The NYPD just launched a two-week campaign to enforce city bike laws that it’s calling Operation Safe Cycle. This should go over about as well with the cycling community as Crystal Pepsi did with all humanity (the use of “operation” seems especially inappropriate, given its military connotation). But besides being unpopular in the short-term, the heightened enforcement might also be a poor use of public resources in the long run.
Take one of the behaviors the NYPD intends to crack down on during its campaign: riding on the sidewalk. That’s a problem in lots of cities where cycling is growing, and the concern for pedestrian safety is legitimate. Some cities ban sidewalk riding outright (e.g. New York andChicago), some ban it in certain districts (D.C. and Boston), some place so many restrictions on it that they might as well ban it (Seattle), and some ban it for jerk riders only (Los Angeles).
No question, preventing cyclists from riding on the sidewalk improves pedestrian well-being. But there’s an unintended consequence: even as such laws and initiatives protect of walkers, they may in turn endanger riders—and to a greater degree. Yes, some cyclists may ride on the sidewalk to annoy the universe. Many more no doubt do so because they find sharing the road with cars to be exceedingly dangerous, as John Kelly of the Washington Post recently reported:
“The reason that cyclists use the sidewalks is that they don’t want to die,” wrote the District’s John Glad. “If and when they are provided with dedicated bike lanes that are not accessible to drivers, they will be only too happy to use them.”