March 22, 2011
by Jessica Sheridan Assoc. AIA LEED AP

I live on the Upper West Side, where much of the contention around the new bike lane on Columbus Avenue has centered on some business owners who claim that the shifting traffic patterns have negatively impacted profits (see “DOT Agrees To Modifications To Street Redesign On UWS,” by Tetiana Anderson, 02.07.11). However, there also seems to be a wave of bike riders who are speaking out against these new lanes, as well. While I am in favor of expanding bike lanes throughout the city, and I understand that there will be growing pains as drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians adjust to new infrastructure, the expanded paths are far from perfected.

The new bike lanes are intended to encourage people to ride bikes in the city. However, as stated on the Biking Rules website, riders must follow all the rules of the road that apply to motor vehicles — i.e., stopping at all red lights and stop signs, riding with the flow of traffic, and stopping before crosswalks. These rules are increasingly being enforced. The security guard in my building was ticketed recently for going through a red light while riding home at 2:00am, when, he claims, there was no traffic or pedestrians. The NY Post reported on officers ticketing riders running red lights in Central Park (see “Tix blitz on Central Pk. cyclists,” by John Doyle, 03.16.11). The report also states that 230 tickets have been issued to cyclists for traffic violations in the city so far this year.

I think it is time to re-evaluate the laws and determine the best balance required to encourage cyclists and provide for both their safety and the safety of those around them. I agree that bike riders must abide by traffic laws, but I do not think that they should be subject to the same regulations or penalties as motor vehicles. While bikes can be dangerous to pedestrians, they are not nearly as deadly as cars or trucks. Idaho has had a law in place since 1982 that lets cyclists run red lights after slowing down to make sure crossing an intersection is safe, called the “Stop As Yield” law. Utah, Oregon, and Montana considered implementing a similar law, but in all cases it did not pass through legislature. NYC streets may be more dangerous than Idaho, but I think this is just one law worth considering.

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