The Bike Problem
I have been asked by many people in our group to send out this notice again.
The number one complaint about the quality of life in Midtown over the last few years has been out of control bicycles and e-bikes, and now, scooters and electric skateboards and even unicycles! Every Town Hall meeting I attend, every Precinct meeting I attend, the number one complaint is out of control bicycles. While the last few administrations have been shoving bicycles, and now e-bikes down our throats, not one politician has taken any responsibility for the oversight of the problem they have helped create. Quite simply, pedestrians feel very threatened by out of control cyclists who terrorize them by constantly breaking the laws designed to protect us all. Cyclists and e-bikers ride the wrong way in the streets, ride on sidewalks, ignore the rules of the road, and avoid bike lanes. They text while riding. They even break the speed limit!
The City has spent hundreds of millions on bike infrastructure, but not one penny has gone to education or enforcement. To me, it appears they have left themselves open to a massive lawsuit the next time an e-biker kills somebody.
Le’s go over New York City law, briefly…
All bikes and wheeled objects are vehicles by law, and must obey the same laws as cars! It is totally illegal to ride anything on the sidewalk! All vehicles must travel in the direction of traffic, meaning almost every street in NYC is one way, and bikes and e-bikes must travel in that one direction only…bikes lanes are one way! All bikes must follow stop-lights and obey all traffic signals. Pedestrians always have the right of way.
There is absolutely no reason why all cyclists can’t obey these laws.
The article mentioned e-bike theft as a big problem for delivery people. Well, e-bikes are not bicycles, but motorcycles, despite our city council's desires, and as such, they should all be registered and licensed. They are capable of breaking the speed limit, as you are all aware. This would make bike theft a lot harder to get away with, and since even undocumented people are eligible to get a New York Drivers license, this should add a layer of protection to all delivery people.
And now, the city’s bike partner, Citibike, as administered by Lyft, the car share people, has added E-bikes to their rolling stock. This means anybody who has never even ridden a bike before, now has access to a motorcycle. Now, Citibike users have become a leading menace to pedestrians everywhere. They have no idea what our bike laws are, and Citibike has made zero effort to inform them. There is a small notice about bike laws in the basket up front, but since the first thing riders do is put something in that basket, they never see the notice. Why can’t Lyft and Citibike boldly print out the bike laws at every rental station where they now have advertisements?
There is no one ready to confront this situation. While bike ownership makes up less then 2% of the population, cyclists obviously have powerful lobbying groups behind them. The last few Administrations have bent over backwards to meet with every cyclist’s demands, and now they boast about adding more and more bikes and infrastructure to the city, without one word about handling the existing problems. The general public, however, knows it has been totally ignored. In my over 45 years of living in Midtown, I have never seen a cyclist stopped for any infraction, no matter how severe.
This is not, however, the police’s fault. They were told by the Bloomberg Administration to lay off the cyclists to give them time to start a bike culture in the city, and that order has never been rescinded. Indeed, there are local politicians who have outwardly admitted they won’t enforce existing bike laws!
It’s time for a change! It’s time our elected officials became aware of how strongly this problem is affecting our city, how many people feel abandoned by their electeds, and it’s up to us to let them know. If we hope to see any change we must take action ourselves.
If you are a good cyclist, one who has lights and bells and pays attention to the rule of the road fine, we have no problem. Many of my cycling friends admit how much rogue cyclists, and now e-bikes, are making life worse for everybody, but I have suggestions for making the city safer for EVERYBODY.
The city speed limit is 25MPH, but these bikes can easily reach speeds of 35MPH, and can reach over 40MPH going downhill. Some of these bikes weigh over 45-50 pounds, making them quite lethal. Solution? Register all these bikes, and make sure everyone who rides one has a legitimate license. This way, we can make sure every delivery person is fully aware of ALL the laws: no sidewalks, no texting, no against the traffic, no sidesaddle. There is NO reason this can’t be done, and this will solve the great majority of complaints about bikes in the city.
Another solution I have mentioned to the Department of Transportation, is for them to install signage alongside parking regulation signs that say simply: “It is illegal for bikes and e-bikes to ride on sidewalks!” They told me, however, they have no interest in doing that, which is strange because they created this problem.
Another simple measure that would go a long way to helping solve the problem, is for every one of those Kiosks the city awarded to Google in a no compete contract, start displaying the Rules of the Road for all cyclists and
e-bikers. They should be showing this message on and off for the next few months. Why can’t the city do that?
Next, we have to find a way to help the DOT enforce existing bike laws. They should be given a mandate and whatever tools they need to get the job done. I personally think the best way to do this is to get agents out of their cars and back on the streets, perhaps pairing up plain clothes with uniforms. They could also stop car drivers from all their law breaking (every 5th driver is texting, there are so many illegal black windows, and over loud mufflers.)
But that’s just my view, I will defer to those that know better.
Finally, a big part of the bike problem is that the city, while having invited everybody to bike into the city, once they get here, cyclists have no place to put their bikes! The Bloomberg Administration promised there would be parking for bikes, but outside of a few businesses allowing bikes in their garages or storage areas, there is nothing. Cyclists have to chain their bikes to anything that doesn’t move, and that usually means trees or scaffolding.
The DOT briefly offered bike corrals, but they had to be backed up and maintained by local landlords, something that was never going to happen.
If the city wants all these bikes, they should provide on the street bike corrals and get all these bikes off the sidewalks…after all that was one of the selling points for bikes; that 8 bikes could take the parking on one car. Let’s see the city back up their promises.
How can we make this happen?
Personally, I don’t think one more penny should be spent on bike lanes and infrastructure until we have a well though out program to enforce existing bike laws. We need to spread the word to our local communities and businesses that the city has to do something about this ever-growing problem. Below is some help in finding contact information. Share it…we won’t achieve anything unless we have some numbers. Write the politicians and get in touch with local media as well…every story I see on TV is about new bike lanes. Let’s make our point of view heard!
West 50s Neighborhood Association
To reach the mayors office:
to reach Borough President
To reach Keith Powers