There are 46 traffic lights on the 6.1 mile loop in Central Park. And the NYPD continues to dole out tickets for cyclists at the red lights. I had written an entry about this before but I wanted to revisit the issue a little bit. Mainly because I had a close call recently where I almost crashed after riding through a yellow light and had a police car pull up behind me and blast me with the siren... to tell me that I came close to getting a $270 ticket.
According to the NYPD, there were 127 accidents in Central Park last year that involved a cyclist. We've never been provided the specifics of what happened in these accidents... so for all I know, all 127 could have been from a cyclist running over a pedestrian full bore while the pedestrian had the right-of-way at a traffic light. Or all 127 could have been from a cyclist falling off a bike all by himself. But I'm assuming that neither of these are true. If I go through the various scenarios where a cyclist might get into an accident in the park, I end up with 7 possibilities:
- Cyclist hits pedestrian in crosswalk (cyclist's fault)
- Cyclist hits pedestrian in crosswalk (pedestrian's fault)
- Cyclist hits pedestrian not in crosswalk (cyclist's fault)
- Cyclist hits pedestrian not in crosswalk (pedestrian's fault)
- Cyclist hits runner who cuts into the road from the running lane (usually runner's fault but not always)
- Cyclist falls off bike alone (break out the training wheels!)
- Crash during bike races (also read as: Cat 5 racing)
So why focus on cyclists alone? Is it because they are easy targets? You can't ticket all jaywalkers. That would be a little ridiculous. You can't only ticket those jaywalkers who are destined to eventually cause an accident (e.g. the ones crossing the road without looking while listening to their iPods). That would seem arbitrary and discriminatory. But focusing the ticketing efforts specifically on cyclists seems to imply that cyclists are presumed to be the guilty party for accidents in the park. Why selectively enforce laws that affect only a specific group of people? Because you've profiled them as a high-risk population. But I would disagree with that.
If I get ticketed at a red light, so be it. But then ticket the guy who just jaywalked across that same traffic light. Don't assume that I would be the guilty party and not him. Personally, I've seen far more crashes happen when a pedestrian runs out onto the road without looking than when a cyclist hits a pedestrian when it's a red light.
One of my friends suggested modifying cyclocross for Central Park. Arrive at red light, get off bike, walk across red light (like all the walkers and runners), get back on bike, and ride off. Brilliant idea.