A Year After Eric Ng’s Death, Greenway Hazards Remain Unfixed

Chelsea.jpg

This piece was written by Transportation Alternatives:

On December 1, 2006, Eric Ng was riding his bike up the Hudson River Greenway. He was on his way to meet friends. He never made it, because a drunk driver named Eugenio Cidron took his life. After leaving a party at Chelsea Piers, Cidron got behind the wheel of his car and drove it on to the Greenway. Eugenio Cidron sped down the Greenway, a car-free path, for a mile at 60 miles per hour, before crashing into Eric Ng and killing him.

A little over a year ago, the government agencies that have something to say or do with the Hudson River Greenway, along with Transportation Alternatives, convened a task force to develop improvements that will reduce conflicts between drivers and Greenway users, but today little has changed on the ground. The Hudson River Greenway was never designed to have high volumes of cars and trucks crossing it. Regardless of whether or not government knew this when the biking and walking path was built, it knows it now and is often guilty of aiding and abetting the increase on driving across the path.

There are over a dozen City, State and Federal government agencies that have some say in what goes on along the Hudson River between Battery Park and 59th Street, but no one has taken charge. On the Greenway itself, it’s a jurisdictional nightmare. The State DOT designed and built the Greenway and continues to be responsible for path redesigns. The City DOT maintains and times the traffic signals along the Greenway. The Hudson River Park Trust maintains the Greenway path. The NYC Parks Department tries to ensure design consistency between this Greenway and the ones it builds and maintains around the boroughs. There are myriad groups, including the City Economic Development Corp, the MTA, the Passenger Ship Terminal, Chelsea Piers and private ferry operators (who often drive buses across the path), that weigh in on the need for driveways across the Greenway.

Each day, thousands of people in New York City head to the Hudson River Greenway on bicycle and foot. It’s one of few car-free places where people can commute, exercise and feel comfortable away from the risk of traffic and motorists on our streets. The Hudson River Greenway is supposed to be a safe and protected place, yet it is not. And despite fatal crashes like Eric’s, little has been done to change this.

There are a host of improvements that will reduce motorist-Greenway user conflicts, including:

  • Close unnecessary driveways where motorists cross the Greenway
  • Install fixed bollards where streets and driveways cross to keep drivers from driving onto the Greenway
  • Narrow driveways crossing the Greenway to slow and control motorist turning movements
  • Install curb extensions on streets crossing the Greenway to make pedestrian and cyclist crossing easier and safer
  • Install bike lane treatment where streets and driveways cross to make drivers more aware of the Greenway and pay attention to cyclists and pedestrians
  • Coordinate signal timing between the bike traffic signals on the Greenway and the motorist traffic signals on Route 9A to avoid turning conflicts
  • Lower Greenway traffic signal heads to same height as pedestrian signals
  • Install shades on Greenway traffic signal heads to limit motorists’ view of them and reduce confusion
  • Display safety messages on overhead highway signage along Route 9A warning drivers to drive safely and be aware of cyclists and pedestrians.

In a 2007 survey of bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers along the Hudson River Greenway, more than a third of Greenway users reported cars driving on the Greenway. Transportation Alternatives has identified seven crossings where motor vehicles repeatedly violate the car-free path.

  • Warren Street
  • Chambers Street
  • West Houston Street/Pier 40 driveway
  • Christopher Street
  • West 17th Street/Chelsea Piers driveway exit
  • West 30th Street
  • West 40th Street
  • West 42rd Street

With the sentence of Eric’s killer handed down, the NY State Department of Transportation and NYC Department of Transportation must rededicate themselves to the immediate implementation of safety improvements to ensure this tragedy is never repeated.

Photo: Emmanuel Fuentebella for Transportation Alternatives

  • Josh

    “In a 2007 survey of bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers along the Hudson River Greenway, more than a third of Greenway users reported cars driving on the Greenway.”

    I’m curious whether this might be a bit misleading. I’ve seen cars driving on the Greenway, but only Parks Department or NYPD. In other words, cars that have a right to be there (or at least, believe they do). I’ve never seen a car driving on the Greenway that appeared to be unaware that it wasn’t on a road.

    That said, fixed bollards would be a great idea. I’d rather 50 cyclists a year clip one and take a fall and scrape their knees than one get killed by a drunk driver, personally.

  • Eric

    I definitely don’t want to blame the victim here, I’ve ridden this greenway a few times at night (not that many though since I’m usually ridding on the other side of the East River) but with all the coverage I’ve read I still have no idea if the guy in the car had his headlights on or not, and even if he did we can only guess if the cyclist mistook the lights for one of the those golf carts that are always driving around the path in that area.

  • david

    The park, police and whoever dont help by always driving their carts and cars along the greenway.

  • James Goldberg

    eric,

    police say the guy in the car was driving 60 mph on the greenway.

  • I have seen taxis on the greenway usually around the circle lines terminal, both taxis and private cars at the towpound section of the greenway. The bollard problem is tough. In California last week http://www.chicoer.com/ci_7817098?source=most_emailed a bicycle advocate suffered a C spine injury and is now a quadriplegic due to a collision with a bollard on a local bikeway. His front fork broke in the collision.
    The recent proliferation of GPS guided vehicles is a issue that needs immediate action, if a driver can mistake an active train track at a RR crossing for the roadway, think about how much closer and road like the Hudson river Greenway is.
    http://tinyurl.com/2jss3j
    http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080104/NEWS02/801040377/1018/NEWS02

  • JK

    Thanks TA for this excellent report. Sadly, back in the early 1990’s, when the greenway was being planned, many of these same issues were raised. (So were concerns about the narrowness of the greenway near Chelsea Piers and the Intrepid.)The jurisdictional confusion is clearly a problem. But this is aggravated by conflicting government priorities. The EDC and Hudson River Park Trust want businesses that can generate the maximum revenue in fees for the park. This has translated into tourist destinations and activities, like Chelsea Piers and the Intrepid, and the planned banquet center at 15th street, which generate heavy car traffic across the path — especially huge flows of cars leaving special events, exactly what the drunken Cidron was doing when he killed Eric Ng. Big special events (weddings, charity parties) require large amounts of parking and produce big peak flows of traffic (which require turning bays and wide curb cuts across the path)are inherently dangerous for path users. Activities which produce a steadier flow of visitors to the waterfront are far less dangerous and intrusive.

  • Jonathan

    I remember that back in the 90s when the Greenway was still being completed, TA advocated for the bike lane to be raised above the level of the roadway, so that at crossings, the cars would have to cross it as they would a speed bump.

    Still sounds like a good idea to me. If the bump was high enough, a speeding car like Cidron’s would flip when turning. I know that’s not what’s recommended by traffic engineers, but I’d rather have the guy flip his own car than hit someone else further down the path.

  • Greeny

    Let us not forget the driver was drunk. As far as changes to the greenbelt, I think that is great. But it takes $$ to do that and we are already financially burdened. Perhaps many of the concerned, starting w/ TA, will open up their checkbook and give to a good cause.

  • James Goldberg

    The guy who owns Chelsea Piers, a good friend of President Bush’s, is a triple digit millionaire. Let him open up his own wallet and fix his own hazardous driveway.

  • ln

    Let’s remember Dr. Carl Henry Nacht in this thread. He was smashed into and killed from the side while riding with his wife up the greenway. The tow truck driver had run a red light on his turn and was speeding into the tow pound. That driver was never charged.

    This is still a dangerous section of the greenway that has never been fixed. Hopefully his ghost bike at that spot reminds all drivers to look out for us and obey the law.

  • Hilary

    There was also that plan to bury the highway altogether (Westway). In our mistrust of highways (as if the current one is substantially different) and private development as incompatible with a public waterfront, we chose an at-grade limited access “boulevard” that is the flawed compromise we see today. Unlike the Municipal Art Society and (I think) Regional Plan, who supported some version of the highway-under-the-park, I those fought it. It’s a stand I came to regret. I now know much harder it is to get a surface highway to behave when it goes through a park.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Not easy to be wrong, but it is important to recognize it when you are. Sometimes I think we would have been better with all the cars in the subway tunnels and all the trains on the surface.

  • Zorro

    #9, is this about being green and bike friendly or about politics and class envy.

  • Josh

    #13, I can see why you’d read class envy in #9’s comment, but to me the point he’s trying to make is about real estate developers with piles and piles of money shouldering the burden to make their projects workable and SAFE.

  • curmudgeon

    TA wrote:
    “The Hudson River Greenway was never designed to have high volumes of cars and trucks crossing it. Regardless of whether or not government knew this when the biking and walking path was built, it knows it now and is often guilty of aiding and abetting the increase on driving across the path. . . The Hudson River Greenway is supposed to be a safe and protected place, yet it is not.”

    At what point does human judgement and decision-making have to take over from engineering solutions? At some point engineering can no longer provide an adequate substitute for skilled cycling that knows how to handle an intersection where other traffic may be crossing. How “safe” can they make it? Can we have a facility that totally “protects” cyclists from other traffic, and is that even a desirable goal if cyclists never learn the skills necessary to interact with other kinds of traffic? These are the kinds of questions that get ignored when you get an excessive focus on facilties and engineering as the solution to all bike safety questions, and stop thinking about user behavior. It’s also what happens when organizations go down the path of seeking bike safety in segregation. Pretty soon it’s the facility that’s unsafe, not the behaviors of the people using it. Engineering only gets you so far.

    Last summer I was riding south down the greenway with a friend, when the bike signal turned red. So we stopped (it IS a red light after all). After some moments an MTA bus started making a right turn into the circle line terminal, and just as he was about to cross the path, another cyclist blew past us. Luckily for this cyclist, the bus driver was actually exercising some caution and judgement, and scanning. He slammed on the brakes, thereby preventing a crash that would have been caused ENTIRELY by cyclist error (running a red light, failing to yield the right of way). I know of a bike path upstate where a cyclist was killed when she simply breezed across an intersection without stopping or scanning for cross traffic. I enjoy using bike paths and greenways, but it’s chimerical to think they they can be totally separated from interaction with other traffic. Also, TA is overselling the safety of segregated or “special” bike facilties, telling cyclists that they are “protected” from auto traffic, rather than understanding that their are inherent limits to such ‘protection ‘ and “segregation”, and helping cyclist better understand how to use them in a way that keeps themselves safe. And in the end, its way more empowering to help cyclists develop self-protection skills (like scanning at driveways and intersections), than to continually harp on the theme that cyclists won’t be safe unless someone else (1 or 100 different government agencies) provides them with a totally protected, segrated space for themselves.

    Also, TA is flip-flopping on the bollards issue. A few years ago the government installed bollards at each crossing, the purpose of which is to slow cyclists down (so they scan for crossing traffic), and to indicate a “no-entry” point to motorists. TA told cyclists the bollards were a safety hazard (they did have some safety issues, namely “stop” signs that stuck out creating bottle necks), and I believe even sued the relevant agency(s) to have them removed. And they were removed. So now TA wants them back after the Eric Ng tragedy. Bollards are pretty much standard on bike paths where they cross roads and driveways. When you focus too much on facilities, rather than on how to have cyclists handle a basic intersection situation, you get inconsistencies like this over time.

    Our approach to bike safety in this city has become too far skewed towards hardware and facilities, with a lack of focus on “software” or behavior, thinking, judgement, etc that is also an essential part of the safety equation.

    Curmudgeon

  • Undergrounding the West Side Highway instead of making it a surface street would have given it capacity to carry more cars. The higher speed alone would have roughly doubled the capacity, even ignoring the possibility of adding extra lanes. The extra capacity would have generated more traffic, and this induced traffic would have been carried straight onto the streets of Manhattan, the bridges to Brooklyn, etc.

    There are good examples of freeways that have been demolished and replaced with surface boulevards. See http://www.preservenet.com/freeways. Unfortunately, the street replacing the West Side Highway was designed to have as many lanes as possible, without much thought about being pedestrian friendly. It has been described as “a boulevard designed by a traffic engineer.”

  • #9 has a point about chelsea pier development, it was developed with all the tax cuts etc and it was supposedly to offer a high level of public access and accommodation’s in return. Would love to find those documents, the billionaire marina portion is particular troublesome as i believe a human powered boating Baunch and storage was supposed to be provided, not just the private yachts docking area. i believe the chelsea pier bathroom was originally opened and supposed to stay open and maintained for 24 hours, last summer it was closing much earlier than previous years.
    bollards are good and bad I am hoping that technology, maybe laser lighting will offer a safer solution.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    The extra capacity would have generated more traffic, and this induced traffic would have been carried straight onto the streets of Manhattan, the bridges to Brooklyn, etc.

    Thank you, Charles. Hilary, the tunnel portion of Westway would have been an unmitigated disaster. Unmitigated by any kind of park improvements.

    The next time you’re tempted to write another comment about how Westway would have been better, can you just put that energy into thinking of ways to build political support to narrow West Street instead? It wouldn’t be impossible, just very very difficult.

  • West St. is four lanes in each direction for most of its length, and just three lanes in each direction between 14th and 24th St. It makes sense to narrow it to three lanes throughout, and to use the reclaimed space to make it more pedestrian friendly, as Angus suggests.

  • “Our approach to bike safety in this city has become too far skewed towards hardware and facilities, with a lack of focus on “software” or behavior, thinking, judgement, etc that is also an essential part of the safety equation.”

    What, the city that constantly reminds cyclists they are the lightweights out there, that they need to obey the rules and/or die? The city’s standpoint on cyclist and pedestrian safety is only slightly advanced beyond the country’s: auto traffic is a force of nature that humans must be trained to survive. Only barely have we started to make our own weather in New York.

    Here, on this particular weblog, yes you see a stance that our daily environment should be engineered to be less lethal. (Personally I would rather just exclude the cars and we wouldn’t need all that fancy engineering.) But it’s a skew in the right direction. Our mental “software” is never going to be perfect (even less so than computer software) and focusing on improving on it has gotten us just where we are today. Oops, a bug: another dead human.

    Anyway (and I haven’t seen cyclists running lights without looking myself), if the straw-man cyclist wants to play russian roulette by blindly crossing car traffic, asking him to ride more safely is a joke. You may as well focus on training people to stop pointing guns at themselves and pulling triggers.

  • curmudgeon

    That’s right Doc, the cyclist can never possibly be wrong. In fact, we should never ask cyclists to do anything on behalf of their own safety. It’s always easier to demand that the city “do something”.
    Since you want to dismiss cyclist error as a “straw man” in contributing to crashes and cyclist fatalities, here’s some data to chew on (that straw doesn’t chew too well, does it?)

    According to the NYC DOH study “Bicyclist Fatalities and Serious Injuries in New York City, 1996-2005”:

    -11 pedestrians were killed by bicyclists (p. 20);
    -Bicyclist factors were the sole contributing factors in 42% of the bicyclist fatalities; of those, disregarding traffic controls (red lights) accounted for 38%, inattention for 20%, and blowing off other traffic rules, 35% (pp. 19-20).
    -By comparison, motorist error was solely responsible in 20% of the cases, while a mix of cyclist & motorist error accounted for another 36% of the fatalities (p. 19)
    -There were 11 cyclist fatalities that did not involve a motor vehicle at all.

    Perhaps the best Federal government study of bicycle crashes concluded that cyclists were responsible for about 50% of the crashes, and motorists for about 28%. When the crash involved older it tended to be the motorist’s fault more often, suggesting a pretty clear co-relation between cyclist skill/experience and responsibility for the crash. See http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/ped_bike/univcourse/swless04.htm and
    http://www.tfhrc.gov/safety/pedbike/ctanbike/ctanbike.htm
    for a breakdown of crash types.
    A conversation about bike safety without talking about the bicyclist is only half a conversation. It’s like trying to talk about auto safety without discussing enforcement or driver’s ed. Yet many in the cycling community are reluctant to engage in this conversation, and there are all sorts of mechanisms used to prevent it from occuring, like:
    -‘cars are the real danger’
    -‘talking about cyclist errors is “blaming the victim”.’
    -An us vs. them mentality, where we bicyclists cast ourselves as more virtuous and/or victims, and “those” motorists as evildoers.
    -The belief that dangerous cycling doesn’t present a hazard to anyone else besides the cyclist (which we don’t even want to admit that, because it’s “blaming the victim”).

  • Davis

    That data is patently bogus, curmudgeon, largely because of law enforcement’s cultural bias.

    In their investigation and reports, the NYPD overly faults cyclists for crashes while car crashes are almost always just an “accident” as long as the driver wasn’t drunk.

    To the NYPD, cyclists are “at fault” until proven otherwise. I don’t put a lot of stock in this particular set of numbers.

    This is one of the things that needs to be reformed about the NYPD.

  • Jonathan

    Curmudgeon, If you want to encourage bicycling, sponsor a group ride in your community or just set the good example yourself. There is safety in numbers: the more cyclists out there, the safer it will be for everyone to ride. Demanding minimum standards of “behavior, thinking, [or] judgment,” as you seem to be doing, is a pretty discouraging way of advocating for cycling, cyclists, and their place in livable streets.

  • curmudgeon

    Davis, that’s another one of those big dodges that consistently come up in these conversations: “The data’s biased, because it came from law enforcement.” Then change the subject to someone else’s bad behavior (in this case NYPD). But whose behavior can cyclists control if not their own? Certainly not NYPD’s. (The New York study had data sources besides NYPD, btw.) So what are you saying? While you are trotting out the tired “data is biased” cliche (and I’m the first to believe that police do sloppy, biased work with bike crash reports), ask yourself this: Is it possible that cyclists are responsible for 0% of bike crashes? That doesn’t even seem statistically or logically possible. Look around you at dangerous cyclist behaviors, and ask yourself: Is it statistically possible for a city populated by cyclists who ride against traffic, run red lights, ride without lights at night, impair their senses and control over their bikes by using earphones & hand-held cells–is it possible or even likely for these common and widespread behaviors to be going on every day, and never have a bike crash rooted in cyclist error? Do your probability calculations: if all road users at a certain intersection blow off the traffic signal, sooner or later that behavior WILL lead directly to a crash. How about the 11 pedestrian deaths, or the fatalities that did not involve a motor vehicle? Those are also police bias? Let’s just say, that only 1% of bike crashes and/or fatalities could be chalked up to cyclist error, that’s still 1% of bike fatalities that could be eliminated solely by cyclists doing something different? Why is it objectionable to raise these points? Why all this resistance to the notion that cyclists actually have a lot of control over their own safety? That’s not only basic observable common sense, but it’s good news, and empowering. But maybe it’s not popular in the bike community, because it’s more satisfying to condemn someone else (drivers, NYPD, “the city”, etc, etc).

    Jonathan, the safety in numbers effect will be harder to reach in reality to the extent that cyclists behave or react in ways that tell non-cyclists or would-be cyclists that cycling is dangerous. Plus, in my own cycling I’ve had more than a few close calls with cyclists riding the wrong way, running reds, and failing to yield the right of way. Why is it so hard for the cycling community to insist that their own ranks do more on their own behalf in terms of safe cycling? Yet on these fora such a simple, straightforward suggestion seems to be outrageous. And besides, it’s not me demanding minimum standards of behavior. There is something called traffic law, which posters on these fora are always demanding that others follow.
    What I’m talking about isn’t so much a demand, as a suggestion that there are other ways, entirely under the control of cyclists, to stay safe. For example, we can lobby for the city all we want to “do something” to prevent dooring. I’m not sure what the city can do. But I know that cyclists riding at least 4ft from parked cars will drop the dooring rate to zero.
    We should be aware of the long term effects of an unbalanced focus on separate “protected” facilities. We are already “de facto” 2nd class citizens on the road, though for the most part traffic law makes us equal citizens. In the long run, a focus that cyclists’ safety can only be had through special separated facilities, combined with a resistance on cyclists’ part to acting like equal citizens on the road will wind up formalizing our 2nd class citizenship. The focus on facilties to “protect” bicyclists often come with laws that ban riding on the roads, treating cyclists like children who must be ‘protected’ rather than self-empowered adults who can take responsibility for their safety.

  • Davis

    It’s not a dodge, Curm.

    Researchers who have methodically gone through police reports have found that the NYPD’s assignment of blame in ped and bike crashes with cars is highly biased.

    I think Right of Way did a good study a while back.

  • curmudgeon

    Whether there’s police bias in the data or not (and it’s not news to me; of course they are biased), it doesn’t really change what I’m saying, which is that we’ve almost totally lost focus on what cyclists can do to keep themselves safe, and that cyclist behavior is responsible for a certain amount of crashes (even the Right of Way report acknowledges this, although its sources and motivations are hardly more neutral or objective than police reports). The police reports aren’t so biased that they don’t assign responsibility to motorist error for at least some bike fatalities. So why should it be so controversial to say that at least SOME bike crashes are caused by the cyclists themselves, and we need to look at that as one way to reduce bike fatalities. When I cited the New York City study (which itself was a key ingredient in NYC winning a Bicycle Friendly Community Award from the League of American Bicyclists), I knew that someone would play the “police reports are biased, so we shouldn’t talk about cyclist behavior” card. That’s how predictable the local bike safety discussion has become. You want to improve bike safety? It does no good for the cycling community to censor itself when it comes to the cyclist part of the equation; we are doing ourselves a dis-service here by focussing on only part of the picture, whether you use Right of Way’s statistics, or the City’s as to what that picture looks like is really beside the point.

    BTW, on my ride home this evening up the greenway 0/3 cyclists I encountered were using lights. They were literally invisible. I expect an announcement from any day now demanding that the city do something.

  • Hilary

    “The next time you’re tempted to write another comment about how Westway would have been better, can you just put that energy into thinking of ways to build political support to narrow West Street instead?”

    Angus, Are you suggesting I haven’t worked hard to build political support for taming the West Side Highway?? Tell me you’re sick of hearing about it, but not that I’m not in the trenches.

    Charles, There were several iterations of the buried highway and the best would have carried less traffic and at slower speeds than what we have now on the surface. The best reason for opposing Westway was the cost.
    Your link for the site showing examples of freeways successfully turned into boulevards didn’t work for me, but the cases I know of were elevated highways, which almost always are worse than their surface counterparts.

  • Davis

    Curm,

    I guess I just don’t see the problems you’re seeing.

    All of the bike commuters I know are highly focused on what they can do to keep themselves safe and sound on the streets of NYC. Of all the various modes in NYC, I find cyclists to be the most alert and sensitive to traffic law and road safety, by far.

    And I can’t find the part of this conversation where anyone said that cyclists never cause crashes.

    The Right of Way analysis of police crash reports is solid. I find that Komanoff, if anything, tends towards being too conservative in his analysis. He accounts for his own bias. The cops, not so much. For example, it has probably never occurred to most cops that it is biased to describe a car crash as an “accident.”

  • curmudgeon

    Dav, the key phrase here is all the bike commuters you know. Sure, all the bike commuters I know are pretty cautious too. But what about all those cyclists you don’t know but are still easily observable. It’s OK, take a deep breath, and say it “cyclists can own their own safety” or “some crashes are caused by cyclist error”. What’s so hard about that? Really–you’ve never seen a cyclist riding the against traffic, riding on the sidewalk, riding invisibly at night, running red lights? I see it all the time, by a wide range of cyclists, and all are situations which dramatically increase one’s chances of being in a crash. Any time I’m in a mid-town bike lane, I can count on seeing at least one (and I’m surprised when it’s just one) cyclist riding counterflow. I’m also pretty tuned into traffic behavior of all users–peds, cyclists, & motorists. I’m pretty cautious myself. And that’s exactly my point–all the bike commuters you know stay safe because they exercise some self-restraint and prudence, which doesn’t require asking the city to do anything! But I’ve seen a lot of situations where cyclists put themselves in danger. If you’re paying attention as you say you are, I don’t see how you could fail to see this stuff on a daily basis. It was one of the first things I noticed about cyclists when I moved here.
    I already told one anecdote I witnessed this year about a cyclist who nearly got himself killed blowing a red on the greenway, but was saved by an alert driver (and I’ve seen that more than once too). Here’s another: this summer, on Riverside Drive, I’m headed north, the light about 1/2 block ahead of me has just turned green. Southbound traffic is approaching the intersection, when a cyclist comes into the intersection through the red, and from a street in which he had been travelling against traffic (so he probably couldn’t even see a red signal–why would a signal face against the direction of one way traffic?). It’s a long shot, as he’s got to cross 4 lanes of traffic. By pure luck of timing he avoids being road kill by a second or 2 (but rudely takes the right of way from someone else–way to be a great ambassador for cycling). But for a second, I thought I was going to witness a major bike crash for the first time. Two years earlier, at one intersection south of this one, I was crossing Riverside with the green when a southbound cyclist blows through the red; thing is, a bus is stopped at the intersection, so this boob can’t see around it to detect traffic in the intersection. You’d think this calls for some caution, but no. Only by accelerating do I prevent this guy from piling right into my tandem (on which my daughter is riding with me). Wrong way cycling is sufficiently prevalent that I’ve taken to scanning against the direction of traffic, not because of motorists, but to prevent a collision with another cyclist. The question, Dav, is why should I have to protect myself from other cyclists when I have a green light? Why is a cyclist endangering himself or somene else (in the latter case, myself and my daughter) to be so casually dismissed and ignored by those who demand that the city do more to make cycling safer?

    When I cited data about cyclist error accounting for crashes, instead of acknowledging that there’s some possible reality there, you just dismissed it as “police bias”, which is a way of avoiding a discussion of how cyclists (and not just the government) can contribute to bike safety. So I had to push that point to the absurd extreme.

    Oh, and Dav, that’s Curmudgeon, not Curm, to you!

  • Davis

    Of course there are crashes caused by cyclist error. Is anyone questioning that?

    For the most part, I don’t view wrong-way-cycling as imprudence on the part of the cyclist. I view it as a failure of urban design. There is clearly a huge demand for two-way bike travel on NYC’s auto-oriented one-way streets. There is plenty of space on most of those streets to meet that demand. Until the demand is met, I fully expect to see cyclists coming at me in the wrong direction pretty frequently.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Angus, Are you suggesting I haven’t worked hard to build political support for taming the West Side Highway?? Tell me you’re sick of hearing about it, but not that I’m not in the trenches.

    I know that you work hard on a number of issues, but I wasn’t aware of anything that was specifically aimed at West Street (i.e. the non-parkway portion of 9A). I apologize for my ignorance. But I’m still sick of hearing about it. The main reason to have opposed Westway is that once the tunnel was dug, it would have been almost impossible to use it for anything other than cars. Certainly not parkland.

    Curmudgeon, this afternoon I saw a cyclist riding the wrong way on a wide two-lane one-way street known for speeding – with his dog running next to him on a leash. Boneheaded, reckless and inconsiderate don’t begin to describe it.

    I’m with you – as long as you aren’t suggesting that cyclists have any obligation to “police our own” that goes beyond what motorists have. Sure, I’ll confront cyclists going the wrong way or riding on the sidewalk … after I see motorists getting out of their cars to scold people who fail to yield to pedestrians, or parking advocates using their vehicles to push illegally parked ones off the sidewalk.

    I don’t cycle very much at this point, but to the extent that I am a cyclist or a cycling advocate, I accept no responsibility for the actions of other cyclists. People will be assholes, and the point is not that cyclists can cause no damage, just that the most inconsiderate and suicidal boob on a bike trying as hard as he or she can cause a heck of a lot less damage than the most considerate, careful motorist can cause by accident.

  • Jonathan

    I’m with Angus here.

    To the extent that I am a cyclist or a cycling advocate, I accept no responsibility for the actions of other cyclists.

    Curmudgeon, I perceive a giant flaw in your reasoning:

    Wrong way cycling is sufficiently prevalent that I’ve taken to scanning against the direction of traffic, not because of motorists, but to prevent a collision with another cyclist. The question, Dav, is why should I have to protect myself from other cyclists when I have a green light?

    The answer, as you already know, and as anyone who has ever read the NY State driver’s manual (or any other state’s driver’s manual, I imagine) knows, is that the definition of green light is this:

    STEADY GREEN: Go, but yield the right-of-way to other traffic at the intersection as required by law

    A green light is not a free pass to continue blithely in your direction of travel. Complaining about the bad road habits of others, whether motorcars, bicycles, pedicabs, or horse-drawn carriages, is a red herring because the ultimate responsibility for your safety is on you. I’ve looked all over the TA bike-advocacy pages and I don’t see any mention that says it’s OK to drink heavily and then get on a bike, or to ride at night against traffic without lights, or even to ride without a helmet. I agree with you that people do these all things (sometimes all at once), but being a safe and responsible cyclist like yourself means being aware and looking out for those behaviors.

    As a motorist, I know the destructive power of my motorcar and as a defensive driver I am careful not to put others at risk. Your call for greater recognition of “cyclist error” as a cause of accidents doesn’t take into account that the motorist is driving a much more dangerous vehicle.

    True story: many years ago on a snowy afternoon I was riding along a two-way street and planned to make a left turn across traffic in the middle of the block. I was in the center lane and although there was no oncoming traffic, I didn’t see the truck that was trying to pass me on my left. As I kept moving left, he kept moving left and eventually crashed into a parked car on the other side of the street. It was a snowy day, as I said. The enraged driver then chased after me into a doctor’s office, while I called 9-1-1.

    Get this: a couple weeks later a lady from his insurance company calls up asking for the details of my homeowner’s policy so I could help pay for this accident. I hung up on her.

    I will gladly take responsibility for the whole accident; if I hadn’t been there, the truck wouldn’t have executed that particular crash. But the truck driver is responsible for his own vehicle, and on a snowy day a prudent motorist might not have tried to pass me. If I had been driving I wouldn’t have tried it.

    The moral of my story, Curmudgeon, is that the motorist can’t blame cyclists for causing crashes because that’s what defensive driving is all about; assuming that cyclists are going to make a sudden left turn, or that kids are going to pop out from in between parked cars, or that a dog will run into your parking place as you’re backing up.

    Take care of yourself and your daughter and ride in a manner that makes you feel safe, but please don’t try to blame your sense of insecurity on people who are just trying to get around the city without a wheeled steel exoskeleton.

  • Curmudgeon, of course cyclists are not perfect. The reason people don’t want to have that conversation over and over is that the press (and, lest we forget, the Mayor) routinely blames the victim.

    Eric wasn’t wearing a helmet. He never did. It didn’t make any difference: he was hit head on at 60 mph and thrown 50 feet.

    I’m no statistician, but I have lived with the stories of every cyclist killed in the last 3 years. Time after time, we see preventable crashes caused by driver error, negligence, or willfully reckless behavior. I could cite examples, but the full list is available if you want it.

    When these people are horrifically killed, I don’t want to spend my time discussing what they did wrong.

  • the second link in my above comment should be to:

    http://www.ghostbikes.org/ghostbikes/New+York+City

  • Curmudgeon likes to play the iconoclast, devil’s advocate, whatever you want to call it. S/he thinks this site espouses dogma on the question of relative fault between motorists and cyclists, so s/he’s writing lengthy posts (almost as long as mine) arguing the non-controversial concept that sometimes bicyclists contribute to traffic collisions.

    In truth the discussion here is a lot less dogmatic than Curmudgeon may think. I and other cyclists will candidly discuss here at appropriate times the importance of bicyclists riding with the flow, in the roadway as opposed to sidewalks, and in a manner that does not endanger or tend to startle pedestrians. Those kinds of bicycling do a disservice to all bicyclists (and is unfair to others).

    The question is, whether a post intended to raise awareness regarding known dangers on the West Side Bicycle path is the appropriate place for “cur” to make the point that sometimes bicyclists contribute to traffic collisions. Most commenters on this thread say “no.”

    As for the point of bias by police in taking crash reports involving bicycles, the Right of Way study mentioned in comment #25 is the seminal work. I highly recommend everyone read it. (It is free online, but there is no direct link; click “right of Way” in the “Advocacy Section of the S’blog right sidebar; click “research” on the left sidebar of the right of Way page; then click on the “Killed By Automobile” to get the link to the pdf).

    Also, I believe Streetsblog has a copy of the police reports created in connection with the death of a cyclist on the 65th Street Transverse approximately 1 year ago (discussed here: http://www.streetsblog.org/2007/08/22/central-park-66th-street-transverse-is-unsafe/). That is another incident in which the police attributed factors contributing to the crash to the bicyclist. Those documents, juxtaposed with the video and other evidence subsequently gathered at the site, would give S’blog readers additional insight into bias in the gathering of evidence of crashes involving bicyclists.

  • JK

    All societies which welcome bicycling promote both a bicycle friendly physical environment and public education. Go to London, Amsterdam, Paris, Muenster, Copenhagen etc. and you will see a myriad of bike lanes, paths and traffic calming as well as laws and education for cyclists and motorists. It’s not one or the other, it’s both. One compelling aspect of cycling friendly streets is that they also validate the presence of cyclists and are symbols of government welcoming and encouraging the public to ride.

    Lastly, remember that cyclists are everyone who happens to get on a bike that day. Especially in places like the Hudson Path and Central Park, cyclists are not a highly trained elite corps, just a cross-section of New Yorkers. Just like buildings and streets should be well designed, so should pathways.

  • Oh my god. So, um, anyway. From a public health standpoint, it doesn’t matter if cyclists are the worst straw-people on earth. What matters to me as a pedestrian is that their effective and non-polluting form of transportation has killed 11 pedestrians over 9 years while automobiles kill over 100 every year. (A difference of almost two orders of magnitude!) We can try to do something about the cyclist menace, or we can concentrate on autos and potentially save a hundred times as many people.

    Whatever the vehicle, rethinking the landscape it moves through is absolutely the right way for to improve safety. It’s not that I don’t believe in personal responsibility–I am a fiend for personal responsibility–but if you’re after results instead of a rush of self-righteousness, telling people to stop biking/driving badly is a joke. People are constantly barraged with cheerful safety messages; “drive carefully” has become the suburban equivalent of “goodbye.” And here we are, still suffering several traffic deaths a week in NYC because someone failed to be perfect for a nanosecond. Screaming louder is not going to help.

    I do my level best not to be killed by cars. But it isn’t unreasonable, lazy, or abnegating responsibility for me to expect the city that builds and maintains our streets to always strive to make them less lethal.

  • curmudgeon

    Do the families of the people killed by cyclists think that careless or dangerous cycling is a straw man? Were their lives less important than cyclists or peds killed by motorists? If not, then why the effort to dismiss or minimize it? Does the “effective and non-polluting” aspect of cycling excuse the deaths of these people? This a really wierd sort of moral reasoning! It sounds like a crude claim of moral superiority (not to mention, again, changing the subject: “yeah, but THEY killed more than 100–look over their, nothing to see here.”)
    Saying that cars are heavier or more lethal kind of misses my point here–and it’s another one of those predictable things people say when the topic of cyclist behavior gets broached.

    & Jonathan–if I was insecure, I sure as heck wouldn’t be a cyclist. The name calling seems to be another distraction from the topic, eh? And thanks for the driver’s manual quote. At an intersection with a traffic light, who normally has the right of way, traffic with green, or traffic with the red (assuming none is an emergency vehicle or pedestrian)? According to your reasoning, the signals don’t seem to mean anything at all!

  • The permanent injured peds and cyclist have been over looked in all these stats.
    There is no tracking of the permanency and severity of the injuries. The stats are all about the 22 bicyclist and 100 dead peds a year. There is much more to it,
    There needs to be follow up on the peds injured and how it affected their lives. The ped or bicyclist may be paralyzed and on a vent and they are not even counted. Many of those injured people have to fight to get medical care, and may be denied care due to the unins/underinsured drivers.
    the only time you hear about a permanent injured ped are if they are at least fortunate enough to have been hit by someone that has assets and insurance, if they won a settlement, there are many more out there that are lucky to get their medical covered, loss of livelihood is a real possibility. The vicarious liability law has been removed by the feds, and i believe being appealed.
    I wonder how the doctor who was severely injured in a hit and run by a bus while bicycling to work made out?
    The police treated him like he was some illegal immigrant delivery guy since he was on a bike. i believe he was a prominent kidney specialists, i wonder if was able to return to his life or how he is doing today.
    There is a new NY state law implemented in 2007 that says the police can note if the traffic violation resulted in serious injury or death, need to research and see if the nypd has made use of that feature.

  • “Were their lives less important than cyclists or peds killed by motorists?”

    Not less important individually, but vastly less numerous. If you’re unable to reason quantitatively then we have nothing to talk about.

  • Jonathan

    Curmudgeon, right of way is an abstract concept used to determine who goes first into an intersection. At a green light, you must yield to other traffic if it’s already in the intersection.

    In addition, pedestrians are only allowed to cross at crosswalks, and emergency vehicles must exercise due regard; neither have “right of way” over traffic with a green light.

    I suggest you take a defensive driving course before complaining so vociferously about other people’s road habits.

  • Will

    Curmudgeon,

    Your statement that “TA is flip-flopping on the bollards issue” is inaccurate. In 2003, Transportation Alternatives filed a lawsuit against the State DOT to remove the stop signs, not bollards, from the middle of the Hudson River Greenway path. As explained on the T.A. website:

    “The Trust’s stop signs were a well intended but misguided attempt to reduce conflict between cyclists and motorists turning across the greenway. But the signs, which were positioned at head height, contradicted green traffic signals, caused crashes, blocked sight lines, were easily moved and confused both greenway users and motorists. The signs violated the requirements of the State Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices because they conflicted with traffic lights located at the same intersections, were placed in the center of the path and were not permanently mounted.”

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Labor Day Bonus Pic: Hudson River Greenway Bollard at Work

|
Via Gothamist — check out this bollard on the Hudson River Greenway at work. One of the strange and dangerous things about the greenway is that car traffic crosses the car-free path at several points. Twice in 2006, motorists killed people using the greenway. On December 1, 2006, cyclist Eric Ng was run down by […]

January 3rd: The Wrongdoer is Brought to Justice

|
"The wrongdoer is brought to justice because his act has disturbed and gravely endangered the community as a whole, and not because damage has been done to individuals who are entitled to reparation. It is the body politic itself that stands in need of being repaired, and it is the general public order that has […]

Greenway Killer is Sentenced 3½ to 10½ Years

|
Portraits of cyclists killed on the streets of New York, Eric Ng, Keith Powell, Andre Anderson, and Carl Nacht by artist Christopher Cardinale. Yesterday was the sentencing for Eugenio Cidron, the driver who killed bicyclist Eric Ng on the Hudson River Greenway thirteen months ago and pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in November. Leaving the […]

Bus Driver Seriously Injures Cyclist on Hudson River Greenway

|
A bus driver seriously injured a cyclist on the Hudson River Greenway in Hell’s Kitchen this morning. The crash occurred at 40th Street at approximately 9:42 a.m., according to FDNY. A man was transported to Bellevue Hospital in serious condition, a Fire Department spokesperson said. Hilda Cohen tweeted the above photo of a stopped NY Waterway […]

NYPD Tow Pound is Still a Major Source of Greenway Danger

|
As Transportation Alternatives recently noted in an essay for Streetsblog, more than a year after the death of Eric Ng, the alphabet soup of government agencies responsible for the Hudson River Greenway, have done almost nothing to fix glaring safety  problems along New York City’s most important bike route. Photographer and bike commuter Lars Klove […]