When we learned of the new ticketing policies taking place in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, we couldn’t help but wonder if it’s bound to become a microcosm of the bicycling in the U.S.: relatively un-policed, but for how long?
Prospect Park offers those in Brooklyn with 585 acres of natural land and — more importantly — a popular roadway for cyclists and pedestrians alike. And until about four months ago, says neighborhood news source The Brooklyn Paper, this roadway presented cyclists both hardcore and recreational with a paved place outside of the dangers of New York’s roadways with a place to ride without inhibition. Now, tickets ranging from $50 to $200 are being doled out by park police, stopping bicyclists from running red lights, riding against traffic and even speeding. The neighborhood news source says 188 tickets have been handed out to cyclists in the last four months.
It would be neglectful of us if we didn’t stop here and say: we’re all for bicycle safety. Stopping at red lights, following traffic signals and generally obeying the rules of the road is important, and doing otherwise can pose serious dangers to ourselves, our fellow riders and anyone else on the road. But we’re also willing to admit there are some cases in which common sense heeds over a rule, especially in certain cases. Outside of our own opinions, some of the bicyclists affected by the Prospect Park ticket crackdown say, “stopping at every red light is unnecessary and difficult, especially when riding downhill.” Others are concerned about what the policing could mean; “Too much enforcement, they say, could morph Brooklyn’s backyard, and the outdoor culture it attracts, into what feels more like a Singapore-style police state.”
The problem, say state officials, is that cyclists on the park pathway move way too fast, and treat it as an ill-designed velodrome of sorts. Unlike real velodromes, the Prospect Park roadway was designed for those on two wheels and those on two feet, yet as cyclists secure their speedy path, several pedestrians have been injured. Ultimately, it took several fatal crashes between cyclists and pedestrians to spark the new ticketing enforcement —which is being dubbed as for the sake of citizens’ safety.
Will all city pathways for cyclists and pedestrians soon become heavily enforced so as to regulate the riders on the road? It even sparks the debate: will bicycle commuters soon be held more accountable than they currently are for running those stop signs on obscure rural roads?
At the heart of the issue is a concern for safety that we’re totally on board with — but is regulating riders really the answer? Or should the era of the 21st century be one with segregation — between those on foot and those on wheels? In other words, we’re quick to wonder if there are other solutions to the safety concerns of Prospect Park and its bikers than simply policing them.
What do you think? We want to know! Is this pedaling change in a New York City borough a step in the direction of safety? Is it representative of the need for more bike traffic laws all over? Should cities worldwide begin creating bike-only pathways to avoid any issues of this kind? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!
PHOTO via: S. Diddy
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