Controversy has broken out across New York over a police decision not to charge a cyclist who hit a pedestrian, leaving her brain-dead and on life support.
Jason Marshall, 31, was riding in a bike lane when he swerved out of it into the traffic lane to avoid a group of pedestrians, and hit Jill Tarlov, 59, in Central Park on Thursday.
Mr Marshall and witnesses agree that he shouted to warn Mrs Tarlov, the wife of CBS executive Michael Wittman and mother of two that he was coming, but there is disagreement over whether the cyclist was speeding or not, and numerous commentators have speculated that even if he had the green light to proceed, he should have been in a position to brake and avoid hitting the pedestrian.
Cyclists in Central Park are obliged to stick to a speed limit of 25mph, according to park rules, but without speedometers it remains a subjective measure for both cyclists and the police.
However the park rules state that: “cyclists are required by law to travel at a slower safe speed in response to crowd, emergency, or weather conditions.”
In addition cyclists must slow down, yield to pedestrians and then proceed cautiously at crosswalks.
In this case, it was not clear who had the right of way or how fast Marshall was going, police said.
Mrs Tarlov remains in critical condition at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
On Friday afternoon, police were out in the same location telling groups of cyclists to stop at red lights and give way to pedestrians. The officers also handed out fliers advising riders on how to avoid accidents.
“We’re just explaining to cyclists they need to stop at red lights,” one officer told the New York Daily News.
“A lot of these cyclists, they’re arrogant. They don’t think the rules apply to them. They need to stop, too.”
Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, a cycling and pedestrian advocacy group, said in a statement: “We need to speak out in response to every preventable tragedy and condemn all acts of reckless behavior in traffic.
“As the most vulnerable users of our streets, pedestrians must be safe from reckless cycling, just as they need to be protected from reckless driving. This is particularly true in our parks.”
In the year so far, 468 Central Park bikers have received traffic summonses for violations that include speeding and failing to stop at red lights. The figures represent a 252 per cent increase from the 133 given out in the same period in 2013.
The New York Post’s columnist Andrea Peyser called the city’s cyclists “terrorists on wheels. Assassins in Spandex,” adding: “The bicycle menaces must be stopped.”
She added: “'Get out of the way! Get out of the way!’ Marshall barked.
"It wasn’t known who had the green light at the intersection. But wouldn’t you hit the brakes if you saw a vulnerable woman in the cross hairs of your carnage-causer?
"I don’t know if Tarlov heard Marshall’s voice. I have no clue if the ugly words he spat were the last to enter into her consciousness... Marshall was hunched over his brakeless, triathlon-style “aerobars’’ attached to the handlebars of his spiffy, yellow-and-black bike. And he struck her hard, causing Tarlov to hit her head on the pavement."
The paper sent reporters to the scene on Friday, who said they saw 60 cyclists swerve or jump red lights at the collision location.
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.