We Are All Pedestrians First (at least in NYC)

Walk Crossing Light

In the bustling city of New York, the pedestrian is king. Millions of people are moving at a brisk pace in order to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. Hundreds of thousands of tourists meander down the sidewalks, looking up at the tall buildings and taking photos that are immediately posted onto their social media site of choice. Unlike most cities in the country, cars cannot turn right on red in New York — ever. I’ve always assumed this is because, as soon as that WALK sign lights up, the pedestrian has absolute priority and cars just have to wait for their green light. New York is a walking city, which I’ve always found to be one of its great advantages to most of the rest of the world. We are all pedestrians at some point in our day, yet I’m boggled at how that fact seems to be forgotten as soon as someone gets behind the wheel of a car or gets on a bike.

As someone who bikes regularly and has driven a car through the city a few times, I understand that pedestrians can be super annoying. There have been many times I have had to swerve my bike out into traffic because some clueless person decides to just step off the sidewalk into the bike lane without looking. Too often I’ve seen traffic halted because some jerk decides crosswalks and traffic lights are meaningless as he strolls into the middle of an incredibly busy street. In cases such as these, yes, pedestrians are out of control. In fact, I refuse to ride my bike in areas such as Soho or on the Brooklyn Bridge because too many people are walking in the bike lanes, and I know it is only a matter of time before I run someone down (hopefully not intentionally).

All that said, I never forget that, more often than not, I am part of the crowd of pedestrians teeming through the city. When I’m riding a bike I always stop at red lights, not only because I don’t want to get hit by oncoming traffic, but I want to make sure no pedestrians are crossing the street since they have the right of way. And I certainly never ring my bell at them just because I want to illegally run a red light! I also never ride my bike on the sidewalk or go the wrong way down a one-way street. For one thing, the police are starting to hand out tickets for these violations. But what really motivates me to be a conscientious cyclist is that I know what it’s like to almost get run down by a bike breaking these laws. And usually when that happens, the biker seems to think it’s my fault! Oh, man, that makes my blood boil.

Basically, I just want all of you cyclists and drivers out there to remember that, while you may feel big and powerful on your vehicle of choice and the road is your bailiwick, at some point in your day you will be trying to walk across the street. You certainly wouldn’t want anyone honking their horn or ringing their bell at you when you’re simply obeying the law. Don’t be a dick. Just be cool.

5 thoughts on “We Are All Pedestrians First (at least in NYC)

  1. I loved your post. One thing I miss about NY is walking so yes the pedestrian is king, you are right. Here in Maryland, we use cars mostly, followed by motorcycles, when the weather starts to warm up, and bikes. Glad about the tickets issued to people:-) That might be a good deterrant.

    • The tickets seem to be aimed mostly at food delivery cyclists, which kind of gets into a whole realm of racial profiling. So I’m not sure how much it’s working at this point, but I supposed it’s a start. I must admit, once I stop at a red light and make sure I won’t be running over any pedestrians or get hit by any cars, I do tend to ride through so I am by no means perfect. If there were a greater chance of getting a fine/ticket, I would definitely obey all traffic regulations much more closely.

      • Wow! You are pretty honest. That’s great. I used to be in awe of the bike messangers I used to see in NY flying through cars and people, but as I grew older I realized how dangerous it was. I love bike riding, but I don’t think I’d try bike riding in NYC.

    • I’ve certainly had my moments on a bike where I’ve probably terrorized a couple pedestrians accidentally. As a pedestrian, I do really try to be more aware as I cross streets because of my experience as a cyclist and vice versa. I just think we all need to be looking out for each other.

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