Scofflaws, All

Due to a foot injury, for the past few months, I’ve been taking the train to work. Walking toward the First Avenue entrance to the F train in whichever direction the Walk light sends me, I sometimes wind up on the southeast corner of First Street and First Avenue.

Because the F is my train, I’ve had this light down for a long time. What happens is that cars turning left from Houston onto First Avenue have fifteen seconds or so to move. Between the time their light turned red and the Allen Street northbound traffic light turned green, a person could cross First Avenue safely, even though the sign said Don’t Walk. You didn’t even have to hurry.

However, since the advent of the bike lanes, there’s been a significant increase in the number of bicycles at this intersection, and it didn’t take them long to figure out the light situation here either. Now, when the cars stop turning onto First Avenue (and in some cases before that), the bikes move en masse in tandem!

1st-and-1st
Cars, green; Bikes, purple.

This is where it becomes complicated. Once the bikers pass through the intersection, they have the green light at First Street. They could argue that they have the right-of-way at that point. Technically, they do, but it’s an ill-gotten right‑of-way. If there were a bike/pedestrian collision, would it be considered “contributory negligence,” where both parties are at fault? The bikers just ran a red light, but the pedestrian is crossing against the light, though a different light than the ones the bikers just went through.

Last Thursday, as I crossed and they made their way toward me, I kept my eye on them, thinking “You had better not hit me,” and I could see the pack leaders bearing down on me, thinking “You had better get out of my way.”

No pedestrian in a crosswalk should ever be struck by a biker, no matter who has the right-of-way. It is never justified. Bikes can always go around the pedestrian, or even slow down. I do not intend to walk faster at First Street. It may be that I’ll have to start waiting for the Walk light. So be it. I don’t run for the bus, I’m certainly not going to start running across the street.

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