Mike Rubbo sent me a link to this video by Ron Gabriel. It's very nicely made, and shows very dramatically the points of conflict which he saw over a brief period of time.
However, I think the way Ron himself as well as other people who have commented on the video talk about what they see is quite telling.
The discussion on Vimeo and on the blog is about "long-standing bad habits" of users of various modes, about "selfish people" and enforcement of the law.
I don't see the behaviour at this junction as being about "bad habits". What I see is simply a very badly designed junction which almost invites people to behave in the way that they do.
Dutch road junctions don't look like and work like this - the designs are different for a reason: A long-standing theme of Dutch road design is the concept of Sustainable Safety. Conflict is removed, collisions are therefore rare and the consequences of those collisions which remain are relatively small compared with other countries. Roads are made self-explanatory so that excessive signing is not depended upon to reduce bad behaviour but the way in which people behave is changed because of their environment. Less "enforcement" is needed when people have no reason to want to do dangerous things. This has resulted in the safest roads in the world.
The links below take you to several examples of these principles at work, some of which if adopted in New York could reduce the problems at junctions like this:
- Simultaneous Green lights for cyclists, keeping cyclists and motor vehicles apart.
- Roundabouts designed to keep modes apart.
- Avoidance of traffic lights for cyclists
- Short delays for crossing the road for cyclists and pedestrians
- Cycle Paths to provide cyclists with their own space
- Streets which prioritize cyclists, or pedestrians, over drivers (not just back streets, but those which take the most direct route)
It's quite common in other countries that cyclists are singled out for more criticism than other groups. There is a reason for this. While there are sidewalks for pedestrians and roads for drivers, cyclists have no true place of their own and are left with a choice of "sharing the road" rather unequally with motor vehicles or riding illegally on the sidewalk. Cyclists are an out-group not only in social terms but also in terms of road design.
Road design overall is in general rather too dominated by motor vehicles. That's certainly the case in New York, and while New Yorkers walk quite a lot, conditions for cycling remain poor. This contributes to the still very low cycling rate of the city. There is an inadequate level of all three types of safety for cyclists and the lack of subjective safety is especially clear from watching the video.
Even amongst those who are brave enough to cycle in the city, few would want or encourage their children or grandparents doing the same thing.
There is a solution to this problem, but it doesn't come from maintaining the design status quo while enforcing rules. Design of infrastructure needs to change to reflect the usage which you want to have and to encourage people to behave in a safe way. It's especially important at intersections.