Rogue Riding? NYC Bicyclists ‘Way Out Of Control’

NYPD Issues 15,000 Tickets To Riders Viewed As Nuisance

Updated 8/17/10, 9:13 a.m.

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — The NYPD is on a ticket blitz, giving cyclists more than 15,000 violations so far this year. Many pedestrians say it’s about time and fear the city’s push to get people pedaling has led to danger on the streets and sidewalks. Some have even dubbed it “bike bedlam.”

The Big Apple is racing to become the bike capital of the world and the Bloomberg administration has added more bike racks, paths and lanes.

However, as CBS 2’s Tony Aiello found out, spending a few minutes along the new bike lane on First Avenue makes clear that plenty of New Yorkers have little liking for the biking.

“It would be one thing if the bike riders obeyed the lights and things — they don’t,” Lower East Side resident Amber Rogers told Aiello.

In a recent 20 minute period at First Avenue and Sixth Street, CBS 2 counted 17 bike riders running red lights and more than two dozen riding the wrong way and against traffic.

Fifteen months ago, a wrong-way bike rider sent Nancy Gruskin’s world spinning.

Her husband Stuart was crossing the street in Midtown when he was struck by a bicyclist and dealt a fatal head injury from the ensuing fall. He died just three weeks before his twins – Samantha and David – celebrated their Bat and Bar Mitzvahs.

“I mean it was such shock for many, many months,” Gruskin said.

Many New Yorkers have stories to tell about dangerous encounters with bike riders, but when you look for statistics, they are nowhere to be found. New York City doesn’t keep a central database of accidents involving bicycles and pedestrians.

Former bike shop owner Jack Brown now advocates for pedestrian safety.

“It is the cyclists who have gone way out of control,” Brown said.

In New York, bikes are classified as vehicles and riders are required to obey all traffic laws and signals, but Aiello says it is an understatement to say ‘many do not.’

Brown describes the trend as “rogue riding” and the NYPD admits it is major quality if life issue and something the city is struggling to control even as it embraces pedal power.

Mayor Bloomberg says the recent bike ticket blitz should remind riders that they must obey the rules of the road.

  • Thomas Mac

    Should have said “required to have their vehicles registered and required to carry insurance”

  • Thomas Mac

    Aside from the safety issues: motorists are required to be licensed, required to have their vehicles insured, and required to carry insurance. They’re also forced to subsidize the use of the streets for bike riders. Why aren’t cyclists made to pay their fair share of using the roads? Why aren’t they subject to the same requirements as motorists?

  • Richard

    Tony Ariello apparently doesn’t believe in checking the facts: the number of injuries from bicycle-pedestrian accidents has DROPPED by more than half in the last few years, according to data Streetsblog obtained from the City. That’s Bicycle Bedlam? To compare, in 2008 there were 51 pedestrians injured in collisions with bikes and 10,873 were injured by cars. So is the “news” that bicycles are “out of control”?

    • Rob

      Streetsblog has REDACTED the information on this post. Look at the link. The city apparently does not keep these stats currently.

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  • K. Lee

    More and more E bikes are appearing on the Lower East Side and from my observation most don’t follow the traffic rules. With higher speeds achieved comes more physical harm to pedestrian and rider in a collision. I’ve seen riders with kids perched on handlebars and rear racks. Most times neither are wearing helmets.
    Storefronts that sell these Electric motor assisted mini mopeds are popping up on the sidestreets along with the cheap dumplings shops.
    Add to this all the chaos caused by the disappearing traffic lanes caused by the new bike paths. At rush hour traffic is at a standstill along this N.J – Manhattan- Brooklyn – Queens corridor. Nowadays its choked most of the day. How’s the air quality now.
    Channel 2 should run this story alongside the bike mayhem one:
    Seemingly overnight Chinese owned tour bus companies have located their ticket and waiting rooms in strorefronts astride the already jammed M-15 bus routes. Pedestrians now have bikes, unregulated mopeds, and monstrous tour buses to dodge. I’ve seen an elderly couple blocked by two tour buses from getting on the uptown M 15 at the bus stop. The first M15 bypassed the couple since they couldn’t be seen. They had to walk out between the passenger loading tour buses into the traffic lane to wave the following city bus down. Cleverly, these tour bus companies have located their store fronts in proximity to City bus stops.

  • Sean

    It’s a shame that NYC motorists always obey all traffic laws; I was looking forward to a follow-up “car bedlam” story from this ace investigative series.

  • Justin

    CBS, this is ridiculous. Instead of doing a segment on real issues effecting the city you spend time on a one-sided segment demonizing an increasingly popular form of green transportation that is reducing pollution and car ridership? Can you move on and go report some real news?

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  • Richard

    ^ Actually, that’s a bad idea, Mike. Read this, from Larry’s Bicycle Plus website:

    Myth 1: You should ride facing traffic

    Busted! This is the worst mix-up ever, and one of the leading causes of cycling accidents and deaths even today. Cyclists should ride exactly like drivers, obey the law, and always go with traffic, never against it. When you ride the wrong way, drivers don’t see you. Entering roads, they look left for oncoming traffic. Seeing none, they turn right and may run right into you if you’re there. They don’t expect any vehicles there because it’s against the law to drive or bike the wrong way. Plus, if you ride facing traffic you are speeding towards vehicles that are also speeding towards you. If you’re traveling 15mph and they’re going 30, there’s the potential for a 45mph impact, far more deadly than the 15mph impact had you been struck from behind (the rarest accident).

    Why this myth exists: There is a rule that PEDESTRIANS should WALK against traffic. Parents trying to protect their kids confused this pedestrian rule with cycling and taught their sprouts this extremely dangerous way to ride, and it has since been passed on again and again leading to many accidents and deaths. Let’s stop it here!

  • Mike Milonas

    I WOULD LIKE TO SEE THE RULE CHANGED – For safety reasons, I feel the bicyclist should be riding against the traffic in lieu of riding with the traffic. This applies to pedestrians, as well. For instance, recently I was walking on the shoulder of the road (local road without sidewalks), going against traffic. Coming upon a curve in the road, I had to jump off the shoulder to avoid being hit by an oncoming car. You have a greater risk of being injured if you are walking/bicycling with the traffic, than against the traffic, as you cannot see what is behind you. It would be interesting to take a survey of how many injuries/accidents occurred with a bicyclist riding with traffic, as opposed to riding against the traffic. You have a better chance of avoiding an injury/accident if you can see what is coming at you.

  • MacQuillan

    In my neighborhood, I’m way more likely to see white MC young males riding bikes on the sidewalks than commercial bike riders. In fact, it happens every day I go out for a walk…one or two bicyclists on the sidewalk. Sometimes more.

    Yet, that being said, I’d much rather see enforcement of car and truck misbehavior. My precinct always reports that they “saw nothing” when a big traffic jam, lasting hours, is reported.

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  • Richard

    Ignoring red lights? Speeding just inches from pedestrians? Riding the wrong way? I HATE that kind of behavior. And I’m a bike rider who rides everywhere, sometimes several trips a day. I stop at lights if there’s traffic or pedestrians. I ride in the direction of traffic. I use the bike lanes. I signal my turns, and when I’m stopping. Please – don’t group me and people who ride like I do with the bikers who give ALL bike riders a bad name.

    And while we’re on the subject, how many pedestrians can honestly say they don’t jaywalk, cross in the middle of the block, and walk in the new bike ways when there’s a sidewalk – just for them – right next to it?

  • Nina

    Sorry, CBS, it looks like almost no one here is jumping on your bandwagon. Move along, folks, nothing to see here.

  • Skippy

    Do “Anti cyclist Commenters” come across articles such as this by chance or do they actively seek them out? Do these people have a way of seeking articles “skewed “against cyclists?
    All of us have a catalogue of “incidents” that we have seen from our OWN perspective and tell our story as it suits us , shades of grey rather black & white !
    Commercial Cyclists certainly behave differently from recreational racers and touring cyclists but we also know that even “Law Enforcement Officers” behave differently in their own lives. As a visitor in many countries i have followed “Law E.O.s” through stopsigns, red lights and “When in Rome” situations. We have all seen cars lose patience at the red light and seeing the road clear have proceeded contrary to the letter of the law 1
    As a user of all means of locomotion i have my own catalogue of “incidents” which if you google parrabuddy & skippydetour will provide you with my slant on the everyday events we all come across !

    Endangering another’s life whether as a pedestrian ,cyclist or driver is to be dealt with as harshly as you would someone using a gun, there are too many “Hoons” out there who take risks that leave others in jeapody and these are the element of society that the police should be concentrating on , not the easy mark on a bike who has “bent” some rule that puts nobody at risk .

  • Derek D.

    everyone is at fault here, pedestrians not paying attention, cars not paying attention, bikes are just another form of getting around we just deal with what we’re given. Badly designed bike lanes, i think we’re almost better off without them. People think that its safer that theyre there but i can see them making cyclists complacent and foolhardy.

    If everyone stays alert, we’ll all be good.

  • Skippy

    It always amazes me how the “Anti cyclist Mob” jump on any article which is skewed against cycling !
    Do these people happen on these articles or do they spend all their free time actively seeking them out ?
    Commercial cyclists are a minority who flout the rules but i have ridden in many countries with “Law Enforcement Personnel” and they too will ride through “Stop signs, red lights and behave as you or i would under similar circumstances”!
    Fact is even vehicle drivers lose patience with red lights and drive through when they feel it is safe to proceed.
    This is not a perfect world so each class of road user has it’s own catalogue of “incidents” to gripe about, Pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. Googling parrabuddy & skippydetour you will find some of my “incidents” and i am a user of all three forms of locomotion.

  • Sara

    CBS’s rediculous report is matched in one-sidedness only by the cops who regularly blow me off when I point out/ and request a ticket for cars parked in the bike lane. How can cyclists be expected to use bicycle lanes that are regulalry blocked by oblivious drivers and pedestrians?

  • Ken

    The NYPD doesn’t ticket pedestrians for jaywalking and for other dangerous maneuvers because pedestrians are the most vulnerable of street users and their illegal behavior generally doesn’t cause harm to others. At the other extreme, the NYPD should zealously enforce traffic laws on motorists, who are far and away the most lethal street users (it isn’t even close). Bicyclists fall somewhere in between, which means that the level of enforcement should, too. Cops should use judgment, ticketing only obviously reckless riding rather than, say, a cyclist who treats a red light as a stop sign. A widespread crackdown on any and all infractions will only serve to discourage bike use in the city, and if that happens, we’re all the losers. And over-the-top reports like CBS’s only serve to further marginalize cyclists and embolden motorists to endanger cyclists’ lives.

    • Whiz

      Absent-minded pedestrians who walk into bike lanes without looking have the potential to cause great harm to themselves and the cyclists. Bicyclists rarely hit each other, because they’re paying attention to traffic.

  • ak

    How could neither report point out that the majority of cyclists featured in your stories are delivery men? There is a huge difference between delivery guys trying to go as fast as they can to make a buck and a commuting responsible cyclist.

  • MTS

    Yes, blame the cyclists. This in a city where jaywalking is considered a birthright and the cabbies have to pass a maniac test before they can operate a vehicle.

  • chris

    we all just need to watch out for each other and simmer down…its not that big of a deal – if your stupid enough to walk or run in the bike lane than you have no right to complain if your hit, if you ride the wrong way in a bike lane and cause an accident its your fault completely end of story, and traffic lights are NOT for cyclists they are for automobiles period.

    • Lynden Barber

      Hate to disabuse you of your dumb illusions but yes, lights are for cyclists too. That is THE LAW. Believe it or not, most motorists do NOT want to risk having a cyclist’s skull smashing against their windscreen every time they drive through a green light.

  • Marc

    Most of the “bad behavior” exhibited in the video here is by either bike messengers or food delivery people, who have a financial incentive to break the rules (the faster the deliveries, the more they make in tips/fees).

    Make commercial cyclists actually follow the laws of traffic by fining their place of employment when they ride the wrong way or on the sidewalk. And require businesses to supply their commercial bike riders with lights for night riding. Steep fines and enforcement will quickly work wonders on changing the way bike riding is done in NYC.

  • Chris O.

    ex city native: So, you think that screeching cars and trucks who use Manhattan as a cut-through, clog our streets, run red lights, and hit pedestrians are NOT “inhospitable to pedestrians?” Yet it’s BIKES that are the problem?

    Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  • ex city native

    I’m a lifelong resident of Manhattan. I’m leaving the city after almost 60 years to relocate to the suburbs because I think the quality of life in NYC has deteriorated severely. Out of control bikes pose a clear and present danger to my safety on a daily basis, and I think that our mayor has gone too far without enforcing the laws.

    It’s obvious to me that after being rebuffed on congestion pricing, Bloomberg has decided to eliminate cars from our streets by any means necessary, even if it means making them inhospitable to pedestrians, and destroying small businesses by eliminating parking.

    NYC as a haven for only the rich will not be the wonderful tapestry that it has been since the turn of the last century. NYC without that diversity is as interesting as Topeka.


    • Whiz

      See ya. Thanks for the pollution.

    • lynden

      Cyclists who ride at speed on a crowded pavement should be arrested for dangerous riding and jailed – just as they would if they drove dangeorusly behind the wheel of a car. All they need to do is catch someone unawares and knock them to the ground so their head hits the pavement – easily done – and they are guilty of manslaughter (this nearly happened to my wife – she’s now semi-retired due to brain injuries caused to her when she was a pedestrian hit by a speeding cyclist).

  • Eric

    In the first video several of the shots of large numbers of cyclists are from the Summer Streets program. Not exactly a dailyu occurence.

  • Bill

    Look at your video again and see that the majority of examples you cite are delivery people from restaurants. Something you need to address directly and not cast such a wide net of accusations.

  • Nina

    Though I’m a cyclist who heartily agrees with Ian Turner, I also agree that we need to better follow the rules. I’m not opposed to the occasional ‘jay-biking’ under the same conditions that pedestrians jay walk (after looking for both cars AND pedestrians – cyclists often ignore the latter), but salmoning, riding quickly on sidewalks and darting through intersections really are dangerous and unnecessary. I eagerly await the follow up stories on the widespread violation of speed limits and bike lane blocking by drivers, as well as dangerous pedestrian behavior (listening for traffic before jaywalking instead of looking, standing in the bike lane waiting to cross the street when there is a perfectly safe sidewalk right next to it).

  • Chris O.

    Yes, Nancy Gruskin’s story is tragic, unfortunate, and should gleam some lessons on how we educate cyclists. But that’s one death in the past three years – and, in fact, the ONLY documented death of a pedestrian killed by a cyclist in that period. Nearly FIVE HUNDRED pedestrians have been killed by cars over that same period. When are you going to do an expose about NYC drivers who are “way out of control?”

  • Ian Turner

    Disappointing that CBS decided to focus on the transportation mode that kills about 1 New Yorker per year, and not the one that kills 300-400 New Yorkers per year.

  • Brian

    Wish now that the NYPD would ticket drivers when they pull U-turns in the middle of the street, speed, neglect to use blinkers, and oh, yeah, run red lights. Heck, I wish NYPD would maybe occasionally actually charge drivers when they hit and kill cyclists. Or maybe we could just start with double parking. Remember, fair New Yorkers, those heady days of yore, before the streets were constantly choked with automobiles, when double parking was actually illegal?

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  • Dawna

    The pandering to the bicycle lobby (notably, Transportation Alternatives which has infiltrated the administration) by Bloomberg/DOT is truly head spinning. The lanes piling up are costly, often unused and are certainly not taking cars off the streets, but rather creating more traffic chaos and inconvenience. I am constantly in a state of anxiety about bicycles because they operate in stealth mode and many do not follow the rules. As you noted, this is the top quality of life issue in many neighborhoods and CBS is to be congratulated for running this story. Let’s hope that the administration is listening.

  • Steve

    Where’s the report on reckless driving? Cars cause hundreds, if not thousands of deaths and injuries every year in NYC, yet the number of deaths caused by bikes is hardly a statistical blip on anyone’s radar. If the police would enforce traffic laws for automobiles AND bikes and if the city would install more bike lanes, bike riders would have fewer opportunities and reasons to bike against traffic or run lights.

  • Chesley Uggams

    Cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists are all EQUALLY guilty of flouting the law.
    I say this as an avid cyclist, pedestrian, and motorist. Anyone who says otherwise has their head in the sand.

  • Eric

    “In a recent 20 minute period at First Avenue and Sixth Street, CBS 2 counted 17 bike riders running red lights and more than two dozen riding the wrong way and against traffic.” Now tell us what the total number of cyclists you observed during this time frame. So everyone can deteremine the percentage of cyclists this represents at this location.

  • A Walker

    Ticketing bicyclists will improve safety for pedestrians on sidewalks and increase revenue for the city. There are many bicyclists on Brooklyn (as well as other boroughs) sidewalks terrorizing walkers with severe bodily injury to the torso, legs, feet and sometimes the head if knocked down. Ticket them the first time and arrest them on a second bicycling offense.

    Many times have I been confronted on the sidewalks with speeding bicyclists aiming at my knees. Throw them in jail!

  • Carol

    Participating in the Summer Streets program last Saturday, even though 2 lanes were designated for bike riders on either side of Park Ave, they still acted as if the whole street was for them only, weaving in and out of the pedestrian lanes.

  • L.R.

    During the same 20 minute period, how many pedestrians did you see crossing against a red? How many times did YOU, as a pedestrian cross against the red???

  • Brian

    I think it is great that NY has become more bike friendly and before blaming cyclists consider all the pedestrians that stand in the street and use bike lanes for walking oblivious to what is going on around them.

    There needs to be common sense to enforcing bike laws. If someone is riding recklessly give them a ticket, but giving a ticket everytime a bike goes through a red light (when pedestrians in mass engage in jaywalking) reeks of injustice.

  • B. Carfree

    Many cyclist do indeed disobey the law. Of course they account for less than one in ten thousand roadway deaths per year and a similar proportion of the 4 million injuries. Perhaps we should untwist our knickers and focus our enforcement efforts where they will save lives, on the killers in motor vehicles. Be honest, has anyone actually seen a car stop at a stop sign?

  • Safe Sidewalk Cyclst

    It is possible for bicyclists and pedestrians and cars, taxis, buses, hansom cabs, motorcycles, scooters, mopeds, segways, firetrucks, delivery trucks, earth-movers, derreks. pushcarts. wheelchairs, even cop cars to coexist, share the roads, sidewalks etc. Common courtesy is the way and that can’t be legislated. It is beneath CBS News to engage in fear-mongering and sensationalism on this pathetic level, or should be. What would Walter think of this week of reports?

  • hk

    as a cycling commuter, i ride everyday. i agree there are a lot of cyclist that are arrogant reckless. also there are a lot of pedestrians and car drivers that are the same. we need to find a way coexist and understand each other. blaming one party is not solving anything.
    biking all year round i see the more of the recklessness in cycling come out when the weather is fair. there are a lot more absent minded, cell phone wielding, aggro cyclist at this time. in no way am i condoning their behavior but all i ask is that cyclist, peds, drivers all have a better understanding and awareness of your space.
    i do my best to respect drivers and peds. all of us are not bad.

  • A.SEN

    Cyclists in majorl metrpolis all over the world has the same attitude. They have scanty respect for pedestrians, they think that traffic lights are not for them to follow,and in large no. of cases they struck the pedestrians causing severe injuries. I have observed this in all the major cities of the world, Paris, Newyork,Rome,UAE(abudhabi),,Calcutta(india). Its time we the pedestrians of all these cities stand up against it and put up resistance with the help of the authorities.

  • Joe G

    They think they own the street.Traffic lights are not meant for them. Pedestrian crossing is not even an issue to them. No respect for any law or society whatsoever.They should have to register the same as a motor vehicle and have insurance since they are dangers and reckles

  • Jason

    As an avid cyclist, I’m well aware that cyclists could be better on the road. Pedistrians and drivers are hardly innocent in their interactions with us. Drivers and pedistrians both rarely look both ways before proceeding into our path. Pedistrians frequently use bike paths as sidewalks and force us to avoid them in spaces that are suppose to be for us. i frequent the west side bike path and there are more runners and walkers on the bike path than there are on the walkways. Perhaps you all could study that and present a balanced story instead of blaming the cyclists for all pedistrians aggravations. They have plenty of blame too.

  • charlotte

    Thank you for running this story. I live in Williamsburg where the bicyclists are young, arrogant, and completely out of control. Riding the wrong way down one way streets is a chronic problem over here. I have yet to see one ticket being issued by police. Again, thanks for your timely story.

  • Sheila

    As a cyclist I welcome the NYPD’s efforts to enforce the laws. Wrong way riders in particular are a danger to all street users. Cyclist who run red lights while buzzing pedestrians in the crosswalk give all cyclists a bad reputation. I also hope that while the NYPD is ticketing cyclists who break the law they also give some attention to drivers who double park in bike lanes and failure to yield to cyclists going straight when making turns.

    • Arthur Vandelay

      I’m a frequent cyclist too, and I welcome enforcement — particularly against those who ride really recklessly. I’m looking at you, hipsters without brakes, messengers who do whatever they please, and delivery guys on the sidewalks. The rest of us need to be doing a much better job of being courteous and considerate of pedestrians. I know there’s a problem because pedestrians always hesitate even as I’m stopping for a red light — they think I’m about to keep blowing through it the way other cyclists apparently are.

      That said, I expect better enforcement to keep bike lanes clear, as well as continued vigilance against cars who drive way above safe speeds and run red lights. They pose a much greater physical danger to pedestrians, cyclists and drivers alike than cyclists ever could.

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