Breaking the law in the bike lane

41 percent of cyclists routinely break the law, according to a study

By Helen Freund, Frank Rosario, and Jeane MacIntosh
The New York Post

NEW YORK — Pedestrians and motorists, watch out - cyclists are abusing their ticket to ride!

Forty-one percent of two-wheeled travelers observed on a pair of SoHo bike lanes last week blew through red lights, pedaled the wrong way, zipped along the sidewalk or rode outside the lanes, a Post investigation found.

The lanes that intersect Lafayette and Prince streets got plenty of use - 7,182 cyclists rode them between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. over five days last week.

But reporters saw 1,759 of those riders - 24 percent - running red lights, narrowly avoiding collisions with pedestrians and cars.

Another 1,111, or 15 percent, rode the wrong way and bolted in and out of the lanes, pushing fellow cyclists into traffic or nearly sending them sprawling from their bikes.

Eighty-one adult riders rode the sidewalk instead of the bike lanes. In one case, a female biker riding the Prince Street sidewalk skimmed a pedestrian, knocked a shopping bag out of her hand, and kept riding.

There was an average of four near-collisions per hour on each route, with errant cyclists narrowly missing each other, pedestrians or cars as they entered the intersection.

Once, two cyclists crossed Lafayette against the light, one behind the other, snarling traffic as they barely avoided crashing.

Another time, a man on a unicycle going the wrong way down Lafayette ran the light, forcing a cyclist crossing Prince with the right of way to swerve to avoid a collision.

Several red-light runners forced cabs and trucks to stop short. And pedestrians in crosswalks were nearly struck several times by red-light runners or wrong-way riders.

"They seem to think they have more rights than cars," said a SoHo cop working near the intersection.

"We usually don't ticket or fine them, but we should, because they break all the rules. I've seen a lot of accidents right here involving cyclists. It happens all the time."

None of the scofflaws spotted by The Post was ticketed, although under law they are required to follow traffic rules and cannot ride on the sidewalk unless the rider is 12 or younger.

As part of a cyclist crackdown launched in late 2010, the NYPD has issued 9,427 summonses this year so far, 65 percent more than a year ago at this time.

John Buffa, who owns a restaurant near the intersection of Lafayette and Prince, is livid at the law-breaking.

"I can't stand them," Buffa said. "They think the streets belong to them, and they don't."

Additional reporting by Amanda Mikelberg

Hell on two wheels
Five days at the Prince and Lafayette bike lanes. Post reporters observed traffic in the lanes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. over five days last week. Here's what they found:

* Number of riders: 7,182

* Number violating traffic laws: 2,951, or 41 percent

* Ran red light: 1,759

* Wrong way/out of lane: 1,111

* Used sidewalk: 81

* Near-collisions: 189, 4.2 per hour

Copyright 2011 N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc.

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