Scofflaws, All – Part 2

While video taping bikers for Scofflaws, All, I discovered two other situations that exist Houston Street and First Avenue: 2) bikers who go through the red light at First Street and don’t even look! as people with the Walk sign cross the street; and 3) people who stand in the street waiting for the Walk light at First Street, as bikers try to get into the bike lane.

I went back with my video camera on 8/23 but I found that Situation Number 2 is not that common. I thought it might be because on 8/21, when I crossed the street with the light, a woman on a bike almost ran into me. She was coming right at me (slowly but steadily) as I crossed the street. When I could see that she was oblivious, I stopped, to make her stop, which she did, but she didn’t even look up! She just tried to move around me, without even acknowledging that she had almost hit me.

But after standing there with my camera on 8/23, taping every change of the Walk light, I saw that bikers went through the red light at First Street only a couple of times, and they went around the people in the cross walk, not into them.

That’s when I became aware of Situation Number 3, probably the most hazardous. The problem is caused by construction work taking place on First Avenue. Barricades have been put into place that separate the bike lane from the rest of First Avenue.


This is entirely a feng shui thing. Pedestrians see the barricades and understand that traffic is closed to cars, and because of the steel plates where the green paint of a bike lane should be, they’re not even conscious of its existence. The lack of a traffic island there, the likes of which exists at Second Street, compounds the situation.

Second Street traffic island

Once construction is completed, I’m sure this will all be resolved. They’ll probably even put in a traffic island. All’s well that ends well!


One last thing: I came upon an article while looking for information for this piece, called Confronting the Scofflaw Cyclist. It’s a good look at the notion of “scofflaws” as it applies to bicyclists.


This is probably the last time I’m going to write about this, since the foot injury that led to my taking the subway to work been remedied, and I will no longer be here on a regular basis. (I’ll write about that shortly.) I’ll just end by saying that Situation 3 has already been resolved, with the placement of a large sign blocking the entrance to the bike lane at First Street. Bikes can no longer enter there, so the danger of pedestrian collisions has dropped to approximately zero.

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!

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.