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monitors, analyzes and corrects media reporting errors and bias concerning messengers and couriers.


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Deliver us from danger on 2 wheels

In his commentary (below) of April 13, Richard Schwartz puts the blame for pedestrian safety squarely on the backs of bicycle messengers. Schwartz notes that bicycle messengers injure about 150 pedestrians every year.

However he conveniently ignores the greater danger to pedestrians on the sidewalk - motor vehicles. Schwartz quotes stats from Transportation Alternatives yet he omits the most importanat numbers regarding pedestrian safety from the very same organization.

According to Transportation Alternatives in an average year in New York City "motor vehicles kill ten pedestrians on the sidewalk and injure at least 600." In the same average year bicycles kill no pedestrians. In the same average year, "motor vehicles kill 200 pedestrians and injure 11,000 in the street."

In addition it's often the threat from motor vehicles that pushes some cyclists from the road to the sidewalk.
 
Conveniently picking on easy targets such as bike messengers is not the answer. Real solutions to pedestrian safety require looking at all the dangers facing road users and the reasons for those dangers.

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Deliver us from danger on 2 wheels

By Richard Schwartz

New York Daily News, April 13th, 2004

Look both ways before you cross a one-way street. Don't make sudden lane changes when walking on a sidewalk. Don't dart to the left or right. If you wear glasses, fit them with a pair of little rearview mirrors so you can see what's coming from behind. Speaking of behinds, think about fitting yours with a pair of indicator lights.

No, these aren't new regs for pedestrians. They're merely practical rules of engagement if you hope to survive the whirlwind of bike messengers and food delivery guys rushing down city sidewalks as if they were competing in the last leg of the Tour de France.

It's nice to have your pork fried rice arrive hot and steamy, but not at the expense of someone's safety. Thousands of New Yorkers have near-miss experiences with these bikers. The general consensus is that these homicidal wheelmen don't care if they live or die - and they don't care if you do, either.

"When I go to senior centers, the first question is always, 'I'm scared of the bike deliverymen. Can you get them off the sidewalks?'" said Councilwoman Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan). She is drafting legislation requiring businesses that employ cyclists to post the city's bicycle rules and regulations.

The law on sidewalk cycling is simple: If you're 14 or older, you can't ride on them. Break the law and it's a $300 fine and you lose the bike. The hard part is enforcement. With terrorism and general mayhem topping the NYPD's agenda, it's tough to get police to pitch in on a problem as pedestrian as sidewalk safety.

But it's one of those quality-of-life issues, like subway graffiti and squeegee pests, that New Yorkers expect their city to wipe out, not wink at.

The Police Department is living in a fantasyland if it thinks the sidewalks are sufficiently safe. In a typical year, bikers batter about 150 pedestrians, though hundreds of incidents go unreported. It's a miracle no one has died in recent years.

The last time that happened was in 1997. Two fatalities occurred that year. One was Arthur Kaye, a 68-year-old businessman struck down by a chicken deliveryman on W.77th St.

There are some 6,000 bike messenger and delivery workers employed in the city, most of them in Manhattan. Yet, according to Transportation Alternatives in 2002, the three police precincts covering Manhattan's East Side - one of the city's busiest areas for commercial bicycle traffic - issued only 129 summonses to bikers for riding on sidewalks. In all of 2003, only 454 sidewalk summonses were issued citywide. In other words, the bikers are unregulated.

Some cities, such as San Francisco, have experimented - unsuccessfully - with licensing commercial bicyclists. The only answer is police enforcement. In the meantime, restaurants that want my business might try reassuring me by affixing a sticker on my order that says, "No pedestrians were hurt in the delivery of this meal."


 


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