PSD still flunks on bikes, one year of broken promises

PSD flunks on bikes and does so in spectacularly bad fashion. The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation’s Public Safety Department takes a hands-off policy toward dangers caused by reckless biking. A 2020 update…

Reporting by David Stone

Roosevelt Island News

It’s 2020, and PSD Still Flunks on Bike Safety

While the stories play like an uninspiring broken record, temptations arrive to chuck the whole effort. Why push RIOC’s Public Safety Department to do something — anything — about reckless biking and its affect on Roosevelt Island when they either can’t or won’t make any effort at getting better?

PSD Flunks on bikes, but it got worse with Citi Bike.
Things got worse for pedestrians when Citi Bike arrived, increasing riders on sidewalks and congesting busy promenades.

But then, when you get sideswiped by a bicyclist on the sidewalk, as I did, last Friday, Black Friday, you give it one more try.

Look, I know it’s futile. PSD’s dozed through countless chances to accept the challenge without budging, yet letting RIOC off the hook for negligence makes it worse.

Details: Getting sideswiped…

Luckily, it was minor. Had I gestured with my arm at the moment or simply leaned to let someone pass, I’d have gotten it square in the back. That didn’t happen, but two elements paint a sorry, threatening picture.

  • After bumping me, the bicycle rider neither apologized nor even looked back to make sure things were okay. He then followed two others going the wrong way on a one-way street past the subway. That’s a regular occurrence, and it shows that riders assume no rules of the road apply here.
  • A PSD officer, tucked in his marked car, windows firmly up, cruised by without showing the least concern. So, what the hell are we paying these people $4 million per year to do? Ride around?

Defunding PSD’s bloated budget, in the this time of financial crisis, is easy to understand when you see residents’ investment wasted like this. And it might get better if we saw more of the opposite, but no, while dodging speeding bikes the rest of the way up the West Promenade, I didn’t see another PSD officer, anywhere, on foot (cue the laugh track) or hiding in a car.

PSD’s flunking on bikes carries other, less visible hazards. For one, seniors and disabled steer clear of the promenades because bicycles without rules make them risky.

But it’s kids too…

And when was the last time you saw kids playing freely on either promenade? What once were open spaces anyone could access are now fraught with dangers from reckless bikers.

And it doesn’t have to be this way. PSD flunks on bikes simply because a huge staff won’t leave cozy offices and cars to remind riders of simple rules.

Some will always try getting around them, of course, but most bicyclists are just out for fun and exercise. And they don’t know what the rules are or what’s expected.

When one after another rides without pause through active crosswalks with stop signs and an officer or two idling nearby, what’s the message?

PSD gets an F, again.

What’s it gonna take?

2019: As Roosevelt Island Bike Safety Becomes More Critical

As summer came to a close in 2019, we reported on the need for RIOC to act swiftly as bicycle traffic increases. And now, another year’s gone by without much change.

To connect the dots with this story from last year, we shot some videos of bicycles in action on the Promenades.

PSD flunks on bikes, one example.
With bikes cruising sidewalks, running stop signs and generally acting as if no traffic rules apply. PSD officers watch and do nothing.
A family cruises down Main Street, going the wrong way on a one-way street. Another bicyclist follows, racing through a crosswalk. But these are not exceptions. They’re common was PSD continues looking the other way.
A trio of riders weaves through walkers down the West Promenade. “Look, Ma! No hands!” No bells to warn anyone either.
The East Promenade is no escape.

But to be fair, there are bicyclists who play safe in traffic.

PSD‘s failure to deal with bikes creating safety hazards by ignoring all traffic rules is not official. But it’s actual, and it’s blatant. Managers at RIOC are aware of what they should be doing as well as what they are not.

“…traffic laws would be “strictly enforced.”

In July, last year, a RIOC official released this statement: “PSD is also going to be keeping a closer eye on vehicles that run stop signs as we know it has become a concern on the island. “

Riding along as an email attachment was a flyer (see attached) telling all local businesses that traffic laws would be “strictly enforced.” But with logic that passeth understanding, PSD would not do so until September 1st.

A free pass, then, until the end of August, right?

No, that free pass came with infinite shelf life, and I can prove it.

Read on.

Related: About PSD’s $8K Pay Boost

Time to test PSD resolve on bike safety

Firmly inside September, I took a walk on Main Street with an eye on bikers’ behavior. Here’s what I saw first, after just a few minutes:

A eBike rider spins through a River Road stop sign, then continues on past another before turning onto the helix, no sign of even a pause.

This guy had not gotten the word about strict enforcement, and PSD’s laissez faire enforcement moved him along.

What I saw, seconds later, was worse.

A delivery biker continues on Main Street after running the stop sign as he came off the helix.
This rider, apparently carrying a food delivery in a plastic bag, ran the stop sign coming down off the helix, and headed north on Main Street.

The next violation came so quickly, I didn’t have time to reset to video from still, but as this sequence shows, the hazard was obvious and immediate.

PSD flunks on bikes as people in crosswalk, including a wheelchair, barely miss being hit.
Watching a delivery bike rider race down Main Street, on the wrong side of the road, after nearly hitting them in the crosswalk at Gristedes.

As I turned to shoot a second still, he nearly hit two people in the crosswalk and kept going as they watched in shock.

PSD’s big fail on bike safety

As luck had it, I ran into acting PSD chief Kevin Brown, a few minutes later, outside 591 Main Street.

I told him I’d just been watching bikers violating traffic laws and documenting them.

“What happened to the crack down?” I asked.

Was it staged?

Like magic, an eBike rider suddenly appeared, advancing our way toward the stop sign in front of us.

“Watch this,” I said. “He won’t stop.”

It was a low risk prediction. They never stop.

Sure enough, this guy coasted straight through the stop sign and crosswalk and with a twist. He was talking on his cellphone at the time. It was a double violation, and he could not have been watching for pedestrians, wheelchairs or anything else.

Discouraging conversation follows…

Acting chief Brown reacted. “You can see that on any intersection Manhattan,” he said.

True, but this isn’t Midtown. It’s my hometown, it shouldn’t happen here, I told him. And it sounded too much like surrender, giving in to the constant two-wheeler abuse threatening to turn Manhattan into Naples.

In case you haven’t visited the Italian city, I confirm that its reputation for having traffic laws that are no more than advisory is accurate. And that’s what we have here with bikes.

Brown objected, saying that violations don’t happen when his officers are nearby. I believe he honestly thinks that’s true, but it isn’t.

I took it as a challenge. When he brushed off my story about talking to three of his officers, the day before, and hearing that none of them admitted knowing anything about an eBike crackdown, I decided to test myself.

But about the day before…

My belief that PSD flunks on bikes was reinforced when I watched an officer fail to blink an eye when one of the most notorious violators whizzed by.

He was the first to disavow knowledge about a crackdown. Then, two bicyclists tripped happily through the crosswalk right in front of us. No problem, not from PSD anyway.

Next, I talked to two other nearby officers. They didn’t know anything about cracking down on traffic violations either.

But “we try to look out for riding on the sidewalk,” one reported.

Just a little while later, I saw this:

A woman rides without concerns down the sidewalk in front of Westview, Amalgamated Bank, China One and the liquor store when customers could pop out at any minute.

Recording how PSD flunks on bikes and safety on video

About a half-hour after my conversation with Brown, I leaned against the wall in Good Shepherd Plaza with my video camera ready. What follows are recordings of the first pair of two-wheelers to hit the crosswalk.

Bike number one, a well-known local delivery guy, chugs past a passive PSD Officer.

I’m reluctant to single out individual officers because, in reality, they all do this. What I recorded was no exception. It just happened to be convenient.

Bike rider number 2 does the same.

At a RIOC board meeting later that day, I showed acting chief Brown the videos. In fairness, I asked him if he would like to make a statement.

No, he told me. RIOC’s official spokesperson would.

I waited five days. Never heard a word.


Anyone can walk down Main Street and see bike riders running stop signs, ignoring pedestrians in crosswalks and going the wrong way on one-way streets. Except for parking my butt for five minutes in Good Shepherd Plaza, I made no plans at all. In every instance, I was on my way to something else when the violations came tumbling out.

Bike riders are not aware that they are breaking laws and endangering the safety of others because PSD’s overt passivity virtually waives the laws.

In one case, I confronted an eBiker riding on the sidewalk in Southtown. A very busy local deliveryman, he reacted with sincere puzzlement. He really didn’t think he was doing anything wrong because…

PSD flunks on bikes, and they do so in spectacular fashion.

Such abysmal failure to enforce or even influence safety seems perplexingly difficult to mismanage, but it’s right there for anyone to observe.

Someone, a pedestrian, a bike rider without a helmet, is going to get hurt because of RIOC’s negligence.

Residents and visitors need to watch out for themselves. PSD is not going to help you. It’s a two-wheeler free-for-all on Roosevelt Island.

9 thoughts on “PSD still flunks on bikes, one year of broken promises

    1. The bridge is the responsibility of RIOC’s sister State agency, the Department of Transportation. But I disagree about PSD having to answer. Accountability is not part of the territory for Cuomo run State agencies.

Leave a Reply