Thursday, September 20, 2012

2012 NYC Century Bike Tour-where red lights turn green

Does cycling enjoyment on the streets of New York require that current traffic regulations be ignored and a new set of rules be applied?  This clip is the first of the four but you can access all the clips at...

NYC Century Bike Tour Playlist 45 minutes total of 4 clips

The annual NYC Century Bike Tour is a great undertaking and 7000 riders is quite an achievement.   The weather was perfect and everyone seemed to be having a good time. But the lack of discipline shown by  too many of the riders by ignoring the rules of the road was very disappointing.  I cannot speak about the whole tour route.  My main focus was on the intersection of Ocean Parkway and Neptune Avenue, the primary route for all the tours that followed the shoreline  from Coney Island to Sheepshead Bay and onto the Belt Parkway bike path going east.

Ocean Parkway is a eight lane parkway including two green malls.  The intersection has been cited as one of the more dangerous in the borough.  There are many elderly residents who live in this Brighton Beach community and countdown traffic signals have recently been installed to improve safety.

The traffic was light that morning when I first arrived. Tour cyclists were out in force but hardly any rider felt the need to stop at the intersection when their light was red.  If the light was green for Ocean Parkway traffic  the cyclists paused for just a moment until the coast was clear and then rolled through the Neptune Avenue red light.

Making a decision to cross all eight lanes and the malls when the light is red is irresponsible and can be deadly.  Riding mostly in large packs too many cyclists repeatedly violated traffic rules at this intersection.  Either they are riding through  red signals,  blocking crosswalks,  rolling through clearly marked crosswalks, travelling with multiple persons abreast , creeping into active traffic lanes, blocking traffic, riding outside the bike lane interfering with traffic flow risking injury for themselves and others.  Many only stopped when Ocean Parkway traffic was imminent and moved forward when the coast was clear.  This was not a few riders.  The large packs of riders would move en masse increasing the danger to themselves, motorists and pedestrians who had the right of way.  This intersection is very well marked to enhance safety for all. The videos clearly show what I have described.

In addition Neptune Avenue becomes very narrow east of Ocean Parkway and riders didn't confine themselves to the bike lane as they drifted into the car lanes.  If they rode single file there would not have been a problem.  Hardly possible with so many riders.   But riding freely through red lights along this part of the route seemed to be an accepted and in fact a preferred way to maintain their rhythm.  What disturbs me is that this ride was recreational.  This was not a race. There was no rush to meet a deadline.  A short wait at a red light would have made no difference to the spirit of the tour and yet would have shown the riders to be responsible in sharing the road with deadly steal and unguarded pedestrians.

Only when the traffic was heavier later that morning  were cyclists forced to wait for the light to turn green. But many quickly took advantage of any opening in the traffic flow. It was not the red light that kept them from crossing. Lack of signage is not the problem as you can see in the videos.  The warnings are just ignored.  I understand the bike riding culture that has existed in this city for generations.  Climbing onto a bike makes one feel like a free spirit. But in this case this is a sponsored event with many thousands of riders who are expected to demonstrate responsible and safe bicycling.

It is necessary next year for TA to post someone at that intersection to monitor and control the cyclists from running the red, staying within the bike lane and resist overcrowding the road. That type of traffic control worked during Summer Streets. TA has a responsibility to insure that the cyclists that are participating in their tour obey the traffic regulations and the rules of safety and conduct on the road.  We have to depend on the kindness and good sense of strangers.

Kudos to those cyclists who played by the rules and didn't get caught up in the frenzy of the mass ride.  I believe most would not take those risks if they were riding alone.

I understand that it is inconvenient for cyclists to have to step down off their bike to wait their turn to go especially in the grid pattern of our city. I also like to keep moving when I bike. But driving and riding bikes is a privilege that can only be enjoyed when the rules of play apply to everyone.  Riding in a large group tour doesn't entitle anyone for special consideration or waive their obligations to obey the traffic laws that keep us safe.

Note: These videos were taken between 8:30-10:00am.

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