In the past two months, two pedestrians in Central Park have been hit and killed by cyclists. The deaths of 75-year-old Irving Schachter and more recently, 58-year-old Jill Tarlov, are tragic accidents, but they’re also very rare occurrences.
Yet a wave of overreaction by the NYPD and journalists is dominating the current narrative. Samuel D. Freeman’s story in The New Yorker on Tuesday only sounded an alarmist bell, 2,416 words of fear-mongering that now seems to be collectively spreading to even pro-cycling groups and bike bloggers.
We’ve covered many of the creative antics executed by safe streets advocates Right Of Way, from their faux Banksy piece decrying NYPD’s role in traffic violence and stencil art commemorating victims of traffic deaths, both young and old.
But their latest stunt of placing fake 20 MPH signs in Central Park, is not something that people who ride bikes should support, because:
1) They’re conflating the issue. The last time this group installed mock speed limit signs, it was to address motor vehicles specifically, who are the main culprits in most traffic-related deaths. Not bikes. It makes no sense to draw parallels between the deaths caused by motor vehicles — which happen frequently — and deaths caused by cyclists — which hardly happen at all. Let’s treat this incident and others like it for what they are: anomalies.
2) It’s confusing. As it is, even the NYPD seems unsure of the rules in the park and have a history of wrongly citing cyclists for so-called speed infractions.
3) What’s wrong with cyclists doing 25 mph in a park? A lot of responsible racers who train in the park often do so at night or early in the morning when the roads are devoid of cars or pedestrians. As big as NYC is, there’s no safe place for cyclists to open up a little except for the park and riding at a clip of 25 mph — which is the speed limit — is still a perfectly safe practice.
4) No cyclist should have to stop and wait at a red light inside Central Park. That’s absurd and so it’s not surprising that the city’s most vehement anti-bike tabloid would tally lots of people flouting the asinine rule. When riding a bike within the confines of the park, red lights should be treated as four-way stop signs.
5) This stunt reeks of political correctness and posturing. And there’s no good reason why it should.
Keegan Stephen, one of Right Of Way’s founders, agreed when ANIMAL posited that there should be two sets of rules.
“I think there should be different laws for bikes and motor vehicles,” he told ANIMAL. “Until then, I think NYPD should focus their enforcement on the behaviors that are killing people – drivers speeding and failing to yield.”
Given that, though, Keegan admitted that his organization’s stance has not endeared some of those they represent, but objected to the notion that Right Of Way is being too politically correct.
“That was by no means our intention,” he said. “In fact, we feel like we went out on a limb here, and are taking a bit of heat for isolating our base of die hard cyclists.” (Photos: Right of Way)