By Robert Shapiro
Dear Mayor Adams,
New York City’s bike paths have evolved from a blessing into a curse for cyclists. What used to be a daily joy of running errands in the West Village is now an everyday gamble for my safety. I am a senior citizen born and raised in NYC, and an avid bike rider. My bicycle is one of my most precious possessions. I save a ton of money while commuting and staying fit at the same time. But recently, riding has become increasingly hazardous because so many commuters and delivery people disregard the law. They ride on the sidewalk, speed past too close and without warning on silent motorized bikes, ride actual motorcycles on bridge bike paths and greenways.
But the most perilous offense is riding backwards. A rider entering the path from between parked cars can crash into the backwards rider who cannot see them until it’s too late.
The main reason that delivery people flout the law is that they have been getting away with it right in front of the police. In other cities, bicycle laws are enforced and the owners of the restaurants (not the riders) are fined. This also delays deliveries and thus motivates business owners to encourage their drivers to obey the law and practice safe cycling.
New York City can make a fortune—and help fund the MTA—with mandatory licensing, and ticketing for moving violations and lack of helmets, licenses, lights, and horns. Fines would be higher for riding backwards or on the sidewalk, but the following is paramount: e-bikes are not bicycles; they are dangerous motorized vehicles that go too fast to be on bicycle paths—so fast, that they should only be allowed on the roads…and obey traffic laws. Bicycle and pedestrian accidents are awful, but many more of us are experiencing unacceptable stress every day simply by riding our bikes.
The city could really clean up financially by deploying as many auxiliary cops as possible, and also encouraging the police to become vigilant when patrolling the streets. Earning money for the city is a good way to fill your shift time. If citizen cyclists or deliverers break the law, they should receive $50 fines. Since they would be licensed and in the system, an officer noticing a second violation would have the bike confiscated. It would cost $500 for the owner or restaurant to reclaim it. Zero tolerance is absolutely necessary when lives are at stake.
You shouldn’t be allowed to ride a bike if you put lives in danger. Treating bad behavior justly is the only way to clean up this dangerous mess—I doubt people would treat the streets like the Wild West if they had to pay for their actions.
As you know from your former career, there are not a lot of “cops and robbers” scenarios during an officer’s shift. Bad cyclists are endangering New Yorkers every minute. Think of the revenue that enforcement of new laws governing cyclists could generate for the city that we both love.