I’ve been traveling recently and not able to take the time to post as often as I’d like. But when I was in NYC on a combination business and pleasure trip a week or so ago, I was told by friends about a woman who was hit and killed by a bicyclist in Central Park in September. My friends didn’t remember all the details, but as luck would have it there was an article in the NYT I was reading as I was coming back in the train. I cut it out and don’t have time to look for the link this time. Sorry. But it is a cautionary tale that needs some explanation to those not familiar with NYC. At any rate, the article was in the September 29 print edition in the New York section and entitled “Deaths expose Chaos of the Loop.”
Back in the early 1980’s the NYC pols got what they thought was a great idea. And those of us who could walk to Central Park and used it as our playground on weekends thought it was a great idea too. The idea was that they would close most of the roads in Central Park to automobile traffic on the weekends so that joggers and bicyclists could use the roads, which form a big loop around the park, for exercise on the weekends. I was at my first job out of school, had a neat apartment in a newly renovated building on the not yet too trendy or expensive Upper West Side and thought this was pretty cool. But, when I was biking, I tried to do it responsibly, watching out for pedestrians in the crosswalks that cut across the loop at various places. And when I walked across the park to play paddle tennis with a friend, I had to use those cross walks.
A Good IDEA Spoiled
It didn’t take long for bicyclists to begin to abuse the privilege we’d all be given. Even in the 1980’s there were accidents and injuries from bicyclists hitting joggers and pedestrians. I took extra care, waiting for a break in the constant action before running across the crosswalk to the sidewalk that led to the courts.
Over the years I moved to other cities and lost track of this problem. But a couple of years ago, I opened up my Sunday New York Daily New, which I still get because unlike the NYT, it’s the people’s paper. And what did I find? An article about a legally blind jogger who had been hit and severely injured in Central Park by a hit and run biker. This would not have been news except that the jogger was also a lawyer and, because there was no way to find the biker, he sued the city for non-enforcement of the traffic laws in the park, speeding and yielding. This came just as I was starting the campaign here to get bicyclists off the sidewalks in crowded DC areas. So I was suddenly interested again. I used this article in my hearing testimony and also in a letter to the Mayor and my council rep to show what could happen. IF YOU DON’T ENFORCE EXISTING LAW, THE CITY COULD BE SUED.
Fast forward to the present day. I don’t know how that jogger-lawyer’s suit is going. It’s probably still going through the courts, or there might have been a settlement. But now non-enforcement in Central Park has reached a new level–death. The one that made the news was the 57 year old woman because the biker actually stayed at the scene and was not charged with a crime or ticketed according to the NYT article. Why not? That is what a lot of New Yorkers are asking. The bicyclist said he had swerved to avoid other pedestrians. The article also noted that in August a 17 year old bicyclist, dodging a pedicab crashed into a 75 year old man, sending him hard to the pavement. He died 3 days later. Again no criminal charges or traffic summons were filed.
Police can’t file charges if there are no witnesses who can say what happened and no evidence, like the skid marks they can get from cars, to indicate speed. BUT REGULAR ENFORCEMENT of speed laws and yielding laws would definitely help as they would here.
In each case, you’ll note, the bicyclist said he was trying to avoid another “obstacle”. MY QUESTION IS: WHY NOT RIDE SLOWLY ENOUGH SO YOU CAN STOP, AND EVEN DISMOUNT? THAT”S SAFE CYCLING!
And in DC
The NYC situation applies here because the same mentality of so many bicyclists causes problems here and it’s only a matter of time before we have another pedestrian killed by a bicyclist running a red light or speeding along a sidewalk when he suddenly comes upon a pedestrian who turns a corner. WE NEED CONSISTENT ENFORCEMENT OF AT LEAST THE LAWS ALREADY ON THE BOOKS.
And with that, I wish you a happy Columbus Day holiday, and remember to STAY ALERT!DON’T GET HURT!