Garodnick aims to put the brakes on scofflaw cyclists

Council Member Dan Garodnick discussed bike-related safety issues at a press conference in Queens last week.

Council Member Dan Garodnick discussing bike-related safety issues at a press conference in Queens in 2012

By Sabina Mollot

Council Member Dan Garodnick is aiming to rein in cyclists who flout traffic rules. Noting that the problem of bike riders failing to yield to pedestrians has become an increasingly common problem on the East Side of Manhattan, the council member penned a letter to five precincts covering the area in the hopes of getting cops to step up enforcement of bike infractions.

In the letter, which was sent to the commanding officers of the 13th, 17th, 19th, Midtown South and Midtown North Precincts, Garodnick said that it’s no longer just delivery people who can be blamed for cutting off pedestrians or riding the wrong way in the bike lanes.

“Rather,” he said, “commuting and recreational bicyclists are equally often the culprits of such behavior. I have seen I myself repeatedly and it has been reiterated to me by countless constituents.”

Other problems he’s noticed include riding on the sidewalks and riding in the right direction on the street but outside of bike lanes. In those cases sometimes Garodnick said he understood cyclists were breaking the rules for their own safety so he also asked police for more enforcement of vehicles illegally stopped on bike lanes or those who don’t yield to bike riders.

Garodnick noted that he didn’t think enforcement should come via a “ticketing blitz” on select days but be a regular routine and he also suggested more cops be deployed on bikes specifically for this purpose. He also noted that he’d been in touch with Transportation Alternatives, and the organization had since committed to doing outreach in areas the precincts believe it might be helpful.

“I have too many constituents who are afraid to cross the street,” Garodnick told Town & Village. “Not just because of the cars, anymore. We need more constant enforcement of the rules.”

Since sending the letter last Thursday, Garodnick said he said he’d heard from precinct commanders who said they were aware of the problem. Indeed, inconsiderate bike riders are often the bane of community residents who voice their concerns at monthly meetings of the 13th Precinct Community Council. While Garodnick noted that Central Park, which is in his district, has had the most high profile issue with bike infractions, the rest of the district, from the Upper East Side down to Stuyvesant Town, has just as many.

In particular, “from 14th Street to 23rd Street, it’s a regular problem,” he said. “As it’s gotten safer to ride bikes in New York City, which is a very good thing, we need to readjust and focus our attention onto the rules that apply to everyone.”

2 thoughts on “Garodnick aims to put the brakes on scofflaw cyclists

  1. It’s about time something was done about these reckless cyclists. They have made it increasingly unsafe for pedestrians (especially older people, people with infirmities and children) to cross the street and even walk on the sidewalk. Having been clipped by these idiots (especially delivery men) several times while walking on the sidewalk, I feel it really is time to crack down on them in a meaningful way. If an elderly person is knocked down it very often is tantamount to destroying the rest of their lives because bones don’t heal well in the elderly.

    I totally applaud Dan Garodnick for taking up this issue and I hope he keeps at it tenaciously!

  2. Everyone knows that riding outside of a bicycle lane is NOT always illegal according to city law, correct?

    Adult cyclists are never allowed on the sidewalk, but they can use the main roadway on almost any wide avenue, legally. A state law compels cyclists to use a “usable” bicycle path when one is available, but a city-specific regulation eliminates that restriction.

    And in any place in the state, a cyclist is never breaking the law to use vehicle lanes when a bicycle lane is obstructed, damaged, or otherwise unsafe.

    With all respect to the councilman and his “understanding”, cyclists don’t need his blessing or his sympathy to get down the avenue when another road user is inconsiderately causing a hazard or obstruction. They can legally circumvent it using the roadway.

    In particular, this complaint seems to not be a concern to pedestrians unless they are crossing a roadway unsafely. Cyclists have to observe a red light no matter what lane they’re in. Similarly, pedestrians have to observe the “Don’t Walk” sign no matter what traffic may be approaching.

    Data shows that red light violations by cyclists (causing conflicts at intersections) and wrong-way cyclists (leading to incidents where pedestrians do not suspect danger approaching) are the primary dangers for law-observant pedestrians. Most cyclists would like to see these laws upheld, for their safety and yours too.

    Which brings up a good question: what data backs up these specific complaints? The growth in cycling has been accompanied by a flat-number of injuries and incidents year-to-year, according to NYPD. The injury rate is going down (as a percentage of trips taken) and there’s reason to believe that current progress will lead to future improvements. We should stick to that path. There should be a coalition of support for data-driven enforcement and injury-reduction + Vision Zero. Conversely, there should be little attention paid to “bikelash” by residents who have bizarre notions of the justification of using alternate forms of transportation. These complaints have no solutions except restrictions, reductions, and lane removals.

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