A letter written by UES resident Bette Dewing to the NY Post and published on Sunday January 20, 2013 regarding NYC’s upcoming bike-share program starts off with this paragraph:
“The only mode of travel that the government should be supporting is mass transit, because it is the safest by far and best serves the needs of the majority of citizens (“Mayor Bloomberg Predicts Flood of Two-Wheelers in Bike-Share Program,” Jan. 12).”
What Dewing is forgetting (or the Post editors eliminated some of her words) is that sidewalks are part of our transportation system too. So by proxy, she is saying that we should eliminate all the sidewalks in NYC.
“Pushing bicycles or other private transit weakens this indispensable system, not to mention public safety in general”
Yes, we need to keep encouraging more people to eschew cars for transportation and find ways to ensure those behind the wheel to drive more responsibly. In her article“Sandy’s Vicitim’s Still Need Help; Traffic Tragedies Can Be Avoided” (NYPress, January 9, 2013) Dewing writes:
“Several recent Times pieces aired research on how elders with disabilities, especially, are the most vulnerable in times of disaster, including fire-caused deaths and injuries. But, while never forgetting the massive needs of superstorm Sandy victims, attention must be paid to traffic calamities, too. Charles Komanoff’s Streetsblog reported recently that five pedestrians were killed locally in four days of the holiday season, mostly as a result of the deadly “turning into a crosswalk” circumstance. How disastrous that government, whose first duty it is to protect the public, still ignores Komanoff’s 1998 manual “Killed By Automobile,” which has all the stats to support this hazardous “turning violation” claim, along with ways to prevent them. So here’s praying a copy recently given to the East 79th Street Neighborhood Association will prompt this highly effective 25-year-old civic group to make it their number one mission.”
I am glad that Dewing is familiar with Charles Komanoff’s work and that she realizes the toll that reckless and inattentive driving is inflicting upon NYC residents of all ages. Dewing is incorrect in her allusion that Citibike is a private transportation program. Yes Citibike is privately funded, but it is an extension of the public mass transit that already exists in NYC.
“Even if bicyclists obeyed all the rules, which very few city cyclists do, it is still a dangerous way to travel, and again takes support away from the safest travel mode that meets the majority’s needs. ”
Riding a bicycle for transportation is inherently safe. What does make it difficult and less safe for people on bikes in NYC, is the lack of complete infrastructure. Those of us choosing bicycles for transportation would like to see the streets safer for all. Protected bike lanes cut down on injuries for all road users. The pedestrian islands included in the design of protected bike lanes reduce the crossing time needed for pedestrians- especially important for the elderly and disabled who move at slower speeds. And let’s not forget, the more people on bikes and foot, the safer it is for all of us. Bike-sharing is a part of that solution. As for ‘bicyclists’ obeying the rules- more of us do obey the rules than you think. I won’t deny that there are some who break the rules- sometimes it’s due to selfishness, sometimes it’s for their safety and in the case of delivery cyclists- sometimes it’s due to the fact that they are trying to increase the pittance they earn. If you really take the time to observe NYC traffic, you will see people of every transport mode breaking or bending the rules: pedestrians and motorists included. More people on bicycles- whether they are privately owned or a Citibike doesn’t and won’t take support away from the subway system or buses (which I will assume Dewing is referring to). Look at it this way- every person who chooses to ride a bike allows you a better chance of getting a seat on the subway or bus.
“The mayor and others pushing massive bicycle-riding in a high-density city ignore the fact that many citizens are unable to ride bicycles.”
The truth is quite the opposite. The creation of more complete streets (which include protected bikes lanes and slow zones) will encourage more people to ride bikes. As will the Citibike bike sharing program. There’s a significant percentage of people who would like to ride a bicycle for transportation. I like to refer to them as “bike curious” but you could also describe them as “interested but concerned”. These are the type of people you want to encourage to choose bikes for transport- since most likely they will be the more cautious and safer people on bikes once they get started.
Not everyone will be able to choose a bicycle for transportation. I understand that. But it’s time to realize that pedestrians and people on bikes are allies, not enemies. We’re in this together.