That's me, folks. In a decade of riding NYC streets, mainly in Manhattan, I've gotten no tickets, I've never been hit and have been doored, mildly, but once. I "live to ride and ride to live," and have enjoyed being part of the subtle and continuing cycling renaissance that is transforming the feel of city streets. Unfortunately, many of you have not fared so well. Veteran cyclists, street savvy and all, are being hit with whopping tickets for trivial offenses. They are also being struck by more dangerous objects. In early October, Jon Orcutt was rammed from behind by a hit-and-run driver just after starting his commute home. Fortunately, Jon (the Deputy Director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and my predecessor here at T.A.) suffered only from bruises and a wrenched back. Sadly, a pedestrian hit simultaneously was severely hurt.
Jon's crash brings to mind the torrent of complaints about police harassment T.A. is receiving from everyday cyclists. These folks are right to wonder how the police have time to harass bicyclists - even jail them - for trivial offenses, while motorists continue to rampage on our streets, endangering the lives of the traveling public. In a front page story "No-Bell Losers" (Sunday, October 25) the Daily News profiled two cyclists, each jailed for two days, in separate incidents in Brooklyn. One didn't have a bell; the other ran a red light. Neither cyclist had a driver's license and cops refused to accept the courier service ID produced by one. T.A. knows of at least three similar cases, though there are undoubtedly far more. Granted, these may be extreme examples of the mindless torrent of police harassment of bicyclists. Yet the cops have pestered generally courteous cyclists while ignoring the sidewalk riders who justifiably raise the public's ire. The fundamental issue is proportionality: dangerous drivers, even killer drivers, face little or no punishment; but cyclists get hit with a police sledgehammer for minor nonsense.
T.A. strongly urges bicyclists to respect pedestrians, motorists and fellow cyclists and to obey traffic laws. We also demand that the police order their traffic enforcement priorities. Who is doing the killing and maiming on our streets? It is not bicyclists. Given the scope of the city's transportation problems, it is perverse that those that are part of the solution are being nailed. Enough already. The City must encourage bicycling with vigor; embrace neighborhood-friendly traffic calming; charge cars more to park and cross bridges; and come to grips with the obvious fact that the automobile is a transportation tool inherently unsuitable for dense urban spaces. See the Annual Bicycling Report Card in this issue to see just how far the City needs to go.
P.S. T.A.'s challenge to NYC and New York State to devote 1.5% of total transportation spending in NYC to bike/ped projects (see our July/Aug. issue) has met with a feeble response. Our request amounts to $204 million over 6 years - modest given the more than $13 billion slated to be spent on highways and subways. More next issue on this unfolding embarrassment in local transportation planning. Additionally, T.A. continues to see a cogent explanation of what the NYC DOT intends to do with the Manhattan approach to the Brooklyn Bridge and how it reached that decision.