Will Pavia New York
Published at 12:01AM, July 26 2012
Source: The Times
Public drunks must have alcoholism counselling, graffiti artists are sent to scrub walls and petty thieves must repay society through community service. Now there is a re-education program for another group of offenders, who are caught pedalling outside of marked bicycle lanes or riding their bikes on the pavement.
Over the last few months, around thirty misbehaving cyclists have been hauled before the Midtown Community Court in Manhattan and ordered to take part in a rehabilitation program. Dispatched to a basement beneath a sports shop on the Upper West Side, they are made to see the error of their ways – particularly in relation to one-way streets.
They are taught the importance of obeying traffic lights, of using bike lights in the dark, and of riding in the same direction as the rest of the traffic. The man charged with imparting these lessons is Richard Conroy, director of education at the non-profit organization Bike New York.
“Cycling in New York is growing and whether it’s the courts or the police or the local community boards, the public is asking that cyclists follow the rules of the road,” he said. “That’s not an unreasonable thing to ask.”
Yet there has been some resistance to this request within New York’s cycling community. Pedaling around New York, Mr Conroy watches cyclists zipping through red lights and proceeding blithely against four lanes of oncoming traffic. “I have seen a pedestrian hit by a cyclist,” he said. “It drives pedestrians nuts. People aren’t trained to look in the opposite direction to the flow of traffic.”
He attributes much of the resistance to new cycle lanes and a forthcoming bike share scheme to the wild west mentality of many of the city’s riders. His organisation holds classes for novice cyclists and cycling safety workshops for earnest riders. “But the guy who runs red lights are not going to show up to those classes,” he said. “How do you reach that guy?”
He hopes his rehabilitation program, conducted on behalf of the Midtown Community Court, will soon be expanded to deal with cyclists sentenced in New York’s traffic courts. “It sounds a little more draconian than it is,” he said, though he acknowledged that some offenders have protested at their treatment.
A recent class included a man who claims to have been forced off the road, and indeed off his bicycle, by heavy traffic and found a police officer writing him a ticket even as he picked himself off the pavement. Steve Galiczynski, an artist in his fifties, said he was ticketed for riding a few yards on the pavement to park his bike. A father of two who volunteers to ride blind people around Central Park on a tandem, his penance was a day’s community service and the rehabilitation class.
“To take a person out of a day’s work to clean up Times Square and then for a few hours at night for a biking class, it’s kind of bizarre,” he said. “I feel like I’m in a Russian novel.” ends
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— Marcel Proust