Blind and visually impaired people are adamantly opposed to the suggestion that bikes in NYC should be allowed to roll through red lights ("Idaho stops") when they see no pedestrians or traffic -- and would like to see more bikers complying with traffic regulations already on the books.
Vicki Acopulus, who is severely farsighted and has an astigmatism, has been hit and knocked down twice in Hell's Kitchen by delivery guys shuttling food on bicycles. Luckily, says the 72-year-old, she had on a puffy, padded winter coat that cushioned her falls or "I could have broken a hip." A resident of senior housing in Hell's Kitchen, she says she often runs errands for elderly neighbors who tell her they're terrified of being run over by rogue cyclists.
Bike use in the city has exploded, with 10 times as many bicyclists on city streets as there were in 1980, according to cyclist counts conducted by the DOT. And while pedestrian-car accidents are far more likely to be lethal, lawbreaking cyclists inspire unique fear in the 53,000 NYC adults between the ages of 18 and 64 who identify as blind or low vision. (Other surveys say 172,484 people with "vision difficulty" reside in NYC, a city hall spokeswoman noted.)
"When we're crossing streets, we've been taught to listen for cars, but you can't hear bikes," explained James Champion, 23, an administrative intern who lives in Williamsburg and suffers from retinitis pigmentosa. Cyclists are often unaware that many pedestrians on the streets of New York rely on auditory cues and are not able to see them approaching and move out of their way, Champion said.