Yesterday, on my way to work I was stopped at a red light at 50th Street and 5 Ave. A large commercial truck was stopped next to me and the gentleman in the passenger seat started a conversation by asking about how the lights on the Omafiets worked.
It was all very pleasant, and then I heard incessant and loud repeated honking from far behind me. I turned to see a white van speeding towards me from more than two-thirds down the block. Within 10 seconds, the van was within inches of me. The light hadn’t even turned green yet and the driver was still aggressively honking at me.
As the light turned green, I pedaled along holding my space in the traffic lane. The driver of the truck maintained the same speed in solidarity with me. At this point, the normal flow of traffic at this intersection caused the truck to come to a standstill, me to pedal ahead and the driver (and passenger) in the van to speed past me within inches all while holding up their fingers to say “fuck you” and screaming profanities at me.
You can think of me as stupid, ballsy or lucky for how I handled the situation. Whatever. That’s your opinion. I made my choices and I’m still here today to write about it.
When I got to work, I discovered that around the same time I nearly got mowed down by the van- a speeding driver had jumped the curb and injured several people in the East Village. One of them, a 62 year old man who was working at the bodega was hospitalized in critical condition.
A few hours later, my friend Dmitry Gudkov tweeted about a cop “hunting cyclists” in the East Village. The officer even had the gall to tell a cyclist he had ticketed “…this is for your safety. You shouldn’t even be riding a bike in New York.”
At this point, I was seething. I’m still angry today. Our system is broken. The build out of complete streets infrastructure in NYC, the increased number of people on bikes and the launch of Citibike are all things that have made me happy and proud of my city. But when it’s still ‘accepted’ that drivers can behave with recklessness and impunity- we have a problem. A really big one.
We have a problem with speeding drivers in this NYC, yet the NYPD chooses to go after people on bikes. Wrong approach. I don’t condone ‘rude’ behavior by anyone- however they choose to get from A to B. But motor vehicles have the ability to kill and maim people and they’re getting away with it every day on our streets. 86 people have been killed in NYC this year. Even if that number was only one, that’s still too many.
It’s time to get angry people. Not in a temper tantrum, screaming shouting kind of way- that will only cause others to turn a deaf ear to the issues at hand. We need to get angry with dignity, love & rage. Don’t shout but be assertive and calm. I’m tired of people saying “well that’s NYC” or “it can’t happen here”. It can and it will.
I initially got involved with advocacy because I ride a bicycle. It didn’t take me long to realize that this was bigger than just people on bikes. This about ALL of us- whether you’re in a car, on foot or a bicycle. This is about calming traffic and make our streets complete and safe for everyone.
Be the change you want to see. Make your voices heard. Rise up and seize the day.