To the Editor:
With all due respect to Michael Ring, and his personal campaign to eliminate cars from Central Park, I would like to attempt to dispel a few of the inaccuracies in the recent article “The Story Behind the Central Park Car Ban” (June 25).
First of all, the notion that cars are the greatest hazard in the park, and that “it’s going to be a lot safer.. now that the cars are gone”, goes against the observations that I have made in almost 50 years of running, biking, driving, and walking in the park. (For the record, I was biking in the park as early as 1964, when I worked at the Coliseum Towers and rented a bike to ride on the original bike path around the lower loop during my lunch hour.) I would say that the vast majority of accidents in the park do not involve cars, but bicycles, roller bladders, and skate boarders.
And with regard to Mr. Ring’s concern as to “When do the cars stop?”, the answer is that they usually stop when there is a red light. With the exception of a few bicyclists (mostly Europeans, where bicycles DO stop for red lights!), most bikers, skate boarders, or roller bladders do not stop for red lights. Even some runners, who sometimes travel in groups large enough to be considered traffic hazards, occasionally seem to think that everyone needs to get out of THEIR way, lest they be forced to break their stride. And at least motorists usually have insurance, licence plates, and registrations, so if there is an accident, the victim will be less likely to have to cover his own medical bills.
As far as the time and location in the Park when it is most dangerous, it is NOT above 72nd Street, but the stretch between 59th Street and 72nd Street on the East Drive between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m., when bikers, runners, cars, horse drawn carriages, pedi-cabs, and pedestrians are all forced to share a very narrow, and very congested, section of roadway. And the hazard is not the number of cars, but that some cars (and a few motorcycles), and a few bicycles, in their rush to get home and get around the particularly slow traffic, tend to swerve, speed, and run red lights, which is particularly dangerous considering the congestion. The solution to this is not to ban anybody, but to ENFORCE speed limits and red lights, and lane designation (there are running lanes, biking lanes, and car lanes.)
Banning cars is an overly simplistic solution, and is indeed “throwing out the baby with the bath water”, because this will not do much to reduce the hazards in the park.
It is a big city, and we all need to share it.
Upper West Side