Delia Ephron wrote a wonderful piece Color Me Blue about Citi Bikes, Citibank and Mayor Bloomberg’s desire to mark and monetize every aspect of New York City. She pointed out that the jarring blue blight of the bike racks advertising Citibank is also an occasion to remember how banks pay scant interest to consumers and how they charge outrageous monthly fees . I also recall how Citibank drove me off as a customer when it raised its monthly balance requirements. Maybe the increased minimum balance it requires from beleaguered middle class New Yorkers is how it sponsors the bike blight. Ephron also points out that Citibank’s $41 million sponsorship is billionaire chump change — it is about twice the $23 million recently paid for a co-op at 640 Park Avenue. While thinking about Citibank’s sponsorship of cycling, we might also remember the mortgage crisis and hasty foreclosures.
But let us always be mindful of public safety so that someone is. Last night I experienced stark evidence of how lopsided and contemptuous of the public Bloomberg’s cycling agenda has been. As I travelled from Manhattan’s East 70s to the Red Rooster on West 125th Street, crossing wide streets in the early dark of an October evening and changing buses and subways several times, I encountered many cyclists. All were dressed in black riding on black bikes in the black evening. It was hard to discern them, much less avoid them. No headlights, not even a red hazard reflector — certainly not visible clothing or sneakers — to provide a clue that moving objects were honing in. The Bloomberg bike explosion, of which he and his associates are so proud, has not been accompanied by a single rule regulating bikes — no requirement for licenses (make them large, readable white ones, please), headlights or even red reflectors. Cyclists might not care to see where they are bearing down on a human being, but pedestrians in the dark need to see that cyclists are coming. A short-lived program of posted reminders on bus shelters a few months ago observed that cyclists should follow traffic rules, but there has been no noticeable enforcement of any laws, certainly not the one that says no one over the age of 14 should ride on a sidewalk. Why can’t the police make streets safe and enforce laws on the books instead of stopping and frisking people of color standing in their neighborhoods? If all those men and women of color walking on sidewalks in their neighborhoods would just start cycling on them, they could move around with impunity.