January/February 1998, p.4

Cyclists Give Respect

Read the latest news about this issue.

On Tuesday, October 28th, and Sunday, December 7th, T.A. volunteers and staff took to the streets of the Silk Stocking District to launch the Give Respect/Get Respect Campaign, targeted at sidewalk and wrong-way cyclists and outlaw motorists. At the October kick-off, twenty campaigners walked and pedaled up First Avenue, distributing mock summonses to drivers who blocked, drove or parked in the bicycle lane, violating NYC Traffic Law.

Errant cyclists received leaflets in English, Chinese and Spanish encouraging them to "Give Respect" by keeping off sidewalks, yielding to pedestrians and riding with(not against) traffic. Representatives of council members Andrew Eristoff and Gifford Miller, as well as local police officers, also joined the group.

T.A. designed the Give Respect/Get Respect campaign to change the behavior of both motorists and cyclists. The November death of pedestrian Arthur Kaye, struck and killed by a fast-food delivery cycle on an Upper West Side sidewalk, touched a sensitive nerve among city residents, as witnessed by the ensuing media blitz. The NY Post ran a double-page spread titled, "Break the Cycle of Violence," and sensationalist columnist Andrea Peyser called bicyclists "stray bullets." Mayor Giuliani declared scofflaw bicyclists one of the city's "biggest quality of life problems."
Although cycling is evoking wildly disproportionate public censure, the core criticism is valid. Cyclists should not ride on the sidewalk or intimidate pedestrians. The Give Respect/Get Respect Campaign has worked to spread this message from one cyclist to another. During the recent actions, more than 20 cyclists, many of them fast-food deliverers, immediately U-turned to head north on First Avenue once informed they were cycling in the wrong direction. Many others left the sidewalk.

Motorists' reactions to the group's efforts were generally favorable. Most double-parkers left the bicycle lane cooperatively when asked, though Fox 5 News filmed one grump rolling up his window on Give/Get volunteers. Several taxi passengers were apologetic when asked not to hail or exit from a cab in the bicycle lane.