Sunday, October 10, 2010

City must end this 'cycle' of violence


Last Updated: 7:35 AM, August 19, 2010

Posted: 3:35 AM, August 19, 2010

It's hell on wheels out there. Police say they're cracking down on demon bicyclists, papering lawless delivery men and two-wheeled street hogs with tickets like expensive confetti. But just 48 hours after the city announced it was handing hundreds of $50 summonses to assassin wannabes who ignore stop signs and dart giddily on sidewalks, terrorizing senior citizens and small animals, it was business as usual.

As you can see at right, it isn't safe on two feet.

"There's a certain green superiority complex," said Village resident Margarita, 36, the victim of a near-miss. "They're obnoxious."

And lethal.

A visit to a new bicycle lane in the East Village yesterday, the brainchild of a mayor who can't stand cars except his own, revealed Dodge City. Bicycles zoomed the wrong way on a one-way path, ignoring traffic lights, helmet laws and decency.

Taking my life into my hands, I stopped deliveryman Ivan Zamora, 25, as he ignored signs and rode in the opposite direction of arrows painted on First Avenue. He removed his noise-blocking headphones.

"I think it's OK" to ride the wrong way, said Zamora. "The cops no give me a ticket."

Just then, I saw a policeman roaming the bike lane, and asked if he planned to write summonses for lawbreaking riders. The cop said no, explaining that he specialized in ticketing cars, not bikes.

From out of the blue, a bicycle sped around the corner, ignoring a red light, an intersection filled with pedestrians, the cop. And me.

It's official.

You see them coming from the corner of your eye, if you're lucky. Fearless bike riders, whom Mayor Bloomberg and his minions see as the green glory of New York, have morphed into what a police spokesman said was the Upper East Side's No. 1 quality-of-life menace. It goes further. You hear it in the close-call stories shared by every pedestrian ever to tread the sidewalks. You see it in the crutches borne by a colleague who survived a hit.

"It feels like civil war," declared Nancy Gruskin of New Jersey.

She should know.

Last year, Nancy's husband of 16 years, Stuart, an athletic 50, was run down in Midtown by a bike deliveryman riding the wrong way on a one-way street. Three days later, Stuart died of head injuries, leaving behind 12-year-old twins. The deliveryman faced no criminal charges.

Nancy has dedicated her life to making streets safer. It doesn't help that the government is in deep denial, plunking down some 200 bike lanes since Stuart was killed, and failing to enforce the law.

But while Nancy's research -- and reams of anecdotal evidence -- indicates things are increasingly desperate, the city says there's no problem. The Department of Transportation reports that last year, 49 pedestrians survived bike hits. The official number has decreased from 2001, when 130 bike-walker accidents were recorded.

The numbers belie a recent Hunter College study that found, among other outrages, that a whopping 37 percent of bike riders routinely blow through stop lights. More than 10 percent ride the wrong way. And helmets? A joke to two-thirds of cyclists.

But a spokesman for the bike group Transportation Alternatives, which bike-safety activists contend has achieved outsize influence over this administration, insists that cars are the real culprits.

"Bicyclists and pedestrians are fighting over the scraps given over to cars," said deputy director Noah Budnick.

Still, Nancy isn't the only one suspicious of the city's rosy bike picture.

Jack Brown once ran the Hi-Ho Cyclery bike shop. Now, he runs the Coalition Against Rogue Riding, an organization he founded after a 2005 epiphany. Walking four blocks in the rain through the East Village, "I nearly got clipped five times" by bikes, he said.

"It felt like I was in a bar fight -- you never know where it's going to come from next. I was shaking. I was in shock."

Bicycle riders who run roughshod over the city should face the law. If not, bike lanes must be painted over, criminals stopped.

Give us back our streets.

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