Memo from the street Op-ed

| 16 Jul 2015 | 02:08

Summer is has returned to New York City. The birds are chirping and the familiar sound of the Mister Softee trucks fills the streets. The trucks are not the only thing that fills the streets, however. People fill the streets. They walk, they bicycle and they drive. In doing so they often get in each other’s way. Then the trouble begins.

I have at times been a pedestrian, a cyclist and a motorist. I carry a monthly metro card, a Citibike key and a Zipcar card. So maybe, just maybe, I can give my fellow pedestrians, cyclists and motorists a word of advice.

To My Fellow Pedestrians:Are we not fortunate to live in a city where almost everything we need is a few foot steps away? That which is not nearby can easily be obtained by walking to the nearest bus or subway stop. New Yorkers walk everywhere. We are statistically thinner than our suburban counterparts.

And yet there are snakes in our Garden of Eden. Cyclists who race down our sidewalks or believe that a park path is exclusively theirs and motorists who expect us to jump out of their pathways. Often we may be in the right but we must remember that whether the pitcher hits the rock or the rock hits the pitcher, it’s going to be pretty bad for the pitcher.

Still, we must shoulder some of the blame. If you ask pedestrians if they have ever broken traffic laws, 90% will say they have and the other 10% are liars.

My fellow pedestrians, shocking as it may seem, traffic laws apply to us. Yet at times the temptation to cross against the red light or in the middle of the road is simply too great. On those occasions please remember to look both ways. If you see a car coming, let it pass. Even if the car is far away, it may slow down when it sees you and miss its light. Remember, when you cross against the light, you are breaking the law and therefore in the wrong, so MOVE IT and be careful.

To My Fellow Cyclists:Do we not live in a golden age of cycling in New York City? More people than ever are riding. Miles upon miles of bike lanes now give us a safe area to ride. Citibike, even with all its problems, allows us to ride around town unencumbered by the need to store the bike when we arrive at our destination.

And yet all that glitters is not gold. Unlike most cities, ours denies us the safety of the sidewalks. There are those who believe that a bicycle and its rider (average combined weight of 175 pounds) should be treated like a car and driver (average weight over 3,000 pounds). Many motorists are still reluctant to share the streets with us. Many pedestrians, despite a city of wall-to-wall sidewalks, feel the need to converge in our bike lanes.

My fellow cyclists, there may be times when you feel you have no choice but to ride in the wrong direction on a one-way street or find traffic so congested that you take a brief hop of the side walk. On those rare occasions, please slow down and look extra carefully as to where you are going. Remember you are breaking the law and therefore in the wrong

To My Fellow Motorists:Is there a group more despised than we are? We are now the main persecuted minority in the city. Our parking lots and gas stations are destroyed to build housing and offices. Our street parking is eliminated so cyclists can have protected lanes that tie up already crowded streets. Our mayor wants to balance his budget with hidden speed trap cameras and the slogan of the cycling advocacy group Transportation Alternatives is not “One More Bike” but “One Less Car.” It is no wonder that most city dwellers do not own a car and many do not even bother to get a driver’s license.

And yet, there is a silver lining in our cloud. Companies such as Zipcar allow us the pleasure of owning a car—for one hour at a time. They, like us, have realized there are some places that the subway cannot take you.

My fellow motorists, those who despise us will never know the awesome feeling of driving a car. Still, with great power comes great responsibility. Unlike pedestrians and cyclists, we can never flaunt the law. The risks are too great. While not all pedestrians are motorists, all motorists are pedestrians. When we come upon law-flaunting pedestrians or cyclists we must grit our teeth and slow down. Yes they are in the wrong but do we want to have their lives or injuries hanging over us? The life you save by setting an example may be your own.

Finally, To The Traffic Police:I ask for lenience if in slowing down for an errant pedestrian, a motorist crosses a light that is redder than it was a second ago.

In conclusion my fellow travelers, as the city grows larger there will be more of us sharing the streets. We all want to get to where we are going in a New York minute. While I don’t agree with all of the city’s Vision Zero policies, zero traffic fatalities is a desirable goal. If pedestrians, cyclists and motorists could walk in each other’s shoes or ride in each other’s tires for just a moment, we may yet achieve it.