September 22, 2014

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

"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...."

49 comments:

Beldar said...

As a serious road-bike cyclist, I absolutely hated Joseph Gordon-Levitt's recent movie about NYC delivery bikers, "Premium Rush." Neat stuntwork, but terrible, terrible, terrible example for all young cyclists.

Brando said...

I'm all for more bicycling but our cities and suburbs mostly aren't designed for it. Having them share the lanes with cars or sidewalks with pedestrians is dangerous for everyone involved, and too many cyclists are irresponsible and feel as though the fact that they're vulnerable to cars makes them harmless to others.

If bicyclists can't have dedicated streets or trails, they shouldn't be permitted on the roads themselves or on sidewalks except at the slowest speeds. It just doesn't work.

Brando said...

And don't get me started on city buses!

rhhardin said...

Pedestrains should take up smoking cigars on the bike paths. The cloud will drive cyclists elsewhere.

paminwi said...

I have been in Central Park with that very kind of biker racing by. They are truly a menace and it is amazing more people have not been hurt.

Ann Althouse said...

The family of the dead woman should sue not just the cyclist but the website where he posted his speeds and competed with other cyclists.

Ann Althouse said...

"He uses a GPS and other software to track his maximum and average speeds during his often twice-daily rides through the park.... His blazing speeds are uploaded — precise to the 10th of a mile per hour — onto a competitive running and cycling Web site."

CWJ said...

This looks like a job for Art Ross - pedestrian bicycle coordinator.

jono39 said...

I have been running marathons in NYC for ten years. I live near Central Park and run there several times a week, all year long. Until the two manslaughters this week, I have witnessed four runners sent to the hospital by bikers. Running and biking are essentially incompatible, separating them by lanes is a concept made irrelevant by the speed and power of newer models and the mentality of many who ride them. Runners have no more rights than bikers and neither have more right than the elderly and enfeebled who walk in the park. The people who run the park have been overwhelmed by their responsibility and are endangering all of us by their failure to manage reality. Runners and bikers need to be separated. In a city that is unable to teach half its children to read the Constitution, it is not surprising they cannot do this either.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm not expressing a legal opinion about the liability of the website, just inviting discussion on the subject.

Fernandinande said...

A fast cyclist can hit someone with 5,000 pounds of force,

I can generate more force by dropping a ball bearing (1" or so) on a steel plate from a couple of feet.

Ann Althouse said...

@jono39

I bike on a mixed use path here in Madison, and I see pedestrians, including children and there are also dogs on leashes. I think bicyclists can do well in this context, but only if they are scrupulously deferential to the pedestrians. They must go slowly whenever people are around, and they need to completely stop if necessary. They shouldn't even be alarming the people.

It's not a place for racers. I see these people, in their bike outfits, obviously training or making time, and our opinion of them is that they are idiots. They belong on the road, not on a mixed use path.

It should be made clear that the mixed path is for leisurely biking, old ladies like me and dads with kids in tandem. That sort of thing. Family style. The cyclists who would not do well on the road.

Fernandinande said...

Ann Althouse said...
The family of the dead woman should sue not just the cyclist but the website where he posted his speeds and competed with other cyclists.


"Hours before he slammed into Tarlov, Marshall had logged 32.2 miles of cycling during a predawn spin through the park, the site says — and listed his top speed for that ride at 35.6 mph, well over the 25 mph speed limit for bikes and cars."

Now they can sue you, too!

markbres said...

An SF cyclist was charged with manslaughter for hitting a pedestrian in a crosswalk - http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Bicyclist-sentenced-for-fatal-S-F-crash-4736312.php. He was using Strava.
Strava was also sued by the family of a cyclist who died trying to reclaim a record on a Bay Area road -- http://velonews.competitor.com/2013/06/news/strava-wins-dismissal-of-civil-suit-over-berkeley-death_289714

All cases of overly competitive young men trying to measure up to some self-imposed competitive standard.

JAFC said...

I've been biking in NYC for 20 years. I'm convinced that the only way for cyclists and pedestrians to live in peace is "segregation now, segregation forever". NYC is chock full of people who care for nothing beyond themselves. As cyclists, they run lights, blow through crosswalks filled with pedestrians, ride the wrong way down the street, and generally act like rules are for other people. As pedestrians, they adapt the "step out in the street and THEN look to see if there is traffic" tactic, and the "this bike lane is a great place to stand" behavior.

John Lynch said...

I read about statistics that claim that cycling is safe. But every cyclist I know has had an accident resulting in injury. Most have been hit by cars. I've seen cyclists hit by cars. It makes me doubt the statistics.

MarkW said...

Yet another reason I have no interest in living in NYC. Here (in Ann Arbor), I can hop on my bike and be out of the city and riding empty dirt roads in the countryside in less than 10 minutes.

Once on my way through Chicago, I had my bike with me and decided to stop, take a break and ride a few miles on the lakefront bike path. It's beautiful and I've ridden it many times and enjoyed it, but on that Sunday I realized as I was riding along that the traffic on the bikepath was actually worse and at least as stressful as it had been on I94.

Too much density really sucks.

SteveR said...

The real problem is the "exercise" mode. It requires grunting, heavy breathing, fast pedaling and continuous motion. To coexist with people not in bicycle exercise mode, requires compromise and an understanding of basic physics. By the cyclist.

MadisonMan said...

But every cyclist I know has had an accident resulting in injury. Most have been hit by cars. I've seen cyclists hit by cars. It makes me doubt the statistics.

My two biking accidents have been with a pedestrian who stepped into the street, mid-block, without looking, and with a parked minvan (I wasn't paying attention). Cracked a helmet in the first case, taco'ed the wheel in the second, but no real injury.

NYC sounds like a hell-hole in these articles. So glad not to live there. Like MarkW, I'm a 15-minute ride from the middle of nowhere here.

William said...

I used to jog in a Central Park frequently--perhaps compulsively is the better word. When I used the drive, I found the cyclists to be more of a hazard than the motorists. I took to using the reservoir track and the bridle paths. You get the hamster in a wheel effect when you use a track facility, but there's less stress and wariness while running.......Central Park on a sunny weekend has a relaxing, pastoral feel. It's easy to let your guard down. The police didn't give the cyclist any kind of ticket or warning. It's possible that the woman wasn't paying sufficient attention to her surroundings.

Michael said...

Strava is the running and cycling software the killer-cyclist in Central Park was using. The software permits the user to race people across an infinite number of routes and post their status on a daily (hourly?) basis. The woman in Central Park is not the first to die as a result of someone "racing" using this app.

A civil case against Strava was summarily dismissed. In Berkeley.

http://velonews.competitor.com/2013/06/news/strava-wins-dismissal-of-civil-suit-over-berkeley-death_289714

I run frequently in Central Part and have noted the growing number of men and women who are flat out racing. I used to go early in the morning, before light, but have been terrified more than once by the bikes whizzing very close, sometimes in a peleton.

The Strava app clearly incites crazy riding. The app could be configured so that competition is not permitted on urban routes but they have not yet seen a reason to eliminate those routes. I expect they will shortly.


From Inwood said...

To William's point, I was in the Park on the East vehicle roadway at that exact moment, walking from W to E, tho I never heard anything 'til the news that evening.

At about that exact moment, then, I, carelessly, nearly walked in front of a horse carriage, but the guy stopped. I apologized. No excuse.

Thank goodness it wasn't a cyclist, tho most of them are careful of geezers like me.

NYC is no country for old men to coin a phrase.

BDNYC said...

I have had several "near miss" encounters with bicyclists like this; each time I was walking in a crosswalk when a bicyclist in a Lance Armstrong getup whizzed by me at 30 mph or something. It felt like a matter of inches, not feet.

From their perspective, it probably wasn't all that alarming since they saw me and "knew" what they were doing. Scared the bejesus out of me, though.

It's amazing how much faith they have in their equipment, as well as the predictability of a pedestrian's movement. What if I had decided for some reason to start running or even to just turn my body in a particular way? I could have died.

BDNYC said...

Even if there are no injuries, frightening pedestrians is reason enough not to ride like an asshole.

PackerBronco said...

I'm a cyclist and I have to say give me a highway any day. On a road I know the hazards and I can bike in safety but on a bike path I have to deal with pedestrian groups who insist on taking up the WHOLE PATH, dogs which wander over everywhere, little kids on their bikes weaving back and forth and ... yes ... other cyclists who are hooked into Strava trying to be some stupid Strava Champ of the commuter lane.

Why anyone would choose riding on bike paths versus going up and down some beautiful hills like Blue Mounds or Garfoot is beyond me.

Paul said...

Sounds like some New Yorkers need to put up cloths lines in Central Park.

That might slow things down.

Tibore said...

Damn, and I thought my city's cyclists were annoying. But at least I've never heard of them accidentally killing anyone; those NY riders take the cake.

traditionalguy said...

Bicycling at that speed causes heavy breathing that exhales lots of co2 which will kill all life on the planet. The death penalty is proper!

Sam's Hideout said...

Strava's (and many others like it) primary purpose is exercise monitoring with competition aspects added on for spicing up workouts, although I'm sure for some its more about the competition.

What gets uploaded is more than just speed, and if you have the sensors quite a bit more e.g. location, speed, cadence (how fast you're turning the pedals), heart rate, power output. These are typical for a bike computer, but instead of having to upload to your computer (if the bike computer has that capability) your smartphone uploads to a website.

Then on the website you can get maps of your route, graphs of the monitored values, totals and other statistics (e.g. how many miles you've ridden this week at what average speed, percentage of time when your heart rate was in some target band).

The competition aspects are when someone marks a route as a (competitive) segment and people who've ridden that segment get ranked by time. Some websites (I don't remember if Strava does this) have algorithms which automatically generate segments (MapMyRide definitely does this, I think it looks for steepish climbs).

CWJ said...

Here's the tell. Althouse spoke of a "multi use path." But PackerBronco spoke of "but on a bike path I have to deal with pedestrian groups...(etc.)"

So in general which are they? multi use or bike paths. A cyclist calling it a bike path reveals the proprietary mindset of the author. What are these people doing walking, jogging, and walking their dogs on my bike path?

PackerBronco, I understand your actual gist, and that you would prefer not to bike on "bike" paths. I'm just suggesting that how we choose to call them plays a role in how and by whom we perceive they should be used.

kcom said...

"I read about statistics that claim that cycling is safe. But every cyclist I know has had an accident resulting in injury. Most have been hit by cars. I've seen cyclists hit by cars. It makes me doubt the statistics."

I'm 44,000+ miles in since 1984 (about 27,000 in the last seven years) and so far the only injuries I've received (few and far between) were from my own stupidity. The worst was when I crashed because I had granola bar in one hand and came upon an unexpected downhill. It shouldn't have happened and I'm still not quite sure how it did.

I've never been hit by a car. And, in fact, I'm very pleased with how well cars do treat me on the road. Sometimes (even frequently) they are too nice and won't go at an intersection, for instance, even when they have right-of-way, adding to uncertainty. Uncertainty can cause problems. I try my best to return the respect and maybe that's why I've had a generally good experience.

I ride on multi-use trails here but ride according to conditions. No fast riding around unpredictable groups of people. Especially children. I was riding on a trail the other day and ahead of me was a toddler who had run out ahead of his mother. She was hurrying to catch up with him as I glided up next to her going slower and slower. Sure enough, the kid saw me and totally surprised me by walking straight in front of my front wheel to come say hi. I had no problem stopping but that's because I did the right thing before the situation took that unexpected turn.

We have other trails farther out where I've ridden 15 or 20 miles late in the day without seeing another human being. There you can go fast without too much worry. I don't expect there's much of that in Central Park.

Fernandinande said...

Michael said...
A civil case against Strava was summarily dismissed. In Berkeley.


Chump change.

If they want to go after deep pockets, they should sue Google and Rand McNally for making maps. Sue Mary Burke for making bicycles. Sue TV stations for broadcasting bicycle races. Sue the city and road construction companies for making it all possible.

CatherineM said...

Citibikes are a problem too. Can't tell you how many times I have seen people on those bikes going the wrong direction down 6th avenue at rush hours. Crazy. Then you have the assholes who weave in and out of traffic. You don't see them before it is too late because of the way it moves. The pedicab drivers due the same. You have to have a death wish to get in one of those.

A co-workers daughter was hit when a bike was going the wrong way. Broke her femur. The statistics are on deaths by bikes, but how many injuries are there?

SJ said...

@johnLynch
"I read about statistics that claim that cycling is safe. But every cyclist I know has had an accident resulting in injury. Most have been hit by cars. I've seen cyclists hit by cars. It makes me doubt the statistics."

One thing to keep in mind is the Denominator in those statistics.

That is, bicycling is safe because only 1 accidents per N bikes, or per M bicycle-owners, or per X bicycle-rider-hours, or something.

How does that compare to airplanes? Or motor-vehicle traffic?

(Per-passenger-mile, planes are safer than cars. Cars have gotten much safer per-passenger-mile and per-capita since the mid-1980s. But the total number of deaths-per-year-in-motor-vehicles may not tell you that, if you don't know what the change-in-population or change-in-passenger-miles are.

Incidentally, you can get motor-vehicle fatality data, and compare it to pedestrian-fatality and bicycle-fatality data, from the CDC.)

In the realm of people you know: if you know a large number of people whose bicycle habits are close to the ones described in the article, then you shouldn't be surprised that most of them have an accident-story to tell.

If you include all the people you know who own a bicycle, and ride only occasionally, then your impression might change dramatically.

Anonymous said...

Driving on Lake Washington Blvd here in Seattle, I passed a cyclist (everybody wears the sponsorship gear and often it's techies who can afford nice bikes).

I passed slowly and carefully, when no one was coming. He followed my car to where I pulled over and confronted me.

'You can't do that'. Get out of the car please. You can't do that.

So I got out of the car quickly half ready to fight, the other half just to talk.

It ended all right.

I can't stand the confusion, greater risk, danger and righteous attitude (encouraged here) some of these guys have.

While walking and jogging, I've been passed closely and aggressively.

Oh, there'll be a reckoning.

kcom said...

The only bike accident I've had involving a car was when my car got rear-ended with my bike on the bike rack and my front tire got bent beyond use.

Michael said...

Strava, of course, will tell not only how cool the killer cyclist was but how guilty.

It will tell the exact speed he was going at the moment and place he killed the woman.

He was on a tri bike and if he was tucked and holding those bars he was unstable on anything but the straight. Strava does not lie. It won't say if the light was in his favor or hers but it will definitely tell how fast he was going. When. Where.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Salem is pretty bike-friendly (bike lanes through much, though far from all, of the city), but many of the cyclists I see ignore the dedicated lanes, preferring the sidewalks. I think that much of the time this is because they're going against the traffic, and would prefer not to cross the street. (Which is no joke in Salem -- lights at major intersections can easily cost you a couple of minutes.)

Re: bike injuries, my husband suffered a broken toe when a truck driver turned left in front of him. Totaled a wheel, too.

holdfast said...

Cycling in Manhattan is the province of the insane (i.e. food delivery guys). The Citibike idea is the worst - encourage rank amateurs to add to an already chaotic traffic scene.

FullMoon said...

Nobody pepper sprays these guys?

Sigivald said...

The family of the dead woman should sue not just the cyclist but the website where he posted his speeds and competed with other cyclists.

For ... what? Not stopping him?

For not having a warning he would just ignore to "not cycle dangerously"?

(Or maybe they do! The Post doesn't bother to name the site, so we can't tell.)

The man was riding recklessly, on paths it was (per the Post) unlawful for him to ride on at all ... and you say the survivors should sue some website rather than the man who made every decision involved?

Does this pass for legal analysis?

Darrell said...
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Darrell said...
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rhhardin said...

I've managed 8,000 bike miles a year since 1971 without injury.

I don't use bike paths though. For one thing they don't go where you want to go.

PackerBronco said...

Blogger CWJ said...
PackerBronco, I understand your actual gist, and that you would prefer not to bike on "bike" paths. I'm just suggesting that how we choose to call them plays a role in how and by whom we perceive they should be used.

9/22/14, 3:06 PM


Well, if I'm running on one of those paths, I call it a running trail or path and if I'm walking on it, I call it a walking path. I appreciate your point, but I think you're reading too much into it. I have no objection to sharing a path with pedestrians or joggers or people with pets, it's just an observation that I find cycling on them to be more nerve-wracking than cycling on most roads.

Shanna said...

Sounds like some New Yorkers need to put up cloths lines in Central Park.

Someone here has been putting out tacks where the bicyclists like to go. Which is a mean thing to do, but there is no reason to go 30mph on a path that is frequented by children, walkers, dogs, etc... The place I walk is mostly mixed use for a mile or two and then opens up, is there any reason the bikers can't slow down for the first mile or two and then speed back up? No, there isn't.

I love when it finally gets colder and everybody who bikes goes back home and the path opens up for walking/running only.

ken in sc said...

A guy I used to work with was biking back from lunch on a mixed use path when he collided with a jogger. He broke his own neck and became a quadriplegic. I don't remember what happened to the jogger.

Loren said...

While you can go 30mph on a downhill, downhills don't last forever. Few cyclists can maintain 25 on the flat for very long. That is pro level performance.

socally773 said...

I read through the comments. I, like many of you, have had plenty of run-ins with bikers. But can anyone explain the breathtaking arrogance they display? What happened to them?