New York’s cycles of death: Our arrogant-biker nightmare

By Nicole Gelinas
September 22, 2014 | 12:04am

Source: NYPost

A man yells at a cyclist stopped by police for going through a red light in Central Park on Sept 19. Photo: Robert Miller

A man yells at a cyclist stopped by police for going through a red light in Central Park on Sept 19.
Photo: Robert Miller

Fourteen fewer New Yorkers have died walking the streets this year, as of July — something Mayor Bill de Blasio is rightly proud of.

But in the past month, a man and woman have died because of something the city hasn’t seen in half a decade: deathly injury by reckless bicyclist.

These tragedies are reminders that speed kills — and that the pedestrian is always right, because he or she has the most to lose for someone being wrong.

What happened in Central Park last Thursday afternoon was preventable.

Jill Tarlov, 59, was in town to buy a birthday present for her daughter, enjoying a walk in Central Park.

Surrounding her were other pedestrians, pedicabs, horse carriages, cars, vans, garbage trucks, hot-dog carts, tourists bicycling in packs taking pictures of each other and New Yorkers cycling alone — most everyone going very slowly.

People go slowly because the park is insanely crowded — more crowded than ever, with three times the visitors of three decades ago.

With so many people competing to use the same space, mistakes will happen. A low-speed crash causes a scrape and an argument.

But a high-speed crash is something to cry about.

Tarlov died Monday morning because one of the park’s racing cyclists allegedly hit her as she crossed the street.

A witness told The Post that cyclist Jason Marshall was “speeding. It didn’t look like he tried to stop. He was yelling for her to get out of the way.”

A cyclist goes through a red light in Central Park.Photo: Robert Miller

A cyclist goes through a red light in Central Park.Photo: Robert Miller

Last month, Irving Schachter (a cyclist himself) died in a similar fashion, also in the park. Either a 17-year-old cyclist or a pedicab driver, or both, failed to realize that sometimes the safe speed is zero.

The cyclist swerved into the walking lane to avoid the pedicab and hit Schachter, who was jogging.

A fast cyclist can hit someone with 5,000 pounds of force, says Sam Schwartz, a Koch-era traffic commissioner. “You’ll go flying. There are cyclists who can achieve speeds in excess of 30 miles an hour,” he says — especially going down a hill, as Marshall was.

(The speed limit in the park is 25 mph, for bikes as well as cars, though most drivers go closer to 15 mph because it’s the only responsible speed in so busy an environment.)

The morning after Marshall allegedly hit Tarlov, the cops were in the park doing what they should be doing: politely telling a wrong-way cyclist to stop it, lecturing a foreign child on a rental bike who blew right through a red light, and leaving responsible cyclists — the vast majority — alone.

Indeed, death by bicycle gets attention because it’s like death by plane crash — rare.

Of the 754 pedestrians killed in New York in the past half-decade, just two have died at the hands of cyclists.

But the cyclists who kill — or could kill — deserve attention anyway.

First because they should have more empathy — after all, cyclists are killed by reckless drivers.

Weeks ago, a hit-and-run car driver slammed into 38-year-old Dulcie Canton, who was riding a slow bike. The driver knocked her out cold and broke her bones.

Brooklyn’s 83rd Precinct should start investigating this case as thoroughly as the Central Park precinct is investigating Thursday’s crash. (The cops should also be confiscating illegal electric bikes before one of those cyclists kills someone.)

But second, because the cyclists who kill have a lot in common with drivers who kill.

Central Park’s fastest cyclists are invariably young(ish) men — men arrogant enough to think they’ll never make a mistake. They brush by walkers and other cyclists without slowing.

And they’re distracted — often by handlebar feeds that tell them how fast they’re going.

It’s the same profile of the kid in a fast red car who speeds down Ocean Parkway and ends up killing others or himself — because he thinks he’s smarter than everyone else.

In fact, though pedestrian deaths are down 17 percent this year, driver and passenger deaths are up 21 percent — many of them outer-borough speeders killing themselves.

Bad drivers and cyclists always have their excuses when they kill: The pedestrian was crossing against the light. He was crossing mid-block, looking at his cellphone. The toddler ran right in front of me.

And nobody has the moral high ground. Riding my bike down Broadway last Friday morning, I witnessed two pedestrians swearing at a car driver as they crossed against the straight green light, forcing her to stop.

The legal penalty for crossing against the light isn’t death or serious injury. But that’s the fate such walkers risk.

Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.


TakeAways

Be prepared for more deaths by bicycle as we move through a period where cyclists are arrogant or simply ignorant (there is no excuse for either) and pedestrians begin to realize that even bicycle pose a danger to them. This problem will be exposed not only on streets but trails as well. You know those nice friendly places where families and pets are slowly walking and enjoying the sunshine while someone trying to beat his personal best is bearing down on them at better than 25 mph. Yeah, that place!

 Beware the Strava™-Idiot.