Here’s a quick update on my recent post about the ticketing blitz of cyclists in Central Park by the New York City Police Department: A robust crowd of advocates gathered on the steps of City Hall yesterday to support the introduction of a bill that may help restore a healthier balance between cyclists’ ability to enjoy riding and working out in the park and pedestrian safety.
The legislation, introduced by City Council members Ydanis Rodriguez (Dist. 10 – Manhattan), Gale Brewer (Dist. 6 – Manhattan) and Vincent Gentile (Dist. 43 – Brooklyn), proposes changing traffic lights to flashing yellow during car-free hours in the park. This would signal cyclists to exercise caution at intersections, rather than requiring them to wait for a green light.
Since January, a flurry of tickets has been issued to cyclists in Central Park, mostly for running red lights, even at empty intersections, as part of a citywide crackdown in the name of street safety.
Council Member Rodriguez framed the new measure within the context of even-handedness, noting that the ticketing unfairly targets cyclists as sources for City revenue. Proponents of the legislation also say that the focus on recreational cyclists turns a blind eye to dangerous infractions by motorists.
Indeed, while the NYPD issued 160 summonses to automobile drivers for speeding in Central Park in 2010, 230 cyclists have been ticketed in the first two months of 2011. And, a survey by the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives found that over 95 percent of drivers exceed the 25-mile-per-hour speed limit in Central Park.
In the mean time, at a March 14 meeting of the Central Park Precinct’s community council, packed with people who oppose the blitz, there was no indication that strict enforcement would abate any time soon.
As a weekend road cyclist, I continue to keep away from Central Park. Obviously, I’m in complete favor of safety for all park users, but contending with 46 traffic lights and the threat of a $270 summons puts a pretty big damper on working out there. Still, like many other cyclists who have absented themselves, I miss it.
New York Magazine’s “Bikelash” Cover Article
There’s plenty of finger-pointing to go around in this week’s New York Magazine cover article, which provides an overview of how New York City bike lanes became a red-hot political topic. But there’s this too, from the author, Matthew Shaer, (a cyclist himself):
“As any rider can attest, there is something infinitely joyful in putting foot to pedal, something intoxicating in not being bound by the whims of a bus driver or subway conductor or thick tangles of crosstown traffic.”
Sadly, the joy of city cycling is what often gets lost in all the heated rhetoric.
Top: City Council members Brad Lander (center left) and Ydanis Rodriguez face the media. Photo: velojoy