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Opinion: Bicycles and politicians…who broke the social contract?

BY STEPHEN DiLAURO | I don’t know about other boroughs. In fact, I’m not even that aware of the situation Uptown. But here, in Downtown Manhattan, the social contract is broken. Solving the desperation and anguish that homelessness inflicts is certainly foremost in making this a more decent society.

But pedestrian safety is becoming a huge issue, as well. The social contract is breaking apart. There used to be a reasonable expectation that taking a walk, at least in the middle of the day or early evening, was safe to do. Not anymore.

The origins of this mess can be laid at the feet of politicians, especially Bill de Blasio.

Among de Blasio’s many lame-brain ideas as mayor, he decided to allow unlicensed, uninsured (electric) motorized vehicles ride the streets and sidewalks, so that food-delivery apps like Grubhub and Uber Eats could contribute to his various post-mayoral runs for office, which one can only hope are as big a joke as his run for president. He’s now trying to bully his way into the new 10th Congressional district seat. God help us all.

Carlos, 35, from the Bronx is an e-bike deliveryperson for Grubhub servicing Midtown. He works from 5 p.m. to midnight six days a week. (Photo by The Village Sun)

I have been hit twice by bicycles, as a pedestrian. Once was on the sidewalk by an e-bike ridden by a delivery rider intent on receiving his next order via his handlebars-mounted smart phone. That was about six weeks ago, and fortunately I was still spry enough to jump out of the way. He “only” clipped my left knee.

The most recent accident was when a Citi Bike rider clipped both my knees when he ran the light and hit me in the crosswalk. I saw him coming but there were two of them and, no matter what I did, it was inevitable I would be hit.

The guy who hit me looked abashed as he slammed on his breaks to avoid careening into the crosstown traffic proceeding legally. His partner, though, also stopped and yelled at me to watch where I was going. If crossing with the light is no longer safe, I really don’t know where to go anymore, not in Manhattan anyway.

This last outburst, by the way, is the general attitude of bike bros. Even the delivery guy on the sidewalk yelled at me to be careful as he kept going. Likewise, a guy on a Citi Bike in the bike lane going the wrong way on a one-way street recently yelled an F-word phrase at me as he ignored the light and the crosswalk.

I’m 72 years old and can’t take many more, if any more, of these incidents. As it is, I’m still black and blue on my left knee.

An e-bike deliveryperson riding in the rain. (Photo by The Village Sun)

As a Green Party member, it is difficult for me to speak against bicycles. Obviously, they are better than cars. But let’s be clear, please. There was never any reasonable chance that the minions of delivery apps would instead be using automobiles if they didn’t have their ubiquitous e-bikes. They would be pedaling old-fashioned bicycles.

Safe Streets for Seniors is a New York City initiative that focuses on cars but doesn’t do diddly-squat about bicycles and pedestrians. The bike bros have strong advocates. Look at all the millions U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer pork-rolled into the federal budget for bicycle lanes.

The bike bro advocates cite the number of fatal car versus fatal bike accidents in traffic. That is very sad. However, bicyclists ignore traffic signals, go the wrong way on one-way streets, weave through traffic and, in the case of e-bikes, travel at excessive speeds with little or no regard or respect for any traffic laws. Couple those facts with inexperienced tourists enriching the tech creeps that own the Lyft app by riding Citi Bikes, and I’m surprised the number of deaths isn’t higher.

However, my concern is not the clashes between cars and bikes. My concern is the abject absence of civility and the danger that bicyclists project onto our streets and sidewalks, especially for senior citizens like me. Death is not the only thing that can result from a pedestrian and bicycle mishap, believe me.

E-bikes, like this Zoomo model, ridden by deliverypersons are zooming a bit too much — and sometimes on sidewalks and the wrong way in traffic — the writer says. (Photo by The Village Sun)

However, rather than simply rant and not offer any solution, let me offer a two-pronged approach to solving this public health crisis: First and foremost, return the philosophy of “protect and serve” to the governance of the police force. Across our city and our country, “officer safety above all” is the rule of police conduct. We see how that plays out in shootings of unarmed citizens in traffic stops and other situations.

Let’s get the cops out of their vehicles and back on the beat. In winter and summer, the police sit in their cars with engines running — killing the planet — with their noses buried in their cell phones. Pass a law that allows them to confiscate bicycles and e-bikes when they are ridden where they shouldn’t be — on sidewalks and in parks. Have offenders pay a reasonable fine, say a hundred bucks, before their bikes are returned. Riding a bike in New York City, like driving a car, should be a privilege, not a right without limits.

The second part of my plan is much simpler: Stop voting for idiot politicians who pander and plunder, like de Blasio and Carlina Rivera — who called the e-bike delivery-app people “heroes” — and Chuck Schumer, who I generally like but who sure didn’t think this one through.

Personally, I believe the Green Party is missing a generational opportunity in not pulling out all the stops to put into office the first Green Party member of the House of Representatives, for New York’s 10th Congressional District.

In any case, anybody but de Blasio or Rivera, please. Let’s see what happens.

DiLauro is a playwright and critic. Installments of his ongoing Bohemian Times Gazette are available at bohemiantimes.substack.com.

30 Comments

  1. Amy Berkov Amy Berkov June 2, 2022

    I have ridden a bike in NYC for over four decades, and it gives me no pleasure to report that I now consider e-bikes the number one street hazard. Sidewalks are for pedestrians; bike lanes should be reserved for human-powered vehicles.

  2. Bill Felt Bill Felt June 2, 2022

    NYC is the Wild West. I walked the Williamsburg Bridge yesterday. I would say 10% of “bike” traffic on the pedestrian level was actually gas-powered motorcycles and mopeds. Completely unsafe. What the hell is the mayor doing about this?

  3. Ariana Ariana June 2, 2022

    If Rivera and de Blasio cared a whit about the people who live in this city Rivera would not have voted in favor of the the devastating ESCR plan to decimate East River Park and de Blasio would not have thrown in the trash the flood protection plan that was designed with significant community input. Now pained residents try to escape last week’s heat wave inside a park while watching 80-year-old trees being killed in the “open” part of the park as contractors and Con Ed workers do whatever they want with no oversight. This is both traumatic for us and unwise for the city and the planet -— a stunning example of what not to do. They will both vote with their pockets and continue to have disdain for those whom they “represent.” They have no intention of “representing” any of us.

  4. Connie Connie June 2, 2022

    Out of control, dangerous and inhibits a quality of life we all deserve. Vote these folks out, stop ordering delivery and vote out local officials.

  5. Linda Roche Linda Roche June 2, 2022

    Thank you The Village Sun and Mr. DiLauro for this article. I have been speaking on this subject for several years. Red lights mean nothing to cyclists, sidewalks are fair game, and speeding is normal. Many years ago Mayor Bloomberg asked people to send ideas that would help the City make money. I sent him my idea but never heard back. My idea: require all adult cyclists to get a license to ride in the City, just like an auto or motorcycle. They would need to get a permit, take a test that would teach them the rules of the road and hang a license on the bike so there would be a way to issue them a ticket. I too have been hit by a cyclist as was my dog, who thankfully wasn’t hurt.

  6. Marguerite Martin Marguerite Martin June 2, 2022

    Yes, thank you for this article. It is a terrible problem and much more needs to be done to address the lack of pedestrian safety. I am with you on any future initiatives.

  7. Patricia Melvin Patricia Melvin June 2, 2022

    I couldn’t agree more with DiLauro’s column. It’s disgraceful that people, especially the elderly whom we should respect and protect, have to go out terrorized that they might never return home the same. Here in the city, all of us, except the super-rich, have to be able to walk in order to live normal lives. Being hit by a bike can cause a person to become disabled to some degree, becoming a shut-in or worse.

  8. Chris Chris June 2, 2022

    Unless police officers either chase down e-cyclists (not safe or realistic) or lets another officer know a block away that a speedy e-cyclist is approaching, unsafe conditions for pedestrians will continue.

  9. David D Meltzer David D Meltzer June 2, 2022

    The contract has been broken on all sides. I am a pedestrian, cyclist and motorist. My bell no longer works to alert pedestrians as they have their head buried into the phones and music. They wander into the street not paying any attention as to where they are going. And yes, you may have sore knees by being hit by a bike – you would have much worse if you were hit by a car.
    Much of your complaints seem to be directed at the delivery guys. Do you get your food delivered? Do you want it to come promptly and hot?

    • Stephen DiLauro Stephen DiLauro June 4, 2022

      Mr Meltzer, the last time I ordered takeout Chinese or any other delivered food was my birthday in January 2021. So, no is the answer to your final interrogatory. I cook my own food.
      Working backwards: But I didn’t get hit by a car — because I follow traffic signals and pay attention. So far, that works with other pedestrians and cars. Not so much with bicycles.
      Finally, to be clear, hot and on time are commercial concerns. I was discussing civility and the social contract. Your implied dismissal of my physical condition makes me wonder if you are even aware of what social contract means.
      Pipe down and eat your food.

      • LES3025 LES3025 June 4, 2022

        Is part of the social contract that two people need to get killed by cars every three days? Is that what you mean when you say it “works with other pedestrians and cars”?

        • Stephen DiLauro Stephen DiLauro June 4, 2022

          Actually, I meant what I said. Just because there are more pedestrians killed by cars doesn’t give bike bros and deliveristas carte blanche to ignore the traffic laws and the safety of pedestrians.
          But let me put it another way: A lot of bicyclists are bullies and terrible citizens, in our city.
          Part of the social contract is and has been since the advent of motor vehicles, at least: Pedestrians have the right of way.

          • LES3025 LES3025 June 4, 2022

            And you think that the rude bike bros are the ones violating that social contract, not the drivers who are killing 20 people per month?

  10. JackDog JackDog June 2, 2022

    I have written in the Sun previously. The social contract was broken when Michael Bloomberg was Mayor. I was told by then-Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh in 2010,
    “THE REASON THERE IS NO ENFORCEMENT IS BECAUSE TRANSPORTATION ALTERNATIVES DOESN’T WANT IT.” TA based their zealotry on — I was told — some apocryphal study done in the outback of Australia — “THE MORE BIKES ON THE STREETS, THE SAFER THE STREETS FOR BIKES.” Well not only — if true — was there no correlation between rural Australia and the Big Apple, but that fancy has proven to be deadly wrong.
    Bloomberg didn’t need the campaign contributions but he did want to attract the
    Tech (FANG) industry — and not incidentally give the real estate values a boost.
    Techies like to ride bikes. Requiring helmets or having the law enforced would dampen enthusiasm, ipso facto NO ENFORCEMENT FOR PUBLIC SAFETY.
    For cyclists it’s all the rights of the road and none of the responsibilities. Hence
    bike bedlam.
    Charles Komanoff, a self-described visionary, is the sophist in chief of TA. I spoke to
    Prof. John Pucher, an internationally recognized transportation expert and biking
    advocate. When I told him about TA arm-twisting about law enforcement, he said
    emphatically, “I TOLD THEM NOT TO DO THAT.” Bloomberg told DOT Commish Sadik-Khan, “Do whatever you want. Just don’t screw up.” Well, hubris given license knows no
    bounds. Anarchy prevails.
    In my view, as a veteran of the bike industry and spokesman for Coalition Against
    Rogue Riding, this demonstrated a reckless indifference for public safety and human life. The grandiosity of Charles Komanoff is akin to that of Donald Trump. Only Komanoff couches it in statistics and intellectual pretension.
    If anyone has any doubt that NYC and other areas have been affected by Komanoff’s meglomania, see a recent article in the Washington Post. It leads with reference to Komanoff’s 180-degree reversal on the value of nuclear energy. At one point he was perhaps the leading detractor
    on the value of nuclear energy, he has now seen the light. Realizes that climate change needs the more efficient energy nuclear provides.
    At the same time he was cooking up his animosity to nuclear energy, he was dreaming of an Big Apple without motor vehicles — where the NYPD only enforced the law against the evil motor vehicle and let two-wheeled rogues run wild on the streets and sidewalks. So now the NYPD has been undermined. Lawless two-wheeled culture has expanded and jeopardizes every step we take. The parks are not safe. With the dining shacks, the sidewalks are even less safe than prior to the pandemic.
    Let us all recognize Charles Komanoff for the Donald Trump-like snake oil salesman
    he truly is.
    Dollar Bill De Blasio went along with TA for the votes and campaign contributions.
    He too kept the NYPD on a short leash. This is the underbelly of one of the signal
    boils in the Big Apple’s Progressive Paradise. Let us all recognize the inept arrogance
    of one of Harvard’s ignominious alums, Tribecca’s Charles Komanoff.

  11. B Kahn B Kahn June 2, 2022

    A few weeks ago on an early evening, I was crossing on East 14th St. with the light, when a gaggle of at least fifteen cyclists approached at racing speed. I was caught mid-crosswalk and needed to make a quick decision. Walking back seemed more dangerous than attempting to navigate around the cyclists who were calling out to me to get out of the way. I did my “dance” around the angry cyclists who had to either slow down or swerve around me, while they avoided crashes between them. I held up my arm, indicating I was continuing, and I somehow made it to the sidewalk. If, in fact, this was the organized bicycle race or collective journey that it seemed, it was made with total disregard for pedestrians like me (or any). It belonged on a track. Or it needed rally marshals to monitor the crossings, like all parades or rallies with appropriate permit require. This is not a political issue to me. It is a necessary safety issue on our crowded Downtown or even Mid- or Uptown streets.

  12. Janey Coor Janey Coor June 2, 2022

    I totally agree that police should get out of their cars and walk their beat.

  13. Kibby Rose Kibby Rose June 2, 2022

    I made a suggestion at a 6th Precinct meeting, when e-bikes were still illegal, that the police only confiscate the battery. The hard working delivery guy would be penalized, but could continue working. The police simply said no. I sent my idea to Corey Johnson and never got a response.

  14. Harry Pincus Harry Pincus June 2, 2022

    A city can only be great if we respect each other’s space, and our right to enjoy public spaces with equanimity. Our congested city is only
    tolerable when we can walk the streets and take public transportation safely, and with peace of mind. Today’s politicians have sold every square inch of our streets to private enterprises which pad their pockets with campaign contributions, and take away the joy of living in a great city. If we cannot just take a walk without dodging bikes, scooters and restaurant sheds, what have we? Our public landscape has degenerated into a money grab, where every square inch is bought and sold at the expense of those of us who still live here. The resultant chaos of graffiti, crime and mental illness reflect a city where our politicians are sold out to real estate interests and Citi Bike.

    Stephen is right. Thank you.

  15. CFR CFR June 2, 2022

    Wow, so well said and I couldn’t agree more. I hope that the “right” people read this editorial and take the appropriate and necessary actions to return my neighborhood (Greenwich Village) to the way it was before bikes, ebikes, scooters, motorized boards, and illegal (unlicensed) motorbikes, took over the streets, many of whom completely disregard all traffic rules. And they just shouldn’t be on the sidewalks or in the parks. I feel powerless, angry and ignored about this dangerous situation.

  16. clayton patterson clayton patterson June 3, 2022

    This article comes at a critical time. The bikes are out of control. They make crossing the street very dangerous. The bikes are silent, fast, often unexpected, go against traffic, often no light, no bell, and many riders do not follow the lights. One point was left out and that is the weight of these bikes. Get the fat ties, the electric battery and solid frame can weigh as much as 80 pounds. Go over 20 miles an hour. Step off curb and wham… or step out of your door. Bang. Like getting hit by a truck. I had to have a welded metal pipe structure extend from my wall out 4 feet. Otherwise step out the door and a good chance will get hit by a speeding delivery person. The deli down the block has many bike delivery people. All use the sidewalk. No rules. They are moving vehicles. No license. No insurance, No laws, rules or regulations.

  17. Mari Mari June 3, 2022

    Thanks for writing about this extraordinary problem. Even before e-bikes, the hazards to pedestrians from cyclists racing through red lights and zipping around the wrong way on one-way streets were bad enough. I know of multiple people who landed in the ER having been plowed down by cyclists who faced no consequences. Cyclists — both motorized and conventional cyclists — in the city should be licensed and should be required to stay at the scene of accidents they are involved in (whether with other vehicles or with pedestrians) and should be cited for traffic offenses. Hit and run is hit and run irrespective of the vehicle type.

  18. LES3025 LES3025 June 3, 2022

    The comments are delusional. Cars are exponentially more of a threat to pedestrians than e-bikes, let alone regular bikes. A child was killed just last week and the driver was only charged with failure to yield (https://nypost.com/2022/05/27/shannon-cocozza-who-allegedly-struck-killed-staten-island-baby-charged-cops/). It’s legal to murder someone if you do it with a car, and drivers act accordingly.

    On the solutions, one obvious improvement to pedestrian-bike conflict would be to actually build a full, functional and protected bike lane network. One of the main reasons that bikes go on sidewalks, or against traffic, or otherwise don’t obey traffic rules, is because it simply isn’t safe for them to ride in the street and obey traffic rules designed for cars. The existing bike lanes are poorly designed and always filled with cars. People are killed every year because of this. Make it safe and easy to bike in bike lanes and obey traffic rules and people will do so.

  19. Andre Nunez Jr Andre Nunez Jr June 17, 2022

    Ah, LES3025 …I recognize your voice from from both the condescending and hubristic tone of your endless commentary of Bowery Boogie as well as your absolutely maniacal hatred of cars and their drivers. (You must have a lot of time on your hands.) Anyway, here you are again bringing up cars in an article about the idiocy and danger of allowing motorized bicycles in a city that feels more chaotic than in any of the five decades I’ve called it home. The motorized bikes are not the main cause of the chaos — but between them, armies of the homeless and mentally ill, the disgrace of “sheds” and the invasion of drunks drawn nightly to our city by a proliferation of bars that is a testament to civic corruption and failure — they certainly add to the feeling of danger and a survival-of-the-fittest ethos. I too can attest to being hit by motorized bikes several times as I’ve stepped out of my apartment. Moreover, I’m a cyclist and I’ve ceased riding even on bike paths because of the sheer number of these things, which many of these people have no idea how to control. They are simply too fast and too powerful to be allowed in a city. It is an act of madness to allow them and greater madness to defend them. You write, “One of the main reasons that bikes go on sidewalks, or against traffic, or otherwise don’t obey traffic rules, is because it simply isn’t safe for them to ride in the street and obey traffic rules designed for cars.” What are you talking about? Do you even live in New York? Do you see what goes on here with these bikes every night? And you have the audacity to call others “delusional?”

      • Andre Nunez Jr Andre Nunez Jr June 18, 2022

        Horrible. And absolutely nothing to do with the article, which is about the insanity caused by armies of motorized bikes.

          • EL EL June 21, 2022

            There is no question that the taxi crash was 1) terrible and a huge tragedy for the victims and 2) vehicles can be dangerous in all sorts of circumstances — in a city, on a highway, to pedestrians, to other drivers, etc.

            But yes bicyclists (regular and e) can be dangerous to pedestrians and other bicyclists too.

            My cousin, on a Citibike, was hit by another person on a Citibike going through a red light. My cousin broke her leg.
            An elderly neighbor was hit by a “regular” bicyclist going through a red light — her hip was broken and she will never walk again.

            The taxi driver here might have been a terrible driver or an irresponsible driver or might have had a medical issue. Presumably we will find out.
            But surely he did not intend to harm anyone.

            Manhattan is completely overdeveloped, overcrowded and chaotic and it is a wonder there are not more significant incidents.

            The explosion in e-commerce has greatly contributed to the traffic mess.

            IMO folks who are physically able to walk to the store but are getting massive e-commerce are, for all practical purposes, vehicle users themselves.

          • LES3025 LES3025 June 21, 2022

            This op-ed that we are commenting on asserts that the status quo works for vehicles and pedestrians and that it’s the bikes that are out of order. The point I am making is that the transit mode that kills and maims people daily is the part that is out of order.

            Yes, once in a while a biker injures someone and that’s bad. Anyone who chooses to focus on that is not interested in street safety and I’m not interested in pretending they are.

  20. Be honest Be honest June 22, 2022

    It was announced in the evening news that the bike blew the red light and caused the accident that sadly led to the women on the curb being injured. But, of course, in response Transportation Alternatives released an announcement about cars needing to slow down — nothing about the negligent actions of the bike rider that caused this to happene. And the anti-car groups will just add these injured people to the list of why we shouldn’t have cars.

    • JQ LLC JQ LLC June 27, 2022

      Fun fact: The public doesn’t know the name of the scofflaw degenerate Citibike rider, but we know he’s 50 years old. There’s a lot shady shit going on here that is very convenient for the false narratives and agenda of Transportation Alternatives — which accept funding from car-culture enablers Lyft and Uber.

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