What became clear at last week’s VID panel on bike and pedestrian issues is that there is a collective sense of exasperation with the mounting conflicts between bikers and walkers.
An audience member claimed there’s no police enforcement of laws applying to pedestrians at all. Is it a policy? Why? Pedestrians are marching up the bike lane on 8th Avenue at rush hour with impunity. The “separated” bike lane on Broadway below Times Square is a thriving pedestrian mall….. for half a mile. You can’t ride there at rush after 4 pm.
Meanwhile, riding a bike on the sidewalk is a misdemeanor – a crime, not a traffic violation; it is randomly enforced. However, who do the police like to catch doing it: mothers and young ladies, so much nicer to give tickets to than the delivery guy on the electric bike who you can’t catch anyway. Ooops. Not supposed to say that.
While both the panel and audience pulled their punches, the evening was very informative. Turns out electric bikes are legal in NYC, even if they can’t go over 15 mph. The trouble is though, there aren’t any made to go that slow and consequently, the City Council wants to double the fines on the illegal ones. Yikes. The fact is it’s anarchy out there between cyclists and pedestrians. Without police enforcement, the audience and panelists called out for “a mass-education campaign”. The problem is, what is that and who’s going to pay for it?
What can we regular people constructively do? Well, pedestrians can help by using the new Citibank bike-share system (starting in July) and showing the bikers how to behave in a civil way on civil bicycles. Cyclists should get an extreme make-over. Trade in that racing, track or mountain bike and start riding city bikes like urban people – upright, slowly, gracefully, without sweating or scaring everybody – and start to realize it matters how you look in New Amsterdam.