Riders that bite: Has New York City’s 'subway rage' gotten out of hand?

Passengers watched a typical nuisance turn into a violent attack last Friday.

Andrew Kelly/Reuters
A member of the New York Police Department rides the subway in New York July 3.

New York subway riders have seen some pretty bizarre sights, like the man who decided to bring his own swivel chair onto a train car, or the dead shark that mysteriously appeared under a seat.

But last Friday, passengers watched a typical nuisance turn into a violent attack.

A woman aboard a Manhattan-bound train from Queens had asked a passenger to remove her bag from a seat so she could sit down, police say. When the seated rider ignored her, the woman attempted to sit down anyway.

Suddenly, the seated passenger burst into a fit.

Police say she scratched the other woman, pulled her hair and bit her forearm, causing her to bleed. She then fled once the train made a stop in Long Island City.

The victim was taken to a hospital while her attacker remains at large.

Earlier this summer, officials announced that subway crimes have been on the rise lately. 

According to ABC News, figures released in June showed that felony assaults on subways jumped from 78 in 2014 to 99 so far this year, a 27 percent increase.

One notable incident made headlines that month when a suspect pushed a transgender woman onto the tracks at a station in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, seconds before a train arrived at the stop, reports NBC news. Fortunately, the woman managed to climb out of the tracks.

However police say these sporadic attacks shouldn’t cause any alarm because the number of incidents remains relatively small given the 5.6 million people that ride the subway each weekday. Rather, the main issues commuters complain about are fellow riders’ lack of manners and disruptive behaviors.

In January, New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) launched a “Courtesy Counts” campaign, placing banners in subway cars to let riders know the dos and don’ts of subway etiquette.

Some images remind passengers to step aside to let others off the train, to keep their things to themselves, and to offer their seats to elderly, disabled, or pregnant riders.

Other banners speak to the usual pains of riding a New York subway. One warns break-dancers that “poles are for your safety, not your latest routine” while another asks male riders to stop “manspreading,” meaning opening their legs so wide that they take up available seats.  

It isn’t quite clear whether that campaign pushed riders to be more mindful. But the MTA is persistent in its mission. 

Last month, it launched a similar customer awareness program aimed at reducing time intervals between stops by – again – reminding riders to let others off the train before trying to board. 

This report contains material from the Associated Press. 

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