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NYC bicyclists sometimes seen as aggressors in accidents

To say that New York City is crowded is an understatement. The population density of New York coupled with various modes of transportation has created a kind of turf war on the city’s streets and sidewalks as well as in places like Central Park.

For years, the predominant complaint has been that bicyclists are vulnerable to injury and death because of reckless drivers. Recently, however, bicyclists have been blamed for riding too aggressively, disobeying traffic laws and posing a danger to the city’s pedestrians. A bicycle accident last week that critically injured a pedestrian has sparked outrage among many NYC residents who regularly get around on foot.

The accident occurred late one afternoon last week as a 58-year-old woman walked through Central Park. A 31-year-old bicyclist was riding down the road and struck the woman after he swerved to avoid a group of pedestrians. The bicyclist suffered injuries to his shoulder and his hand, but the pedestrian was hospitalized in critical condition.

Bicyclists have also drawn criticism from drivers of motor vehicles for allegedly expecting deferential treatment while simultaneously disobeying traffic laws. This includes complaints that cyclists frequently run red lights.

Law enforcement agencies are responding by issuing more citations to bicyclists. Since the beginning of the year, more than 468 moving summonses have been issued to bicyclists in Central Park, which is more than three times the number issued by this time last year. During a two-week increased enforcement period last month, the NYPD issued 4,300 moving violations to bicyclists city-wide.

Because motor vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians must all share the same space, it may be tempting for each group to see the others as a hazard or a nuisance. But each traveler in New York City has a responsibility to promote safety as well as a right to expect it. This can only be achieved through cooperation.

Source: The New York Times, “After Woman Is Struck, Debate on Cycling in City Is Revived,” Benjamin Mueller and Kia Gregory, Sept. 19, 2014

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