On the Video in Which I am Doored by a Taxi

Posted on September 14, 2014

Hey. I'm the cyclist in this video that went viral.

I'd like to clarify some things in FAQ form:

Why were you announcing "And that's why I don't ride in bike lanes?" like that?

I generally don't ride in bike lanes but two days prior to this I had sent in $120 to the DMV, bringing my total fines for "failure to ride in bike lanes" to $350. I've lost one appeal and am waiting for the second. If you read the law, the law gives exceptions, really broad exceptions (VTL Title 34 4-12 P1), for safety. None of the police or judges I spoke to cared to even consider that the bike lane might be unsafe. You can hear my hearings if you care to:

Biking Outside the Bike Lane Hearing 5-12-2014 - Judge didn't believe she had to tell me how she was interpreting the law to arrive at a guilty verdict.
Biking Outside the Bike Lane Hearing 9-23-2013 - Judge: "why do we have bike lanes if they're unsafe?"

This is why I come across as preachy in the video. It's a sore subject, to be sure.

Why were you in the bike lane, then?

This happened on 9/11. The streets were extra-packed because of double-parked NYPD and FDNY. While most days I would have taken a street lane and skipped the bike lane, on this day that seemed like a bad idea.

You should have seen the cab and its hazard lights.

For sure. I totally missed the cab chillin' there with its hazards. Part of the reason I was frustrated was frustration with myself. This wasn't my best day of riding. I'm an experienced cyclist but I was distracted by the pedestrian who ran in front of me moments before. It might seem obvious watching a video but our eyes don't work like cameras. Try this experiment to see what I mean: take a book and focus on reading one word. Now, while reading that one word, try to read the words around it. You can't. While we think we see the world like a photograph, the truth is we assemble the picture by scanning the environment around us. That takes time. Cut me some slack and remember that it takes .25 seconds for the nervous system to even react to stimuli, let alone act upon a physical object with levers like a bike.

You nearly hit two pedestrians at the beginning of the video!

When I was editing the video I left the pedestrians in at the beginning for context in the narrative that I wanted to convey. The bike lanes have a lot of activity that makes them unsafe. When the first pedestrian appeared I noticed him immediately. My eyes followed him as he walked left. While I was watching him the second pedestrian appeared. I made the concerted decision to go between them rather than swerve or brake because I saw an opening and I knew they were not paying attention. I used my voice rather than my airzound horn because I did not want to startle them too much and add chaos. The airzound is LOUD. As far as I am concerned that scenario turned out as well as it could have.

You were going too fast! (or) You weren't going 25 mph!

While I said I was going 25 mph later in the video, what I meant was I do sometimes travel 25 mph on flats. In this video I was probably going 10-15mph, which I feel is a reasonable speed in a bike lane. I would never, ever do 25 in a bike lane. I was trying to communicate that it's not reasonable to expect people to be able to see bikers coming from a car. The only reasonable thing is to not drop a fare off in the bike lane. You just can't assume it's going to be clear.

Why don't you talk to police? Don't you need to talk to police to get an insurance claim?

I don't talk to police because the NYPD are corrupt (see http://gothamist.com/2014/08/20/ryo_oyamada_video.php) and generally don't treat cyclists well. In this case I did stick around for the cabbie's sake because he needed the accident report for an insurance claim. You do need that accident claim if you are going to seek damages. I have no injuries and the bikes is, amazingly, ok as well.

Biking like that you were asking for it!

No, I was not asking to be doored any more than a woman wearing skimpy clothing is asking to be raped. It may not be the best decision for the circumstance but I was not "asking for it." That's wrong. Don't blame victims.

You are an cyclist asshole who doesn't care about anyone but himself and I hate you!

I'm not a douchebag. I care about people. I care about biking and safety. The laws are not perfect and what small protections we have are not followed. NYPD park in bike lanes and don't keep them clear. Judges ignore the spirit of the law and impose unreasonable fines. I am forced to break the law in order to stay safe. I don't like that, but I won't put myself in harm's way again like I did in this video. As others have pointed out, I have a bit of a manifesto on the subject.

You just want attention, don't you?

I have always been a public person, having blogged since 1998. It isn't quite right to say I love attention. What I do love is the opportunity to discuss and advocate something about which I care deeply.

To be honest, the degree of attention that this has received has not been pleasant. I prefer more personal, focused interactions over this mass bludgeoning of the topic. But regardless, I hope it has sparked consideration in those who are receptive to it.

What the public does not see are all the private messages from people who say they now have a greater understanding of the challenges faced by cyclists. I do believe that it has been an important catalyst for much needed cultural introspection. I would rather not be so cynical as to believe that the popularity of the video and the resulting discussion is simply an America's Funniest Home Videos "haha, guy got hurt" phenomenon.

Who is at fault?

First, let me say that everyone in the accident was very cordial and pleasant. I felt safe and at ease while waiting for the police. The police quickly determined I was not at fault. I left, so I don't know the actual outcome.

However the NYC law does say, in Title 34 Section 4-11(c):

(c) Pickup and discharge of passengers by taxis, commuter vans and for-hire vehicles. Operators of taxis, commuter vans and for-hire vehicles may, in the course of the lawful operation of such vehicles, temporarily stop their vehicles to expeditiously pick up or discharge passengers at the curb in areas where standing or parking is prohibited. Taxis, commuter vans and for-hire vehicles, while engaged in picking up or discharging passengers must be within 12 inches of the curb and parallel thereto, but may stop or stand to pick up or discharge passengers alongside a vehicle parked at the curb only if there is no unoccupied curb space available within 100 feet of the pickup or discharge location; however, picking up or discharging passengers shall not be made:
  1. Within a pedestrian crosswalk.
  2. Within an intersection, except on the side of a roadway opposite a street which intersects but does not cross such roadway.
  3. Alongside or opposite any street excavation when stopping to pick up or discharge passengers obstructs traffic.
  4. Under such conditions as to obstruct the movement of traffic and in no instance so as to leave fewer than 10 feet available for the free movement of vehicular traffic.
  5. Where stopping is prohibited
  6. Within a bicycle lane.
  7. Within horse-drawn carriage boarding areas.

Seems clear to be but I am not a lawyer and other things in the law seem clear to me but have been... shall we say "not clear." Being a cab driver is a tough job. Respect.

Bicycles are here to stay. The kids aren't buying cars like they used to. We are going to experience growing pains as we transition a culture that traditionally has not been pedestrian or bike friendly into a new era. This will involve some tragedy and conflict. Let's try to keep calm and give each other the benefit of the doubt while we proceed.

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