In the wake of the horrific deaths of two pedestrians after being hit by cyclists , a healthy debate has taken place in the press and at CHEKPEDS. It seems that the question is at the heart of the current debate on cyclists.
One treats bicycles like vehicles because they use the roadway, but they do not enjoy the same privileges as the cars do: no bicycle highways, no dedicated roads except a few protected bike lanes which are still the exception. When there is a bike lane, bicyclists get a ticket if they ride on the rest of the road, contrary to drivers which are allowed to drive on non-protected bike lanes. Bike parking is quasi nonexistent, while car parking is ubiquitous.
Parking, when available, is on the sidewalk. Does that mean bicyclists should be treated like pedestrians? Both groups are vulnerable users of the roads: in a crash with a car, it is easy to see who is most at risk. But pedestrians jaywalk everywhere while seldom risking a ticket and the sidewalk is dedicated to them, a luxury cyclists do not have.
Don’t get me wrong: I get mad at cyclists on the sidewalk, although I frequently walk in the street, and I am particularly scared of cyclists going the wrong way, although pedestrians can go both ways. Can you imagine the compliance level if sidewalks were one-way only ?
As classes with established rights, we expect newcomers to strictly follow the rules while we feel entitled to bend them. As New-Yorkers, we are very protective of our scarce public space. Hence the general rage at seeing a new tribe grabbing a bit of our territory… Not much evolution in 4 million years.
And like in any other population, there is a certain percentage of crazy, obnoxious, reckless cyclists and drivers that will cause collisions and harm. They should be prosecuted severely, but this is not an excuse to blame the whole group for their misdeeds.
So bicyclists are a new category of street users and overtime I expect they will get their own rules consistent with a completed infrastructure. Until then, they are flesh and blood, as vulnerable as pedestrians, and that’s enough for me.