Grand Street Cycle Track: The Hysteria Continues

grand_street.jpgDon’t be fooled: No one on a bike was quoted for this story.

Step aside Steve Cuozzo, the team at Fox 5 (yeah, them again) has scapegoated the Grand Street bike lane in even more outlandish fashion. This "report" manages to blame the brand new cycle track for traffic congestion, slumping dumpling sales, and a disabled man getting hit by a car. We kid you not. Needless to say, the distortions go above and beyond the usual windshield perspective quotes.

"By putting in a bike lane protected by a row of parked cars, the city has essentially turned Grand Street into a single lane," correspondent Ti-Hua Chang tells us, neglecting to mention that Grand Street already had a bike lane and a single moving lane before the parking protection went into effect (in fact, drivers have more space in the new design to make right turns). The difference now is that double-parking actually has consequences for other drivers instead of cyclists, but you don’t see any motorist-on-motorist recriminations here. Also unmentioned in this traffic blame-fest: free East River bridges and the low, low price of on-street parking.

What we get instead is a parting shot from Sean Sweeney — the man who fought tooth and nail against the Prince Street bike lane — invoking the specter of people burning to death as a result of this safety improvement. Good thing Fox 5 put him on camera.

  • Paul

    Well, now you can ride your bike to get dumplings and not have to look for parking. Who the hell drives a car to get dumplings anyway? Man, the brains on these people.

  • This video is nuts, how can that guy NOT cross the street?

    Traffic is no worse on Grand Street, and cycling is now a thousand times safer on it.

  • Yeah bike lanes across NYC are responsible for the downturn in the economy. Right. This is truly as bonkers as it gets.

  • J

    Clearly slower traffic makes it harder to cross the street. Typical reactionary journalism. Hopefully New Yorkers are bored with news stories screaming about every tiny change that happens in the city.

  • Jason A

    On the same day it’s reported that the besieged MTA is looking to shut down a few subway lines, our media sees fit to dump on our City’s efforts to offer safe, alternative means of getting around town…

    Priorities!

  • Timmy

    You’re over reacting guys. It’s bad but at least they actually spoke to Transportation Alt. Remember this is Fox. BTW, the Soho Alliance (Sweeney) fought hard to get a fully protected bike lane as part of the Houston St. construction. They don’t generally object to bike lanes. DOT rejected the idea because they wanted more lanes of traffic along Houston.

  • Doug Irvine

    Now THAT’S a bike lane! How about building the next one in the 50’s connecting the 59th street bridge to the west side bikeway.

    Give Queens and LI cyclists safe passage to midtown and beyond.

  • Abe

    This is completely insane. The protected bike lane is the best thing to happen to NYC cycling since the RNC convention. Other than riding Grand Street every day, how can we show the DOT that there is more support for protected lanes then for cars? Do we even need to make our voice heard or is the DOT pretty set on keeping these lanes?

  • Just keep riding in the Grand Street Bike lane, and get the DOT to install pylons to protect the Bleeker street bike lane from UPS and DHL assholes between Lafayette and the Bowery.

  • Not just Lafayette and the Bowery – the Bleecker bike lane needs protection its whole length.

  • mark davis

    They show the disabled man J-walking. maybe he should use he crosswalk. It’s safer.

  • Jaywalker

    That report was incredulous!

    All I see here on Grand Street is an actual bike lane that’s usable for once!

  • Streetsman

    Sean Sweeney’s idiotic alarmist nonsense is laughable – he would have you think that bike lanes’ green paint blinds seniors so they walk in to traffic, causes cancer, and is more visible from space making Soho vulnerable to nuclear missile attacks. Back here on planet earth, Grand Street is no narrower for moving vehicles than virtually every side street it intersects.

    That said, I still have to agree that Houston Street seems like a better option for a protected bike lane. DOT should have put a two-way cycle track on Houston where there’s more capacity. Prince and Bleecker are lousy alternatives. Bleecker terminates at Bowery, which is a pain in the butt, and every side street in Soho off of Prince has cobblestones, so if you don’t feel like bouncing around on them, you are trapped. I wish they would rethink this.

  • Thanks, Timmy @ #6, for correctly clarifying the position of the SoHo
    Alliance regarding the Prince/Houston bike lane imbroglio. The link
    that the blogger, Ben Fried, supplied clearly shows that I and the
    SoHo Alliance wanted a first-class Houston Street bike lane – along
    with T.A. and Time’s Up. Shame on Mr. Fried for using the same yellow
    journalism he accuses the reporter of.

    Of course, SoHo Alliance opposed a Prince Street bike lane. Why settle
    for crumbs when further efforts could have gotten what we wanted?
    SoHo helped defeat Moses’ Lower Manhattan Expressway through constant
    agitation. In comparison, getting a Houston Street bike lane is a
    cake walk.

    We have also been promoting a real, workable cross-Manhattan bike
    lane, one extending from the W’burg Bridge, across Delancey and
    extending over to Broome to Sixth Avenue. Broome Street is what we
    suggested as a second option to DOT over Houston, but this reasonable
    suggestion was rejected.

    The fact is that EVERYONE near Grand Street in Little Italy, Chinatown
    and SoHo is complaining to us about this, even cyclists. Everyone.

    The fact is that within one week at least two fire trucks – two – were
    delayed navigating the narrow corner-turn, despite the snarky doubting
    of Mr. Fried. If this delay should ever tragically result in a death,
    who here who thinks that this bike lane is a brilliant idea would
    attend the funeral? Would Mr. Fried?

    It is not only the well-respected veteran journalist, Ti-Hua Chang,
    who reported on the failure of this experiment. Just out today: http://thevillager.com/villager_290/thenewgrand.html

    NYC needs bike lanes. But this one is simply not the right one in the
    right place.

  • I wonder if e-mailing them helps. I told them they don’t need to support bike lanes but they do need to do fair stories about them and that I can’t support a channel that constantly lobbies against my interest. My thought? They’ll ignore it.

  • Barnard

    Mr. Sweeney,

    I was wondering if you could tell us a little about the current membership of the SoHo Alliance. The organization has a vaunted history, defeating Robert Moses and all (thanks for that), and I looked at every page on your website and can’t find any information about you, your staff, board, members, nothing. Just curious about you all.

    In regards to whether or not cyclists like the Grand Street cycle-track, I’ve been polling people, and so far everyone I’ve talked to (12-15) love it.

    I agree with you that Houston Street should have a cycle-track too. Every street should have one! They’re amazing!

  • Why settle for compromise when you can have nothing?

  • Sweeney,

    Everyone? Not so. If Everyone was complaining about it the lane wouldn’t be there, and as has been pointed out before, there were few objections to the plan when it was proposed by FD, NYPD, etc.

    Don’t use words like everyone, since I live nearby this lane and support it, I don’t appreciate that statement.

  • Geck

    Let’s be honest. Bikers love the lane. Some locals don’t because THEY LOST THE ABILITY TO DOUBLE PARK! The rest is all a bunch of noise.

  • Streetsman

    Oh great, another story interviewing someone on the street who says the bike lanes will prevent emergency vehicles from getting through. Never any quote from the emergency response professionals who approved the plan.

    It seems to me that real the story from the Villager is that residents and businesses were used to illegally double-parking to load and unload vehicles as a way of life. Now that there isn’t room to do that, they are complaining:

    1. “On the block between Centre and Baxter Sts., a tractor-trailer from Quebec parked on the green-marked bike lane as workers from a corner store rushed up to the big rig to unload furniture. “What can I do?” the driver asked.”

    2. “The cafe owner said deliveries to his establishment are now scheduled for before 11 a.m. daily because of the street congestion, which he said is caused by the new bike lane.”

    3. “Soho residents charge that the new lane accommodating cyclists is making it difficult for them to unload their automobiles after shopping trips.”

    I charge that all of these problems can be easily solved with a few minor adjustments to driving and delivery habits: Don’t get deliveries to Soho in big rig trucks, but if you have to – park on a bigger street and walk the goods to the store with a hand truck. Have your deliveries scheduled for off-peak hours. If you must drive your car to do your shopping, do that at off-peak times too. Park your car before you unload. Use a grocery cart to get to and from the place you parked. It’s not life and death we’re talking about here. The only thing that’s life-and-death is not safely accommodating cyclists. That’s when people die. Hundreds of them each year.

    I heard Jan Gehl say in one of his recent presentations that in Copenhagen, when they first began installing protected bicycle lanes 25 years ago, it took about 90 days for people to become accustomed to the changes and for traffic patterns to settle. I don’t expect most reporters to be savvy enough to actually interview an expert on something when doing an article. But I do propose we wait a little before rushing to judgment. This thing was installed a month ago. Give it a chance.

  • Streetsman

    Man I was so irritated about that Villager article, I decided to bike home along Grand Street even though it’s out of my way. That stupid article had no traffic study, no data of any kind – just hearsay, conjecture, and lip service to Soho’s (unelected) official anti-traffic-calming spokesperson, Sean Sweeney. I decided to go out and do a quick traffic count of my own and I absolutely HAD to share the results.

    It was 6:15pm and getting to Grand Street was tough. Holland Tunnel congestion had traffic backed up all along Canal Street, 6th Ave., and West Broadway. Grand Street, on the other hand, was a smooth-riding breeze. I rode from West Broadway to Chrystie Street (13 blocks), and I counted nine moving cars. Nine! And six cyclists! In 33-degree weather. The ratio of cars to cyclists was 3 to 2.

    There were so few cars that I can remember what they were – a black Mercedes with Jersey plates, a maroon Toyota Camry, a black Honda Accord, a small blue Hyundai, another compact car, three taxicabs and a large white delivery truck. There was ample driving space and there were even parking spots in the loading zones – it was all open road. Some of the loading zones were actively being utilized, one by a blue van unloading lumber. For anyone needing to make quick drop-offs or deliveries, there was plenty of space to do so at fire hydrants, though two drivers decided to do so in the mixing zone. Let this be a message to all the residents of Grand Street: if you need to go shopping by car and unload at the curb, there’s no congestion at all at 6:30pm on a weekday!

  • Regarding the Sweeney/SoHo Alliance controversy: certainly the Alliance has done a lot of good for the community. Successfully blocking an expressway through a historic neighborhood is something we can all be eternally grateful for (sadly, the Bronx wasn’t so lucky).

    What I don’t understand is the Alliance’s current either/or mentality: either we can have a protected bike lane on Grand Street or Houston Street. Well, why can’t we have both? Why can’t we also have a pedestrianized Prince Street? European pedestrian and biking capitals like Amsterdam and Copenhagen are interlaced with a comprehensive network of protected bike lanes, not just a few here and there. I say, never oppose a measure because it doesn’t go far enough–it’s still movement in the right direction.

  • H.M.S. Pinafore

    I ride Grand Street almost every day. Last night as I rode through Chinatown, I saw some boxes from a produce stand blocking the bike lane, and two sheets of ice where shop owners had dumped water. One night last week, there was a stretch limo blocking the bike lane.

    Thanks very much, I’ll take the car lane, and ride in traffic, where I feel safer. To borrow a phrase from Critical Mass, I AM traffic.

    I’ve never felt in any danger riding on Grand St. On Houston St., many times, because of the terrible pavement and very fast traffic, but traffic on Grand St. is slow-moving.

  • I have a bunch of choice things to say about Sweeney’s distortions, but why waste my time!

    And of course he’s wrong about “everyone”. The community board and myself have received supportive letters – rare, because usually people only write to complain – some with helpful suggestions that we’ll be working to implement with DOT. Sweeney just wants it his way (despite his vote In FAVOR of the plan at the community board meeting, which surprised many of us).

  • “Well, why can’t we have both?”

    Because Grand is in their (his?) backyard, or rather driveway, and they want their protected bicycle lanes NIMBY, and hypothetical on top of that. Houston was a lost battle this time around, though I’m pleased to see the pedestrian improvements shaping up. It won’t be on the table again for a number of years, plus it is kind of far from Grand and the Manhattan bridge. By the time we are actually putting a track in the middle of Houston, the Grand Street lane will be so heavily, safely, and productively used by bicycles that no one could hope to return it to automotive dysfunction.

  • Poor Ian D. seems confused.

    He writes @24: “… despite {Sweeney’s} vote In FAVOR of the plan at the community board meeting, which surprised many of us.”

    But on July 25, on this blog regarding the CB2 vote on the Grand Street bike lane, he contradicts himself: “Community Board vote: unanimous in favor except one against … and one abstention (Mr. Sweeney).”
    http://www.streetsblog.org/2008/07/25/plan-for-grand-street-cycle-track-features-new-design-treatment/

    Odd mistake to make, isn’t it? In July, Ian says I abstained. Today, he misrepresents that I voted in favor. (For the record, I abstained.)

    However, I’ll be gracious and attribute Ian’s distortion to his confusion from being a bit jet-lagged after flying those 767 jumbo jets all around our precarious atmosphere.

  • Sweeney,

    What about your blanket statement that included me as part of your “EVERYONE” who complained about the Grand Street Bike Lane? I’d appreciate a response to that.

  • Timmy

    How about this response Liam: You claim in your post that you “live nearby this lane” yet YOUR OWN BLOG says “Got into the city late Friday Night on the bus. First thing I did was ride downtown to see the new seperated Grand Street Bike lane”. Seems like a strange statement for someone to make that he is a resident of Soho yet has to “ride downtown”.

  • Once NYC implements a Velib-style bike-sharing program, all those tourists can cycle to Little Italy rather than ride on those traffic-clogging tour buses.

  • That’s because the bus stop is UPTOWN. Thanks for investigating, now go get a job.

  • And being the gentleman that I am, let me correct myself to say that Mr. Sweeney is correct: he voted neither for nor against the Grand St. lane.

  • Barnard

    Mr. Sweeney,

    I see your back here posting comments. I’m wondering if you can return Mr. Dutton’s courtesy and tell us about the current composition of the SoHo Alliance.

    Thanks in advance,

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