Driver entitlement runs deep. Checking privilege of car culture is a key part of Bike Tarrytown's mission, particularly when it pops out from public officials.
Below is an email our Director, Daniel Convissor, wrote to one such official in Sleepy Hollow. The quoted text is their reply to Dan's prior email, requesting the official drive slower on the Village's small streets.
July 23, 2020
Dear [Public Official]:
Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I'll respond inline. Grab a coffee or something. The discussion has led to some deep topics. :)
Safety is most important and if we can continue to make improvements we all benefit. Your email encouraged me to invest in a car cam to be installed shortly. These days the features are abundant and can serve as a mechanism to support safe driving and protection to pediatricians [sic] and walkers.
I've heard cameras hooked to computers that are connected to the brakes can help reduce crashes. Is that what you're getting? If it's just a stand alone camera, what is the process that helps improve safety?
As we know a "safe operating speed" is different from the village code and is subject to the person driving, the time of day, and the streets - truly an assessment for the drivers to evaluate the external environment.
Remember Lake Woebegon, where "everyone is above average?" Surveys have found that over 80% of people who drive think their capabilities are better than most.
Relative skill levels aside, even the best drivers in the world make mistakes. Crashes are why some people watch car racing. :)
And that's where speed comes into play. Slower is safer. It allows people to see more of their surroundings, so they can avoid dangerous situations. It shortens the sight/stopping distance combination, so folks can stop short instead of crashing. It reduces severity, so if a crash does happen, the injury level is reduced.
Just as I mentioned the other day, your [child] did not honor the road by driving [their bicycle] in the middle of the road and quite honestly too fast for the streets.
Can I trouble you to elaborate on the situation, please? I'm failing to understand it.
[My kid] bikes on [some neighborhood streets]. These are narrow, residential streets. Riding in the middle of them is generally unavoidable. And in most cases, the wise thing to do, because people in parked cars can open their doors, so riding close to them is hazardous.
Many people have been killed by cycling too close to parked cars. Someone in the car opens a door, forcing or knocking the person cycling into the path of a moving vehicle.
On these narrow streets, people in cars should not pass kids on bikes, instead staying back about 50' from them. If encountering kids cycling toward them, people driving should stop until the child passes. A moment of delay is worth the guaranteed safety.
Did [my child] ignore a stop sign? Other than that, I don't understand how a kid who can go about 5, maybe 10, MPH on a bike is going too fast.
The children need to understand eye contact with a driver, stop signs looking both ways, and not driving against traffic.
Eye contact is easier said than done. Many times, glare on the window prevents seeing inside. Then there's the folks who have (illegally) tinted windows. And, of course, there's night time.
Walkers need to not jaywalk, again make eye contact and use gestures for communication.
People are allowed to cross streets at any location. At all intersections and at painted mid-block crosswalks, people driving are required to yield to people walking. (Many people driving in Sleepy Hollow do not comply with this law.) At other locations, people walking are required to yield to people driving.
Regardless of location and conditions, the prime directive for people driving is to "exercise due care to avoid colliding with any bicyclist [or] pedestrian upon any roadway," per Vehicle and Traffic Law, Section 1146.
People walking should not have to do a song and dance to cross the street. Nor are they legally required to.
Streets are public spaces, for everybody to use. Walking, cycling, skating, playing, driving. People driving bullied everyone else off of the commons via a combination of intimidation and propaganda.
Intimidation, because cars are so dangerous. On propaganda, an example is the term "jaywalking." It was devised and spread by the automobile industry in the 1920's in order to shift blame for the carnage left in the wake of expanding motor vehicle use. Here's a good read about it: https://www.vox.com/2015/1/15/7551873/jaywalking-history
Safe operating speed is acting responsibly if and want to educate within and beyond our neighborhood bring it forth to public comments at any board meeting.
In my watching many of the Trustee's meetings over the past six years, the number one topic that constituents raise over and over is aggressive driving. At one point the relatives of Xiomara Chimbo delivered 800 signatures to the Board. Multiple solid solid plans and specific recommendations have been provided.
What has the Board done in response? Aside from a few stop signs and a few speed humps, not much.1 The Board has even gone backward. The new speed hump policy makes installing them nearly unattainable. Residents have to circulate petitions and get 75% support -- twice!
Making residents do anything to address public safety issues is kind of strange. Do we require petitions for the Fire Department to show up? Yet 42 people per year are injured by motor vehicles in Sleepy Hollow (during 2007 - 2016). And we're making folks jump through hoops?
The result is residents taking matters into their own hands. People placing things in the streets, like small green plastic people and traffic cones. Erecting all kids of signs, like "drive like your kid lives here."
Your constituents are directly, and indirectly, begging you to address this public safety / public health problem.
Pretty much everything that needs to be "brought forth" already has been.
I do earnestly take your comments seriously and I am an individual to put things in action for change.
When we spoke a while back, you said you'd speak to Chief Buetti about people parking on sidewalks. Did you get a chance to do that?
The residents of 18 Gordon Ave through 38 Gordon Ave continue to park across the sidewalk. All of those folks have garages, which they've chosen to fill with possessions other than their cars. And then they choose to store their vehicles on the sidewalk instead of using legal parking spaces.
As a result, an old woman who lives on the block is forced to walk in traffic. As are local kids, and everyone else who walks there.
The purpose of government is to protect the public at large from the dangerous impulses of selfish individuals.
I, and many members of our community, still hope you, and the Village, can rise to the mandate.
Editors Note: The Village does deserve credit for reducing the speed limit on all Village streets to 25 MPH. That is the lowest the State allows municipalities to go on their own. Speed limits lower than that require getting a law enacted by Albany for each specific location. Fortunately, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins says she's willing to do that.