Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to reduce traffic accidents is commendable, even if its name, “Vision Zero,” sounds like a cheesy 1980s sci-fi movie you’d see on the Starz network at two in the morning. The solutions he offers, including speed bumps, creating 20 mile-per-hour zones, and promoting bicycle safety, are vital to a populous city like New York.  However, speaking as a law-abiding biker, I wish pedestrians would take some responsibility for themselves as well, because an awful lot of them seem to be afflicted with, well, zero vision. 

I regularly ride throughout Manhattan, and cannot keep track of the number of idiots who step blindly off the curb and into the bicycle lanes. It’s as if they believe that by engaging in the original means of transportation, they’re entitled to play by their own set of traffic rules. Others will take the time to look, but only in the direction opposite of where the bikers are coming from. What possible explanation is there for such odd behavior? They can’t all be confused British tourists.

Many of these nitwits will up the danger ante by staring down at their smartphones. I never realized there were so many New Yorkers who are apparently so important, they’re willing to put their lives at risk in order not to miss a single message, text or tweet. It’s bad enough when they block foot traffic on the sidewalk to read about the OMG best grande latte a friend just drank. But stepping into a lane against the light when bikers have the right of way? That better be some grande latte, alright.

I hate to say he had it coming...
Actually, I don't.
Then there are the boneheads who enjoy a leisurely stroll on the bike paths themselves. The sidewalk can be completely empty, yet they make the deliberate choice of walking on a lane meant specifically for moving vehicles. Are they under the impression that walking along a green path makes them more earth-friendly? Do they consider themselves too good to join the hoi-polloi on the more mundane sidewalk? Or are they afraid of getting crushed by a piano falling out of a window?  Sometimes they’ll walk in the street when a bike path isn’t available. If this isn’t cause enough to hospitalize them for being a threat to themselves and others, I don’t know what is.

When encountering these tunnel visioned-impaired folks, I often give a warning ring of my bell and a "friendly" shout of, “Wake up!” (That, by the way, is dependent on their sex, age, race, and whether they can chase me down and kick my ass.) Some of them let out a stunned gasp, as if suddenly remembering they aren’t alone in the big city. Others react angrily, like it’s my fault they’re putting their lives at risk by walking into traffic. But at least they can hear me. Many of these bozos close themselves away from the world by listening to music blasting through their souped-up headphones. Doctors warn that this habit can cause deafness. From my vantage point – from behind bicycle handlebars -- that’s the least of music fans’ problems. 

No matter where he rides,
it's the wrong lane.
Now, I’m the first to admit that many of my fellow bikers could use a refresher course in traffic safety. (I’m talking to you, Alec Baldwin.) In fact, I was actually happy to read  police were cracking down on scofflaw bikers. But this doesn’t excuse pedestrians, who far outnumber bikers, from following the rule they were supposed to have learned in kindergarten: look both ways before crossing the street. 

According to the New York Department of Transportation, commuter cycling has more than doubled in the last decade. Between commuters using Citi Bikes and those of us who ride our own, our numbers are growing and we aren’t going away -- no matter how many times Mr. Baldwin promises to move.


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