How Bad is it Out There? An Analysis of Road Rage in a Dozen Tweets and a Few Stats
On Saturday, we asked a simple question:
Today’s topic for #bikenyc: are drivers worse than ever? We are seeing continued speeding and lots of frustration from drivers who are apparently out of practice with a return of traffic. What are you seeing? Please reply.
— Streetsblog New York (@StreetsblogNYC) September 12, 2020
The tweet was motivated by the obvious threat caused by reckless driving these days (which killed three cyclists in the first 10 days of September). We all know drivers were speeding during the early days of the pandemic; in April, city speed cameras issued roughly 22,000 violations per weekday for speeding. But the recklessness has not truly abated as the lockdown has eased and more cars have flooded back to the roadways. In August, roughly 20,000 tickets per weekday were issued. (And given that there were more cars on the road in August, one can expect that plenty of speeding wasn’t captured by the city’s limited speed cameras.)
The answers we received did not surprise us — but might surprise a mayor who thinks he’s doing a great job.
Liz Patek, who tweets as @bikepeacenyc, said she’s seen the opposite of her Twitter account handle on the roads lately. She offered a tweet thread that should send shivers down the mayor’s spine — and then stiffen it:
I have been commuting by #bikenyc during the entire pandemic (pre pandemic also) as a frontline essential health care worker. 2/2
— Liz Patek (@bikepeacenyc) September 12, 2020
… I get so angry with BdB handling of all of this. Didn’t have to be this way. He had a chance to transform NYC streets for the better & frankly, he punted.
— Liz Patek (@bikepeacenyc) September 12, 2020
Her conclusion? Blame the mayor. (There’s a lot of that going around, what with major cities around the world, such as Paris, Milan, Bogota and many others, using the COVID-19 pandemic to reimagine their transportation networks to encourage sustainable modes, while here in New York, de Blasio long resisted the issue, eventually created a blue ribbon panel, and then ignored its findings.)
“I get so angry with [Bill de Blasio’s] handling of all of this,” she wrote. “Didn’t have to be this way. He had a chance to transform NYC streets for the better and frankly, he punted.”
The basics are obvious: drivers are reckless.
One thing that’s definitely true: red light running by drivers is up a ton, even at intersections where it’s objectively foolhardy. I saw three drivers make blind turns on red (two right, one left) into traffic they couldn’t see coming TODAY. https://t.co/dab79FyO60
— Rich Mintz (@richmintz) September 13, 2020
The recklessness has become routine:
Today I saw:
Several cars use bike lanes to pass cars
Oncoming traffic lane to pass me on a bicycle
A no stop right on red
Not today but during the week but I've seen multiple drivers treat red lights on Prospect St (Brooklyn) as stop signs.
— NYC Bike Lanes (@NYCBikeLanes) September 12, 2020
And speeding drivers tend to undermine de Blasio’s open dining strategy.
Was at an outdoor dining spot on Atlantic Ave last night & sitting in the roadway was mildly terrifying with people speeding past. Also seeing lots of people running reds, making illegal u-turns, reversing down a whole street, etc.
— Rebecca Kurland (@rebecca_kurland) September 13, 2020
Data expert Noel Hidalgo even had a short clip of a driver (with a horrendous record of speed-camera violations!) who tried to hit him as he cycled in Williamsburg:
this morning, this guy tried to run over @lafitzynyc & i. he menaced & harassed us with his vehicle while we were in the #bikenyc lane. then, he threatened to kill both us. go look up ny:hvc2176 on @HowsMyDrivingNY. 15 violations since 2018. 11 speeding tickets in school zones! pic.twitter.com/IXTDxzOs1R
— noel hidalgo -??? (@noneck) September 13, 2020
Some readers said that the mayor’s “open streets initiative” is partly to blame because the random nature of the car-free roadways adds a level of frustration for drivers, who learn too late that there is not a direct path through some neighborhoods. The mayor had been urged by activists, including Transportation Alternatives, to make sure the open streets were “longer and connected” rather than short, sometimes seemingly random, segments.
I agree about open Streets tantrums
— Brian (@FinallySock) September 13, 2020
Many readers put drivers on the COVID-19 couch:
That's just one of many times I've wondered wtf is wrong with drivers recently. Red light running, stop sign rolling, inability to yield all are at Pre-pandemic levels. Speeding is not as bad as when we were in lock down. I saw Fast & Furious speeds then. 2/2
— ? JC ????? (@Ny_jc_gal_17) September 13, 2020
And several readers addressed the rise in SAVs — not SUVs, but “Suburban Assault Vehicles” — on city streets:
— SocialQuirky (@SocialQuirky) September 13, 2020
As a result of all the reckless driving, cyclists are having to ride in a way that will likely bring enforcement against them, especially in communities of color, where riding on the sidewalk tickets are mostly written (as Streetsblog reported):
Seeing a lot more riding on sidewalks and I can’t blame them.
— C B (@heybees21) September 13, 2020
That’s something Streetsblog warned the mayor about at the very start of the COVID-19 pandemic: The recommendation to avoid transit would send many new cyclists onto the roads, and a lack of a massive increase in infrastructure would put them at risk of all the speeding drivers (which we also warned the mayor about early in the pandemic):
Also lots of newbie cyclists with not enough infrastructure to support them. 2nd Ave bike lane in Manhattan overcrowded.
— Lincoln Bardo (@bardo_lincoln) September 13, 2020
Cyclists have been most at-risk during this period of Wild Wild West driving, statistics show.
From April through June of 2020, 1,029 cyclists were injured in crashes, down from 1,396 during the same period last year. But that 26-percent drop in injuries came at a time when total vehicle miles traveled by car drivers was off 70 to 90 percent across the city. One would expect a much greater drop in injuries — indeed, injuries to car drivers was down 57 percent during the same period, according to CrashMapper, which compiles city data.
At the same time, some readers complained that the NYPD isn’t acting aggressively enough:
Yes, it's a bad situation because NYPD is MIA I guess because they're pissed off about BLM. It's the wild wild west out there. Cars are back, honking and obtrusive as ever. It's like they don't really belong in this new urban reality. They have to go.
— Steph Redford (@reds10001) September 13, 2020
“Just came back from a ride on the North Shore of Staten Island,” added Twitter user @waltz007. “Drivers know the police aren’t giving tickets, so they speed and drive reckless. I’m grateful to see more cyclists on the road.”
Our query even earned the attention of the city’s former Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe (who just got a job running the Brooklyn Botanic Garden):
Same. It's out of control.
— (((Adrian Benepe))) (@Adrian_Benepe) September 13, 2020
Finally, it does seem like one reader figured it out:
people are driving like they spent the whole quarantine playing GTA5
— sunthatrisesfromthewest (@j_bedoy) September 13, 2020