Ensure safety for cyclists
I can’t say I feel safe riding my bike around New Brunswick. I don’t feel safe locking it up most places around campus, having one bike stolen already. But what makes me write this column is the ordinance the New Brunswick City Council passed on Wednesday. It prohibits riders 12 years or older from riding on the sidewalk and requires them to have a bell and lights on their bikes. Fines will range from $25 for a first offense and $50 to $100 for subsequent offenses.
The inception and deletion of the law itself is kind of comical and shows how the city really runs. It was a city ordinance passed back in 1893, which included the sidewalk ban, but was “accidentally” deleted on Sept. 15, 2010, according to former City Spokesman Bill Bray. It’s back — with added possible litigations.
It isn’t counter-intuitive that bikers should not speed past slower pedestrians on the sidewalk, but it is also necessary that bikers are provided with the same safety with which pedestrians are allocated. Bike lanes have been proposed and have been in the talks at city council, but I am willing to bet they aren’t going to be built on George Street (campus commuters going from the College Avenue campus to Douglass campus). The street was rebuilt just last year after months of detoured traffic, so that’s out of the question. The other possibility is introducing the bike lanes to Neilson Street (the alternate to George Street, just north of it). But I can’t foresee bikers circumventing the new asphalt of George Street for the pothole-ridden Neilson Street.
On a more critical note though, it was simply careless instituting an ordinance before setting the wheels in motion for the bike lanes. Risking injuring bicyclists for the sake of reinstating a 100-year-old law because it was accidentally deleted is something that, I guess, was to be expected from the city.
I fully support a ban on sidewalk-riding, but that is only if the same protections are offered to bicyclists as are to pedestrians.
“The reason they do this is because pedestrians are walking on the sidewalk at a much slower rate,” said Glenn Patterson, director of the Department of Planning, Community and Economic Development. “Pedestrians often make jerky movements, which are unpredictable, and cyclists will have difficulty avoiding them.”
This holds true for motor vehicles as well. Drivers aren’t as careful as we would hope, and bicyclists aren’t as skilled as they think, especially if they hit the streets. I ride on the streets, feeling pretty confident (or lucky) that I am not going to get hit, but there have been countless times that I have been cut off by a car turning right or running a red light because they think they can make it. I have had University buses not see me give the signal that I am turning, which is even more dangerous when it comes to other drivers who barely know what hand signals mean. Overall, I can’t say it is the safest city. I felt safer biking through Paris, where drivers like to back up one-way streets because it is shorter, but it is also a city with an extensive bike-lane network.
One last point I would make is that city officials are simply overreaching and abusing their authority. Law enforcement already doesn’t have the noblest of reputations when it comes to New Brunswick citizens. Trying to pull over bikers can only lead to unwanted conflict. What’s next? Bike licenses? All-season tires? Inspection? Insurance?
I cannot find much good with the ordinance. I cannot find much safety in New Brunswick for bicyclists either. I guess the police cannot fully prevent bike theft, but they could stay away from pulling bikers over for passing through a sidewalk or two.
Also, don’t steal my bike, and give back The Daily Targum design editor’s bike. Or we will get you.
Don’t touch the Targum photo editor’s bike either. We will get you.
Aleksi Tzatzev is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in political science and English. He is an associate news editor and a former opinions editor at The Daily Targum.