What happens in the United States, and particularly in New York City, sooner or later, for better or worse, often happens in Britain.
So based on a newly announced major crackdown on law-flouting cyclists in the Big Apple, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine similar moves taking place in London and other parts of the UK.
The New York Times reports that the city’s Police Department plans to step up enforcement of cycling-related laws in districts that have seen a disproportionately high rate of collisions between riders and other road users.
The cycling lawbreakers – quaintly known as “scofflaws” by our transatlantic cousins – who typically ride through red lights or ride on the pavements, have been the subject of an increasing number of complaints since new bike lanes were created in the boroughs of Manhattan in Brooklyn.
“We’ve installed 250 miles of lane over the last four years and thousands of new bike racks,” Janette Sadik-Khan, the city’s transportation commissioner, said at a news conference. “We have been friendly to cyclists. Now it’s time for cyclists to be friendlier to the city.”
Sadik-Khan has been at the forefront of efforts to fund cycling infrastructure in New York and to redress a perceived imbalance on the city’s streets between motorised vehicles on the one hand and cyclists and pedestrians on the other.
And just like they have in London, cyclists in New York have moved from the margins and into the mainstream, but inevitably that has led to conflict with other road users.
The city has issued 26,000 tickets against cyclists so far this year, as opposed to 800,000 for motor vehicles, but according to Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, on the Upper East Side, the most frequent complaints from residents are cycling-related.
“You are having more incidents where pedestrians are getting seriously injured, or close calls, even if it’s in a bike lane,” Mr. Browne said. “It is probably increasing because bicycle use is increasing. I would think that’s part of it.”
The figures bear witness to an increasing number of cycling accidents. The New York City Bicycle Safety Coalition was formed in 2006 after there was a 40 percent increase in yearly cyclist fatalities over the prior year.
The Coalition's "Look" campaign aims to increase awareness among pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. Even with these activities, bicycle and pedestrian accidents continue to be a major problem in Manhattan and greater New York City.
An extensive study of bicycle fatalities in New York City between 1996 and 2005 found that 225 cyclists died in crashes, according to the Epoch Times. Of those fatalities, 97 percent of cyclists were not wearing a helmet. Between 1996 and 2003, over 3,000 cyclists were seriously injured in crashes with motor vehicles.