Bicyclists are the Biggest Traffic Hazard on NYC Roads

Before you start going ballistic over the title of the post hear me out.

I ride my motorcycle to work everyday from Brooklyn to Chelsea. And as a regular user of the same streets shared by cars, bicyclists and pedestrians, my observation is that when it comes to disobeying the rules of the road, no one beats the bicyclists.

On any given day, 90% of bicyclists I encounter blatantly flout the traffic lights. 1 out of 10 will stop for them the way they should. All the others just zig zag past oncoming cars or go down the pedestrian crossings.

Another very common issue is bicyclists riding in the opposite direction of traffic in bike lanes. Just because there is a bike lane does not mean that you can ride in any direction in a one-way street. And when pointed out, bicyclists dont even realize that they are breaking the law.

Yes, I will be the first to agree that bicycling is environmentally sound. And that more of us should be doing it. All of that is true. But that is another topic for another post.

As much as bicyclists have a chip on their shoulder about using the streets with others, I would really like to see some sort of enforced discipline, because surely they are not a self-disciplined lot.

Every single day I see at least one incident where a bicyclist misses being a casualty in an accident. All because they did not follow the rules.

So in that circumstance, I am amused when these same bicyclist target the cars and trucks and motorcycle for their misgivings.  Cities will have traffic and cars and stuff. That is why they are cities and not suburbs or the countryside. So if you want to exist in the city, it would be nice to first follow the rules and then fight with fellow users of the same streets.

6 Comments so far

  1. Kathleen (kathleen) on May 15th, 2008 @ 1:15 pm

    You’re allowing your own confirmation bias to get the best of you. What if I were to say that 90% of the motorcyclists I see flout traffic rules and put themselves into danger by riding between lanes of cars, passing cars on the shoulder, etc.? I wouldn’t be lying – most of the motorcyclists I see do those things – but that doesn’t mean that 90% of all motorcyclists do it.

    I agree that there are many bicyclists who flout the rules and I have seen them do it, too. But I’d argue that there are also many bicyclists who not only obey the rules, but are hyper-vigilant about safety, both their own and that of others on the road.


  2. atom on May 15th, 2008 @ 5:58 pm

    I am a cyclist. I often do not follow the traffic light rules in NYC. However, I do it with the utmost care. Like you I see many near missed accidents with bicycles and cars, and 90% of he time it’s both of their faults for driving/riding without looking where they are going. But aren’t their 90,000,000 people who live in NYC? Doesn’t that make the ratio of near accidents much higher no matter how you slice it? I have been riding in this city with the same aggressive tactics for over 4 years and I can say with confidence that I have never had an accident because of my aggressive tactics. I have been hit by cars, maliciously swerved at by cabs, trapped between buses and brick walls, but not once do I disregard my safety and the safety of those around me. If I run a light you can be damn sure I’m looking the fuck out. Your 90% is probably just those asshole messengers who help make all aspects of this city run better, quicker, smoother with their lightning speed and cut off jean shorts.


  3. arZan (arzan) on May 15th, 2008 @ 7:20 pm

    Kathleen I knew that someone or the other would make the excuses you make in your comments. There are far more bicyclists than motorcyclists.

    Secondly cops are on top of motorcyclists in a jiffy. I can tell you surefire trap spots where a slight infraction and the cop will jump out on the motorcyclist with a vengence. And at the same time turn a blind eye to the bicyclist.

    Both motorcyclists and bicyclists have a lot to lose in an accident….which can occur when one jumps a red light. Then why is it that nearly every motorcyclist I see stops at a red light while every bicyclist jumps it.

    Atom…believe me its not the messengers. I ride in the morning between 8 and 8:30 and most of the bicyclists breaking the rules are people on their way to work or college students.


  4. atom on May 15th, 2008 @ 8:08 pm

    The bicyclists jump the light because they are highly maneuverable.


  5. Kathleen (kathleen) on May 15th, 2008 @ 10:46 pm

    It’s not an excuse, it’s another way of looking at things. One could make the same argument about pedestrians. I see pedestrians crossing against lights all the time, many times distracted by cell phones while walking into traffic. I’m sure you’ve seen this too.

    One could also make a similar argument about reckless taxi drivers being a traffic hazard. I’ve seen tons of them blow through red lights, cut off other cars, and drive in front of bicyclists who are, despite your insistence, obeying traffic laws. And I’m sure you’ve seen this happen as well.

    Again, what I’m saying is that just because you see a lot of bicyclists who are not obeying the laws doesn’t mean they are all doing the same thing citywide. Making a blanket statement about all cyclists based on your individual experience is not a logical argument.

    And by the way, I agree that bicyclists should obey traffic laws to the best of their ability, but if you are not going to cite pedestrians who cross against the light if there is no traffic around, why cite bicyclists who do the same?


  6. agoff on May 16th, 2008 @ 8:11 am

    I live in DC where the traffic is just as horrendous. I love seeing people ride their bikes around town..but will admit it can be tricky! In cities like ours it’s just more reason for drivers and cyclist to be extra aware of what’s around them… with the eco-boom going on… and high gas prices we can only expect to see a jump in the number of bikes rolling between us.



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