On NYC roads, it’s a matter of life and death

A bicyclist on a bike lane on Broadway near 24th Street in Manhattan.
A bicyclist on a bike lane on Broadway near 24th Street in Manhattan. Photo Credit: Facebook / Beehive Oven

Can we all just get along?

I am among the small percentage of New Yorkers who drive to work every day — from Park Slope to Fort Greene. I am what many would call a cautious driver — sometimes to a fault.

When I get to a stop sign, I say the letters. S-T-O-P, just like in driver’s ed. Then, I proceed when it’s safe. I signal. I even turn my head 180 degrees when I make a turn.

But these days, what most concerns me is not necessarily the other motorists, but bicycle-motor vehicle crashes. At least nine cyclists have died on city streets this year, according to NYC figures.

It seems that bicyclists are the most dangerous group on NYC roads. I am not referring to the mindful tourists gently pedaling their blue Citi Bikes, but the rule-breaking cyclists who cause havoc.

When bike lanes appeared in my Park Slope neighborhood, I grumbled but eventually adjusted. Around that time, the NYC speed limit was lowered to 25 mph, a safety precaution that seems to be followed by many drivers.

For starters, all bicyclists are required by law to stop at red lights just like all drivers. Just because they have opted for a two-wheel transportation does not mean they are exempt from traffic laws. But many bicyclists constantly weave in and out of traffic without concern for pedestrians or other drivers.

Some New Yorkers argue that NYC should encourage cycling. I agree. It is cheaper transportation, helps our environment and is a healthy alternative to driving.

What irks me most is the sense of entitlement many bicyclists exhibit. If a two-wheeler wants to make a turn, that’s fine. He or she must signal properly and make sure the turn is legal and safe. And please just once, when you do something wrong — like cutting a car off or taking liberties on lane changes — please don’t give drivers the finger. You often do. It’s not only offensive, but it’s also dangerous.

Keep your hands on the handlebars where they belong. Keep your eyes on the road, and maybe, just maybe, we can learn to better share the roads. It is more than just a peaceful coexistence.

With the increasing number of NYC cyclists, it is a matter of life and death.

Elana Rabinowitz is a writer and teacher in Brooklyn.

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