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If you’ve walked down 9th Avenue’s new pedestrian “super sidewalk”, you may have been joined by some unwelcome companions — bicycles, e-bikes and motorized scooters, often traveling in the opposite direction to the traffic.
According to DOT data, at least 30 percent of adult New Yorkers ride a bike — and the combination of a pandemic-fueled rise in delivery orders, as well as recreational and commuter bike usage has led to a larger-than-ever influx of cyclists, some of whom disregard traffic rules altogether. As dozens of W42ST readers shared their close-call horror stories, community members are looking for actionable ways to keep sidewalks safe.
Preventing rogue riders was the hot topic of the Manhattan Community Board 4 (MCB4)’s recent Transportation Planning Committee meeting, where board members, locals from the grassroots initiative Bikes Off Sidewalks, Los Deliveristas Unidos and representatives from the Midtown Community Court met to discuss Hell’s Kitchen’s fast-growing problem.
“Our goal is to increase pedestrian safety by reaching out with a multifaceted approach to getting bike riders, delivery riders, e-bike riders, and anyone who’s riding bikes to follow the appropriate city ordinances,” said Richard Marans of the W47/W48th Street Block Association and Bikes Off Sidewalks. “Our approach is somewhat different from just saying, ‘Well, let’s get the police involved.’” He added that they hoped to engage community members in increasing awareness and education around cycling rules and regulations.
Locals like David Achelis of the West 50s Neighborhood Association added that in addition to community engagement, the city must step in to invest additional funding towards rider enforcement. “The city has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on infrastructure for bikes and the bike situation, but they’ve spent not one penny on education and enforcement,” said Achelis. “Enforcement’s another problem entirely — but education is something that we as a community group can do almost immediately, and the city can start doing almost immediately.”
“I think the secret sauce for controlling illegal cycling is enforcement,” said Sally Greenspan, President of the Council of Chelsea Block Associations and fellow member of Bikes Off Sidewalks. “Imagine if cars were just driving any speed they wanted to, going in any direction they wanted to. There’s enforcement for that. We need enforcement for bicycles too — they’re killing us, they’re maiming us and they’re scaring us. Without enforcement, we are spinning our wheels,” she added. “We can only accomplish so much with advertising and signs and flyers. It’s up to our elected officials and law enforcement agencies to think outside the box and figure it out. Police in uniform on street corners will not be effective, because cyclists will simply avoid visible police officers. I have been told by both the 10th and 13th precincts that enforcement with undercover agents is not doable because there are no undercover officers. It’s time to create a special task force or figure something else out. Remember the civilian volunteer group, Guardian Angels? Please take a look at their work as a model New York City might adapt for bicycle law enforcement — or figure something else out.”
But for some locals who had already confronted wayward riders, enforcement through civilian groups posed more of a risk than a reward. “I was punched by a bike rider who was going the wrong way up 9th Avenue on the corner of 47th Street in one of the ‘lanes’ — he was running a light,” a reader who wished to remain anonymous told W42ST. “My husband was struck by a fast paced motorized scooter that was going the wrong way on 48th Street and not following the law. He ended up in the ER with a broken hand and a cast for the last five weeks. People are scared to cross the street — it feels like the Hunger Games. The city opened up all of this opportunity for cyclists, forgetting that we are a city of people who love to walk. I think that bikes should stay to the far West and East in designated areas and out of the midtown streets. And there is no consequence for people who ignore the rules of the road — it is getting really, really bad out there.”
Executive Director of the Midtown Community Court Danielle Mindess highlighted the potential for a program that would require riders served with a summons to participate in a cyclist accountability training. “It’s something that we’re happy to explore and to see if it could be a thing that would make sense in this context,” said Mindess. “Of course, for somebody to be directed to a mandated program like ours, they would have to get a summons and be required to show up at court, so it would require significant partnership to make something like that happen. I don’t want to suggest we can do that in a vacuum or turn that around tomorrow, but it is certainly something that we could explore.”
In addition to discussions around enforcement, meeting participants floated the hope of future legislation that would require better driver accountability, including for commercial drivers delivering food from UberEats and GrubHub. Streetsblog revealed that zip code 10019 ranks as the second-highest delivery zone in the city, and although enforcement has waned over the pandemic, commercial cyclists are still required by New York law to wear helmets, vests identifying their business and to obey all traffic laws. As a way of further regulating this fast-growing industry, members at the meeting proposed advocating for legislation including licensing and registration for any vehicle capable of exceeding 20 mph, delivery driver apps that employ traffic-safe routes for cyclists, adjusting delivery radiuses from apps like GrubHub and UberEats to create shorter routes for drivers, and perhaps most significantly — improved rights and compensation for delivery drivers to disincentivize multitudes of high-speed trips.
“Our elected officials need to leverage their power to force the delivery apps to take more responsibility for their workers, and ensure they are consistently made aware of all rules of the road. This should go hand in hand with wage increases for our essential delivery workers,” Bikes Off Sidewalks and HK49-54 Street Block Alliance Co-chair Catie Savage, who attended last week’s meeting, told W42ST. “ In addition, restaurants must limit their delivery radius to something that only serves their immediate surrounding neighborhoods. No one in our community should be able to order food from a restaurant on the Lower East Side. Delivery workers are not the only people riding and DOT must mount a massive education campaign to ensure ALL riders are well aware of the rules and all pedestrian-only areas are marked as such.”
“Our issues and our concerns are very aligned,” said Ligia Guallpa, Executive Director of Los Deliveristas Unidos. “There’s safety issues, there are accidents, there is a lack of infrastructure, there is a lack of education. We are focusing on building the street delivery hubs with the intention of bringing not only charging stations, but also to build education. Unfortunately, a lot of the app companies don’t provide the resources…most of the apps don’t train workers how to do this work, nor how to ride in the city safely.”
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She revealed that the organization hoped to partner with community boards and organizations like Bikes Off Sidewalks to find a solution. “The second issue is the reason delivery drivers are speeding so fast and sometimes in a rush is because they don’t have a minimum wage,” added Guallpa. “The more deliveries they do, the more tips they have. We are right now fighting for the City of New York to pass a minimum pay — because we strongly believe that a driver should be paid every minute he’s on the road making a delivery. Then, there wouldn’t be a pressure for the worker to rush, because his time is being paid. Our priority is to make sure that we pass this minimum pay, not just because we want workers to get paid, but because we strongly believe it will address the speed issue.”
Others believe the first steps toward safer sidewalks are to make adjustments to Midtown’s super sidewalks, which have quickly been taken over by cyclists, motorized scooters and delivery trucks. “They are anything but super,” wrote reader Gregg. “I understand that they are an incremental step and a less expensive option than physically widening sidewalks. But the way they have been implemented is poor and frankly dangerous. They are open pathways with no signage and no barriers to vehicles which could mow down pedestrians. I almost never walk in them because they don’t feel safe and they are overrun with bikes and scooters. It’s bad enough for residents who can be taught what these areas are designed for, but tourists or people from other areas often have no idea that these are even supposed to be used by pedestrians. There is nothing intuitive about walking in these dangerous spaces.”
“Finally, one obvious sign that the city doesn’t care about these areas: on 8th Avenue between 43 and 44 there is a sidewalk extension which has never been painted, resulting in a phantom bike lane for one block, which is confusing for everyone,” he added. “Bottom line, sometimes spending too little on something is worse than doing nothing at all. If the city couldn’t afford to create these areas with actual signage and protective bollards, then they should have reduced the size and only moved forward on the areas we could afford.”
Some locals say speed bumps and painted icons could be an effective first step toward traffic rule enforcement. “I think if they paint icons on the pavement in the lane (walking person symbol, or no bikes symbol), similar to how they paint a biker repeatedly in the bike lanes, it might help…” wrote 9th Avenue’s Kashkaval Garden owner Corey Samuels, co-signed by reader Eric Ogden. “Why aren’t their icons of pedestrians simply painted onto the ground? This seems like an easy fix and clarification.”
Christine Berthet, MCB4 Transportation Co-Chair and founder of pedestrian safety organization CHEKPEDS, recently visited the super sidewalk with Council Member Erik Bottcher to walk city agencies through the need for additional protections. Bottcher wrote after the walk-through: “At our on-site interagency meeting about cars/bikes using the 9th Ave expanded pedestrian space in Hell’s Kitchen, we request that the agencies 1) move the vehicle signage from the inner sidewalk to outside the pedestrian zone to help reinforce that these are sidewalk extensions 2) put ‘pedestrian’ decals on the sidewalk extensions 3) put up additional signage 4) install flexible bollards 5) step up enforcement for help ensure this area is used by pedestrians only.”
The MCB4 Transportation Committee plans to collect community suggestions ahead of the next June committee meeting, with the potential to present them at the full board meeting in July. But while citywide infrastructure and legislation changes could take time, Hell’s Kitchen residents are hoping for a speedy solution. “I’ve been hit by Citi Bikes as well as motorized bikes,” said resident Stanley on last week’s meeting. “Riding out there right now is a little bit like a Mad Max movie.”
And get the police cars and other vehicles off of the bike lanes! Respect goes both ways.
Assuming this is legally possible, anyone who’s struck by a cyclist delivering for Grubhub, Seamless, and the like should sue the company (not the restaurant) for everything they’re worth. Watch how fast these riders start obeying the rules.
Unless the DELIVERISTAS are sued, they have no stake in riding safely.
The issues with bikes, e-bikes , mopeds and motorcycles is not just a problem on the Westside. Third Ave. & E.86th St is an accident waiting to happen. They do not follow any rules, criss-
crossing in all directions, not following the rules of the road. It’s outrageous. For starters, why don’t all these bikes have licenses. At least you’d have a chance to know who hit you and it would bring in added revenue to the city and state.
Lydia, I agree! I think any wheeled vehicle (other than toddlers with a grown-up) should be required to have a license plate for ID. I have nearly been knocked down so many times….and they get away scot-free!
There are more motorized scooters every day, traveling at dangerous speeds and not following street directions.
Let’s acknowledge that this problem is 99% due to food delivery speed and that many non-English-speaking immigrants are taking these jobs.
1. Signs in Spanish or universal symbols
2. Increase delivery driver hourly pay (studies have shown that more affluent neighborhoods tip LESS because so many of you are so privileged, you have never done service work and don’t understand that these people live on tips)
3. decrease the radius for delivery from certain neighborhoods
4. Make Uber/GrubHub, et al. responsible for some of these infrastructure costs or ban them from operating in the city.
5. Tell the “Karens” to stop screaming at their delivery person when the food isn’t on time to reduce the urgency to use the sidewalk, go the wrong way, etc.
“Let’s acknowledge that this problem is 99% due to food delivery speed and that many non-English-speaking immigrants are taking these jobs.”
I do not acknowledge this at all. They are a large part of the problem, but the problem would still exist – along with its danger to pedestrians – without them. Food deliverers do not, for the most part, ride Citibikes. Yet Citibikes are all over the sidewalks. They also do not ride expensive bikes while clad in Lycra, speeding across 42nd Street oblivious to lights, pedestrians, right of way, or anything else that might encumber their sense of entitlement.
We don’t need signs in Spanish to let people (whether delivery-people or not) know that a red light means “stop.” Nor will signs in Spanish create an “aha!” moment for cyclists who deliberately ride on the sidewalks or run red lights or ride the wrong way on one-way streets; they know damn will it’s against the law, but it’s convenient and no one stops them, so they do it. And your comment about “Karens” is too stupid to even address.
Cyclists (whether delivery-people or not) must take responsibility for their own behavior. It’s called being an adult. I’m tired of blame being placed everywhere but where it belongs. They are not going to change willingly. I think steep fines, strictly enforced, is the only way to go. Not classes on “how to ride a bike safely.” You might as well have them write “I will not misbehave in class” fifty times on the blackboard for all the good it will do.
I am somewhat sympathetic to the bikers using the brown expanded sidewalks – how can we blame them when nobody knows what these things are for?
Paint icons, put up some signs, install some massive planters with pretty flowers (to be watered by the restaurants benefitting from the attractive landscaping!), and THEN when the bikers still break the law – an undercover can stand on the corner and enforce with meaningful tickets!
I remember the Giuliani days when police did actually give tickets to people biking on sidewalks. My friend can speak from personal experience…
“I think that bikes should stay to the far West and East in designated areas and out of the midtown streets.”
Some of the statements from these community board members are completely unhinged and make no attempt at compromise. Enforcement cannot make up for the shortcomings of poor infrastructure planning / design.
Signage; cross-cuts, or diagonal gravel rumble-strips in the pavement; planters, and more planters- maybe get radical and put some trees!.
Chaos is what happens when there’s no community involvement and no adequate planning.
It’s not only your neighborhood.
I live in Bensonhurst and it’s the same thing. They are on the sidewalk speeding
from behind you and towards you. They should have to be licensed, ie: motor vehicle department. Let’s get on Mayor
Adam’s to do something about this before
we start losing lives to this situation.
As a pedal biker and pedestrian living in Hell’s Kitchen, I am pro-expanding the sidewalks and bike lanes as a necessary improvement to many of New York’s neighborhoods. I agree with everyone else who voiced complaints about the volume and variety of delivery and recreational vehicles (including, uni-wheelers, e-skateboards, scooters and motorcycles!) swarming bike lanes and the breadth of streets from every direction, at dangerously high speeds, without courtesy or obeying traffic regulations. It’s harrowing! I fear colliding with other riders and thoughtless pedestrians more than cars these days. ONE SOLUTION I DID NOT SEE OFFERED IS – HIGHLY TRAFFICKED AVENUES SHOULD HAVE A TWO-WAY BIKE LANE INSTEAD OF A ONE-WAY. This could easily be accomplished by taking away just a few feet of the super sidewalk. It’s obvious to everyone that 8th and 9th Ave. should have space allocated for two way bike traffic! There is an overwhelming need for this improvement. This would solve so many problems by giving bikers a clear lane to travel both ways. *You will likely never get bikers to go all the way around several blocks to reach a destination when a direct line is more efficient.
Two-way bike lanes are extremely dangerous for pedestrians trying to cross them. Try to cross Union Square East on a Saturday.
Agreed. A two-way bike lane on a one-way street is a death trap for everyone. Union Sqaure East is a nightmare any day of the week.
I live in Florida but I read your Email every day Just spent 3 weeks at Manhattan Plaza visiting my daughter and grandson. Go there often, after all I’m a native New Yorker living in Manhattan will never forget that
I would like to see the delivery apps start to lock the account of delivery drives on Ike’s for going down the one way streets. The apps already know what directions the streets are going so why not have them warn bicyclist that repeated offenses would deemed them a bad delivery driver and banned them from being a delivery driver.
The same goes for citi bike folks that go the wrong way as well. With all this technology it pretty doable.
Very useful article. Great points.
I bike ride to work everyday for exercise, convenience, less environmental footprint and above all health. Biking is a great way to do cardio.
NYC as whole is not a bike friendly city. Bike lanes are frequently blocked by commercial trucks, garbage trucks, police cars, contruction, even horse carriages, parked cars and pedestrians etc. Our city is already congested with speeding polluting traffic. We need more safer bike lanes and pedestrian side walks separated by bollards (cement ones, not rubber ones).
NO COUNTRY ALLOWS MOTORIZED VEHICLES in bike lanes. Only Level 2 e-bikes with speed limit of 10-12 miles are allowed.
The biggest nightmare with bike lanes is folks speeding delivery guys with observation of traffic laws or even common courtesy. We need license plates on all these delivery electrical bikes and motorized vehicles. ALL DELIVERY DRIVERS MUST GO THROUGH RIDING AND DRIVING SCHOOL BEFORE THEY ARE EMPLOYED BY DELIVERY COMPANIES OR UBER OR SEAMLESS.
We need proper planning, signage, accountability and enforcement.
First and foremost, if you are someone who have food delivered.. well you’re part of the problem! (I have not ordered one single meal this year, specifically for this reason).
Secondly, a cyclist myself I find bike lanes in New York completely useless. Pedestrians don’t look and people go all directions carelessly. I don’t even feel it’s fair to complain about bikes and electric vehicles in the same braket. If only we had less cars and more bikes!
Motorized vehicles of any kind should not be in the bike lanes, no matter what they’re doing or why.
Bike food delivery folks with motorized vehicles should get the blame, when they are to blame, and not all and every cyclist around. A 250$ fine for crossing a red light (with police tactically standing there) when there is no one around is not as dangerous as driving full speed against traffic on 9th avenue, or driving on Queensboro bridge with a motorcycle and almost running over cyclists.
I almost never order delivery, but I think it’s wrong to blame customers for the crazy driving of delivery workers. The act of ordering food delivery doesn’t cause bike chaos.
If they don’t want cars and bikes in this extended sidewalk how about putting a curb. Also as a biker have issues with pedestrians too, crossing the street when it says don’t walk and/or looking at cell phone not paying attention to traffic.
The new “super sidewalk” on 9th Avenue is a total FAIL!! A mess–dangerous for pedestrians! TEAR IT UP AND GET RID OF IT!
Bike lanes are great. Keep them. Either expand the sidewalk for real or section it off. This entire lane that is unmarked, unmanned, and underused is just asking for trouble. When it appeared, I thought it was for emergency vehicles. No signs or symbols to say Peds Only. Now bikes are going north and south and motorcycles and cars use it to go the wrong way. It’s a total FAIL. THEY GOT IT TOTALLY WRONG!
“Imagine if cars were just driving any speed they wanted to”
Who wants to break it to her?
On the bright side, this shows how much potential bikes have to take over much of the traffic. Give more of the streets over to the bikes and take more from cars. Car collisions kill and maim far more people than bikes. Why are we squeezing this more efficient, quieter, safer method of transportation into a tiny lane? There’s clearly plenty of demand! If bike riders have designated wide open spaces that reduce conflicts with cars and pedestrians they’ll migrate to those areas.
How about the buses? For a long time you couldn’t get a bus for a long stretch along 9th Avenue? Are there regular stops now?
All e-bikes & e-scooters should be banned in NYC! They are a menace! And let’s be honest, most delivery people are illegals & can’t speak English
Enforcement should’t be the “secret sauce” but the main ingredient. Riders’ self absorption, carelessness and arrogance will refuse to be educated or legislated away, and the problem is everywhere in the boroughs. The sites passion for its’ nabe is great, but the glut of thoughtless, vicious and childish riding is gifted from all segments and cultures and is screaming for an iron fist@
I absolutely agree with the dangers of being a pedestrian on the streets in Hell’s Kitchen. As a regular cyclist, who relies on my bicycle as my preferred means of transportation to and from work, I am thankful to the city for creating the new bike lanes. However, I fear for my life whenever I am in them. At present, I believe the lanes are less safe than biking in automobile traffic. As we know, these lanes have become overrun by motorized/electric vehicles and riders who behave as if they are not subject to the same rules and laws that govern other forms of transportation. Riding with, not against traffic, they pass on either side with no warning, not bothering to use a horn or bell. If I swerve to miss a pothole, I risk getting hit. I often work nights and travel by bike. I’ve encountered delivery people consistently going against traffic, sometimes without any lights or reflectors, all but invisible. There is no telling which side they will choose to pass on, making many encounters a game of chicken that I have no desire to play. Despite the new lanes, I must remain even more vigilant now, not only of people in cars, but also of riders on electric or motorized vehicles, who often drive as if there are no rules at all.
I wish that I could offer viable solutions, rather than just observations. I thought about having blockades as they do on the streets in Times Square, but I have seen vehicles weaving in and out of barriers. Maybe signs with a bicycle and a circle and line through it, but the signs seem to be ignored. I think there has to be a penalty of some sort and someone to enforce it. Something must change before tragedies related to incidents in the bike lanes mount, as it is surely only a matter of time.
If the delivery bikers want a minimum wage in order to not speed toward their next tip, then fine…but eliminate the tipping altogether. The food cost WILL increase to pay the delivery personnel, that goes without question, but why should the customer pay for the delivery AND tip on top of that??? Same thing should go for taxis. The price keeps going up, and we all still shell out tips on top? WHY?!?!?
Well, now that the City Council has approved outdoor Sidewalk Diing 365 and Curb Sheds open eight months of the year, there will be less Sidewalk Space for offenders to ride on. More Sheds and more Sidewalk Cafes should really help this situation.
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