The artist futurebird, a frequent behind-the-scenes contributor to this website and a photographer behind some of the pictures below, has long and unrelentingly argued that cab drivers more courteous and safe than people driving their own private vehicles on New York City streets. I have tried many times, somewhat politely but firmly, to scoff at this assertion, which I will do now: Cabs??? Those swerving, lurching, speeding, suddenly stopping, overworked and underpaid, casually reinterpreting red light cab drivers??? Not a chance. Well, on Monday night at the fireworks downtown, we observed some evidence that furthers her hypothesis.
As the fireworks ended, naturally a flood tide of humanity returned from the waterfront back toward the subway entrances at William Street and further inland. As seen above, this crowd came so suddenly that it engulfed a cab that had stopped at a red light, waiting to make a left turn. For some 20 minutes, huge crowds of people surged past this intersection, the cab stood where it was, frozen. Evoking the figues captured in mid-motion by the explosion of Pompeii, its left turn signal continued flashing the whole time. That turn signal, and even the act of keeping the engine running, seemed a little futile, but he was stuck and he knew it.
Now, it bears remembering that in order to qualify for a driver’s license, potential drivers are tested for such things as coming to a complete stop at a stop sign and using turn signals at intersections. But in a 15-minute driving test, it is hard to test for a general level of common sense. Let me draw your attention to the New York State Driver’s Manual and Study Guide. In the manual’s introduction, Governor Pataki writes:
All of us want the highways in our great state of New York to be as safe as possible. Each of us can help by driving safely and considerately. Sharing our busy streets and highways with other travelers comes with significant responsibilities. … Please drive New York’s roadways with caution and courtesy.
Theoretically, drivers who pass through the licensing process are supposed to have read that. They are also supposed to have read Chapter 11: Sharing the Road, which states:
Pedestrians are the highway users most at risk in traffic. As a driver, you must use extra caution to avoid colliding with pedestrians. Regardless of the rules of the road or right-of-way, the law specifically requires you to exercise great care to avoid striking pedestrians. … Remember also that pedestrians legally crossing at intersections always have the right-of-way. Do not pull in front of or behind them or to [sic] “hurry them along” — wait until they are out of the intersection.
With this in mind, here is the story, in pictures, of one particularly ridiculous motorist. In the midst of this pandemonium, some knucklehead creeps along with the flood tide of pedestrians. He pulls into the oncoming traffic lane and cuts off the cab (and the line of cars behind it).
Look how enormous that car is. It carried two people in a space where some 20 people would have stood. This guy’s plan was to continue straight ahead through the intersection, into this:
Yeah! What a great idea that would have been. Blocked by a metal barricade and perhaps realizing that it would have been a bad idea anyway, he decides to take a left into the sidestreet the cab was trying to get to:
His passenger got out and started shooing people away from the turning car. There is no doubt that the the two of them faced some verbal abuse for this course of action. Finally, they cleared out, leaving a gaping hole in the crowd, and the cabbie, with a passenger no less(!), still patiently waiting his turn.
These folks must have been stuck there for 15 to 20 minutes, annoying theselves and irritating hundreds of people. How about some patience? That would have avoided the angst, the verbal abuse, saved them time, helped the pedestrians get to where they were going faster and wouldn’t have put them at risk of getting hit. Suppose someone was injured by this driver? Do you think the police and courts would have said it was the motorist’s fault? Or would they have blamed the pedestrian?