Bikes vs. Cars in Brooklyn Heights

We missed this YouTube post by CUNY’s NYC News Service last month, but since we can’t resist a good bikes vs. cars story… here it is.

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  • Rik

    As a partially-sighted person I’d have a lot more sympathy for cyclists if they followed the rules of the road (‘one way’ MEANS ‘one way’), used lights at night and generally respected pedestrians. I’ve very nearly been hit on several occasions by silent cyclists riding too fast the wrong way down a street with no lights on and then (on more than a couple of times) suffered verbal chastisement for not “looking”.

  • my2cents

    Amen, Rik.
    I totally agree! I am a “fully sighted” person, and I have found myself in the exact same situation as well. I find that the delivery bikers are particularly disdainful of one-way rules.

  • E G

    While I know there are poorly mannered, unsafe cyclists- I encounter them everyday- let’s not generalize and create further undeserved animosity towards those of us (and I am one) who pedal around rather than add to the congestion and pollute the air we breath.

    Further, poorly operated automobiles present more of an immediate and catastrophic danger to the public than a delivery guy on a rickety old bike. Cyclists by-in-large are the good guys here but as with any population there will be the inconsiderate and/or ignorant jerks!

  • bornhere

    As a driver and nonbiker, I have no problem with cyclists who use bike lanes and otherwise obey traffic regulations (like actually stopping at red lights, stop signs, etc); what I do have a problem with is those who really do endanger themselves and others by using streets as their own private pathways and disregarding the rules of the road. As a driver, I hate the left turn from State to Joralemon, especially at night, because it is so hard to see cyclists (usually delivery people) who come tearing down Joralemon from Henry and sort of hug the parked cars along Joralemon. As a pedestrian, I often feel that I need a Reganesque (think Exorcist) head that can do a 360-degree swivel: coming out of the R train station on Montague and Clinton at night and crossing at that intersection demands watching for cars turning from Clinton, cyclists coming from Court and blowing the light, and others coming down Montague the wrong way. When it’s pedestrian vs cyclist, pedestrian loses, and can lose big. “Rickety old bike” or not. I also think that older people pedestrians are at a particular disadvantage. Of course cars can probably do more damage; but getting slammed by a bike is not nothing. We all know the horrible stories of pedestrians being killed by cyclists. I think that if cyclists (and drivers), whether “civilian” or delivery, would obey all rules of the road, it would serve everyone. This doesn’t have to turn into an us vs them issue.

  • E G

    Bornhere, you and I are essentially saying the same thing. The only difference I that you wish to emphasize the fault and danger that cyclists present while downplaying the role of auto’s in causing death and harm to pedestrians. The statistics will not be your friend here. Also, let us not forget there are plenty of pedestrians who can add to the chaos by their carelessness. On many occasions, I’ve had people dart out in front of me like cats at night. Indeed, over the summer I had to tend to another cyclist who experienced substantial head trauma from such a scenario. Of course, no doubt, he SHOULD have been wearing a helmet! (though for those above age 14 it is not the law.)

  • Nelson

    Yep….let me just say that I’m all in favor of cycling and I think cyclist should obey the traffic laws as well….which, for the most part they do not….one way streets, stop signs, sidewalk riding, no lights at night, etc. They’ve got their crash protective gear on but pedestrians are pretty vulnerable to their poor manners.

  • E G

    I don’t really think that you are Nelson. I think that your saying that you are in favor of cycling is supposed to make one believe you are being fair minded and balanced about this. Yeah, balanced like Fox News you are! What does being ‘in favor of cycling’ really mean anyway? Pardon me, I am dense from being hit and knocked to the ground more than a few times by DRIVERS that are not obeying the law. (Helmets can only absorb so much of the blow.)

  • HDEB

    Cars stink, ride a bike!

  • pedestrian & driver

    I can’t remember a single time in my decade living in Brooklyn Heights that I’ve seen a cyclist stop at a red light or stop sign. If I am lucky, cyclists will sometimes yield, but that happens rarely.

    Cyclists who disregard traffic rules put themselves, pedestrians, and drivers at risk because they behave in an unpredictable fashion: we don’t know when they’ll stop or from which direction they will come. Drivers who behave that way are subject to citations; would that the same were true of cyclists.

  • E G

    P&D, for all of the distrust and dare I say hostility towards cyclists (that every cyclist you ever saw was an agent of chaos and a law breaker), YOU are a very dangerous person. With this predisposed attitude you preemptively blast your horn, or perhaps make no adjustments in your course while a cyclist is in your path just to make your point that they do not deserve to be on the road but relegated to off road paths or perhaps jail. If not, you play a role in influencing and encouraging these behaviors and attitudes.

    I’d be happy to kick in your taillight at the next light after you sideswipe me on the road while blabbing away on your cell phone.

  • Nelson

    EG..get rid of the chip on your fat shoulder and hear what is being said here….No one is saying cyclying is anything but a good thing….what’s being said is that cyclist should also obey the traffic laws just as cars must, i.e. ..not go the wrong way on a one way street, stop at cross walks, red lights , have night lights, not ride on sidewalks,etc. Get with the program!

  • E G

    Nelson, well one shoulder has a chip in it, while the other has a separated AC joint – both from cars blasting past stop signs and hitting me.

    If you read my original comment, I do freely admit that there are bad cyclists, however, all of the comments on this thread are so skewed against cycling and cyclists I am mystified as to how you can claim that people represented here (other than your patronizing remark and HDEB) are saying it is a good thing or show any understanding whatsoever of cyclists perspective. Where, Nelson, where?

  • pedestrian & driver

    EG, you can’t possibly expect to be taken seriously when you make personal, individual attacks on people. You know nothing about me, or my driving, and your assumptions about both, accompanied with an explicit threat, reduce your credibility to nil.

    When I have to stop worrying about being run over by a cyclist running a light, or speeding the wrong way down a one way street, I will gladly praise those who choose the two-wheeled route, as I continue to leave my cell phone on the car seat and make every attempt to avoid hitting cyclists as I drive. It would be nice if such cyclists worked as hard to keep themselves safe as they expect drivers to do.

  • E G

    I am not an attorney, however, I am quite certain that I’ve made no explicit threat. Nor, I am not attacking. I am responding, albeit passionately, to ridiculous statements such as yours having never in your ten years in BH having seen a law abiding cyclist that nullify your own credibility.

    Your portrayal of cyclists being a constant source of lawlessness and danger and motorist as the victims is just plain silly.

  • HDEB

    IMHO the simple fact that a cyclist is uses less resources to travel makes them more ethical and morally proper than someone driving an automobile. In response to this assertion I anticipate comments making statements such as “I have to drive”, sometimes true, usually not, just an ingrained American value that is seen as a right.
    Additionally, if NYC dedicated 1/20th of the infrastructure to cyclists as it does automobiles the city would be safer for pedestrians/cyclists/drivers, less crowded and less polluted.
    To restate the mantra: Cars stink, ride a bike!

  • my2cents

    New Years rant:
    Some cyclists (there is a real need to distinguish casual sunday bikers from commuters, from delivery people, from hipsters i think) need to stop their endless parade of self-congratulation and self-perceived victimization and realize that they have to share the road too. They may hate cars, but pedestrians still hate cyclists and for good reason. It is just a simple food chain, and cyclists are in the middle. Cyclists have a legal and ethical responsibility to respect pedestrians, and many of them don’t simply because they think they own some moral high ground for not driving that allows them to flout traffic laws and general courtesy. The other day, I felt like getting together a *pedestrian* critical mass to make some of those assholes get off and walk their bikes on a very crowded Brooklyn Bridge. Instead they shouted at the swarms of tourists and New Yorkers alike to get out of their way. There were far too many peds to ride a bike safely through, but these people felt entitled to ride and endanger everyone! How is that for a role reversal?

    Second point: What about taking the subway? Most bikers I know who are my age (under 30) couldn’t afford a car if they wanted one. So they CHOSE biking over public transport, NOT over driving. It is total MYTH that these hipster douchebags riding track bikes with no helmets keeps cars off the road. Maybe in like 3% of the cases. In my opinion they only endanger themselves and others, and gum up the roads in order to satisfy some ego-trip that instead of being a lame graphic designer in Billyburg they are actually a superstar bike messenger with no insurance. They are basically narcissists who just don’t give a damn and ride as a political/fashion statement rather than as a necessity.

  • E G

    My2cents, you are spot on but only regarding a distinct group of cyclists who are unbearably smug! I love it! However, you are so focused… captivated by them, nearly as much as they are of themselves, that you do not see the others from Sunday riders to hardcore Roadies who are far more humble about it and respectful towards others on the road as they realize that others have the right to the roadways as well.

    The BB can be maddening… this is why I take the Manhattan Bridge. However, please note that there is a bike lane and there is a pedestrian lane. Self righteous assholes though some of the cyclists may be, they have the legal right to their lane. As a pedestrian and cyclist, I’ve noticed that a lot more pedestrians can be found on the bike lane than there reverse.

    I don’t like the subway. I’d taken the subway my entire life. I grew tired of it and my dependency on the MTA rather than foreign oil or for environmental reasons. Ya know what, it’s my choice. there are many other personal reasons why I and others choose to ride rather than for show or politics.

    Nonetheless, I did enjoy your rant! Happy New Year to you and all!

  • HDEB

    Will someone please install electrified razor wire between the bike lane and pedestrian lane on the Brooklyn Bridge? I’d be much obliged.
    Good point my2cents about cycling-vs-public transpo:
    2 points regarding this
    1- Cycling produces virtually no emissions versus public transpo which produces some (albeit small compared with a car)
    2- Cycling will get and keep you fit and healthy where as riding the subway will not

  • my2cents

    I liked both of your responses, E G and HDEB.
    I like to bike too, and the Manhattan Bridge is the way to go for easy ped-free transit to Manhattan. It is true that there is a bike lane on the Bklyn Bridge but my point is that there are times when there are simply too many people on foot to fit on one half of the narrow walkway. Like during the transit strike the cops made people walk their bikes, as it was a safety risk. I just think that just because there is a bike lane doesn’t give people a right to zip through very dense traffic with no regard to the vulnerable people around them.
    as for your last two points HDEB, I agree. The carbon footprint of biking is smaller than public transport, and it is a lot healthier- provided you survive!

  • Tim N.

    The answer is simple.

    Arm the cyclists.


    Here’ s the thing… there are bright green painted bike lanes on Henry Street and other places around. And the bikes should stay in the, right? Easier said than done, when cars are in the lanes, which they are more often than not.

    As for pedestrians, well, the last time I biked over the Brooklyn Bridge (at 6:30 in the am), a pedestrian wandered in the bike lane, ignored my calls to get out of the way, and backed (yes, walked backwards) into my path. My handlebar caught his backpack and when I came to I had a concussion, four bruised ribs, and a separeated shoulder. The pedestrian walked away.

    Look, stuff happens in the city, I know, I’ve lived here all my life. But it seems to me that the ones with the sense of entitlement are the peds and the drivers. Pedestrians can do as much damage to bikers as the other way around. And a sense of entitlement wrapped by 2000 pounds of metal can do more than either.

    Bikers do break the rules. And here’s why: because everyone breaks the rules.

    We’re going to have to learn to share the roads or someone’s going to get hurt. Hopefully won’t be me… I’ve already given.

  • my2cents

    I think they should just outlaw bikes on the bklyn bridge because there is too much clueless gawking and tourism going on for people to use it as a commuting thoroughfare, esp. when the manhattan bridge has a paved separated bikeway. But that’ll never happen.
    So perhaps the electrified razor wire is the best solution after all. :-)

  • Tim N.

    m2c, now we agree. Razor wire is the way to go.

    Seriously, I also enjoy the Manhattan Bridge path, except that it drops you right in the bowels of Chinatown, which, when it comes to peds/bikes/cars, it is the world without rules. The advantage to the BB is that you come down and you’re right at the meeting place of several paths that can take you to the west side, uptown, etc.

    I would hate to see a resident’s right stripped simply because it’s an inconvenience to tourists.

  • E G

    From a practical standpoint, I’ve shaved minutes off my ride by taking the MB on my way to the UWS.

    From a principled standpoint, I wholeheartedly agree with your last sentence.

  • k.geis

    Car drivers who don’t bicycle should try it once.

    You’ll realize quickly that the car infrastructure and signaling apparatus is designed /for cars/.

    To the extent that it is safer for bikes to travel against green lights not with, and to travel the wrong way down empty side streets rather than around the block on streets without bike lanes.

    (I’m on Remsen east of Henry, and I hang a west off Clinton for half a block pretty routinely; I’ve been yelled at twice, both by car drivers who trying to speed through a yellow and got spooked by my showing up.)

    I’ve been driving for twelve years and biking for six months in new york city, and I think that drivers simply don’t realize how awful their ‘legal’ behavior is for bicycles.

  • k.geis

    Reading the comments here more closely, I am kind of appalled.

    > Here’ s the thing… there are bright green painted bike lanes on Henry
    > Street and other places around. And the bikes should stay in the, right?
    > Easier said than done, when cars are in the lanes, which they are more
    > often than not.

    Anyway, bikes are supposed to be in the bike lane only when THEY judge that it’s safe. Normally, I bike in the car lane, because that’s the only way to make cars respect me as a vehicle on the road. I pull into the bike lane to let cars pass me. This is proper legal biking.

    > I think they should just outlaw bikes on the bklyn bridge because there
    > is too much clueless gawking and tourism going on for people to use it
    > as a commuting thoroughfare, esp. when the manhattan bridge has a paved
    > separated bikeway.

    In 1900, the Brooklyn Bridge had a pair of train tracks, a pair of trolley tracks, and a carriageway in each direction, as well as a top deck dedicated 100% to pedestrians.

    Now: Six lanes of cars? And the bridge can do less than half the throughput it was capable of in 1900.

    Pedestrians and bicycles shouldn’t need to fight over scraps. Our common enemy is the flood of badly-driven cars (from the Dirty Jerz especially), which kill four times more Americans per year than heart disease, and with which it’s not even illegal to hit a person.

  • Allan

    Hello this is Allan visiting first time to this site and I totally agree that I am a “fully sighted” person, and I have found myself in the exact same situation as well.



    motorcycle transport