Six Guidelines for Central Park Cycling

For anyone who has ever been in Central Park knows, the drives in the park are almost always overly congested in the warm months. There are walkers, runners, cyclists, and during rush hour, there is the added danger presence of automobiles, and each is competing for precious space in which to move. Moreover, the NYPD had been ticketing cyclists who ran red lights while riding on the park drives. As someone who used to ride a lot there, I can tell you that stopping at each light is not only impractical but a little dangerous as there will inevitably be either another cyclist or car zooming past you while you’re stopped at the light. The cycling community has come to an agreement with the Department of Transportation and the NYPD to not ticket those who go through a red light. But, of course, there are a few who could ruin it for everyone.

Earlier today, the New York Cycle Club emailed its membership asking everyone to abide by six guidelines to ensure that cyclists don’t lose the privilege of rolling through red lights in Central Park. If you please, allow me to reproduce those guidelines.

  1. When approaching a crosswalk, particularly if there is a red light, slow to a speed that will permit you to maneuver; look both ways for pedestrians; always yield to pedestrians who are in or about to enter the crosswalk. Park use is extremely heavy now, even in the very early morning hours.  Be alert; be conscientious. Your actions will determine our future use of this precious resource.
  2. Although you may be comfortable passing within six inches of a runner or walker, they will not be comfortable with that clearance.  Give them at least 3 or 4 feet.  Whenever possible and practical, cross behind the pedestrian. “Yielding” does not mean racing through because you’re confident you won’t actually hit the pedestrian.
  3. When passing a slower cyclist, give sufficient clearance.
  4. Don’t ride in packs.  Keep the groups small and ride in a single paceline.
  5. Get a bell. It is the law and is a useful tool in a densely packed park if used judiciously.
  6. Above all be courteous. Creating goodwill here will go a long way towards helping our cause.

Having been in a number of collisions, though none in Central Park or anywhere with a decent bike lane, I think I already follow most of these rules, and I agree that these are prudent measures to take ensure safety in a congested shared space, such as Central Park. These guidelines provide pedestrians a measure of security when cyclists are riding in the park, and they also protect other cyclists, particularly the inexperienced ones who are out in the summer.

However, it seems like I have to buy a bell now.