While walking Winnie, French Bulldog, this morning on a narrow path near the Cleopatra Needle in Central Park, a bicycle came out of nowhere, racing down the path at such a speed I had no choice but to yank poor Winnie out of his way. The idiot came within a hair’s breadth of smashing her smack in the face.
In my efforts to pull Winnie out of harm’s way, I wrenched my back. We’re OK, but, we both easily could have been seriously injured.
Not fifteen seconds later as I turned right onto another pedestrian path towards the oval around the Great Lawn, a woman came speeding by my right side where the leashed English Springer Spaniel, Rochester, was walking. Again, I was jolted and had to take rapid evasive maneuvers to avoid injury to Rochester.
As this cyclist passed I screamed (and I cursed, I was still shaking from the Winnie incident) “WTF, get off your bike, idiot!” And she rode by waving her hand calling, “Oh, sorry, sorry.” Then she turned left onto the oval and saw a police car and immedidately de-biked. Note: The rider was wearing a helmet. I wasn’t.
As soon as the police car was far enough away, she got right back on her bike and continued around the oval towards the drive.
Neither of these two outrageous cyclists were tourists. They were obvious New Yorkers speeding their way across the park. And heaven knows what dangers they present once they’re out on the city streets (see Tales of Bike Lane Abuse , The New York Times, Wednesday, October 13, 2010).
When the tourists are out they’re always on rented bikes, and they’re generally in pairs or groups. At least the tourists tend to go slowly so that they can take in the scenery and figure out where they’re going. Not the residents. Well-dressed and entitled New Yorkers from both sides of the park, East and West, are equally guilty of thinking the rules don’t apply to them.
As with the problem of dogs running unleashed on the pedestrian paths at all times of day, which is also counter to park rules, nothing deters these people. They truly don’t give a darn about you or me or our dogs and toddlers trying to play or learning to walk. They’ll mow you down or let their dogs push you over no matter how many signs are posted. After all, it’s their park. They pay taxes and can do as they please (seriously, if you ask any of them why they think the rules don’t apply to them, that’s pretty much their response).
Near miss incidents and direct hits happen in the park at least once a week, if not more. Despite very impressive signs positioned right in the middle of the paths (as well as painted on many of them) in Central Park clearly staing NO BIKE RIDING ON PATHS–GET OFF AND WALK YOUR BIKE, hardly anyone obeys the rules.
If you’re interested, these are the rules governing bicycle riding in Central Park, as listed on their official website. Oh goodie. More rules and no one to enforce them.
No permit is required to bike in Central Park, however there are several laws and rules that every cyclist must obey:
- Pedestrians have the right of way at all times.
- At crosswalks, cyclists must slow down, yield to pedestrians and then proceed cautiously.
- Cycling is prohibited on all pedestrian pathways.
- Cyclists are required to obey all traffic laws, such as traffic signals, stop signs, and a maximum speed limit of 25 mph, though it is recommended they travel at a speed appropriate to their surroundings.
- The law requires that children under 14 years of age wear a helmet, but it is recommended that all cyclists wear a helmet.
- They must always travel counterclockwise around the park.
- Cyclists must use only the outer half of the recreation lane when the drives are open to cars; when they are closed to cars, cyclists must stay out of the recreation lane which is for runners and walkers only.
All I can advise is this, keep your dogs and children by your side and practice screaming and pulling them out of the way, because no one from Parks Enforcement is going to come to your aid.
And whenever you see some polite New Yorker walking his or her bike on one of the pedestrian paths, please smile and say Thank You for walking your bike.