Since September the city has had pedestrian safety managers on each of the East River bridges, an experiment set to end on November 26th when the DOT will review the $80,000-a-month program. But as far as the cyclist-hating Post is concerned, the program is already a total dud. They say that commuters have already decided the program isn't working, while quoting one cyclist, who had, according to their report, one collision. Now, we've been a bit skeptical of this whole thing ourselves, but just to be sure we decided to head over there yesterday to see what some of those glorified crossing guards had to say for themselves.
When we explored the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, we found that the guards were stationed at each end as advertised, and were directing cyclists and pedestrians to their respective sides. We were even able to speak with a couple of the monitors, though none of them wanted to reveal their names or have the pictures taken. Here's what they told us about the program:
How is it going?
"The project is working, not 100%, because we don't have all of the tools that we need. Like radios, things for transportation if something happened. People, they notice the difference between when we're there and when we're not there."
"It's a very stressful job, dealing with people and everything. We know what the problem [with bridge collisions] is and what the answers are."
"The only problem is that they ride the bikes way too fast. They're almost like missiles because when they hit you the really hurt people. "
How do you approach people?
"We approach people depending on the way that they approach. If you approach friendly then we'll be friendly. If you have an attitude you're going to get an attitude."
"Most of us have law enforcement experience."
Are you seeing fewer bikers as it gets colder?
"I see the same amount of bikers because people are dedicated bikers. They bike to and from work. A lot of the cyclists—that's their job. They're messengers. And some people just like to ride bikes. You see the same people everyday and they're polite."
How do tourists respond to cyclists?
"The tourists are very polite, very kind. They listen to what we're out here to do—to help the public, help the pedestrians and the cyclists get along."
"Those messengers, they don't care. They're kicking tourists. I'm seeing it."
Do you feel it's inappropriate to have your salary discussed in the tabloids? Is it really $38-per-hour? [The DOT confirmed the $80,000 monthly figure, but couldn't give an hourly rate for the safety managers]
"No, we don't get that money. But even if we did—for all of the things that we do here—it wouldn't be enough because we get abused. It doesn't matter who it is. Guys with suits and ties, they are the worst because they feel like a big shot and they don't listen to us. The bums, they want to hurt us. We tell them, we are not here to fight. We're here to tell you what way to go."
"As far as my salary being discussed by the press, I don't have a problem with that. Mainly because it's public record."
"We are in the rain, in the snow, in the cold or if it's hot. Like I said we're abused. We want to work and the salary matters. We come from Long Island, Westchester, all over because we still have kids in school and prices go up."
Any other comments?
"The Brooklyn Bridge, there are so many problems there and they can be fixed. The bridge needs to be looked at as a monument. Not only the tourists, but New Yorkers, create more problems for the bridges than anyone else."
"Doesn't matter if you come with a suit and tie or naked, try to listen to us. It makes it safe for everybody."