In the span of less than two months, two pedestrians were struck and killed by cyclists in Central Park, prompting cries from various corners about the need for lowered speed limits and stricter enforcement when it comes to minding inter-park traffic signals.
This is fair enough, but the Times this weekend visited the park to clock the speeds of what many consider the spandex-covered enemy—not the casual weekend cyclists but the combative road warriors with their carbon-frame death machines and moisture-wicking performance socks.
Armed with a radar gun, the paper spent an hour on Sunday morning clocking speeds near West Drive, where Jill Tarlov was fatally struck by a cyclist on September 18th. But the paper reports that top speeds that morning hit only 23 miles per hour—slower than the posted speed limit of 25 mph. Still, data from Strava—a website on which cyclists (and runners) can track their times against others—records top speeds in the park above 32 mph during non-race events.
Cars have long been the common enemy to both cyclists and pedestrians, though antipathy between the two seems to be escalating. Pedestrians rightly blame arrogant and entitled cyclists for blasting through lights, but cyclists are equally frustrated by zoned-out pedestrians, often attuned to the sound of an oncoming engine but blithely out of touch when it comes to meandering into bike lanes or stepping suddenly from between parked cars into the road.
Since the deaths of Tarlov and, in August, jogger Irving Schachter, activists and politicians have called for the lowering of the speed limit to 20 mph, which, as advocacy group Right of Way puts it, would preserve "the fundamental human right to move about in public space without being intimidated, injured, or worse."
But speed limits are effective only if heeded, and even politicians in favor of a lowered speed limit maintain that a good first step would be to ban cars from the park.
“Motor vehicles pose a far more deadly threat to pedestrians in parks than bicycles, and that is why I have repeatedly called for Central Park to be made car-free year round,” City Councilman Mark Levine told the Columbia Spectator.
Others think that what the park—and city, and world, broadly—really needs is a strictly enforced "Pay Attention" law. As Manhattan resident Liz Van Hoose told the paper: “I feel more endangered by the tourist bicyclists who don’t use the bike lanes than by the racing bikes who do use the bike lanes."