Town & Village is proud to present “The Soapbox,” a column featuring a different voice from the neighborhood each week (space providing). All are welcome to submit columns on the topic of the author’s choice, preferably not longer than 800 words, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Susan Turchin
We have an unspoken and somewhat unconscious agreement with each other. As pedestrians, when we step off the curb to cross the street and we have the green light, we expect and trust that traffic will stop and we will safely cross to the other side. But now, with increased bike traffic, this unspoken agreement is null and void. When our fabulous new bike lanes came into being all bets were off.
We need a crash course in how to share our streets. I have just returned from Europe, Vienna and Budapest. Two cities where bikes, pedestrians and cars share the roads with ease and respect. Bikes obey the traffic lights and actually stop when the light is red. Pedestrians do the same. No jay-walking. No bikes going down one way street in the opposite direction. Everyone obeys the rules and everyone safely shares the streets.
Case in point. Tonight I rode my bike home from work. A pleasant evening. The right temperature and Ninth Avenue has a nice down slope so the ride was easy. But…
There were pedestrians walking in the bike path all over Ninth Avenue for no apparent reason, since the sidewalks were clear. And there were countless food delivery guys on their motorized bikes riding up Ninth Avenue in the wrong direction on the one-way street. Pedestrians were crossing the streets in the crosswalks against the red light and also jay-walking in the middle of the block crossing into the bike lane without looking or right to be there. Ringing my trusty bicycle bell did not deter them.
To complicate matters even further, there were the other bikers cursing at me each time I stopped for a red light at an intersection, and many times these other bikers decided to swerve onto the sidewalk rather than stop along with me.
Moving onto 18th Street to go crosstown from Ninth Avenue I saw a biker down on the ground, his head cracked open, bleeding on the street. He had been riding his small folding bicycle without any helmet. Not sure what happened but he did not look well.
On the other end of the spectrum, a few months ago, as a pedestrian using our streets, I was run down by a morning biker going really rapidly the wrong way on a one-way street. She went flying off her bike and I crashed down to the pavement as she ran into me. I had looked for traffic in the direction of the one-way street not expecting traffic from the wrong way. We both we left wounded and bleeding.
So here we are. Pedestrians, bikers, cars – all sharing the same streets. New Yorkers. Used to jay-walking. Used to crossing any street at any time. Used to biking on one-way streets in the wrong direction and biking on sidewalks.
I am so disappointed and concerned that the public did not have a crash course in how to share our streets before another 6,000 bicycles were let loose on the roads of Manhattan. The launch of this wonderful bike share program and bike lanes seems to go un-thought through. Something needs to be done. We need education and we needed it before the bike paths went into use months ago. And we need it more now.
Please do something before there are more guys and gals lying in the street bloody each night of the week.
Susan Turchin is a concerned bike rider and resident of Stuyvesant Town.