The Bike Bitch

Apr 15

Open Letter to  Bill de Blasio

Dear Mr. Mayor:

I have a quick and easy way to make you a popular mayor— or at least a hero to citizens afraid for their lives:

Make me the Official Commissioner Of Bicycle Safety Enforcement,     

AKA The Bike Bitch.

You see, your honor, I live on East 22nd Street, and I’m mad as hell about cyclists speeding, going the wrong way, and running red lights down Second Avenue.

I don’t mean to sound cranky (Me, cranky?) but after several near misses, which, to be accurate, are near hits, one where I saved the proverbial little old lady standing next to me—littler and older, honestly, than myself— I’m more than ready to do something about bike riders disobeying the rules.

Yes, there ARE rules. But they aren’t enforced.

Besides, they’re wearing helmets, and I’m not! And neither are you. Unless of course, you’ve just gotten off a bike. Which I very much hope you were riding safely.

It’s A Tough Job, But Somebody’s Got To Do It

But what exactly would The Bike Bitch do? How astute of you to ask.

Here’s the plan: I’d put together a team of dedicated street walkers, although perhaps I should rephrase that, whose sacred mission would be to seek out and identify bikers flouting the rules. We’d photograph them with our handy iPhones, get their license numbers, and . . .

. . . wait a minute. There’s a problem. Bikers don’t have licenses. Or plates. What they have is helmets. And the smugness that comes from being green.

Now I try to be as ecologically aware as the next person, and am seriously cutting back on my prodigious output of non-recyclable garbage. And I get it that bikers are helping the environment by using their legs instead of fossil fuel. But the Bike Bitch must point out that doing the virtuous thing doesn’t give a body the license to do the reckless thing. And there we are, back to licenses.

Bikes should have license plates. That way I, the Bike Bitch, and my dedicated posse of Bike Babes and Bike Dudes, would be able to go forth to give out tickets to bikers breaking the law.

Some may disagree. A few years ago, Randy Cohen, then the Ethicist for The New York Times, declared that while it’s illegal to run lights, it’s not unethical. Really?

“I roll through a red light,” he says, “if and only if no pedestrian is in the crosswalk and no car is in the intersection — that is, if it will not endanger myself or anybody else. “To put it another way, I treat red lights and stop signs as if they were yield signs. A fundamental concern of ethics is the effect of our actions on others. My actions harm no one. This moral reasoning may not sway the police officer writing me a ticket, but it would pass the test of Kant’s categorical imperative: I think all cyclists could — and should — ride like me.”

THAT’S the way he rolls?

This column enraged me. First of all, I had to look up Kant, Immanuel that is, and check out this categorical imperative thing, which turns out to be something like the Golden Rule only way more complicated. Took forever. But I did it so that you, your honor, don’t have to, so I hope that you will count this in my favor when considering my request.

But even after exhaustive research (alright, so I just Googled German philosophers), I was unconvinced. Although Randy called himself an ethicist, The Ethicist, actually, and I am a mere blogger, I disagree with his Kantian cop out, that the practical implications of his actions would cause no harm. Mr. Cohen may have perfect timing along with his finely tuned sense of right and wrong, but most cyclists, as anyone on Second Avenue and 22nd Street can tell you, do not.

Still, Mr. I-Like-Bikes Cohen was right about one thing: There had been relatively few pedestrian fatalities caused by bicycle reported in NYC.

To find out exactly how many, I Googled everything I could think of. Beginning with the straightforward How many deaths in NYC are caused by bicycles, I then tried searches like Bicycle-related fatalities, then got whimsical with Bikes Gone Wild, and ended up with Weren’t there any deaths by bike at all in this damn city?

Well, the  statistics on this seem to be rather fuzzy. One article said that the first one was in 2017 when a bicyclist collided with a bus. Another article said that fatalities had climbed in 2016. I’m confused.

However! Before you dismiss me as yet another crank in a cityful of same, there’ve been pedestrian deaths by cyclists in San Francisco, most I must point out, to citizens of the senior variety. How many have to die at the hands (or feet) of a cyclist in our fair city before we pay attention? The Bike Bitch thinks that the acceptable number would be zero.

And yes, yes, as it is endlessly pointed out, there are far, far, more injuries and many deaths to pedestrians by cars. But listen to this:

The headline Bikes Hit More Pedestrians Than Previously Thought came up on yet another Google search. It’s a study by Hunter College about injuries (Ouch!), as opposed to  fatalities, noting that previous reports had pedestrians who needed medical attention after being hit by cyclists numbering about 1000 each year in the US, and that now it’s 1000 in New York State alone. I couldn’t find out what it was in New York City, but that was mainly because Google started refusing to take my calls. Maybe your staff can get on this, Mr. Mayor.

A Two-Way Street

And yes, yes, The Bike Bitch knows that this is, so to speak, a two-way street. Sometimes pedestrians do crazy things and walk into the path of bikes, and sometimes it’s the cyclist who gets hurt. But honestly, you really shouldn’t be taking your life in your hands just to cross the street.

So, Mayor de Blasio, your honor, and fellow concerned citizen, I am officially asking you (and I’m not above groveling at a later date), please do the one thing that will define your mayoralty for all eternity:  make me Commissioner Of Bicycle Safety Enforcement.

You can call me Commish if you’d like. But Bike Bitch will do just fine.

Your friend,

Pat (“BB”) Fortunato




  1. Jennifer /

    Good post Pat. I walk a lot in NYC. Near misses with bicyclists who flout traffic rules are par for the course. The city could use a Bike Bitch!

  2. Louise Gikow /

    Yay you! I was standing next to a man who was run down by a bicyclist…they both ended up on the ground. My guy was just standing there waiting for the light to turn. Happily, he said he wasn’t hurt. The bicyclist, on the other hand, cursed him out.
    Ah, NY.

    • Yes, it’s New York, and we love it in spite of everything — even the reckless bikers. But is it too much to ask to make it a little safer for all of us? I think not.

  3. Carol King /

    Pat, great article & so true. I am an avid city walker and am seriously afraid to get off the sidewalk until I look both ways. Bikers, esp delivery people, go any direction they want at ignoring traffic rules & esp walkers zooming past or around them. It’s getting treacherous!!
    When u become bike bitch I’ll join ur posse!!!

    • The Bike Bitch is looking forward to making you an honorary Bike Babe.

  4. Fabulous idea. I’ve been hit twice by bikes going the wrong way. Now I cross streets like I’m in London not know ing which way the traffic is coming.

    • Well, we WERE taught to look both ways. But for cars, not bikes! You, Ruth, as a victim of this recklessness, deserve to be heard. Mr. Mayor! Are you there?
      BTW Hope you weren’t seriously hurt, Ruth.

  5. Michelle Harris /

    It’s hard enough crossing the street & keeping the sun from blinding you without having to swivel every which way to stay upright. BB you have my vote!

    • Thanks, Michelle. Now it’s on to the mayor’s office to get this in motion! Six degrees of separation, anyone?

  6. Clare Rakshys /

    I’ve experienced a few near hits myself, so I think you’re right. Bikes should have licenses, so we can report the reckless riders.

  7. Caroline /

    Loved it!! Bikers are especially dangerous on the UES…the most densely populated ‘hood in the country! I’ve considered carrying a big stick to put in their spokes as they pass me going the wrong way.

    • Caroline, you are definitely ready to join the Bike Bitch in her crusade!

  8. Colleen /

    As always, great entertainment in truth!

  9. Love it!

  10. Oh yeah, it’s time for an enforcer of your magnitude and dedication, Pat. I once stepped off the curb and got side swiped by a bicycle coming the wrong way on 6th Ave. Knocked me clear to the ground.
    I was so freaked out, I got up immediately and kept walking in this dazed somnambulant way as people simultaneously yelled at the bike rider and called out if I was all right.
    How I would have loved to have you slap that guy with a ticket!

    • Oh, Elf, how the Bike Bitch would have enjoyed slapping that guy, never mind with a ticket! How dare he hurt an adorable creature such as yourself. All right, so I just got carried away, and I am, as we all know, not a violent person, only one who seeks justice in this often cruel world, so I guess I would have settled for giving him a ticket. Harrumph.

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