Two-wheel terror

I almost had an unscheduled meeting with my creator when I was crossing Lexington Avenue and a crazed bicyclist delivering pepperoni pizzas came pedaling down the street, ready to run a red light and plow into me and a few other innocent pedestrians.

He missed me by a foot and sped through the intersection on his mission to save the financial services industry from certain collapse if they didn’t get pizza before the closing bell.

The most perilous part of life in New York City isn’t insane taxi drivers or muggers who want to increase their gross annual income or the Occupy Whatever Street protesters or the sales tax. It’s the cyclists that have multiplied like Big Apple roaches, riding every which way and racing down avenues as if they’re in the Tour de Manhattan.

When you wait on the corner for the “walk” signal, the buses, cabs, cars and limos all stop but the bike messengers keep going. Who would have thought two-wheelers could be so dangerous?

In most parts of the civilized world, cyclists stop at red lights, but in Manhattan, they break the law with impunity. According to the Department of Transportation, “Bicyclists have all the rights and are subject to all the duties applicable to drivers of motor vehicles. This includes obeying all traffic signals and pavement markers.”

A study by Hunter College found that nearly 1,000 pedestrians are hospitalized each year after being hit by bicyclists in New York state and more than half of those incidents are in New York City. The total is probably much higher because the findings were based on victims who were hospitalized.

The study was done in conjunction with the Stuart C. Gruskin Family Foundation, which advocates pedestrian safety. Mr. Gruskin was killed in 2009 after being hit by a delivery cyclist riding the wrong way, which is a common occurrence.

The other day I was walking down Fifth Avenue, and there, like a salmon swimming upstream to spawn, was a woman riding against the traffic.

Steve LoCascio, a native New Yorker who moved to Fairfield 25 years ago, recalls riding his Peugeot 10-speed down Fifth Avenue and says ,“The scary thing is the bike messengers dressed in leftover Madonna outfits who insist on riding the wrong way on one-way streets and expect you to yield.”

Even worse, in the suburbs entire families of cyclists, mom and dad and the kids, ride against the traffic, “waiting to become hood ornaments” because they don’t understand the law or don’t choose to obey it, he says.

Bike safety doesn’t take much intelligence, but it does require common sense. I learned the hard way.

When I was a college student, I rode my Schwinn Le Tour from my apartment in Manhattan to class, and one afternoon while I was pumping and puffing behind a New York City police car, dodging jaywalkers and vendors, the cop slammed on the brakes and I rear-ended him. The bike landed on his trunk, and so did I. Fortunately, I lived to tell the story with a minimum of bruises but a lot of damage to my pride.

 

Joe Pisani may be reached at [email protected].

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