Post Reader to Cuozzo: Why Not Acknowledge That Streets Are Getting Safer?

Streetsblog contributor Charles Komanoff wrote this letter to New York Post columnist Steve Cuozzo yesterday morning. At the time we posted it, he had yet to receive a reply.

Hi Steve —

I wrote you two years ago, contrasting your column in the Post disparaging the Grand Street bike lane, with my son’s and my positive experience riding the lane to a movie theater in the East Village. You wrote back, sticking to your guns but with regard for my point of view. I appreciated the exchange.

Photo: BicyclesOnly/Flickr
Are motorists becoming more observant of cyclists on NYC streets? Photo of 78th Street: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/bicyclesonly/3660270270/##BicyclesOnly/Flickr##

Now, two years on, “it’s deja vu all over again!” You’re still railing against City DOT’s street redesigns intended to make walking and bike-riding easier and safer; and I’m still biking to the same theater with my kid, this time with my younger son, age 12.

I want to tell you that our ride yesterday from Tribeca to East Houston Street and back was even better than the ride I described two years ago.

First, the Grand Street bike lane was more passable than on the 2008 ride. Yes, we had to maneuver around a couple of double-parked cars and a few pedestrians pushing carts and stuff, but fewer than before.

Second, we now had the Chrystie Street bike lane to take us from Grand to Houston, and the Forsyth Street lane to cruise back down. Having separated bike lanes for long stretches of the rides made a huge difference.

Best, though, was the way drivers related to me and my 12-year-old. Each time we had to swing around a stopped car, drivers gave us the space we needed. As I indicated in my 2008 letter, I don’t necessarily need a wide berth from cars to feel safe on two wheels, but my son does.

Steve, I think there’s a change going on in drivers’ attitudes toward people they share the streets with. I began seeing it a decade or so ago, in terms of less frequent “aggressive turning” into pedestrians crossing with the right of way — a perception that is mirrored in the notable drop in pedestrian fatalities citywide.

Now I’m seeing it in regard to bike riders, too. I suspect the sheer presence of more cyclists — our numbers are up almost 60 percent from just 2007 to 2009 — is leading drivers to be more observant. The fact that it’s now NYC policy to encourage cycling may also be filtering down to the level of individual behavior, as well.

Here’s where you come in, Steve. How about trying to see our streets from another point of view — the walker’s and/or cyclist’s, not just the driver’s? Some published words of accommodation from you could contribute to reduced conflict, less road danger, and enlargement of the sphere in which we New Yorkers get along with each other.

We’ve got bikes of all different types and sizes at my house, and I’d be happy to set you up with one for a Sunday ride sometime.

The movie is on me.

Best,

Charles

PS: Yesterday’s movie was “127 Hours,” the riveting story of a hiker who had to go to extreme lengths to extricate himself from a Utah slot canyon. My kids and I have hiked other slots not far from there — a feat I can manage thanks to the physical and mental benefits of cycling here every day.

  • eLK

    Like

  • Peter Engel

    Good Luck, Charlie. Like Peyser, he’s paid to maintain an outrageous viewpoint.

  • Larry Littlefield

    How about challenging members of the City Council to ride to work next May?

    Start with Christine Quinn. Anyone with her responsibilities clearly merits a closet to keep work clothes at the office. And the West Village isn’t exactly a long ride from City Hall.

  • MRN

    This is so true – I noticed this in Seattle as well; I could bike safely around cars as they seemed programmed to be aware of my presence throughout the city; if I biked across the lake in suburban Bellevue, the vehicles there I thought did not acknowledge my presence and I felt way less safe. Glad to hear the change is happening in NYC too – although I wonder if it’s as pronounced in the boroughs!

  • I’ve noticed calming on many streets that have attracted a sufficient volume of cyclists, especially if there is a line of people too long to “pass” and cut off for a right turn — the standard antisocial driving maneuver. Suddenly, it’s a question of running over your friends and neighbors.

  • Most naysayers are completely unaccountable. The nice thing about the press is that if they say something stupid in an editorial, it can be brought up 5 years later, assuming they’re still employed. Everyone else? They can be 100% wrong and there’s no way to rub it in their faces, never mind making them pay for delays

  • Nice letter and I agree with Charles that I have noticed a significant change in car traveler attitudes over the last couple of years. The last time I was doored (luckily I was going slowly and wasn’t hurt) the person was so upset and apologetic over having hit my bike that I had to calm her down and reassure her that I wasn’t hurt.

  • Doug

    @Nathan: I call that the “New York right”.

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