Today, the NYPD announced it would begin two weeks of focused enforcement on "hazardous violations" that endanger pedestrians and cyclists. Though it seems clear from numerous studies that the most hazardous violations are perpetrated by drivers attempting to fish an especially compelling ice cube from the bottom of a Big Gulp, it's important that we respect these efforts, since Road Peace is a goal for which we all strive.
Still, like ice cream flavors and Supreme Court Justices, some of the enforcement strategies are better than others.
Failure to stop at a red light, disobey a traffic signal or sign
Do you remember the movie The Mexican? Neither do I, for the most part, save for one scene, in which Brad Pitt is attempting to cross some sort of remote, desolate highway. He is surrounded by total silence; you can all but hear the tumbleweeds flopping across the road. But this desolate highway has a traffic light, and it is red. Obstinately. Red. Early-aughts Brad Pitt peers down the road for miles in each direction and, seeing nothing, decides to venture his car across the street. Just then, an 18-wheeler appears out of nowhere, almost—or, actually? I really don't remember this movie—reducing him to a fine powder of luscious hair and great skin. This clip appears to be available nowhere online.
But The Mexican is just a movie, and, according to most critics, an utterly unremarkable one at that. Trucks do not appear out of nowhere, just as flying sharks do not disrupt Mark McGrath's Mets game. Cyclists—like pedestrians and drivers—should never be assholes, but the rules should also make sense. One of the great things about cycling is its freedom—abundant parking, the ability to sail past a crush of drivers growing increasingly hysterical as they inch forward, green lights coming and going like seasons probably do in senescence.
The Idaho stop or rolling stop is the idea that cyclists can treat a stop sign as a yield sign, and a red light as a stop sign. Adoption of this practice in some states is revolutionary in its acknowledgement that cyclists are not motorists. The ability to avoid the inconveniences of driving is the trade-off for the danger, exposure and persistent sweaty helmet hair. While a crackdown on obnoxious cyclist behavior is one thing, ticketing a cyclist that carefully checks before heading through a desolate intersection is not going to prevent a single death.
Riding the wrong direction against traffic, riding on the sidewalk, and failure to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk
Please, crackdown away! Crack down like your lives depend on it! In many places, it's legal for cyclists to ride on the sidewalk, but that really only makes sense in cities with a quaintly appointed Main Street and a Ye Olde Dumpling House. Gothamist Publisher Jake Dobkin has outlined his views on the instances in which salmoning is acceptable, but in the eyes of Johnny Law, the answer is never. I say, give cyclists the Idaho stop, and cyclists will give up salmoning. Deal? Good. This Internet blog post is a legally binding document.
Finally, "additional focus will be given to motorists who obstruct bicycle lanes, which creates a hazardous condition for bicyclists." Excellent! I can't wait to show my children these photos while they gawk is disbelief, incredulous that such a hypocritical system could ever have existed in their own mother's lifetime! "Yes," I'll say, rheumy eyes brimming with nostalgia. "Things were different back then." Then I'll close the browser window, and we'll all pile on the family Citi Bike and head down the street for $20 bodega cronuts.