"We absolutely have an emergency on our hands."
July 12, 2019 9:47 AM   Subscribe

It’s Shocking How Badly New York City Is Failing Cyclists. "For [Robyn] Hightman, riding a bike was everything: It represented work, recreation, and family. But the city Hightman had embraced so completely wound up fatally failing them."
posted by showbiz_liz (78 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
For those who don't read the full article, I would like to bring this paragraph to your attention:
On July 5, during what should have been one of the first days of the driver crackdown, the drivers of an NYPD SUV veered into a bike lane in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood and physically ran over a bicycle in an attempt to pull over a cyclist (who, fortunately, jumped off the bike before it was hit and wasn’t harmed).
posted by hoyland at 10:07 AM on July 12, 2019 [15 favorites]


God yes, that was absolutely terrible - and look at the photo. The bike was destroyed.

This article includes several great examples of the NYPD's sociopathic disregard for cyclists, but this one may be the most just-plain-insulting: "In response to this sense of emergency and to politicians’ lack of urgency in creating a safer city, a coalition of cycling groups staged a mass die-in in Manhattan’s Washington Square Park on Tuesday evening to bring more attention to the issue. Nearby, as protesters gathered, an NYPD vehicle was parked in a bike lane."
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:09 AM on July 12, 2019 [8 favorites]


It's brutal out there right now, and it's certainly gotten worse in the last few years. I'm tempted to blame Uber, but really everyone seems to be driving faster and caring less. Car design, street design, and maybe just the callousness required to live in this nation, I think they all have an impact. I'm certain, based on the experience of riding a bicycle in some city everyday for most of my life, that motorist see cyclists and pedestrians as inherently lower in importance than themselves. I guess they have to, in order to threaten someones life for mere seconds.

And as for the NYPD, they hate cyclists with a passion I'll never understand. It's pathological.

Tangentially, I love the Tour De France and have been watching it all week. Most of the advertisements for future broadcasts feature crashes, and almost all the advertising is car related. The one bicycle related ad that keeps running is another virtual, ride on a trainer at home, system. One of the selling points is that it's safer than... actually riding a bike on the streets.

It's all wildly exasperating, but one thing I'll never ever do is stop riding a bicycle. When you ride a bicycle you are free. Maybe that's the problem, maybe it's an inherently anti-capitalist action. That would explain a lot.
posted by pilot pirx at 10:16 AM on July 12, 2019 [17 favorites]


And that's one of the bikes used by CitiBike, Capital Bikeshare, etc.

Those things are built to be indestructible tanks, and weigh about 50 pounds. I've never seen one damaged remotely that badly.

....and NYC's not the only one failing. After making Vision Zero a priority during her campaign, DC's mayor could not be bothered to give a fuck about pedestrian or cyclist safety, and deaths have skyrocketed under her watch. After some promising progress earlier this year (after a tragic string of deaths), there was some promising progress, which now appears to have been completely undone – safety advocates are now just dismissed as "special interests," whose concerns are not worth consideration.
posted by schmod at 10:16 AM on July 12, 2019 [8 favorites]


It’s basically legal to murder people with your car this country if the person is on a bike.
posted by The Whelk at 10:21 AM on July 12, 2019 [40 favorites]


A person on a bike isn't driving a car. A person on foot isn't driving a car. A person on transit isn't driving a car. The truly enormous car-related and car-infrastructure-related industries would really prefer that you were driving a car.

Yes, it's capitalism, but it's not that bikes are bad, it's that bikes vs cars, like green energy vs carbon energy, represent a colossal upheaval in the status quo. And we can't be having that around here, y'all.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:24 AM on July 12, 2019 [2 favorites]


It’s basically legal to murder people with your car this country if the person is on a bike.
or walking, or in a stroller, or sitting, or
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:27 AM on July 12, 2019 [15 favorites]


I would joke about convincing my enemies to ride bikes if it wasn't so bleak.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:28 AM on July 12, 2019 [2 favorites]


car culture can't explain why so many non-involved non-driver non-cyclists are still totally okay with believing cops when they say that cyclists are menaces who should be run down with SUVs on the street. it's creepy as hell.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:31 AM on July 12, 2019 [11 favorites]


DC's mayor could not be bothered to give a fuck about pedestrian or cyclist safety, and ... safety advocates are now just dismissed as "special interests,"

Yes, and her administration feels the same.
posted by exogenous at 10:32 AM on July 12, 2019 [1 favorite]




It’s basically legal to murder people with your car this country if the person is on a bike.
or walking, or in a stroller, or sitting, or


Emphasis mine - this article's title describes them as pedestrians, but the two men were sitting on a bench. This happened yesterday. Drivers are a menace.

I'm tempted to place at least some of the blame on Uber, too. At least once a week my bus can't pull up properly to a stop because a rideshare-stickered car is idling there, blocking the bus and the bike lane (when there is one). It's more cars on the road and more seemingly inexperienced drivers.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 10:44 AM on July 12, 2019 [4 favorites]


i've been run the fuck down by over a dozen cyclists in my life in nyc and with the current state of my terrible spine, another time could potentially kill me, and yet i still don't think that cops preemptively murdering them is okay. which, considering i am mefi's most vocal advocate for vengeance cannibalism, should tell you something.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:49 AM on July 12, 2019 [29 favorites]


[This is another thing that comes up every time we discuss car vs. bike issues - please take a minute to read the content, consider the actual subject of the thread, and be very thoughtful and careful if you're going to do anything that looks like shifting the blame onto the victims, because it's a shitty pattern and does no one any good. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:50 AM on July 12, 2019 [21 favorites]


For what it's worth I just took a look at the NYPD's numbers for traffic collisions in the most recent month for which there are data, May 2019.

In that time there were over 19,000 collisions, and the most common cause cited - 32% of them! - was "Driver inattention/distraction."
posted by entropone at 10:55 AM on July 12, 2019 [1 favorite]


There are indeed scofflaw bikers. But from what I've seen, most of them are either kids or bike delivery men, neither of whom are all that well versed on transit laws), with only a small handful of them being dudebro bikers who wouldn't give a shit anyway.

By contrast, the people in the cars have theoretically been tested and vetted for their understanding of traffic laws, and these laws include "sharing the road with bikes". So the scofflaw bikers may simply be ignorant of the law, but scofflaw drivers were expressly told the law and tested on their understanding of the law, but have since decided they don't care. And that is the greater sin.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:57 AM on July 12, 2019 [5 favorites]


Part of why the NYPD is so anti-bike is that a majority of NYPD officers live in parts of the city that are car-heavy, or car-only. Places like Staten Island and Outer Queens (Rockaways, Howard Beach, Whitestone, etc.) They don't have to "share the road" in their civilian lives, and so there's no incentive for them to learn how to respect cyclists.
posted by SansPoint at 10:58 AM on July 12, 2019 [4 favorites]


The absolute vehicular lawlessness on NYC streets is mindboggling. Outside my office window is a wide-ass avenue. Street parking on both curbs; a buffered bike lane which is filled with doubleparked car - often cops. The other side is often doubleparked, too, mostly cars but often trucks, and there's a single lane of moving traffic. Cops, newsvans, and others park on the sidewalk, and in my short walk to the subway I can't safely cross streets because drivers are always inching through the crosswalk. Yesterday I saw a cop going the wrong way up a one-way street and turn across traffic on a red light to go the wrong way on another one-way street.

It's fucking bonkers and it results in just a litany of small indignities - waiting another light cycle for there to be room for you in the crosswalk, having to walk out into traffic to cross the street, having to dodge piles of trash in the bike lane, having a truck nudge its way through the street when you have the right of way - that, added up, become absolutely infuriating because any one of those could be the one that actually does kill you.
posted by entropone at 10:59 AM on July 12, 2019 [8 favorites]


i've been run the fuck down by over a dozen cyclists in my life in nyc and with the current state of my terrible spine, another time could potentially kill me, and yet i still don't think that cops preemptively murdering them is okay. which, considering i am mefi's most vocal advocate for vengeance cannibalism, should tell you something.

I was impressed and moved to see that one of the speakers at the die-in protest was Hindy Schachter, whose husband was struck and killed by a cyclist five years ago. From this NYT coverage of the protest: "She was there, she said, because she blamed inadequate road design and infrastructure for her husband’s death, not the cyclist who ran into him."
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:03 AM on July 12, 2019 [10 favorites]


Recent bike-vs-cop anecdote from San Diego. The SDPD were having a bit of a totally-not-ticket-quota-driven crackdown on speeders recently, and I got to watch as a bicyclist was forced to make an emergency swerve into traffic when they came around a blind curve on a steep downhill where the police had helpfully parked their cruiser at an angle directly blocking the bike lane. At those speeds, the cyclist had maybe half a second to react, and would have been instantly killed except that he was lucky enough to have a small break in traffic right when he needed it. The police are actively working to make riding a bicycle more dangerous then it already is with the crazy southern California drivers.

Unrelated, but I have a strong impulse every time I see a bird/uber/lyfe electric scooter lying on the sidewalk to throw it directly into traffic, or heap them in piles in front of the mayors house.
posted by KeSetAffinityThread at 11:12 AM on July 12, 2019 [7 favorites]


I don't envy NYC riders. Here in my smaller city the riding is getting progressively worse. Ubers and Lyfts not only double park in bike lanes, but routinely race past me and then suddenly cut right into my lane to get a fare just that little bit faster. I was right hooked FIVE TIMES this morning on a 4 mile ride. That's five times a driver drove right past me and decided it was perfectly fine to maybe kill me. I've seen the body of a cyclist in an intersection I pass through every day. He was sliced in half by an 18 wheeler that decided to take a left from the right lane. Think the driver got any jail time? I used to love riding, but each year it gets worse. I fear my commute will one day kill me.
posted by Lighthammer at 11:15 AM on July 12, 2019 [6 favorites]


Yeah a lot of NYPD are from Queens and LI, I get that. But, really, cops protect the status quo and like seanmpuckett says above, bicycles ain't it.

It's more cars on the road and more seemingly inexperienced drivers. It's a cliche, but the yellow cabs are maniacs and I rode alongside them for YEARS (with no bike lanes!) and it never ever felt as dangerous as it does right now.
posted by pilot pirx at 11:16 AM on July 12, 2019 [6 favorites]


My office window looks out on a minor street which is the official, posted bicycle route through this part of town. Hundreds of bicycles pass out there each day. The speed limit is 25mph, and my section is a hill. It's only moderately busy as a car street, and probably half of all cars that pass, turn into a parking lot across the street.

I just saw a bicycle, going in the downhill direction, probably traveling between 15 and 20mph. A minivan was politely rolling along behind, not passing the bicycle, which makes sense since the street ends at the end of the block, they're both going to have to turn onto another street down there, and they're both going to have to slow down for that. Normal and good, right? But then a second car just floored it to pass both the minivan and the bicycle, on the double yellow line, in front of the busy driveway.

What on earth. I cannot even... but this is actually considered sane and normal behavior, by a vocal minority of drivers. I weep for us all.
posted by elizilla at 11:20 AM on July 12, 2019 [7 favorites]


Emphasis mine - this article's title describes them as pedestrians, but the two men were sitting on a bench. This happened yesterday. Drivers are a menace.

Oh, man, I remember that Channel 4 tweet embedded in the article. For those that can't see it:
Crews clean up the debris from last night’s accident on Penn. Ave NW. 2 people on benches in Monroe Park were killed when the SUV left the road and slammed into them.
Look at the heavy lifting the passive voice and the unwillingness to criticize car culture does here! As many people tweeted back, this was a crash and not an accident, and the SUV didn't "leave the road," the driver (at best) lost control over their multi-ton vehicle. But that's how opponents of pedestrian and bicyclist safety think, a mindset that will always prioritize drivers and will never admit they are at fault.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:26 AM on July 12, 2019 [18 favorites]


Elizilla, I have had a car pass both me (on a bike, going uphill) and the car behind me, blowing through the stop sign I was almost at and racing into an ACTIVE FOUR WAY INTERSECTION where other cars had to slam on their brakes in order to avoid hitting them. It was terrifying. One of the main reasons I gave up biking here was insane aggro moves like that.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:27 AM on July 12, 2019


I don't have experience riding a bike in NYC specifically, but I've heard my share of complaints about the lawlessness of cyclists where I live too. Maybe cyclists in NYC really are worse scofflaws. I don't know. What I do know is that people don't often complain about the lawlessness of motorists. That's an acceptable form of lawlessness.

I don't like it when I see cyclists doing obviously stupid stuff or egregiously flouting the law, because it just reinforces a stereotype that endangers all cyclists. I also don't like it when I see motorists doing the same because that has a good chance of killing me right now.
posted by adamrice at 11:34 AM on July 12, 2019 [5 favorites]


I bike commute every day and I don't recommend it to anyone. I don't go through the city center, so my most frequent danger is oncoming traffic left turns and friggin Ubers swerving to the curb, or their doors just friggin opening while in the active car lane. Ubers are like, hey, you thought I was a boring sedan but NO I am inexperienced taxi driver who will do aNYTHING to make my fare happy!
posted by turkeybrain at 11:37 AM on July 12, 2019 [8 favorites]


Elizilla, I have had a car pass both me (on a bike, going uphill) and the car behind me, blowing through the stop sign I was almost at and racing into an ACTIVE FOUR WAY INTERSECTION where other cars had to slam on their brakes in order to avoid hitting them

I have been the car behind you, except it was a red light - just turning red as the cyclist reached the intersection. There was oncoming traffic and road construction and I was waiting until after the intersection to pass the bicyclist, as I knew that the road gained a lane there, and I could then pass safely. I guess the guy behind me didn't like that; instead of stopping, he cut over the solid yellow line, went around me and the bike, and straight ran through the light that was red - I don't mean it was yellow and turned red while he was in the intersection, I mean it was red before his manuver. Simply not able to tolerate waiting like 30 seconds until safe and legal passing was possible. And the roads are stocked like a trout stream with these assholes.
posted by thelonius at 11:48 AM on July 12, 2019 [8 favorites]


It's absolutely my personal experience that a disproportionate number of NYC cyclists are not particularly law-abiding and it's super frustrating when people dismiss that as Big Car Driver/Bike Hater Propaganda or whatever (speaking generally and not to anyone in the thread), but it's so seriously important to realize that the main reason for the overall lawlessness isn't crazed cyclist malice or a giddy desire to run down pedestrians or whatever wild criminal behavior people are breathlessly fantasizing about, it's because they literally fear for their fucking lives at all times when sharing the road with drivers who actively want to harm them and cops who support that behavior and participate in it themselves.

Yes, it is fucking horrible and terrifying when cyclists are barreling down the sidewalk at car speeds, I extremely strongly wish they would not do that, it is awful to deal with as a disabled person who just wants to go places without wondering if they're going to die, but if the roads were safe for cyclists in the first fucking place then it wouldn't be an issue.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:50 AM on July 12, 2019 [27 favorites]


poffin boffin: Agreed. I don't bike—or drive—and it always infuriates me when adults ride on the sidewalk, or on streets against the flow of traffic, or don't ride in the bike lane (when there is a bike lane), and especially when they ride in the bike lane against the flow of traffic... but I suspect most bike riders who do these things _wouldn't_ if there was the infrastructure in place to bike safely. But we can't even get express bus lanes on 14th Street without people raising a stink about their fucking cars.
posted by SansPoint at 11:54 AM on July 12, 2019 [5 favorites]


car culture can't explain why so many non-involved non-driver non-cyclists are still totally okay with believing cops when they say that cyclists are menaces who should be run down with SUVs on the street. it's creepy as hell.

People are OK with "if you run away (in any capacity) from the cops , the cops should be able to stop you". Getting the general public on board with "if the person is on a bike (or walking, or scootering, etc), they are immune from the consequences of disobeying the police" is going to be a very hard sell.

I cycle more than most people, and up until recently I lived in an area (Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles) that required riding with cars in traffic probably as worse as any place in NYC. While I was extremely vigilant for inattentive drivers and I excepted (although it never came to pass) eventually to have a life changing incident involving one of those terrible drivers, I never worried about the cops. And in fact, I would have expected then and now that literally trying to evade the police by riding away would not end well for me. Although in LA it'd probably be via gunshot wound rather than get run over.
posted by sideshow at 12:15 PM on July 12, 2019 [1 favorite]


it's because they literally fear for their fucking lives at all times when sharing the road with drivers who actively want to harm them and cops who support that behavior and participate in it themselves.

Somehow serious cyclists like me can both follow all traffic laws on the books and also think drivers are going to harm them.
posted by sideshow at 12:17 PM on July 12, 2019 [4 favorites]


Somehow serious cyclists like me can both follow all traffic laws on the books and also think drivers are going to harm them.

This is exactly the thing.

Every time people drag out tired soapboxes about a rude cyclist they saw once, I want to issue a 100% genuine invitation: ride bikes with me a couple days a week for a few weeks. We'll obey every law you can think of. You'll still have some absolutely fucking terrifying and dehumanizing experience.
posted by entropone at 12:27 PM on July 12, 2019 [20 favorites]


Having lived in Manhattan for going on 30 years, I have been endangered far more times by cyclists than motorists and have seen a rise on those incidents over the last ten years. I hate it that I now have to look both ways multiple times when crossing a one-way avenue in order to avoid being barreled over by a wrong-way cyclist running the light.

That said, I join with those who blame quite a bit of this on City infrastructure that, while barely improving enough to make these dangers more frequent today than they were a decade ago, is still inherently hostile to cyclists. The bottom line for me is that there are too damn many cars driving and parking on the streets in Manhattan, most of which have no real need to be doing so.
posted by slkinsey at 12:36 PM on July 12, 2019 [3 favorites]


I want to join in on the observations of the compulsion to pass a person on a bicycle as soon as you reach it while driving.

I was riding out of my wife's work parking lot, going exactly as fast as is appropriate for moving through a parking lot, when I heard/felt a car going around me. A very nice coworker of hers pulled up alongside me on the wrong side of the parking lot entrance in her minivan, chatted with me briefly, and then turned right in front of me only to be stopped in traffic 20 feet later, and the whole time I know that I was looking at her like she was a crazy person.

Occasionally the same thing will happen at 4-way stops, I'm usually on a fairly quick electric cargo bike, and the assumption that there'll be time to get around me before the stop sign is often misjudged.

Oh! that reminds me of a time that a driver turned left into the oncoming traffic lane as I turned right into it and then we were just side by side like that for an entire block while I waited to see if she would pass me or get behind, and eventually I decided to pull over because it was stressing me out to have a car beside me on the wrong side of the road.

these are the nice stories where behavior is just weird and not scary, it's nice to have a few
posted by kevin is... at 1:12 PM on July 12, 2019 [1 favorite]


One of my oldest friends was struck by a vehicle while riding her bike in NYC a couple weeks ago. Thank goodness, the vehicle was making a turn and going slowly. My friend is still alive, but their knee was shattered. They left the hospital Friday. Unclear when/if they will walk again.

A family friend was also killed by a car suddenly in SF earlier this year while out taking a walk.

It seems clear roads have gotten much less safe in the past few years for non-drivers, due probably to some combination of increased distractions in the car, larger and heavier vehicles, and safety features that protect the people in the car at the expense of increased carelessness behind the wheel as drivers feel the car has their back and will keep them safe in a collision. Car sharing services probably don't help here either; driver fatigue is certainly coming into play, and I imagine engaged passengers have prevented many potential accidents when riding in the passenger seat, which isn't as much of a component when the passenger is in the back on their phone. Independent of infrastructure issues that are NYC specific, this seems like a broader problem to me.
posted by potrzebie at 1:26 PM on July 12, 2019 [2 favorites]


I used to bike everywhere and only stopped when I developed RA and had to. I've biked in Minneapolis, Columbus, Boston, Portland ME, NYC and anywhere else I could borrow a bike. NYC is probably the worst place I've ridden, no space, cars obviously not paying attention, cops making it worse. Everything I've ever done as a cyclist that's gotten me called a scofflaw is something I did because it was the safest option possible. Even though I can't ride anymore, I still get pissed off at everyone who wants to blame cyclists for existing rather than car drivers thinking they're the only ones on the road or infrastructure either being abused by car drivers or not set up in the first place. All of the stuff about cops and other cars parking in dedicated bike lanes is absolutely rampant, and doesn't even touch hazards like car doors opening in your face or that drivers will 'clean up' accidents by sweeping glass and other dangerous debris into the bike lane.
posted by bile and syntax at 1:26 PM on July 12, 2019 [6 favorites]


in the six years since I moved to (and began riding in) NYC I have been hit by three (3) cars.

the first time was in Haverstraw upstate. a driver attempting to turn left against traffic hit me as I proceeded straight through an intersection with the right of way.

the second time was in Chinatown. a driver attempting to turn left against traffic hit me as I proceeded through an intersection with the right of way underneath a green light.

the third time was in south Williamsburg. a driver running a red light hit me as I proceeded through an intersection underneath the green. the driver was moving so fast that when I hit the ground and looked up, they were already at the next intersection. a crossing guard approached me afterward, as this happened directly across from an elementary school, and suggested that the driver maybe did not see me.

while I understand that anecdotes are not data my lived experience does not well mesh with the reflexive attitude that cyclists would be safer if only they followed the rules of the road.

it is because of fortunate accidents of position, momentum, reflex, etc. that I am even able to write this comment, had I been three feet this way or that then I may be dead with a headstone saying "he had the right of way."

I am a part time courier in Manhattan and Brooklyn and each day I work I pray that I make it home to my partner. those days she obsessively checks my shared location on Google Maps to see that my icon is still moving.

I could not imagine living a life without a bicycle as my main method of transportation and recreation, and constantly in the back of my mind is the fear that it will one day be the death of me.
posted by One Thousand and One at 1:31 PM on July 12, 2019 [9 favorites]


Independent of infrastructure issues that are NYC specific, this seems like a broader problem to me.

It is. 40,000 Americans a year are killed in traffic crashes - as many as die by suicide, for a comparison.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:41 PM on July 12, 2019


But from what I've seen, most of them are either kids or bike delivery men, neither of whom are all that well versed on transit laws), with only a small handful of them being dudebro bikers who wouldn't give a shit anyway.

Let me come out very strongly against cars, and especially cop cars, running anybody over.

But for the past few months I've gotten to make daily observation of the PROTECTED BIKE LANE leading onto the Williamsburg bridge into Manhattan. It's not restaurant delivery men (they're not delivering into Brooklyn!) or young kids (usually) in that lane. It's a PROTECTED BIKE LANE and all the bikers have to do is observe the same goddamn red lights that the rest of traffic does, so that pedestrians can get safely across one of the busiest streets (two lanes each way) in Manhattan. The ONLY thing that deters bikers from blowing those reds is actual car traffic the other way that might kill them. TWICE already I've nearly been knocked down crossing IN THE CROSSWALK ON THE LIGHT by bikers blowing the reds. (I often can't see into the bike lane til I'm almost upon it because of the cars waiting at the light.) I was worried about car traffic when I started making that trip, and it hasn't been great, but actually so far I have been nearly killed more often by bikers than by cars.

Manhattan bikers are a menace. By the stats alone, less of a menace than Manhattan drivers. And of course it's easier to get worked up about the less-entrenched-and-powerful bikers than about the ubiquitous and pervasive car drivers. But they are a disgrace. I have some sympathy for the delivery guys, who are working hard jobs under high pressure. None of the rest of y'all have any excuse.
posted by praemunire at 1:42 PM on July 12, 2019 [2 favorites]


poffin boffin: Agreed. I don't bike—or drive—and it always infuriates me when adults ride on the sidewalk, or on streets against the flow of traffic, or don't ride in the bike lane (when there is a bike lane), and especially when they ride in the bike lane against the flow of traffic.

One of these things is not like the others. Just because some municipality slaps some paint in the gutter doesn't mean cyclists are required to ride there. Maybe there is a legal requirement somewhere (not where I live and not in NYC according to this article) to use the bike lane, but there's always an exception for taking the lane for safety reasons.

Promise, if I'm not in the bike lane when there is one, it's because it's not safe. Taking the lane is how you stay alive in traffic, regardless of how much this infuriates a certain kind of driver. You should always assume anyone taking the lane on a bike is doing it because they can see something that you can't.

it's so seriously important to realize that the main reason for the overall lawlessness isn't crazed cyclist malice or a giddy desire to run down pedestrians or whatever wild criminal behavior people are breathlessly fantasizing about, it's because they literally fear for their fucking lives at all times

Totally. Here's an example for all the motorists who are unfamiliar with how the law can actively put you in dangerous situations as just a routine part of getting around: everyone complains about the red light/stop sign running cyclist, it's here in this thread multiple times. However, every study that has ever been done shows that the more time you spend in an intersection on a bike, the more likely you are to be hit. So running a red light/stop sign when it is safe to do so is much safer than sitting and waiting. This is partly because you avoid the situation where the light turns green and all the cars try to maneuver around you as you mount and get up to speed.

Instead, by running the light, you get out of the major conflict zone, you get into the direct line of sight of the cars behind you, and you get up to speed and out of the intersection without disrupting the flow of the cars behind you. Then they can overtake you when you are already at riding speed (much less dangerous) and out of the intersection.

There are ways to design the streets to take this into account - by putting bike boxes at intersections and timing a separate pedestrian/bike signal. But you can't really blame people who aren't willing to wait around for the infrastructure and law to catch up.


And I agree - even out here in San Francisco - it often feels more dangerous now than it did back when it was a free for all on the street and there were no lanes or anything else. My friends and I joke - who knew that installing some app on your phone gave you license to ignore all traffic laws? But it's not funny when people get killed constantly.
posted by bradbane at 1:57 PM on July 12, 2019 [13 favorites]


I want to join in on the observations of the compulsion to pass a person on a bicycle as soon as you reach it while driving.

Also my favorite is when I approach a 4 way stop, but I need to make a left turn. So as I approach the stop sign, I take the lane. But the car behind me has already decided they were going to race past me to the stop sign, but now their car is fully in the opposite traffic lane. So they roll the stop and gun it around me to my left, as I'm moving to make a left turn.

But I probably didn't put my foot down at that stop sign so I'm a scofflaw. Dangerous motorists are so routine it doesn't even register for most people.
posted by bradbane at 2:06 PM on July 12, 2019 [7 favorites]


Maybe there is a legal requirement somewhere (not where I live and not in NYC according to this article) to use the bike lane

In NYC you're required to use it unless it's obstructed, which is the case like 80% of the time in some places. But in practice the cops will 100% ticket people for it even if the lane is totally blocked, and there have been cases of them literally parking in a bike lane and then giving people tickets for leaving the bike lane.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:09 PM on July 12, 2019 [7 favorites]


It's in Section 4-12 (p)(1) of the Traffic Rules:
(1) Bicycle riders to use bicycle lanes. Whenever a usable path or lane for bicycles has been provided, bicycle riders shall use such path or lane only except under any of the following situations:
(i) When preparing for a turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.

(ii) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, motor vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, pushcarts, animals, surface hazards) that make it unsafe to continue within such bicycle path or lane.
posted by nicwolff at 2:13 PM on July 12, 2019


Bike lanes are also horribly designed. I'm in Maryland, and there are places where the bike lane suddenly merges with traffic. One such spot is on a hill, and every single time I take that route, I get someone tailgating me for 100 feet until the bike lane starts again. There's another point where there's a bike lane on the right, and then a second bike lane at the stop sign for making left turns... which means you have to cut across an active lane of traffic to get there. Who comes up with this stuff?

I've also nearly hit pedestrians, and I hate it because I know I look like the asshole cyclist with no regard for anyone else -- but pedestrians also do unexpected things, and there's a really difficult balancing act of "what is this pedestrian going to do vs what are these cars are going to try to pull?" I've seen cyclists be huge assholes (special shoutout to the guy in Chicago who blew a red light, nearly hit a pedestrian, then flipped off the guy when he said "hey!"). Those are the stories that always stand out, but now that I'm biking more (or was until a few days ago, RIP bike) I'm reminded that biking is terrifying and is more likely to kill or injure me the more often I do it. Like, I'm very scared about the thought of hitting a pedestrian, and I do what I can to avoid that. It's not like and other bikers I have this cold disregard for people on foot, which is how these stories are often presented.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:13 PM on July 12, 2019 [2 favorites]


One thing I can always count on: on MetaFilter, where confronting the tendency to victim-blame is a way of life, an exception is made for cyclists. If that one guy ran a red light and hit a pedestrian that one time, then some other cyclist deserves to get run over by a truck, is it? You get on a bike and immediately tap into a rapidly depleting pool of karma, right?

Some people have observed that when a privileged white man like myself wants to feel, for a moment, what it's like to be marginalized, all they have to do is hop on a bike. Suddenly, you feel powerless and expendable. If you're killed, you had it coming and nobody is accountable. If you live, you're a menace.

I ride every day. I obey the law scrupulously. Guess what? I still get death threats. I still get side-swiped and cut off. I've been hit a couple of times. I'm here writing this because I haven't been killed yet, but I've already come to terms with the fact that this is how I'll die. When I stop posting here, I guess some of you can take comfort in the fact that another "biker" got what he deserved.

And look, I don't know what the laws are in NYC but I've read the Motor Vehicle Act in my province and there's a lot of good stuff in there that isn't part of the training or licensing for driving a motor vehicle. Bicyclists have exactly the same rights and privileges as drivers except where it's specifically prohibited (on freeways, generally). If there's a separated bike lane, cyclists aren't required to ride in it. If there's no paved shoulder, cyclists are to ride in the lane. Drivers are required to give 1m free space under 50km/h and 1.5m over (far too little, in any case). I could go on, but all of these things I'm specifically empowered to do by law, I'm regularly almost killed for.
posted by klanawa at 2:21 PM on July 12, 2019 [8 favorites]


Wow, even after a moderator's warning this thread about a dead cyclist is full of cyclist-shaming.

I snort every time someone posts that they "nearly" or "almost" got hit by a cyclist. You mean you... didn't get hit? A cyclist rode past you closer than you expected? Sorry about that, it's a busy city. Keep your eyes off your phone.

I'm a NYC cyclist, former messenger, still ride like one. 6th and 23rd where Hightman got killed is right on my commute, and in the neighborhood where I grew up.

We're "a menace"? Please. In a city of 8.6 million, cyclists injured 315 pedestrians in 2017 and killed... one. Meanwhile cars and trucks injured 10,561 and killed 106.

NYC streets are anarchy. Cabs and cars and trucks and cops drive and stop and park anywhere they want. Pedestrians walk anywhere and any time they want. And cyclists ride around and past all of those, with very few incidents.

The bike lanes suck. Even the separated bike lanes are blocked everywhere by pedestrians, delivery carts, scooters, skateboarders, CitiBikers, and various kinds of science-fictional one-wheeled conveyances. The idea that alone among these, only cyclists should stay in their place and obey all the rules is risible.

Regarding that kid in the East Village, though – c'mon. NYPD is charged with enforcing the laws, and if you blow through a red light right in front of them, they might ticket you. They can't let you just ride away from them, because then no-one would stop for them. They can't catch you on foot, so they are going to use their vehicle. They aren't allowed to ram you or run you off the road – but at some point they have to stop you, and if when they cut you off you still don't stop, you're gonna get hit by a police car.

And don't ride with earphones on, WTF.
posted by Now I'm Prune Tracy! at 2:24 PM on July 12, 2019 [11 favorites]


Love that in a thread about an article about how the City is failing cyclists, after three killings in NYC in a week, we can't talk about our terror. We just have to defend ourselves from people who think we are the problem.

Some of y'all should be ashamed of yourselves.
posted by entropone at 2:29 PM on July 12, 2019 [14 favorites]


NYPD is charged with enforcing the laws, and if you blow through a red light right in front of them, they might ticket you. They can't let you just ride away from them, because then no-one would stop for them.

They should not pursue someone in a dangerous way for the non-crime of running a red light. They should spend their time and money on real crimes!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:33 PM on July 12, 2019 [6 favorites]


I do agree that if you do a murder, which the police witness, and then you attempt to escape on a bike it is probably okay for the police to almost run you over in order to try to catch you. Probably.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:35 PM on July 12, 2019 [1 favorite]


I've been bike commuting to work on and off since moving to NYC a decade ago, and started committing to it a lot more in the lead up to the L train non-shutdown. Things have absolutely gotten worse under the current mayoral administration, as De Blasio's general reluctance to do anything has trickled down to the various departments. Still, DOT has been the biggest disappointment--always watering down proposals because they're afraid of opposition from community boards, and then we don't even get what was finally approved.

They half-assed the installation of the bike lanes along Delancey leading up to the Manhattan side of the Williamsburg bridge. The island at Essex and Delancey--a great idea, where two major bike paths cross--had a 45-degree curb that could shake you off your bike if you weren't paying attention. When they finally fixed it last month, there were two weeks--TWO WEEKS--where it was obstructed, and they didn't bother to set up safe passage for bikes so the bike lane just ended. In the middle of what is essentially an eight-lane highway. With drivers itching to make the next light.

It's an absolute miracle that no one was killed.

Meanwhile, on the Brooklyn side, they quarter-assed it. For six months, they kind of, sort of, had white lines marking the new parking lane to create the bike lane on the north side of Grand St. They weren't complete, so in most cases cars still parked against the curb or double-parked; I got cut off in that lane a few times earlier this year. Even now that the lanes are painted green, there's still no enforcement. A lot of times, cars park past the delineated spaces, which are just paint on the ground. So where there should be open space to allow drivers to see cyclists as they turn, the cyclists are hidden behind SUVs and box trucks.

I'm still out there riding, because I've been riding my bike in the street for 30 years. The streets of NYC, even now, are still less scary than the roads I rode on as a kid in the Westchester suburbs. (At least traffic in NYC keeps cars from moving too fast.) But we're losing ridership because the only people willing to ride a bike on these streets now are either the crazy ones who can take it mostly in stride when they suddenly have to merge into traffic at speed (which is dangerous and terrifying), the folks who don't have any other choice, and the people who don't fully recognize the danger. And that means that we don't get the safety in numbers benefit that we should see as more cyclists get on the road and drivers get more used to them.

So yeah, it's infuriating. But I’m afraid that nothing is going to change until the mayor does.
posted by thecaddy at 3:05 PM on July 12, 2019 [3 favorites]


I snort every time someone posts that they "nearly" or "almost" got hit by a cyclist. You mean you... didn't get hit?

@bicyclelobby: We want to extend our almost thoughts and almost prayers to everyone who was almost hit by a bicycle.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:51 PM on July 12, 2019 [10 favorites]


I drove from Yonkers to the Bronx and back today. I have a rule about beeping: I don’t beep unless it is required to keep a vehicle from hitting my car. I beeped three times today. Once for a bus that tried to merge into my car. Once for a guy turning right on red when I was turning left with a green arrow. And I can’t remember the third one. I broke laws when I ran a very stale yellow light, when I drove five miles above the speed limit to make the poorly timed lights on a stretch of my route and I think I forgot to signal once.

Around me I saw multiple drivers on cellphones, speeding, failing to signal, cutting other drivers off, double parked, parked in crosswalks, parked in no parking zones, parked blocking turning lanes.

We have a problem.

I’m married to a guy who did a 25 mile one way bike commute from Rockland County, NY to Manhattan on a daily basis for six years. I’m conscious of cyclists on the road but I admit to still being nervous and unsure of how to drive safely around them.

I got my license five years ago and when I took the five hour class it had multiple incorrect facts about the rules of the road concerning cyclists. My classmates also didn’t know that a flashing red light was equivalent of a stop sign. They thought it was the same as a flashing yellow light.

We have a problem.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:56 PM on July 12, 2019 [3 favorites]


traffic laws pretty much weren't needed until devilwagons came along, because before cars came along, almost everything operated on a human scale and roads weren't built for cars
posted by entropicamericana at 5:25 PM on July 12, 2019 [1 favorite]


I do agree that if you do a murder, which the police witness, and then you attempt to escape on a bike it is probably okay for the police to almost run you over in order to try to catch you. Probably.

No. Getting run over and possibly killed is not the penalty for murder, even if you are convicted.

It is absolutely not the penalty for running a red light or any of the other offenses allegedly committed by cyclists.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:08 PM on July 12, 2019 [7 favorites]


I read somewhere that one of the main reasons drivers in the Netherlands are able to coexist so well with cyclists (aside from the extensive infrastructure that keeps them separated), is that most drivers are ALSO cyclists, or at least have close family and friends who are cyclists. When drivers see cyclists on the road, they see people who could easily be themselves or people they love. Maybe that phenomenon accounts for some of the differences in driver behavior I've noticed in various cities.

The biggest safety factor I've noticed is driving culture, much more so than infrastructure. I've been in NYC for most of the past 19 years aside from two years in London and two years in Miami, and have been a daily bike rider in all three of those cities. I've also done a lot of cycling in other cities around North America and other parts of the world. London and NYC both have decent bike infrastructure and similarly diverse populations. London has significantly higher bicycle ridership. And their driving culture is much better. London certainly has its share of assholes and drivers do still kill cyclists, but in my experience drivers generally don't view the road as being exclusively for them, regardless of whether or not there's a bike lane. People in cars just seem more aware of and accommodating to people who are on bicycles.

When I first moved to NYC in 2000 there was very little cycling infrastructure and daily ridership was less than a third of what it is now. A lot's improved to get more cyclists in the streets since then. What hasn't improved are the attitudes and behaviors of drivers who refuse to see cyclists as equally entitled to the road. Yes, there are cyclists who blow through intersections or don't defer to pedestrians and I yell at them whenever I see that happen. But they aren't relevant to the problem being discussed. People on bikes who are compliant with the rules of the road are still getting killed and injured by people in cars.

And Miami... well Miami is just terrifying for the small numbers of both cyclists and pedestrians, and it has shitty culture as well as shitty infrastructure. Standards are abysmal, empathy is in short supply, infrastructure is hostile to humanity, reckless and clueless behavior is rampant. NYC is far better than Miami for both cyclists and pedestrians, but that's a low, low bar.
posted by theory at 6:13 PM on July 12, 2019 [3 favorites]


No. Getting run over and possibly killed is not the penalty for murder, even if you are convicted.

Well they ideally would not get run over, and they should not be run over punitively. However, I think it is probably okay for the police to risk potentially injuring someone who has just committed a murder in order to effectuate an arrest. Obviously, the police are always doing terrible things and they are not particularly trustworthy. This example is not meant to excuse their behavior, but instead to say that this behavior towards someone running a red light is egregious because it is the kind of behavior that would only be justified for capturing someone who 100% certainly just committed a murder, a crime which is worse than running a red light.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:27 PM on July 12, 2019


NYPD is charged with enforcing the laws, and if you blow through a red light right in front of them, they might ticket you. They can't let you just ride away from them, because then no-one would stop for them.

They should not pursue someone in a dangerous way for the non-crime of running a red light. They should spend their time and money on real crimes!
The previous poster explained why you can't just let people ride away once you've tried to stop them. As for "non-crime," really? Running red lights is one of the most dangerous moves in the bad driver business. I'd be happy if the police never wrote another speeding ticket and just ticketed light-runners.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 9:17 PM on July 12, 2019 [1 favorite]


The previous poster explained why you can't just let people ride away once you've tried to stop them. As for "non-crime," really? Running red lights is one of the most dangerous moves in the bad driver business. I'd be happy if the police never wrote another speeding ticket and just ticketed light-runners.

After ramming their vehicles?

I'd be happy if the police ticketed speeders and light runners and other dangerous road users in an appropriate and safe fashion, myself.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:49 PM on July 12, 2019 [3 favorites]


There is a massive, incredible gulf between the danger posed by a cyclist running a red light and a car doing so.
posted by thecaddy at 9:49 PM on July 12, 2019 [4 favorites]


Just to be clear about where I’m coming from, the basis for my feelings about this are the typical laws on justified use of force. A cyclist running a red light is a ticket offense, not an arrest. Even if it were worth an arrest, a non-violent misdemeanor would not justify the use of potentially deadly force. It wouldn’t justify a car chase putting bystanders at risk.

If they need to enforce the law better for bicyclists then the first step should be figuring out how to catch people fleeing on bike without putting anyone’s life at risk.

The NYPD has a 5.6 BILLION dollar budget and they could probably get some bike cops, for example. They could make red light traps with a cop waiting past the intersection to stop people. Etc. etc. etc. They have plenty of options.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:05 PM on July 12, 2019 [2 favorites]


Smfh at people here defending cops for running somebody over because they did something unsafe. Bombing for peace, fucking for virginity, and so on.
posted by entropone at 6:48 AM on July 13, 2019 [5 favorites]


Maybe running a red light should be decriminalized for cyclists because a bike is not the same as a car and it's possible to go through a red safely just as it's possible to jaywalk safely. Combine this with cyclists need to learn to defer to pedestrians and we might get somewhere.
posted by kokaku at 8:07 AM on July 13, 2019 [1 favorite]


Yeah... This discussion turned into a hot mess of victim blaming but that was also very predictable because drivers just can't help themselves from focusing on their convenience and biases when there is a systematic public health and safety problem all around them. It doesn't affect them directly other than the annoyance of cyclists slowing them down, so it's the bikes that are the problem.

And I know that's pretty uncharitable but it's hard not to take that view after seeing this predictable dynamic play out again and again. Road space is limited, especially in places like Manhattan, and private automobile drivers don't want to cede any of it to others. Protected bike lanes are great but the fight to get them installed is huge because it will likely take away a traffic lane or parking.

I bike commute. I get some cyclists are unpredictable and annoying, but so are drivers. And drivers scare me a lot more because they don't realize the threat and danger they pose or don't care, because they have places to be.

A couple of months ago I was hit by a car riding my bike to pick my kid up from daycare. I was in a city sanctioned bike boulevard. It was a low speed collision and the driver blamed me for his lack of sight of incoming traffic, not the parked cars on either side of the driveway he was exiting. After I wouldn't give him my driver's license (he refused to give me his), he wanted to call the cops. I left. I knew it wasn't the right thing to do but I had to get my kid and I knew the cops weren't going to do anything. When I called them when I got home from picking up the kid, they pretty much said that and made me feel like it was my fault. So.... Yeah... Police really are protecting the status quo which is great for drivers. Stop acting like cyclists are a menace.
posted by kendrak at 8:13 AM on July 13, 2019 [6 favorites]


This discussion turned into a hot mess of victim blaming but that was also very predictable because drivers just can't help themselves from focusing on their convenience and biases

What always seems to get lost in these conversations is the number of pedestrians who say that they are more frequently endangered by cyclists than motorists. I get it that cyclists are endangered by motorists, and I strongly believe we should do things that make the roads safer for cyclists in NYC and elsewhere. I support more cycling and less driving and I haven't owned or regularly driven a car in 30 years. But I have also personally experienced a notable increase in the number of times I have been endangered as a pedestrian over the last five years or so, and this increase has been 100% attributable to cyclists (probably not coincidentally this was concomitant with the introduction of Citibikes). Handwaiving that away or framing it as drivers focusing on their convenience and biases is disingenuous. It is a thing that's happening, and if anything it works to erode support for cyclists among pedestrians when these two groups should naturally be in solidarity with respect to making the streets safer for those who are not motorists.

One real solution that would make crowded NYC streets safer for both pedestrians and cyclists is reducing the density of vehicular traffic. There are ways to make that happen such as reducing use by creating disincentives for owning a car and driving in the City by those who don't actually need to do so (e.g., congestion pricing and overall much higher tolls into the City, raising the cost of NYC vehicle registrations, lowering speed limits and configuring traffic lights to reduce speeds, increasing the geographic reach of limited-time meters for on-street parking, etc.), and also by increasing capacity by, for example, opening municipal parking structures and strategically eliminating on-street parking in certain areas to open up lanes. I'm not going to hold my breath until any of these things happens.
posted by slkinsey at 9:18 AM on July 13, 2019 [2 favorites]


What always seems to get lost in these conversations is the number of pedestrians who say that they are more frequently endangered by cyclists than motorists.

Feelings aren't facts. In the past decade or so about .5% of pedestrian traffic fatalities in NYC were caused by bikes. The other 99.5% were, of course, motor vehicles.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:51 AM on July 13, 2019 [9 favorites]


Julianne Cuba: Cyclists Are Not the Enemy, Says a Widow Whose Husband Was Killed By a Cyclist
According to the city’s NYPD Motor Vehicle Collisions database, there were 45,775 motor vehicle collisions that resulted in injuries last year — 11,115 of those injuries were to pedestrians. Police say 230 of those pedestrians — just two percent — were struck and hurt by a bike rider, with the remaining 98 percent hurt by motorists. This year, at least 65 people have been killed by a driver — a 30-percent increase in fatalities compared to the same time period last year, according to NYPD data (the city DOT claims the percent increase is actually lower). One person — Sturm — has been killed by a cyclist.

Schachter recognizes that the individual cyclists who killed both her husband and Sturm are just as much at fault as any reckless motorist who kills someone. But demonizing those who ride bikes, who statistically cause a tiny fraction of all injury-causing collisions on the road, is not making anyone safer.

Instead, the city must invest its resources in redesigning streets that make it harder to kill someone, said Schachter.
Andrew Beaujon: How Much of a Threat Do Bicycles Actually Pose to DC Pedestrians? Let’s Look at the Data (emphasis in original)
As it happens, DC keeps records on crashes on streets maintained by the District Department of Transportation. It tracks pedestrian injuries (major and minor) and fatalities as well as the vehicles involved (bikes are the only non-motorized conveyance the figures break out). Here’s what I found.

Since 2012 there have been 40 cases of minor pedestrian injuries in crashes that involved a bicycle: 1 incident so far this year, 10 last year, 13 in 2017, and 5 in 2016. That’s an average of 6.5 minor pedestrian injuries per year from crashes with a bike involved between 2012 and 2018, or 1 every 56 days. Since 2012 there have been 7 cases of major pedestrian injuries from crashes that involved a bicycle. The data set includes 1 pedestrian fatality involving a bicycle: the 2017 death of Jane Bennett Clark.

Then I looked at the same data involving all vehicles and subtracted cases involving bicycles. A somewhat different picture obtains.

Since 2012 there have been 2,967 cases of minor pedestrian injuries in crashes that involved a vehicle. That’s an average of about 494 per year between 2012 and 2018—a little more than 1 every day, on average. There have been 609 major pedestrian injuries in crashes that involved a vehicle—28 between the January 1 and April 13 of this year alone. There have been 19 pedestrian fatalities in crashes involving a vehicle since 2013—and this particular data set stops in late February 2019.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:21 AM on July 13, 2019 [6 favorites]


The police in my Canadian city put out a "bike safety" video last year. Our city loves to build 'sharrows', which indicate that bikes are supposed to co-exist with cars but no one in a car has any idea what those signs mean. I've seen multiple drivers screaming at cyclists to get out of the way when riding on the slow-moving roads with these painted signs.

So the police video included the tip "cycle as far to the right as possible" and included a helpful video... of a police officer riding his bike in the gutter *next to a sharrow*, with a car passing on his left.

When pressed on this, our police put out a statement saying basically, "the laws we enforce don't recognize sharrows, so we don't either". Which means no cyclist can feel comfortable using sharrows, as the police think we're breaking the law if we use them as designed, and wouldn't intervene if we were harrassed for using them. And yet... our city continues to build sharrows as a replacement for actual infrastructure, and brag about how bike friendly they are.
posted by Gortuk at 10:35 AM on July 13, 2019 [5 favorites]


I have no doubt whatsoever that motor vehicles pose a far more grave thread to life and limb compared to bicycles. Of course a 3,500 pound car is more dangerous than, say, 180 pounds of bicycle and rider. Being struck by a motor vehicle or a bicycle are both very low percentage occurrences, but most any time a pedestrian is struck by a car it is likely to cause an injury severe enough to be reported whereas that is not the case for pedestrians struck by bicycles.

Regardless, I have not made an argument that bicycles are more dangerous than cars. I certainly would be a lot more freaked out if I were almost hit by a car than I would be if I were almost hit by a bicycle. Statistics showing that cars result in more injuries and fatalities compared to bicycles simply show what would be expected given the huge disparities in ridership and weight. This doesn't speak to the frequency with which pedestrians are endangered by rules-breakers, irrespective of the potential severity of that endangerment. A pedestrian who is almost struck by a cyclist doesn't think, "That potential injury would have been a lot worse if it were a car. Thank goodness for cyclists!" Cyclists frequently (and correctly!) complain about the frequency with which they are endangered by motorists who aren't following the rules. The same thing is true for pedestrians with respect to cyclists. Ten years ago I didn't have to worry very much about getting mowed down on the sidewalk, when crossing the street with the signal, when crossing a one-way street looking in the direction of approaching traffic and so on. It is no longer the case that I can do these things without taking extra precautions to look out for cyclists breaking the rules.

Now, I haven't been hit by a cyclist (nor have I been hit by a motor vehicle) so I don't show up in any statistics. All I can say is that as a pedestrian in NYC I have had numerous near-misses with bicycles over the last five years compared to zero with motor vehicles over the last thirty years. Handwaving away issues such as this, or responding with statistics that don't actually address the issues raised, is a reason there isn't more support for cyclists among pedestrians in the City. Cyclists and pedestrians should be working together for better access, safety and infrastructure, and they aren't.
posted by slkinsey at 11:45 AM on July 13, 2019


Facts are not feelings, but my kid's stroller has been clipped by a cyclist going the wrong way on the 8th Avenue bike lane, because they don't realize the crosswalk at Greenwich exists because the signal is unidirectional. Ironically, the cyclist yelled at me for being in the lane despite the fact that I clearly had the right of way. I didn't report them, or any of the literally dozens of cyclists I yield to so I don't get hit every week, but if you're going to rely on statistics, please be aware that the vast majority of the time, pedestrians just go about their day because we know no one gives a fuck. Pedestrians vastly outnumber bikes, and we get killed far more often than cyclists, but nobody seems to be demanding millions of dollars of infrastructure to protect us.
posted by snickerdoodle at 12:34 PM on July 13, 2019


I am quite sure the millions of dollars of infrastructure that I want protects both cyclists and pedestrians.

It seems very counterproductive to focus on bad cyclist behavior when we actively incentivize bad cyclist behavior with hostile infrastructure. I desire a culture that prioritizes pedestrians, protects and encourages cyclists, and places individual automobile operators toward the bottom of consideration, particularly in urban environments.
posted by polyhedron at 2:06 PM on July 13, 2019 [7 favorites]


Pedestrians vastly outnumber bikes, and we get killed far more often than cyclists, but nobody seems to be demanding millions of dollars of infrastructure to protect us.

People are demanding that. One of the reasons people want protected bike lanes is to get bikes off sidewalks so pedestrians and other sidewalk users aren't in competition with bikes/scooters/skateboards. Sidewalks have shrank over time to make more room for automobiles. It's funny because everybody is a pedestrian really (think last foot problem), but they don't make the connection. I know I'm used to assuming a driver is going to hit me when I'm walking places. When I have near misses with cyclists, it's different because there's more human interaction. I think it's easy to forget cars are dangerous because the people driving them are dangerous. Cars aren't the problem, drivers are. But with bikes, you can't ignore the human operating it.

Anyhow, I really feel the cyclist/pedestrian fight is a reflection of how little power both groups have. Why are bikes (and scooters) a danger to pedestrians? Lack of safe infrastructure for everybody. But it's easier to stick it to cyclists than it is to take on drivers because they really have all the political power. So I'm all in favor of people centered infrastructure, giving the most room to pedestrians and other, then human powered vehicles, then transit, and then private vehicles. But that ain't ever gonna happen.
posted by kendrak at 2:28 PM on July 13, 2019 [4 favorites]


Handwaving away issues such as this, or responding with statistics that don't actually address the issues raised, is a reason there isn't more support for cyclists among pedestrians in the City.

It's not like any of us actually want to hit a pedestrian. You realize we would probably be hurt too, right? Bikes move very quickly, and it can be very difficult to see where the next potential collision might happen, especially when you're scanning the road for other signs. Pedestrians do wildly unpredictable things, like suddenly stopping, or stepping backwards, or jogging over to someone. Biking around pedestrians SUCKS and the only reason I and most people ever do it is because there's nowhere else to go.

Statements asserting that "100%" of one's near-misses were with cyclists sound more like confirmation bias than anything. I think this is in part because of how much we've all come to accept certain behaviors from automobiles as normal. Like when you cross a street, and someone makes a right turn right in front of you: near-miss, or normal? Having to wait in a parking lot or by a crosswalk so someone can zip past before you start crossing: near-miss, or normal? None of this is safe, and in fact I've nearly been killed multiple times in just these scenarios. That's as a pedestrian; on a bike, there's been countless more near-misses. The statistics bear that out: if it were truly the case that cyclists were responsible for all near-misses, then certainly there would be more recorded incidents of actual collisions. In a city of 8 million, there were 230 incidents with cyclists, compared to 45 thousand with cars. That's not handwaving.

There is always the inexperienced or careless person who rides too close to someone, or who doesn't realize that they're taking up the whole sidewalk. Yeah, that kind of stuff annoys even me. Yes, I have even had to yell at people who didn't see me. But when the topic of cyclists being killed comes up, someone inevitably steers it back to "well but here's how many times I've nearly been hit by a cyclist." This is why people call it victim-blaming, because even in the context of someone dying, it shifts the conversation onto the bad things cyclists do, and away from the reasons they might have to be on the sidewalk in the first place. It's not like cyclists are lobbying against pedestrian infrastructure.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:36 PM on July 13, 2019 [11 favorites]


What always seems to get lost in these conversations is the number of pedestrians who say that they are more frequently endangered by cyclists than motorists.

This would be so much less of an issue if there were adequate bike infrastructure, so that cyclists wouldn't be stuck between sharing space with pedestrians and putting their lives in danger.
posted by bile and syntax at 2:59 PM on July 13, 2019 [1 favorite]


I wonder whether bicycle encounters loom larger for people because it's a person attacking you, almost like a mugging, but a threatening brush with a car has come to seem impersonal, almost random.

Maybe because with a car, the person is inside a box and it's harder to impute intention without the presence of a person doing something?
posted by jamjam at 3:13 PM on July 13, 2019


The other day I saw a SUV nearly run over a bicyclist who dodged onto the sidewalk and redoubled his speed while shaking his fist at the car, and in doing so nearly ran over me and my kid, and while dodging and turning to shake my fist at him I bumped my toddler over.

So it goes.

But since I don't know who the SUV was dodging, I figured the three of us could still manage some solidarity against the first instigator.
posted by chortly at 8:59 PM on July 13, 2019 [2 favorites]


If there's anything we've learned from the US election and similar movements occurring around the globe, feelings ARE facts, when it comes to how humans operate. You can't make societal change with logic and data. I mean, I hate it, but them's the breaks.
posted by pelvicsorcery at 1:07 PM on July 14, 2019


It's possible to change conversational norms so that people presenting facts and statistics aren't silenced in favour of those arguing their damned feelings, but I guess being polite is more important than a fucking public health crisis.
posted by tobascodagama at 2:42 PM on July 14, 2019 [2 favorites]


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