The “save our sidewalks” op-ed correctly notes that New Haven and the U.S. in general is not bicycle friendly. The solution could and should go beyond more and safer bike lanes. Better and preferably-electric public transportation would reduce the need for bikes. Vigorous enforcement of actually clear ordinances on the subject of bikes would help, as would increasing fines for violations.
Unfortunately, the New Haven ordinance on the subject of where bikes can be driven is not clear at all. It is so unclear that city officials and police often have no idea what the NH ordinance allows or prohibits.
For example, the NH ordinance prohibits riding bikes on sidewalks, but there is no exception for children under the age of 12. Such an exemption has been asserted to exist by the city parking director. Furthermore, the ordinance as written prohibits people from even wheeling their bike along a sidewalk. The prohibition is not limited to riding the bike on the sidewalk. I doubt if this result was intended by the City Government, but nevertheless, that is what the ordinance says.
Contrary to Ms. Hopkinson’s article, there is no prohibition under NH law for riding a bike on the grass on the Green or elsewhere. Only motorized vehicles are expressly prohibited from doing that.
The City of New Haven’s online “informational” site concerning bikes and sidewalks makes absolutely no mention that bikes on sidewalks are illegal. All it says is that such behavior is impolite and dangerous. That omission is not only strange, but counterproductive.
The New Haven bike-riding ordinance does not apply to grassy areas or sidewalks that are on the Yale Campus because the campus is private property. Complaints about such activities must be addressed by the Yale Administration, not the City of New Haven.
Additionally, bike lanes in and of themselves are not a proper solution because car doors are opened into them willy-nilly. Driver awareness needs to be improved. Also, most bike lanes in New Haven that do exist are too narrow to provide any true security. In most of Europe, drivers must allow for 1.5 meters — 5 feet — of space between car and bike when passing. If the driver cannot, then the driver cannot lawfully pass the bike.
As Ms. Hopkinson points out, a major source of problems is the bikers, not just drivers. Most bike accidents of which I have been aware over my many decades on this planet are caused by careless biking as much as careless driving. Inattentive pedestrians too are a major cause of accidents involving bikes.
In conclusion, at least one of your faithful readers would like to see vigorous fact checking of all op-eds, especially those written by staff members.
JAMES LUCE ’66 is an alumnus. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.