They say New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a visionary, a crusader who took on Big Gulp, table salt, guns, potholes, teachers unions, cigarette smoke, Styrofoam and trans fats. I’m not quite sure who “they” are, but they must know what they’re talking about.
They also say his aggressive social agenda has improved the lives of countless New Yorkers, both living and dead, and yet to be born, not to mention the countless commuters who pour into the city every day to work in the coal mines. The murder count is down, blood pressure is down, there’s less tooth decay, and the city squirrels are happier and healthier because smoking is banned in parks, which means any squirrel caught with a cigarette in its mouth will be fined $250 and banished to Jersey.
The mayor recently announced life expectancy for New Yorkers is rising and that a baby born in 2010 will live to be 80.9 years old, which is three more years than when he took office and higher than the national average of 78.7. In addition to life expectancy, Manhattan rents have been rising by about 10%, which means New Yorkers may have to live those bonus years in Poughkeepsie.
But there’s much more work to be done before the mayor’s term ends because everyone knows the really dangerous things in New York aren’t the muggers or Styrofoam salesmen or soda junkies — they’re tourists from places like China and Arkansas, wielding cameras like Ninja warriors, along with text-messaging young women wandering through town like zombie hordes, and the absolute worst — life-threatening cyclists running red lights and riding the wrong way on city streets.
Adding to the problem, the mayor plans to turn the Big Apple into another Beijing, where bikes are more common than cockroaches. By the end of the year, the city’s bike-share program will have 7,000 bicycles on the streets at 293 docking stations south of 59th Street in Manhattan, and around downtown Brooklyn. Eventually, there will be 10,000 bikes at stations up to 79th Street and throughout Brooklyn and Long Island City.
While Bloomberg is excited about the plan, not everyone shares his enthusiasm, especially pedestrians who believe cyclists can be a safety hazard.
During the years I’ve worked in New York, I’ve never seen a cyclist stop at a red light, even though they’re supposed to obey traffic laws. Stand on any corner on Lexington Avenue during the afternoon, and you’ll witness dozens of bicyclists breaking the law.
The worst violators are delivery cyclists and messengers employed by about 3,530 businesses. However, starting in April, they’ll be required to tell their riders they have to yield to pedestrians, use bike lanes and stay off sidewalks. The cyclists will have to wear ID numbers with the name of their business, and anyone who sees a violation can call 311 and report it, which could lead to a fine.
So if you’re headed into Manhattan, watch where you’re going, look both ways and beware of tourists, text-messagers, killer trans fats but most of all, crazed cyclists.
Joe Pisani may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.