It was one of those uneventful mornings after an equally uneventful trip to my local grocery store on Broadway, on the Upper West Side in New York City. I waited until the light had changed for me to be able to cross a particularly wide stretch of Broadway. The cars and trucks had stopped, since they had a red light. A large truck was stopped in the last lane. That’s significant because the truck blocked my view of a bicyclist riding one of those (wretched) electric bikes in a narrow passage of street to his left.
He blew into the crosswalk and came within inches of mowing me down. Luckily, he swerved just in time. It was a very close call.
Was this a moving violation? Well, that’s easy. There is something called the “New York City Department of Transportation TRAFFIC RULES”, Title 34, Chapter 4.
Specifically, for “Steady red alone” traffic signals, Section 4-03, says “Vehicular traffic facing such signal shall stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection…and shall remain standing until an indication to proceed is shown.”
There is also a definition of “Vehicle” : “A “vehicle” means every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except devices moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.” Clearly, that electric bike is a vehicle.
Now, it begs the question of what to do to keep it from happening again…and again…and again.
With all the bicycles and scooters coming at you, from all directions, on city streets and sidewalks, you’d think it’s safer to walk in the park. Think again. It’s apparently the Wild West there, too.
A few days ago, as I was taking a morning walk along the east side of Riverside Drive, adjacent to Riverside Park, I forgot to look behind me when I moved over a few feet to the left to avoid a fallen tree branch. I heard a bicycle bell and and then felt the rush of air of the first bicycle as it whizzed by me, narrowly missing my left side by a few inches. A second bicycle followed, again narrowly missing me. These folks weren’t just leisurely pedaling along. They were going at breakneck speed.
I definitely think there’s a market in New York City for eyeglasses with rear-and-side-view mirrors.
I do worry that pedestrians are losing ground against cyclists here. I heard on the news this morning that Democratic Mayoral candidate Eric Adams is also an avid cyclist. Perhaps we also need full body armor.
I think pedestrian safety in NYC is an oxymoron. Try crossing the street, for instance. Even in a crosswalk, with the light, a bicyclist or someone on a scooter will likely be zipping towards you at breakneck speed. And won’t be stopping, just because you have the light and he doesn’t. Hopefully, he’ll swerve and not hit you.
It’s actually pretty outrageous.
Nor is reckless behavior of bicyclists or scooter drivers confined to the streets. These days you can find them on the sidewalks as well. Many times, they’re delivery guys aiming to get their motorized bikes back to the restaurant that’s dispatched them. They get up on the sidewalk for the last leg of their trip to park in front of the restaurant’s front door.
I know friends who walk on the sidewalk and look all around them before “changing lanes” to move left or right, in case they’d be moving into the lane of a bike or scooter. We’re talking sidewalks now, not streets.
Whatever happened to the saying that ‘pedestrians have the right of way’. Not anymore.
Sometimes I feel like Katniss in Hunger Games when I’m trying to get around NYC. One particular challenge is negotiating the city’s streets–especially at night and when they are the city’s major avenues.
Let’s take Broadway, for instance. It’s idiosyncratically off-the-grid and slices through many of the city’s streets, and even an avenue or two, in ways that certainly perplexes tourists and often the occasional New Yorker. It’s quite wide in some sections of the Upper West Side, in particular, but the countdown pedestrian signals were obviously calibrated by an Olympic sprinter working in the Department of Transportation. And I’m not even slowed down by a cane or a walker.
Apart from my concern about whether I’ll reach the safety of the opposite sidewalk before getting mowed down by an 18-wheeler truck careening down the avenue at speeds well above the mandated 25 mph, is my fear whether I’m visible as a pedestrian if I get stuck somewhere in the middle.
So I’m trying to wear as much white as possible, which makes me look as though I’ve joined a cult. Maybe I should start carrying a bow and arrow like Katniss to look more formidable. If nothing else they’d slow down for a good laugh.
The above isn’t a self-portrait (fortunately). However, it has happened when someone looking at her phone tumbled down an open sidewalk grating.
I’ve had a few close calls and think it’s useful to reflect on the importance of being in the moment and not distracted by the many gadgets (by that I mean mostly our smart phones) that seduce us away from the reality we’re in.
Keep yours in your purse or pocket as you walk down the street and notice the number of people who are looking at their own.
This is a request for concentrating on what you’re doing when you’re doing it –particularly if it’s walking or driving, when forward motion and not concentrating don’t mix well together. I think there have been studies that also show that reading or watching TV when you’re eating keeps you shoveling food down, and potentially overeating, instead of savoring what you have on your plate.
So, friends, stay in the moment and keep all your senses open to your surroundings. You might even smell the roses and hear the birds again. And save yourself from breaking your neck.
I recently met a group of friends for dinner. Several reported on incidents where they’d fallen on sidewalks. The villain for one was a manhole cover that wasn’t flush with the pavement. Another caught her shoe on a crack in the sidewalk. As a consequence, both were dealing with dislocated shoulders and weeks of physical therapy.
Another friend slid on a wet manhole cover last winter and broke her wrist. Someone else was run down by a bicyclist and had a broken shoulder. My dental hygienist walks with a permanent limp from having been hit by a turning taxi. A college classmate was hit by a turning car but, luckily, came through the experience with no permanent physical consequences. She’s a bit traumatized, however, every time she has to cross the street.
What should we do about protecting ourselves from these mishaps?
I strongly urge you to donate any black coat or jacket to a charity and buy a new one that’s a light color, or, if you can’t do that, wear a light-colored hat. Or think about slathering your outwear in reflective tape. Never walk and look at your phone! Also, try to not focus on the ground below but instead be looking a few feet ahead.