have to be? How do we know whether or not they have begun to cross or when they are going to begin to cross? Can they be running across? This leaves a lot of room for interpretation, which does not make for good code.

  • Nathan C Rhodes

    Once again, this is entirely a NYC/USA issue that doesn’t happen in cities where bikes are mainstream and part of the banal, daily life. Have you been to Amsterdam or Copenhagen? There bicycles and pedestrians know their place, and one person walking along a path used by more people on bikes than people on foot doesn’t get to make 10 people on bikes going each way come to a complete stop. Watch pedestrians cross bike paths there. There are no lights (except at intersections with cars) and no signs telling bicyclists to slow down for them. People are logical. The pedestrian waits. He or she doesn’t make large groups of people on bikes slow down for one person crossing. Let’s not forget bicycles don’t have brake lights or a universal way to quickly indicate they’re slowing down. The people behind me can’t even necessarily see the crosswalk or people waiting at it. There are dozens of people biking by in each direction at rush hour. On paths with no infrastructure regulating behavior, logic rules out. And I hold it is clearly more logical for the pedestrian(s) to wait in these situations. Until they install timed lights for pedestrians and bikes (which is not going to happen because there are not enough pedestirans), logic wins out and I will adhere to the meaning of the word “within” (unless you can show another section of the code that refutes that).

    I walk across the Greenway all the time, too. I have no problem waiting 3 seconds for a cyclist who is moving at a faster speed than I am, but not a dangerous speed and not even necessarily faster than people running or jogging, because I know that it’s easier for me to wait than for that person to downshift, stop, put a foot down, and then start again. It’s common sense. Side note, comparing bikes and pedestrians with cars and pedestrians in crosswalks is hyperbolic.

    And yes, there are plenty of times a person can walk in front of a bike, with a bike travelling at less than 10 MPH, and it’s impossible to avoid that person. I had a person walk into the side of my bike once. The side. Pray tell, how should I have avoided that? By stopping before this person even stepped foot in the crosswalk? Frankly, that’s absurd.

    Lastly, I’ll be the first to say I can’t stand the spandex warriors hitting 30 MPH on the Greenway, but the vast majority of people on bikes are doing less than 12, and I know that because I have a speedometer and I pass them doing 12.

  • Nathan C Rhodes

    Ҥ4-04 Pedestrians
    (b) Right of way in crosswalks
    (1) Operators to yield to pedestrians in crosswalk
    (2) Pedestrians shall not cross in front of oncoming vehicles
    (3) Vehicles stopped for pedestrians”

    Again, in crosswalk. Not “about to cross” or “near” crosswalk. Common sense. Vast majority on bikes are not going fast enough to cause anything more than a few bruises. In fact, I imagine a person on a bike falling off of his bike after a slow-moving collision or near miss is in greater danger than the pedestrian who was hit or nearly hit.

  • Joe R.

    I’ll even go one step further and say that given the relative lack of decent places to ride in this city, places like the Hudson River Greenway should have a defacto “yield to bicycles” rule instead of the other way around. Yield to pedestrians just doesn’t make sense for the reasons you say. And to me it’s adding insult to injury to require it on one of the few places in the city where cyclists aren’t subjected to hordes of motor vehicles, stop signs, or traffic signals every block.

  • Joe R.

    Strictly speaking yield doesn’t mean stop. It means to give the right-of-way. You can do that in a number of ways, such as changing speeds, going around the person crossing, or even creeping along slowly until they’re out of your path. Given the narrow width of both bicycles and pedestrians, it’s rare that you need to completely stop in order to yield.

    If a driver or a bicyclist cannot avoid hitting a pedestrian who suddenly appears in his/her path, that means that the driver or bicyclist was going too fast, or not paying attention, or both. This is a truth that needs ultimately to be enshrined in law.

    On a regular urban surface street this is mostly true. Reasonable exceptions can be made if the person suddenly darts out from an invisible location when you’re too close to stop, provided you’re doing the speed limit or less.

    On highways no such rule exists. A pedestrian on a highway is trespassing. Same thing with one on railroad tracks or subway tracks. And I’d also say this applies on some of the few places in NYC which are analogous to bike highways, like the Hudson River Greenway, especially once you get north of midtown. As a society, we have certain areas where pedestrians are expressly forbidden in the interests of transportation efficient. If not for that, then every mode would be limited to 20-25 mph or less all the time.

  • Joe R.

    The problem is still lack of enough infrastructure to absorb the volume of users. Whatever its merits, the Hudson River Greenway has become a victim of its own success. It was originally supposed to be mainly for recreation. It ended up functioning as a major bike trunk route because of the lack of anything similar nearby. We really should have something similar perhaps on 8th Avenue, on both sides of Central Park, and maybe on 1st or 2nd Avenue. “Similar” means something non-stop, and free of pedestrians or motor traffic. Logistically, we would probably need viaducts. Of course, good luck with that. Far too many livable streets advocates are almost religious about everything being on the same level. Most of those who aren’t are afraid to ask for the money needed for a big project like this. Nevertheless, if/when NYC ever gets enough decent infrastructure to deal with the volume of potential cyclists I think behavior overall would improve markedly. Just physically separating bikes and pedestrians for most of a cyclist’s trip sharply reduces the chances for negative interactions.

    We also need to realize manners and consideration in general go out the window under very crowded conditions. In a nutshell, I think this is most of the reason NYC seems to have a greater share of assholes than other places. Density is wonderful up to a point but I think much of the city is too dense for its own good. Either that, or we need to take serious steps to get rid of the least space efficient user of our streets, namely private automobiles, to reduce the crowding. Manhattan without private autos might actually become fairly civil.

  • Nathan C Rhodes

    Furthermore comma the signs on the Hudson River Greenway are actually reflecting state law, which I cite here.” No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impractical for the driver to yield.” Noticed that it does not even say impossible for the driver to yield, and bicyclists are considered drivers of vehicles in the eyes of the law, it says impractical to yield. I made a very clear-cut case that it is Impractical for groups of bicyclists to yield to pedestrians crossing the Hudson River Greenway. I rest my case based on logic and the letter of the law

  • You’re right that a driver has no obligation to expect pedestrians on a highway.

    But the Hudson River Greenway is not analogous. As much as we would like it to be a “bike highway”, it is in fact no such thing. The Greenway is flanked by an ordinary street on one side and a series of parks on the other. Pedestrians have a legitimate right to cross the Greenway, unlike any highway.

    Also, several sections of the Greeway itself are mixed-use, meaning that pedestrians are explictly allowed to be there. (Though they improperly walk/run on the other sections where they are not meant to be, places where a separate pedestrian path is available.)

    I recently rode my bike to Washington, D.C. In that ride, I was on U.S. 40 in Delaware and Maryland for about 55 miles. While pedestrians are not actually prohibited on that road, they are pretty rare. Riding on that road made me realise that all highways should have adjacent bike lanes to facilitate long-distance and high-speed bike travel. It would have been ideal if the Interstates were built with this feature.

    But, because this was not done, there unfortunately are no “bike highways”, no places where only bicycles may go, and where pedestrians are prohibited. So our obligation to yield to pedestrians is pretty much unavoidable, and it exists even on the Hudson River Greenway.

  • For bicyclists to yield to pedestrians crossing the Greenway is not impractical; it’s just annoying.

    You might retort that that stopping suddenly while going at a high rate of speed would be impractical. The solution: do not pass crosswalks at a high rate of speed. We should slow down and be ready to stop when approaching a crosswalk within the Greenway. And, if there are people waiting to cross, we should stop and let them go.

  • Nathan C Rhodes

    Ferdinand, I would maintain that it is impractical for cyclists riding in a line to yield or stop because they cannot communicate to one another their actions, and the cyclists in back cannot see through the cyclists in front of them. And I don’t mean in a line like a peloton. I mean like the normal riders riding in rush hour every day. It is unsafe for me to slow down to nearly zero with people behind me being unable to predict that. It is much more practical and safer for the pedestrian to simply wait. Also I’m aware there are zones that are very narrow where the signs say bikes must yield at all times. I understand and support that, but that’s not what I’m referring to.

  • walks bikes drives

    The other night, I was coming up the Greenway at a fairly high rate of speed, northbound at about 22mph. A well dressed couple on their way to the Frying Pan, or one of those shishi places there stepped out into the crosswalk as I crossed it, causing them to kind of jump back in surprise, because they didn’t look before crossing to see that I was there. I was coming up the path well with lights on. I could not see them at the crosswalk because their clothes completely blended in with the plantings alongside the crosswalk at night. In this case, it was impractical for me to stop or otherwise yield to them because I was within a few feet, at most, from the crosswalk as they started. However, I still ruminate for the next several mules about what I could have done differently, and shouted a quick “sorry.”

  • walks bikes drives

    When you are riding, if you are not in a peloton where the members can communicate with each other, you need to give enough space between riders that you have a clear view up ahead. If you can’t do that while drafting another rider, you must suck it up and not draft. Anything less is just completely unsafe.

  • walks bikes drives

    I wasn’t missing anything in this case I was giving above. The pedestrians were actually in the middle of the crosswalk. They had crossed the northbound side but couldn’t complete their crossing of the southbound side because cyclists were not yielding. There was plenty of opportunity for the other riders to do so. I was the lead of the group coming down that I was referring to, and I was travelling at 18-20mph at the time. I saw them begin to cross and came to a full stop for them without needing to even brake that hard. Others chose to not brake at all, when they were legally obligated to. And I see this all the time.

  • walks bikes drives

    I am of the same interpretation of the law that you are, that the pedestrian must be in the crosswalk. To me, a pedestrian is in the crosswalk as soon as they fully commit to enter the crosswalk by beginning their step into the crosswalk. Otherwise, they could just be waiting there on the corner for a friend, or just out watching the bikes, etc. However, while I agree somewhat that pedestrians should look both ways and only proceed to cross when it i’s safe, to me it is safe to cross as long as the cyclists could reasonably slow down. When I cross the Greenway on foot, I do it the same way you do, waiting for a break when I will not inconvenience to many cyclists, but this is a personal choice that I am making, because I could exercise my rights and inconvenience any number of cyclists as long as I was stepping out where the cyclists reasonably could yield, even if it included hard braking.

  • walks bikes drives

    I used an example of poor pedestrian behavior as one of my anecdotes. My argument is that a lot of this bad behavior is human nature, and I said it was American human nature. These are all examples that work to what I am saying as well. I am not vilifying all cyclist behavior, just as I do not vilify all pedestrian behavior or all driver behavior, because I would be vilifying myself in each case. I am saying that we have a public relations issue between cyclists and pedestrians (I am not even going to bother with the driver/cyclists or driver/pedestrian issue because, in those, it is not PR issues but almost purely pompas as issues) which is making getting better cycling accommodations much much harder. So many people use the if you build it, they will be better argument that just simply is not holding true. So, somehow, we need to stop coming up with excuses for bad cyclist behavior and find a way to fix it. I am not saying we need every cyclist to be a stepford cyclist and stop at every red light because it is red. I’m saying we need cyclists to only cross crosswalks and run red lights when they areach able to safely for both themselves and the other road users. Part of that has to do with spacing. I was going back and forth with another cyclist on Gothamist a few weeks ago who said he wouldnt hesitate to thread a crosswalk if there is 3 feet between the pedestrians. In this case, he wouldn’t likely come into contact with either pedestrian, but this is way too close for a pedestrian’s comfort, which will give that pedestrian a negative feeling towards cyclists. And if the cyclist, who is doing that because he is so sure of himself, misjudged speed and spacing, that is a dangerous situation. As a pedestrian, on that case, I wouldn’t be so adverse to pointing ahead of me all of a sudden. Oops, sorry for the clothesline.

  • walks bikes drives

    And for the record, I cannot stand pedestrians on the bicycle only portion of the Greenway. But of there is going to be no enforcement, even just officers telling people to use the pedestrian path, it will never change. It is worst on weekends, but not too bad on weekdays.

  • Nathan C Rhodes

    Walks bikes drives, in the real world, at 8:30 am or 5:45pm on the busiest bike path in this country, there are thousands of cyclists, riding at safe speeds on upright bikes in their work attire, who nonetheless cluster up because of natural riding patterns and narrow lanes making it difficult to immediately pass the very slow riders or joggers or walkers. In these conditions, it is not reasonable, logical, practical or safe for the front person or people im such a group to significantly reduce their speed in order to let one or two pedestrians cross. It is much easier for that pedestrian to just wait. That is my opinion. I think it’s well founded and I see it borne out every day. The law is not my opinion. Cyclists do not have to yield to the pedestrians here unless the pedestrians are in the crosswalk.

    We need to make cycling banal, commonplace and unnoteworthy. Bikes and pedestrians mix well in many parts of the world. Where there are more bikes, rules should favor them. Where there are more pedestrians, let bikes be the guests. During morning and evening rush, the HR Greenway is primarily a path for people commuting by bike. The people doing yoga or eating at the cafés should respect that. I certainly do when I bike to the cafés or parks along the paths and walk to and from them. On the contrary, during non peak hours, the path is clearly being used more for leisure, and the spandex-clad hardcore cyclists should respect that.

  • walks bikes drives

    I am well aware of what the “real world” is like on the bike path. I am not a spandex warrior, but I do happen to be able to keep up a strong pace, which shortens my commute. I along happen to ride for leisure as well, again, at a swift pace. But try this little exercise: take your comment above and, in each case where you refer to a cyclist, overwrite it with driver or car. If there is a line of ten cars waiting to make a right turn, should the pedestrian wait on the corner for all ten cars to turn before crossing, since it is just one or two pedestrians now inconveniencing a line of cars? If a driver said I couldn’t possibly see the pedestrian at the crosswalk because I was just naturally packed in too tightly with the other cars, and too close to the car in front of me… yes, I know a bike is not a car, but the premise is the same. When I am commuting down the Greenway, I am almost always going southbound with a headwind. When I can, I will draft off another cyclist, as well as allow that cyclist to draft off of me. While I am drafting, I will always have a clear view of the road conditions ahead so that if he stopped short, I would be well aware of why and able to myself. If not, I back off and lose the ability to draft. Why? Because this is what common sense requires for the safety of myself and others. If the cyclist in front of you stops short for any reason, you need to be able to do the same no matter what. Period. Or else you are not riding safely. Period.

  • ahwr

    >I’m not sure that having two-way bike lanes on Manhattan avenues would be very safe

    Can a bike lane be communicated to cyclists as only appropriate for slow riding? Forget how for a moment. Think of a contraflow lane like a local access street, not a long distance travel corridor. Ride slow to avoid having to go around the block. Does it have value?

  • Nathan C Rhodes

    Again, as I said in a comment to Ferdinand, comparing bikes with cars is hyperbolic and counterproductive. Cars are dangerous at any speed. Bicycles are not. Cars and people do not mix at all. In civilized cities cars are restricted to narrow lanes and low speeds. Not the case here. Also, the vast majority of intersections with cars and people are with stoplights. That’s not what we’re talking about on the HR Grewnway. You’re building a straw man and conflating bicycles where 90% of users go 10mph and total mass is maybe 200 pounds with cars that weigh at least a ton and routinely go 30MPH plus. Also, cars and pedestrians should never share a light phase.

  • ahwr

    >However, I still ruminate for the next several mules about what I could have done differently,

    Should any requirement to travel at speeds appropriate for conditions require cyclists to slow to a crawl when approaching a low visibility crosswalk? When drivers approach one? If not, do low visibility crosswalks function with stop signs, or not at all, for pedestrians ? Is that desirable? Considering the effect from the point of view of a driver or cyclist that an individual crosswalk functioning poorly for pedestrians might have doesn’t do justice to the true state of the walking environment.

  • DRSte

    Sounds like a work/revenue ticketing choice.

  • Andrew

    “Within crosswalk” defines the location at which cyclists must yield to pedestrians, not the time in which you make the decision whether or not to yield.

    Let’s forget about cyclists and pedestrians for a minute and focus only on motorists. The law states that motorists making turns across opposing traffic must yield to other vehicles lawfully within the intersection. Does that make it legal for a motorist to turn left across the path of an oncoming vehicle that has not yet reached the intersection? Of course it doesn’t – a motorist who does that hasn’t yielded in the intersection, and it makes no difference that the oncoming vehicle hadn’t yet quite reached the intersection when the turning motorist began the conflicting turn.

    Getting back to cyclists and pedestrians – if you’re required to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk, you need to look for pedestrians both in and approaching the crosswalk, and if your intended movement conflicts with the pedestrian’s intended movement, you need to wait to allow the pedestrian to proceed. That’s what it means to yield.

    Please don’t antagonize pedestrians by breaking the law at their expense – you probably want us pedestrians on your side.

  • Nathan C Rhodes

    Not comparable. To me personally this is a non issue because I go slow enough to react. Please see how this situation is handled in cities where cycling is commonplace. There are times and places when bikes should tske precedence and priority over pedestrians HR Greenway at rush hour is one. It’s not antagonizing anyone to recognize this. And comparing HR Greenway to cars not yielding while turning left, the number one cause accidents, is simply absurd.

  • Nathan C Rhodes

    Also, Andrew, you missed a key part of the left turn law.” vehicle intending to
    turn to the left within an intersection or into an alley, private road,
    or driveway shall yield the right of way to any vehicle approaching from
    the opposite direction which is within the intersection or so close as
    to constitute an immediate hazard.” The “or so close…” is missing in the example we’ve been discussing here. You’ve done your argument further disservice by inadequately referring to traffic code.

  • qrt145

    It has some value, but usually not much because the blocks are usually tiny. Contraflow lanes on Manhattan streets would be more useful because the blocks are long. (I’m thinking of a scenario where you use the contraflow lane for about half a block, to reach your destination without having to go around the block. When I’m in that situation I presently just walk the bike; it’s not that hard.)


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