Did you bike or walk across the Brooklyn, Manhattan, or Williamsburg Bridge today? Did you see guys, or gals, in yellow vests, stationed there to prevent pedestrians and cyclists from encroaching upon each others’ territory, possibly wounding, or simply being rude to one another? If you didn’t today, you probably will. The Daily News calls them “baby-sitters to make sure cyclists and pedestrians play nice”; they’ll be there until November 26 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. The makeshift school crossing guards are not supposed to physically “interfere” with people but will instead alert them to stay in their areas with their yellow-vested presence.
“As I see people drifting across the lanes, I pop up and let them know to stay inside,” [one of them] said.
(This could be a dangerous gig.)
This program is from the Department of Transportation, which hasn’t released information on its cost. It comes in the wake of criticism of aggressive cyclists — just yesterday we wrote of a study that determined that 500 pedestrians are injured by cyclists yearly in New York City — and the news that the city will be introducing a new bike-share program of 10,000 bikes.
So, what do the cyclist and pedestrian supporters think of this?
Jeremy Zweig, founder of NYAPS, the New York Alliance for Pedestrian Safety, came out in favor of the idea, telling us, “The bridge ‘monitors’ are a really interesting idea, and frankly, exactly where the DOT needs to focus these days. I don’t think pedestrians really want to see other citizens get tickets, but they do want to feel safe on the streets. If we can accomplish that creatively and collaboratively, that’s fantastic. NYAPS was actually considering a similar thing — since pedestrian safety enforcement in Central Park has been reduced to virtually zero (about 20% of CP moving violation summonses in July were for excessive window tint!), and pedestrian safety compliance by cyclists is at the lowest rates we’ve ever seen, we contemplated having volunteer crossing guards stop cyclists at the Park’s traffic lights, such that pedestrians could cross during the “walk” signal without cyclists speeding through their red light.
“The fact is that the progressive infrastructure is there (and growing), and we’ve got comprehensive pedestrian safety laws and regulations. However, there’s been a very discouraging lack of signage, education, and enforcement that would help people use these resources appropriately. I think the DOT figures that appropriate behavior will catch up to the great infrastructure eventually, but that’s small comfort today to the pedestrian who may be knocked down by a cyclist in the crosswalk, or even on the sidewalk.
“Tickets aren’t necessarily the answer. Education that works is the ideal resolution. However, we need to get the DOT and NYPD to really get creative and clear about communicating expectations to users on the street, at the time and place where the confusion or conflict exists. Cycling advocacy groups need to back off from their objections to ‘no cycling on sidewalks’ and similar ‘pedestrian first’ signage — it’s a philosophy that has made them an impediment to collaboration.”
Meanwhile, from Michael Murphy at Transportation Alternatives,
“[It’s a] short-term band aid. There are too many people in too little space — just like Times Square before the recent improvements — and that leads to people getting in each others’ way. New Yorkers need space to get around, whether on foot or by bike. Ultimately, the best solution would be to make the roadway safe for bicycles with dedicated space and reserve the other paths for pedestrians — get everyone out of each others’ way and out of harm’s way.”