I left my apartment on Friday to find a small, yet very concerned group of bicycle protestors standing on the sidewalk of 14th and 1st. On the other side was an equally sized mass of bicyclists. Since I was without my bike at the time, it was easy enough to blend into the two opposing groups.. I quickly learned that the protest was organized by a woman named Leslie Sicklick and the supporters of the protest all carried an anti-Bloomberg mentality. The first man I spoke to complained to me about being hit by a bicyclist three times and having his dog run over by a bike once as well. To this, I bluntly replied that its better than being run over by a bus. He wasnt amused, so I moved on.
There seem to be a number of issues at hand.
- Why is Bloomberg spending millions of dollars a year on bike lanes that only help the minority of bicycle riders in NYC?
- Why don’t bicycle riders use the bike lanes after they are built?
- Is it okay for bicyclists to break traffic laws?
The first issue is by far the most important, and the most difficult to answer. The fact is bike riders are a minority in NY, but this doesnt mean we don’t deserve the same amount of respect and safety measures as cars or pedestrians. Imagine if the city got rid of the crosswalk signals. It would be utter chaos. Just as pedestrians need some sort of precautionary mechanism to tell them when to walk or not, bicyclists need some protection from vehicles. And being a minority should have no impact on the decisions to build these bike lanes. We are all equal under the law. This is no exception.
This leads us to the next issue, why dont we use the bike lanes? Put simply, they are still not safe. Cab drivers still dont look out when they turn, residential cars think its fine to double park, and trucks are temporarily stationed to load and unload goods. With all of this happening in the bike lane, its obviously much safer sometimes to ride in the car lane where we can be seen in between traffic.
The solution to this, as one lady on the scene told me, is Value Priced Parking. We need to limit the parking of residential cars on any street. The aim here is to have not more than 85% of spots taken at all times. Prices would be adjusted accordingly so that only drivers who are willing to pay will park. This will prevent idling traffic and help loading and unloading for commercial vehicles.
One final point. It’s not really okay for bicycle riders to break traffic laws. The problem is we are not the only ones breaking the laws. Cars run yellow/red lights and pedestrians cross when they are not supposed too. There will have to be equal effort amongst all parties to keep the roads safe. Until then we’ll just have to fend for ourselves. Ride on!