How Bad is it Out There? An Analysis of Road Rage in a Dozen Tweets and a Few Stats

File photo: Gersh Kuntzman
File photo: Gersh Kuntzman

On Saturday, we asked a simple question:

The tweet was motivated by the obvious threat caused by reckless driving these days (which killed three cyclists in the first 10 days of September). We all know drivers were speeding during the early days of the pandemic; in April, city speed cameras issued roughly 22,000 violations per weekday for speeding. But the recklessness has not truly abated as the lockdown has eased and more cars have flooded back to the roadways. In August, roughly 20,000 tickets per weekday were issued. (And given that there were more cars on the road in August, one can expect that plenty of speeding wasn’t captured by the city’s limited speed cameras.)

The answers we received did not surprise us — but might surprise a mayor who thinks he’s doing a great job.

Liz Patek, who tweets as @bikepeacenyc, said she’s seen the opposite of her Twitter account handle on the roads lately. She offered a tweet thread that should send shivers down the mayor’s spine — and then stiffen it:

Her conclusion? Blame the mayor. (There’s a lot of that going around, what with major cities around the world, such as Paris, Milan, Bogota and many others, using the COVID-19 pandemic to reimagine their transportation networks to encourage sustainable modes, while here in New York, de Blasio long resisted the issue, eventually created a blue ribbon panel, and then ignored its findings.)

“I get so angry with [Bill de Blasio’s] handling of all of this,” she wrote. “Didn’t have to be this way. He had a chance to transform NYC streets for the better and frankly, he punted.”

The basics are obvious: drivers are reckless.

The recklessness has become routine:

And speeding drivers tend to undermine de Blasio’s open dining strategy.

Data expert Noel Hidalgo even had a short clip of a driver (with a horrendous record of speed-camera violations!) who tried to hit him as he cycled in Williamsburg:

Some readers said that the mayor’s “open streets initiative” is partly to blame because the random nature of the car-free roadways adds a level of frustration for drivers, who learn too late that there is not a direct path through some neighborhoods. The mayor had been urged by activists, including Transportation Alternatives, to   make sure the open streets were “longer and connected” rather than short, sometimes seemingly random, segments.

Many readers put drivers on the COVID-19 couch:

And several readers addressed the rise in SAVs — not SUVs, but “Suburban Assault Vehicles” — on city streets:

As a result of all the reckless driving, cyclists are having to ride in a way that will likely bring enforcement against them, especially in communities of color, where riding on the sidewalk tickets are mostly written (as Streetsblog reported):

That’s something Streetsblog warned the mayor about at the very start of the COVID-19 pandemic: The recommendation to avoid transit would send many new cyclists onto the roads, and a lack of a massive increase in infrastructure would put them at risk of all the speeding drivers (which we also warned the mayor about early in the pandemic):

Cyclists have been most at-risk during this period of Wild Wild West driving, statistics show.

From April through June of 2020, 1,029 cyclists were injured in crashes, down from 1,396 during the same period last year. But that 26-percent drop in injuries came at a time when total vehicle miles traveled by car drivers was off 70 to 90 percent across the city. One would expect a much greater drop in injuries — indeed, injuries to car drivers was down 57 percent during the same period, according to CrashMapper, which compiles city data.

At the same time, some readers complained that the NYPD isn’t acting aggressively enough:

“Just came back from a ride on the North Shore of Staten Island,” added Twitter user @waltz007. “Drivers know the police aren’t giving tickets, so they speed and drive reckless. I’m grateful to see more cyclists on the road.”

Our query even earned the attention of the city’s former Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe (who just got a job running the Brooklyn Botanic Garden):

Finally, it does seem like one reader figured it out: