Reader Contributions

An apology to Streetsblog tipsters. Though our new, high-tech "Contribute to Streetsblog" page has been up and running for a few weeks, I’ve been having technical problems with the tips@streetsblog.org account and haven’t really been checking reader mail very regularly. The problem is now fixed and I’m excavating lots of excellent contributions. I’ll try to post a bunch of them this week and I promise we’ll be better about this in the future, so please keep them coming. Here is the first batch:

1. Streetsblog contributor Seve’s video, "Cars Ruin Central Park." There are lots of good arguments against allowing automobiles to dominate Central Park’s Loop Drives but this silent one-and-a-half minute video is one the most compelling I’ve seen put forward. Seriously. Check it out (and if you want to submit video, upload it to YouTube and tag it "streetsblog"):

2. Steve has also been video taping what he calls "Bike Lane Counseling Sessions" in which he rolls up on his bicycle and urges motorists who are double-parked on bike lanes to move somewhere else. Steve is also responsible for the Upper West Side cluster on MyBikeLane.com. I love Steve’s work and I very much fear for his safety.

3. While we’re on the theme of bike lane blocking and Central Park, Streetsblog reader Alex Kahl writes to say that he’s been noticing a lot of horse excrement in the Central Park bike path lately.

Dear Streetsblog,

On my ride home this evening I was forced to ride into to traffic to due a horse drawn carriage in the bike lane. Every time I ride by a carriage blocking the bike lane, I point out that they are in fact blocking the bike lane and the car lane. A reasonable assessment of the situation would seem to be that horse buggies must drive in the normal lane of traffic, especially because they are too wide for merely the bike lane. As a result, not only do they impede bicycle use but their width still reduces the number of traffic lanes on CPW from two to one.

This evening, one of the buggy drivers (busy talking on his hand-free wireless phone mind you) replied that because he was not driving a motor vehicle, he is able to drive his carriage in the bike lane. It took about 15 seconds for this to sink in. I stopped my bike and waited for the carriage to arrive. Oddly, as the carriage approached me, the horse began to gallop. Add to the dangerous situation is the fact that another cyclist — at this very moment — decided to try to pass the carriage on the left by entering traffic.

The other cyclist, upon seeing me stopped in the bike lane, slowed down just in time to get hit by the galloping horse buggy. The cyclist managed to avoid injury but the buggy ran over and semi-taco’ed his rear wheel. As the accident occured, I began screaming like a maniac for the driver to stop. In my fit of screaming, I even reached up and tried to grab his arm to let him know he was running over someone on the other side of his buggy.

Of course, the passengers of the buggy are now yelling at me (not realizing that I am raising hell because a cyclist nearly got squished between thier carriage and speeding taxis). As the horse and buggy turned down the park entrance in front of Tavern on the Green, I checked on the other cyclist — he was fine but his bike was not. As the other cyclist used his phone to report the accident, I rode after the buggy to get his license plate.

Unfortunately, I was still a bit angry and yelled at him for driving in the bike lane and running over a cyclist. He and his passengers began yelling back. at this point my rational side came to the fore, and I realized how stupid the whole situation was. Leaving them yelling, I returned to the other cyclist. In hindsight, I feel bad about yelling at the buggy driver. But, when human life appears to be in danger, reasoned speech is difficult to muster.

Because the whole situation escalated from me talking to him yelling and then everyone yelling, I feel especially culpable. Yet, when I consider my blame in light of the hazard posed to my and others safety, I would do it all over again. In the end, I am still curious: Where should horsedrawn carriages drive when a city street has a bike lane?

–Alex

  • How sad that in the first video, we couldn’t hear the joyful chorus of honking that must have been adding a warmth and cheer to everyone’s park experience that morning. Ah, parks, our chance to escape the hubbub of city life…

  • Steve

    Alex, interesting question about the horse-drawn carriages and where they belong. The portion of the park loop drive running from Sixth Avenue until the turnoff to Grand Army Plaza is the most popular circuit for the carriages. The right lane has a modified roadbed (deep rut in the middle) to accomodate horse manure so that it won’t be spread all over when cars drive past at (their customarily overly high) speeds. I don’t know if there is a city rule on point but I would think that this infrastructure in the right lane of the loop, along with the runner and bike decals in the recreation lane on the left, means no horses in the recreation lane. What segment and lane of the loop were you on?

  • ddartley

    Dude, for the first 15 seconds of the first video, I thought the cars were just parked and double parked. Then I was shocked to realize they were “traveling!”

    Like trans fat in an artery, so are the cars in our parks.

  • Central Park(ing)

  • alex

    Steve, the incident with the buggy occured in the bike lane (which only exists in the north-bound direction) on Central Park West at about 65th St. CG, I kind of agree with you, except I ride past every night on my ride home… I gotta try something.

  • anonymous

    Is it just me, or is the cameraperson travelling the wrong way on the bike path?

  • Steve

    I’m busted, nony. But the cops had closed Park Drive west south of 72nd so this was my only option for getting East without a long detour. Anyway, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to film this jam. I went slow.

    Alex, I have never seen a carriage out of the right lane of Park Drive as far north as 65th street during motor vehicle hours, and my hunch is it’s not allowed. I think the carriage driver got greedy and took a fare he shoildn’t have.

  • roymond

    So Steve, filming backed-up traffic caused by a street closing is a good example of how cars are ruining the park? It’s presented out of context and doesn’t at all address the problem. In fact, it hurts the argument against cars to misrepresent the problem.

  • Steve

    No misrepresentation, roymond. Cars do ruin the park.

    For those who liked this video, here’s another that “misrepresents” the value of car-free parks, by depicting bicycling on a stretch of Central Park designated as a Class I bike path that is ordinarily closed to all but authorized vehicles:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8mF80zvgPA

    Plus, here’s confirmation that the DOT will be lifting its so-called “traffic mitigation” plan
    and reinstating the prior regime of rush-hour traffic only:

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/about/pr2006/pr06_78.html

    However the DOT states that vehicles will be allowed 7 am to 7 pm weekdays on the portion of the loop running from Sixth Ave to Seventy Second Street. Was that the case before the “mitigation” plan, or is this a recently imposed “mitigation” measure that is not being lifted?

  • Kindacornxyz

    Alex, I would love to get in touch with you about banning carriage horses from NYC. We have a lot of bikers and runners on our side and I’d love to speak with you about your personal experience with the horses.

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