Bike Laws Disregarded by Bicyclists

Injured Pedestrians Call For Enforcement of Bike Laws

I feel confident when I say that I think biking is a good thing.  Riding a bike can serve as exercise and has several benefits when used for transportation: bikes are “green” and riding a bike means there is one less car in the big city traffic.  But in the last few years, bicyclists have begun to pose a danger to pedestrians, especially by disregarding bike laws, which is keeping bike accident lawyers busy.

Bike laws aside, accidents often happen because bicyclists are distracted, and you can’t really blame them.  A beautiful day in the city can make anyone want to look around and take it all in.  Also, it is difficult not to get excited when you hear your favorite song playing in your ear buds.  And wait, was that Brandon, the photographer for Humans of New York?!


While biking is a “good” thing, bicyclists have been increasingly reckless by violating bike laws.  In fact,  two pedestrians were killed in the past two months by bicyclists (although it is not clear whether the bicyclists violated bike laws) On August 3rd, 2014, in broad daylight, a seventeen year old bicyclist swerved into the running lane to avoid a pedicab, and struck a seventy-five year old teacher, Irving Schachter, who was training for the New York marathon.  The man died two days later.


Next, on September 19th, 2014, during broad daylight, a thirty-one year old musician (Jason Marshall) on a racing bike struck a fifty-eight year old mother in central park.  The mother’s name was Jill Tarlov and she died three days later of severe head trauma.  The NYPD said that the bicyclist, Jason Marshall, had swerved to avoid a group of pedestrians before crashing into Tarlov.  Marshall said it was “an unavoidable accident”.  It has not yet been determined how fast he was going (side note: does a bike law even exist that limits how fast a person can ride their bike?) and he has not been charged with a crime.


Whether the accident was, indeed, unavoidable, is still to be determined.  The reality remains that, just like cars, there are “rules of the road” for bicyclists–bike laws, if you will.  Unfortunately, bicyclists tend to ignore the bike laws delineated by signage such as traffic signals, stop signs and cross walks. Additionally police officers seem to be indifferent to bike law violators.


Journalist Samuel G. Freedman of New York believes there are two reasons for the cause of bike accidents.  First, he pointed out that bicyclists see themselves as the victim; after all, bicyclists’ bodies are exposed to the concrete and are pose no threat to a car.  However, Freedman made a very interesting observation that while many bicyclists have been victims of accidents, bicyclists can also be the aggressor: “speeding through red lights, scattering those in the crosswalk and leaving the rest of the pedestrians bewildered and cowering on the curb.”  The obvious solution to this aggressive behavior is to slow down, follow the signage, and let the pedestrians have the right of way.  In other words, follow the law.


Freedman listed that a second reason for bike accidents is bicyclists’ self-righteousness: “to ride under your own power on two wheels is to be admirably green, to be on the sustainable side of the angels.  Four wheels fueled by hydrocarbons are easier to see as a potential danger needing to be controlled.  But there is no mandate of heaven for putting passerby at mortal risk.  And there is no public-policy logic to giving a free pass on public safety to someone who is not polluting the air.”


The moral of the story is that while it is healthy to ride a bike, it poses a risk to not just the bicyclists, but the pedestrians they weave around at high speeds.  It is everyone’s duty to follow the rules of the road, but it is always a good idea to be on the look-out for others’ mistakes that can end in a disaster for law-abiding citizens.


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