15 April 2010

Rules of the roads

There's been quite a dramatic shift in the traffic patterns of NYC in the last year, and I have to say, it's really throwing me off kilter.

I can deal with the 4-wheel traffic - the uneasy relationship between pedestrians and cars/trucks has struck a kind of agreement in the last oh, 50 years of psychotic driving in NYC. Cars agree not to run over me when I'm crossing the street, I agree to (mostly) avoid crossing the street completely against the lights. Even jaywalking is acceptable, as long as the block before you is stopped at a light, and the only oncoming traffic is that turning onto your street. (Those of you that live here, you get what I'm saying.)

Very rarely do pedestrians and vehicles clash openly, unless a) there's a tourist (driving) who believes that they have the right of way when turning (you don't), or b) there's a tourist who tries to jaywalk (Hint: Don't. It takes years to perfect.)

The issue I'm starting to have is with 2-wheeled vehicles. Bikes - I'm talkin' to you.

I've seen a bike take out a pedestrian walking (with a "Walk" sign) in Central Park. And when I say "take out", I mean blood dripping from a head wound and broken bones. Not cool. I will admit that some pedestrians are rather thick when it comes to crossing the street, but dear bicyclists, a red light means "stop" for you, too. I don't care if you're training for a race, timing your laps around the park, or wearing minuscule matching spandex - God gave you brakes, use them when the light is red. If you do that, I will happily take full blame when you hit me at full force when I try to stupidly walk across the path in front of you while you're sailing downhill in Central Park.

The uneasy relationship breaks down further on the new bike paths around the city roads (i.e. Broadway).

NYC pedestrians are trained to observe light patterns, walk sign patterns (I know exactly at what point in the blinking "Don't Walk" phase I can make it, and when I can't.) But now, on Broadway and other streets, there's a new bike lane, with it's own set of lights! Retraining us concrete-brained pedestrians to unlearn the habits of crossing the streets is difficult...and dangerous.

I apologize to the several bicyclists that I didn't see and stepped out in front of. I'll admit it - I deserved those choice words you shouted at me. And that Evil Eye that I gave you was purely a knee-jerk reaction that I give to everyone - nothing personal.

But at the same time, most of the time, the bikes don't stop at red lights anyway, and come barrelling down those bike lanes with the wrath of God behind them. Once, I even heard a lady shouting "Get out of the way!" at the top of her lungs as she ran her bike lane's red light. Her red light was even shaped like a bicycle. It's a light for illiterates. Did her brakes burn out, like those runaway trucks on highways? I doubt it. Here's a hint - if you hit me, it'll hurt both of us, no matter how loudly you're yelling. Slow down (especially when you're legally required to do so) and we'll both be happier.

It's going to take a while, and now that the MTA is cutting off subway lines, I'm hoping that more bicyclists will take to the streets. But I'm also hoping that we can decide, together, that we can get along a little better. I promise to (for the first time in 15 years) try to look BOTH WAYS before I cross a one-way street, if you promise to STEER with your handlebars, and USE THE BRAKES instead of cuss words when something happens in front of you.

Can you imagine if, when a car sped towards an idiot crossing the street and not looking where they were going, all the driver did was yell "Hey moron, move!" and just kept going at the same rate of speed? Can you say road pizza? Do you see where I'm going here?

You are moving at approximately 20-30mph. If you hit me, it will suck, mostly because you will *keep moving* at approximately 20-30mph until the pavement halts your flight through the air as I keep your bike tangled around my legs about 10 feet behind you. Pavement and you - it's going to hurt.

Take a lesson from the bike messengers around the city. Learn to steer, learn to brake, and learn to dodge. Yelling won't help, nor will it slow you down or steer you around your obstacle. That's what those things called "handlebars" are for.

Thanks, and have a nice day.

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