March/April 1998, p.22-23

Letters

Dear New York Times Editors:
As a middle aged, middle class woman who has been traversing NYC by bicycle as a means of transportation for the past forty years, I am incensed by the way in which bicyclists are bad mouthed and mistreated. For every person hurt or killed by bicycles, there are thousands hurt or killed by automobiles. This includes hundreds of bicyclists. When a bicyclist hit and killed one pedestrian, it made headlines. When a car hits and maims or kills a bicyclist, that is not news.
Bicycles are a clean, quiet, healthy means of transportation. Instead of pandering to the trucks and automobiles, our City should be helping people take to their bicycles, not just for recreation but as a means of getting from one place to another. This means establishing bike lanes. Instead the City is cracking down on bicyclists.
It's time this City followed the example of many big European cities and made it safe and easy for citizens to use their bicycles.
Alice K. Ladas, Ed.D.
New York, NY

Dear T.A.:
All dangerous cyclists, electric motorized chair drivers, crazed mothers pushing baby carriages, and mad car drivers should have their vehicles taken away from them! But until New York City builds dedicated bike lanes for cyclists, as long as a cyclist rides slowly and is careful he or she should be allowed to use public sidewalks.
Cy Adler
New York, NY
Yes, cyclists need safe streets. But two wrongs don't make a right. Pedestrians are beleaguered enough without having to share the sidewalk with cyclists. - Ed.

Dear T.A.:
I believe the article, "Doored" (T.A. Jan/Feb '98), misses the point. It is never necessary to ride at high speeds within the door swing corridor of parked cars. Yet almost every day I see bicyclists traveling fast within four feet of parked cars. Sooner or later every one of these cyclists will hit a car door. These incidents are avoidable. Even in NYC traffic, bicyclists are safer taking over the outer traffic lane where motorists can see them, than riding close to parked cars.
I have ridden a bicycle almost every day for forty five years, in many cities, including New York, without ever hitting a car door. I expect to continue to bicycle on a daily basis for forty five more years, and I can assure you that I will not be doored. The reason is simple. I will continue to ride outside of the door lane of parked cars when traveling at greater than walking speed no matter what the traffic conditions. Your statistic of over 17,000 cyclist injuries per year for this type of accident should underline the need to stress safety precaution. The advice that you should give to every cyclist is "NEVER ride fast close to parked cars".
I do not agree with your advice about taking legal action against a car driver who unthinkingly opens the door without looking. To ride within the swing of a car door is irresponsible. We should encourage bicyclists to take responsibility rather than to blame someone else for this type of accident.
Henry Arnold
Princeton, NJ
Good advice about staying outside the door zone. Clearly, avoiding getting hit or doored in the first place is the best strategy. But, no matter how careful and skilled a cyclist is, a reckless or inattentive motorist can hit them. (We'd draw your attention to super-dangerous, but often seen situations like cabs slamming on their brakes and throwing open a passenger door into the third traffic lane from the curb!) The point of "Doored" is what to do if you are hit or doored and your brain stops working. And yes, T.A. does recommend using a lawyer to seek compensation for being injured and endangered. Bicyclists are put at extreme disadvantage by a traffic system based on legal standards (AASHTOA) that are designed for cars, and by criminal laws that let motorists go unpunished for maiming and killing vulnerable cyclists and pedestrians. Irresponsible motorists should pay for their actions. - Ed.

Dear T.A.:
[Regarding the WNYC program in which John Kaehny of T.A. was responding to Councilman Noach Dear's proposed legislation requiring insurance for bicycle messengers:]
We know that mixing insurance companies into any walk of life benefits only the insurance companies. Most bicycle accidents involve cyclists getting hit by cars. The numbers bandied around by the hysterical anti-cyclists are unsubstantiated at best or, at worst, absolute nonsense.
There is prudence, and then there is the pathetic, primitive preoccupation with abnormal levels of safety, virtually unknown outside of the USA. In other nations, people are encouraged to think for themselves and not seek refuge in idiotic, untenable laws such as those that emanate from City Council.
Robert P. Held
New York, NY

Dear T.A.:
You are doing a great service to pedestrians in New York....I believe New York City should have more restrictions on non-resident traffic and pedestrian-only blocks like most civilized cities in the world. We have brilliant minds that can effectively design a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere. Remember we pedestrians are the consumers, we still don't have drive-in stores!
Jose Cuselin

Dear T.A.:
I wear my "ONE LESS CAR" tee and it makes an impression. Not because of biking but because pedestrians are now conscious of our wrong-headed mayor, who is playing into our hands about CARS. He's great publicity, and now T.A. is on top of it.
The magazine is better than ever.
Peggy Vranesh

Dear T.A.:
Given the city's unjust assault on bicyclists and pedestrians, it is critical T.A. members make their voices heard in the city's newspapers. One of the easiest, not to mention quick and cheap, means of doing that is via the internet. Using email, in the last six weeks, I've had letters published in the Daily News, New York Post, and The Village Voice. Remember, each letter you send is equivalent to speaking on behalf of one hundred others. Even if it's is not chosen for publication, the opinions and volume of the mail they receive is the engine which propels news coverage and editorial content. Don't be silent! Copy these addresses into your e-mail address file for fast reference:
New York Times: letters@nytimes.com
N.Y. Post: letters@nypost.com
Daily News: editors@nydailynews.com
Newsday: letters@newsday.com
The Village Voice: editor@villagevoice.com
Always include your name and phone number for verification. Brief is better.
Clarence Eckerson, Jr.
Brooklyn, NY