New York Post/Robert Miller

Cyclists – out to kill

So there have been a couple of instances lately where cyclists have hit and killed pedestrians, and of course, the media is having a field day with it.

In this corner, we have the preposterously holier-than-thou New Yorker, with an article by Samuel G. Freedman, titled, “A bicycle crash kills another pedestrian in Central Park.”

In the other corner, a response from The Awl, from columnist John Herrman, simply titled, “Man struck by bike“. Because that’s what happened. That’s called reporting the news.

Lets look at the New Yorker article first.

Before we even get past the title, we are already introduced to the position of the writer. Another pedestrian killed by a cyclist. According to yet another article reporting on the incident on the event(s), of the 754 pedestrians killed in the last 5 years in NYC, a whopping two (2) have been at the hands of a cyclist. But for Mr Freedman, it’s a regular killing spree out there.

Then we get the story of the author-as-victim, hit from behind by a cyclist whilst jogging many years ago, how lucky he was that he was not killed, the growing danger of cyclists (more of them), and then a paragraph detailing the myriad of offences that cyclists regularly partake in. These traffic offenses are why travelling by foot in NYC is akin to playing Russian roulette (yep, it’s exactly like that). Two people were killed in two months in Central Park. Both cyclists were reported as having to swerve to avoid hitting someone else.

Then we get to two main points the author wishes to make. 1) “First, many bicyclists routinely ignore all traffic laws, signs, and signals,” and 2) “the city has made inadequate efforts in recent years to enforce those laws, and thus to protect the rest of us.”

I don’t know if this is the first article that Mr Freedman has written, but usually the point of your article should have something to do with the incident you are discussing. If, as the police reports suggest, the cyclists were avoiding other people stepping into their paths, then talking about how cyclists regularly flaunt the road rules and that police do nothing about it may not be the best line of argument. It really hardly warrants further reading, especially as he goes on to argue that the problem with cyclists is that they play the victim while simultaneously being the aggressor, and that cyclists are wandering around in a drunk stupor fueled by our “green” credentials. He actually argues that it is because cyclists don’t pollute that they get a free pass on killing people, while because cars do pollute, they are seen “as a potential danger needing to be controlled”. Well, yeah. I do believe that’s rather obvious. Cars are a potential danger needing to be controlled, but it’s got nothing to do with the fact that they pollute. This is written by an adult who has had at least some education, right? He’s seen a car before?

Oh, that’s right, it’s all good, because he has a bike too, and has ridden it around New York before. Let’s all get behind his argument, fellow cyclists.

Hmmm, maybe we should register and licence cyclists. That way, just like a motorist, if a cyclists kills someone while riding, the worst that can happen to us is a small fine.

Anyway, the response from The Awl is full of many responses I share. Something worth noting is that by only the third comment after the article, the blame game starts: cyclists are dicks to pedestrians, and pedestrians are dicks to cyclists, and each is the reason why one collides with the other.

The point that Mr Freedman should have stuck with is the one about there being a lack of law enforcement regarding cycling. Very few incidents are done on purpose. Accidents happen, but what can be said of a lack of care taken on the side of the cyclist? What can be done about that by the law and infrastructure? I will be touching on that issue in an upcoming article, so for now I will just say that I think that part of the trouble that lies between cyclists and motorists is a lack of clarity regarding what cyclists can and cannot do on the roads (or elsewhere). I’m not talking about stopping at red lights, but rather the things that cyclists do that put them somewhere between behaving as a pedestrian and a vehicle. There is far more crossover between cyclists and pedestrians in other places around the world, and they also have far fewer problems with it.

For a few more write-ups on the Central Park murder spree (there are many – write-ups, not murder sprees), check out CitiLab and the New York Post for a couple of slightly more balanced viewpoints.


Header image: source