Today’s Headlines

  • Next Fare Hike Could Be 4.5 Times Bigger, Thanks to MTA’s Looming Debt Bomb (Reuters)
  • Unlicensed Dump Truck Driver Killed Laurence Renard as She Crossed First Ave. (NewsPost)
  • Drunk Dump Truck Driver Hit ‘Nick’ Sundarawadu as He Refueled on Side of Road (NewsAdvance)
  • Carl Kruger Keeps Pushing to Ban Pedestrians From Using Headphones, Cell Phones (AP)
  • Zoning Change Will Invigorate Water Street Arcades With Public Seating, Pedestrian Life (Crain’s)
  • Bloomberg Draws Boos in Rockaways at Mention of New Bike Lanes (News)
  • Fragile Budgets, Cost-Cutting Prowess Kept Walder and Ward Their Jobs (News, City Room)
  • Diana Reyna-Sponsored Designers Imagine Park Capping BQE in Williamsburg (Architect’s Newspaper)
  • Cap’n Transit Explains: Change The Loading Guidelines, Get Service Cuts
  • Truckers Commandeer Bay Ridge Public Space For Private Parking (News)
  • Why Is Half of the PPW Bike Lane Still Not Plowed? (Naparstek)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Next Fare Hike Could Be 4.5 Times Bigger, Thanks to MTA’s Looming Debt Bomb”

    “Diana Reyna-Sponsored Designers Imagine Park Capping BQE in Williamsburg”

    Why are we giving pols publicity for “plans” of this source when the future has already been sold?

    As for the fare hike, think of the deep de facto fare cuts during the 1995 to 2003 period as a result of all the Metrocard free transfers and discounts. And all the taxes saved, and money spent on other things. And the pension enhancements. And the increase in revenues per unit of work for those on capital contracts.

    Looking at it now, was it worth it then? Apparently, looking at it then it was worth it. I don’t recall anyone objecting to all of those things, except perhaps for transit history buffs who saw the writing on the wall. Everybody got a piece.

  • Chris

    When the next fare hike hits you can be sure people will be whining asking why aren’t the bike lanes installed. massive fare hikes and $7 gas will definitely make the bike lanes look more attractive.

  • fdr

    You missed this from Cindy Adams in the Post:

    “AND my gratitude for wacko nutso bike commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan turning this great city into a bicycle lane. Next it’s perambulators on Fifth Avenue. This wacko nutso bike commissioner about whom nobody ever heard before comes to work on a two-wheeler. The other day, crossing side street on Park, I, as always, looked right. While I looked right, a bicyclist sideswiped me whizzing from the left.”

  • Thanks fdr, Adams’s harrowing tale really puts the dump truck death and maiming into perspective.

  • Chris

    Maybe I’m in the minority but I don’t think a city choked with car exhaust fumes, dangerous truck drivers, and excessive parking is a “great city” at all.

  • TKO

    PPW bike lane not fully plowed. Not surprised my street in Brooklyn was just plowed for the first time on Sunday! Budget cut backs and letting out of staters not pay their taxes to the city hurt us all.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Budget cut backs and letting out of staters not pay their taxes to the city hurt us all.”

    The Sanitation budget is not being cut. More of it is going to debt service and retirement. Which is what many people either wanted, went along with, or were victimized by because they weren’t paying attention, in the past.

    And out of staters who work here probably pay more in taxes here than just about anywhere. It is paid to Albany, in the state income tax.

  • Details from the Renard killing are limited, but it bears mention that the truck driver was turning left from 90th Street onto First Avenue, which up until June 7 was slated to have a parking-protected bike path with concrete pedestrian refuges along the left. there isn’t enough information at this point to say whether those traffic calming measures could have made a difference. But I certainly hope this second killing in two months is enough to rouse the members of Community Board 8 from their single-minded obsession with delivery cyclists, and start taking the safety of their community seriously.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    I actually think it might be a good sign that the NY Post morons have reverted to straight-up, 2nd grade-level name-calling. Janette Sadik-Khan is “wacko nutso?” Really? Is that the best you’ve got, Cindy Adams? You don’t even have a Norman Steisel quote?

    It is interesting to see how the NY Post is intent on hitting Janette, DOT and bikes every single day. It’s a real concerted effort, a campaign.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “It is interesting to see how the NY Post is intent on hitting Janette, DOT and bikes every single day. It’s a real concerted effort, a campaign.”

    Again, what is the Post’s IDEOLOGICAL objection to people providing their own transportation at their own expense, with virtually zero public expense, without using any of “their” gasoline and using a very small share of “their” streets while keeping themselves in shape so they won’t have to compete for “their” health care and only asking for facilities that make it harder for drivers to kill them?

    It would make more ideological sense of the Post to advocate shutting down the transit system than advocating against bike lanes.

    This is economic desperation. They need someone to keep buying their newspaper. They are trying to appeal to whoever they can, by saying whatever they have to.

  • Jasca

    With respect to the bikes: Walkers, particularly older walkers, have a real fear here, a fear that advocates should better acknowledge. Too many bicyclists ride the wrong way, whip around corners, disrespect red lights, etc. Unpredictable behavior is scary to walkers who feel vulnerable already.

    Sure, bicyclists can argue that cars are more dangerous, faster, etc. But walkers — and I speak as someone who walks everywhere in Manhattan, rides a bike in Paris, and hasn’t driven in two decades — are accustomed to cars and trucks. One rarely sees a car going the wrong way down a one-way street. Cars rarely purposely menace walkers.

    Yes, cars go through fresh red lights (and shouldn’t), but walkers expect this and know how to deal with it. It is much harder to predict the unpredictable behavior of bicyclists, who then swear, yell, etc., after they have broken the rules.

    I know the city is doing some enforcement now, and that’s good. When walkers feel comfortable that bicyclists are largely respecting well-enforced rules, they may become less fearful and more accepting — but not before.

    Bicycle advocates could show goodwill by doing a voluntary patrol in Central Park on warmer weekends to enforce red-light stopping on the drives. It is this experience — having no cars on the drives but being terrified to cross because the bikes are coming every which way and do not stop at the lights — that forms many Manhattanites’ perception of biking.

    I am no fan of cars, but I have rarely experienced the personal vitriol from drivers in the wrong that I get all the time in the summer from bikers in the wrong.

    Sure, bicyclists can argue that pedestrians don’t respect the bikes when the lights are green, etc., etc. But a vehicle, whether it’s a car or a bicycle, always must yield to a person and be the more forgiving party when it comes to violations. Manhattan should not be a speedway for bikes where errant pedestrians should be punished by fear, any more than it should be for cars.

  • rlb

    “Cars rarely purposely menace walkers.”

    Crossing with the light when cars are turning is a game of chicken almost every time. The car (or driver if you prefer) knows it’s wrong, but is hoping the pedestrian caves. It is a great menace.

  • Steve Vaccaro

    Concerning the recent killings on the Upper East Side, please see the following post from the Transportation Alternatives East Side Volunteer Committee discussion group, and for those who live or work on the Upper East Side, please consider attending out next Committee meeting, Tuesday 2/1 at 6:30:

    =====================================================================

    Folks,

    For those of you who have not heard, a young woman named Laurence
    Renard was killed yesterday near the intersection of First Avenue and
    90th Street, when a garbage truck struck her. According to one press
    report, the impact was so great that it literally “severed her body.”
    The driver of the truck had a suspended license and was arrested,
    although the charges are not known. While every death is a loss, it
    seems from the media reports the death of Ms. Renard, 35-year-old
    fashion professional, was particularly tragic:

    http://www.dnainfo.com/20110124/upper-east-side/35yearold-woman-kille
    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/manhattan/truck_kills_woman_on_sid

    Ms. Renard is the second pedestrian killed on the Upper East Side in
    as many months. On December 7, 21-year-old Jason King was killed on
    Madison Avenue near 81st Street by a dumpster delivery truck that
    backed up through a crosswalk King was using, and dragged him for 30
    feet. The driver and his employer received a few summonses for
    equipment and other technical violations. No summons was issued for
    the act of backing up through a crosswalk and killing a King:

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2010/12/09/assembly-member-kellner-calls-o

    Given these events, I am deeply disturbed by the events of the
    Community Board 8 meeting I attended last week. Elected officials,
    Commanding Officer Whelan of the 19th Precinct, and a number of
    community board members all spoke pointedly about the “menace” of
    delivery cyclists who use electric bicyclists, and the tremendous
    police resources devoted to summonsing them. Inspector Whelan even
    told a joke about the lawlessness of cyclists, suggesting that there
    may be only one cyclist in all of the Upper East Side who follows
    traffic rules. These people–to whom we entrust our safety and who
    should be leading the fight for safe streets– seemingly are blind to
    the real danger. I hope to be surprised, but I fully expect the Ms.
    Renard death to be shrugged off by these leaders as a fluke
    attributable to a “bad apple” driver.

    In fact, Ms. Renard was killed right near the spot where DoT had
    slated installed of a protected bike path, along with concrete
    pedestrian refuges and other traffic calming measures. Those measures
    would have been in place today and might have saved her life, but for
    the fact that DoT cut the First Avenue bike path short due to the
    vague, unarticulated concerns of Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith about
    the DoT traffic-calming program. You can read what is known about
    Goldsmith’s role in killing the project that could have saved Renard,
    here:

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2010/08/13/memo-to-goldsmith-to-balance-ny

    Our leaders in city government are failing us. It’s up to us.

    We’re the ones who have fought tirelessly for traffic calming along
    the entire stretch of First and Second Avenues. We’ve got to keep
    fighting. We’re the ones who have helped draft the East Side Action
    plan for street safety, to be launched this Thursday. We’ve got to
    make that Plan a reality. We’re the ones who have been trying to make
    our leaders acknowledge the simple fact that motor vehicles are the
    single greatest cause of preventable death in our city and ruin the
    quality of our life in so many other ways. We’ve got to make them
    see.

    Please come to the East Side Committee Meeting this Tuesday (6:30
    p.m., Vanderbilt YMCA on 47th bet. 2nd/3rd) to get involved in
    Transportation Alternative’s “Vision Zero” initiative to end traffic
    deaths, and the many other projects our East Side committee will be
    working on to reclaim our streets from cars and trucks.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Hey Jasca, I hear what you are saying.

    But the testosterone-fueled biker outlaws are not the ones riding in the bike lanes. They’ve been there forever, so that is not who the backlash is against.

  • Russian President Yeltsin talks about recumbent http://youtu.be/FwJ3acaQjDE

  • J:Lai

    I think a very large increase in fares might be the only viable solution to the MTA financial problems.
    It doesn’t seem likely that significant additional revenue will be forthcoming from the city or state, and that leaves a deficit to keep up with necessary maintenance and upgrades on the existing system (never mind expansion projects!)
    Currently, for about $1200/year you can get around NYC 24/7 without a car. Considering that car insurance alone will cost more than that, I don’t think the MTA would lose too many riders if fares go up 40-50% across the board. Maybe a lot of friends, but it doesn’t seem to have many anyway.
    Of course, LIRR and MetroNorth should have similar fare increases.

    This would create a hardship for the low income “working poor”. Their welfare, as far as transportation, would become a problem for the City/State to deal with – possibly issue “train stamps”, or subsidized metrocards with income tests.

  • Richard Contreras, who last February killed a scooter deliveryman in Long Island City while drunk and then left the scene, has pled guilty to vehicular manslaughter and will be sentenced to 3 1/3 to ten years.

  • Doug

    Fighting cars turning into your crosswalk is old hat. You’ve been doing it your whole life, and, frankly, it’s a well-established game. However, having to learn new rules regarding bikes is not fun, even if the stakes are much lower. Advocates: you’re not speaking the same language as everyone else.

  • rlb

    Merely pointing out the fallacy of a ludicrous statement with a common example

  • When “everyone else” strategically cycles only in Paris to avoid the draft for their newly proposed New York cyclist red-light patrol of Central Park, what can you do but curtly point out the faults?

    I don’t speak the language of angry caricatures of nonexistent social groups; I have as much use for it as I do for the uncomfortable bicycles ridden by the racing cyclists who so dreadfully upset some people (for decades, now). But if “everyone else” would ask themselves exactly why they feel more comfortable riding a bicycle in Paris than New York, they would at least have a glimmer of understanding to factor into their next unwanted internet lecture to all New York cyclists.

  • Joe R.

    “Bicycle advocates could show goodwill by doing a voluntary patrol in Central Park on warmer weekends to enforce red-light stopping on the drives. It is this experience — having no cars on the drives but being terrified to cross because the bikes are coming every which way and do not stop at the lights — that forms many Manhattanites’ perception of biking.”

    I really hope you’re kidding. The lights are only needed for motor traffic. They should be turned off during the times when cars aren’t allowed in the park. Pedestrians can cross in the same time-honored way they have for generations-namely look for cross traffic, and cross if it’s clear. For their part, if a cyclist comes up on a pedestrian crossing, give them a wide berth. Both groups can get along just fine as they do in most other places if they don’t act like a__holes

  • I don’t think having cyclists volunteer to counsel their fellow cyclists to yield to pedestrians on the Central Park Loop is a crazy idea. I’ve done it, gone out on the Loop and handed out TA’s “Biking Rules” booklet to people racing in the park and asked them to yield to pedestrians.

    As a parent who lives near Central Park and uses it frequently with my kids, I’m not happy with getting yelled at to get out of the way by cyclists when I’m crossing the Loop in a crosswalk with a green signal. This has happened to about ten times, including a number of times when we were crossing walking our bikes. You can bet that I counsel these cyclists when they do this to me and my family.

    It is only a minority of the cyclists on the Loop who behave like this, but in my opinion they are as much a problem as the subset of delivery cyclists in terms of creating actual danger and undermining cyclist’s credibility at community board meetings and other fora.

    I and other members of TA’s East Side Volunteer Committee have also done a number of “messaging rides” on various bike paths in Manhattan with signs on our bikes asking cyclists to brake for pedestrians. Here is a picture:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/61729844@N00/5064843922/in/set-72157625001092671/

    It’s not the exclusive focus of our work, but it’s an important part. There are many cyclists who feel as we do, that the cycling community should step up and curb the excesses of the minority among us whose everyday riding habits make enemies out of pedestrians.

  • Steven F

    Central Park – 1966:
    Mayor John Linsey closes the drives on weekends and Tuesday nights so he can ride his bike in the park in peace.

    Late summer 1966 – if you build (open) it, they will come. And the volume of cyclists, skateboards, joggers, walkers, baby strollers, dog walkers and what-not was incredible, and largely uncontrollable.

    The Bike Committee of American Youth Hostels (AYH) suggested to the Parks Dept that they form a Bike Patrol, similar to the volunteer Ski Patrols, for Central Park.

    Spring 1967, Parks asked for volunteers for a Central Park Bike Patrol. Over a dozen of the AYH Bike Committee leaders showed up at the training session. After an hour or so lecture, we were given a first aid kit and a red T-shirt that had a wheel on the front and Central Park Bike Patrol on the back. That’s it – sum total of our supplies and authority. I picked the Tuesday evening after work shift.

    Were we effective? Maybe. I certainly got an appreciation of the difficulties faced by the police trying to do traffic control, particularly the anarchistic non-motorized variety. It was impossible to keep all cyclists riding one way, but we tried to have the “wrong way” riders stay to their right side of the drive. Attempts to keep pedestrians and runners from the center lane of the drive received mixed results. But we did volunteer and we tried – hard.

    As to payment – cash or services in kind – Ski Patrol volunteers generally were not paid, but ski area gave them free lift passes and sometimes other perks in the lodges that were very strong incentives to being the traffic cops and EMTs of the slopes. Regrettably, Central Park provided only the T-Shirt, first aid kit and free access to the the free park drive. There was not a hell of a lot of incentive here. Parks did not even give us any priority access to the police or medical services. This was pre cellphone and even pre CB radio days, they would not spring for signing out expensive radios for us. One wonders how much they cared.

    I got drafted the next year and didn’t get to come back for the 1968 Bike Patrol season. Apparently, for 1967, the Patrol got uniform style shirts and a badge, and looked a lot more official. I don’t know if they were any more effective than we were in our red shirts. Apparently, the Central Park Bike Patrol was dropped by the Parks Department, for I never saw any signs of it into the 1970s.

    There are over 2 million NYC cyclists, and most of them have never received any bicycle traffic education. And new cyclists arrive every years. There are at most a few thousand members of NYC bicycle clubs, so each of the trained cyclists only have to volunteer to reach out 1000 other cyclists to make the world safe for bicycling. I have been doing this for 45 years, and I guess I may have reached about two thirds of my 1000. Still several hundred more to go….

    Damn it, the city needs a real, paid, professional bicycle safety education program. Bake sales and car washes may work to get some suburban high school team to the Big Game, but the traffic education needs of NYC far outstrip depending upon volunteers alone. Yes, experienced cyclists should be doing outreach, but we don’t have the resources or the authority to do this by ourselves. The city’s police, DOT, DOH and DOE along with the state DMV and DOT have to be actively involved and willing to put in resources of time and money. Then volunteers can be used effectively.

  • Steve Vaccaro, I understand what you’re saying, I just disagree completely. I do not have “fellow cyclists” to counsel any more than I have fellow walkers or subway passengers to counsel. When I go to a park it is to relax, not to play schoolmarm to self-absorbed athletes.

    As for TA’s “Biking Rules!” campaign, it’s a large part of the reason I didn’t renew this year. Not because I’m some kind of incorrigible rule breaker–I’m quite boring, really–but because I don’t wish to finance what I consider naive and counterproductive public relations. And I’m just sick of hearing about the phantom cycling menace, from the press and TA. Having myself falsely connected to their incessant carping is almost as much of a deterrent from riding as this winter’s bicycle lanes full of parked cars and frozen garbage.

    But, to each his own livable streets advocacy.

  • BicyclesOnly

    I’m as big a supporter of TA as they come, but if there’s one thing I’m ambivalent about, it’s the peer-to-peer aspect of the Biking Rules campaign. Explaining how I’ve come to terms with that part of TA’s work involves laying out some personal history, so indulge me.

    I first began cycling as a teenager on Long Island in the 1970s. It was considered a perfectly acceptable way to get around, and I used it to commute to work, visit my girlfriend, and generally to lead an independent life. When my parents split up in 1978, I moved with my father to the Upper West Side. I quickly found that as a white kid from the suburbs without much in the way of street smarts, I was prone to mugging. I began biking to high school around 1979 as a way of avoiding groups of kids or others who wanted to take my stuff. My Dad was concerned for my safety, but he agreed that I was safer on a bike than walking around alone.

    I commuted by bike in New York city for years before even learning of the existence of cycling advocacy organizations like TA. All that time, I just viewed myself as one of many New Yorkers moving in traffic. As a bicyclist, I felt I had figured out a way to do it more efficiently than everyone else, but there was little or no self-conscious moral or political dimension to my choice. I would no sooner tell another bicyclist how to ride than tell someone on the sidewalk to move over, or tell another subway rider to change their sitting stance to free up a seat for me. (Come down to it, I probably believed that the average NYC cyclist was more likely prone to unpredictable violence, which in the 1980s was saying something!) Even putting aside the fear of a potential hostile or violent reaction, I felt like telling other people what to do wasn’t the way New Yorkers lived their lives. And I absolutely detested people who told me how to ride, or to wear a helmet. I promised myself that I would never tell other people what to do unless they were putting me (or my kids) in imminent danger.

    I first learned of TA when I ran into Paul White and Noah Budnick tabling at an event in East River Park in 2006. They were collecting letters or petition signatures against the rules criminalizing group cycling that the NYPD was proposing at the time in reaction to Critical Mass. I had never participated in Critical Mass or any other group bike ride, but I was struck by NYPD’s effort to target cyclists as a group based on the theory that we were a danger to other traffic. To the contrary! At that point, I started getting involved in TA’s advocacy work, and going on group rides, including Critical Mass.

    It was at that point that I started noticing the different paradigms of urban cycling around me. Ah, the people in the brightly-colored clothes with expensive bikes are road cyclists who belong to bike clubs. The people riding bikes without gears or brakes–who I had always assumed simply couldn’t afford those features–were messengers or people copping a messenger style. Delivery cyclists had never held much mystery to me: they behavior always struck me as entirely predictable and driven by economic factors.

    By getting involved with TA, I read the cycling laws for the first time and started self-consciously asserting my rights as a cyclist (as opposed to simply telling people not to hit me when they were about to, as I had always done). But as part of this “coming to consciousness,” I decided that it was somehow wrong or counterproductive–perhaps even disloyal–to criticize other cyclists. And due to my newfound focus on the dangers and bullying of motorists, I too often overlooked the far lesser dangers and inconveniences that cyclists sometimes pose to pedestrians. Even as I was riding around telling motorists to keep out of bike lanes, give me room and signal their turns.

    However it didn’t take long for me to learn that running around holding strangers to a higher standard of conduct than I held myself was the textbook definition of being an a-hole. While I like to think that I had always used a reasonably safe and respectful riding style, I realized that it’s not enough just to avoid hitting other people. That’s the standard that most motorists hold themselves to, and it’s plainly inadequate. (How many times have I been passed by a speeding cab within a foot or so, confronted the driver, to have him asked, bemused, “did I hit you?”–as if that was the only thing that mattered?). To plenty of people, especially parents with small kids, seniors and dog walkers, a near miss from a cyclist at speed is almost as startling, adrenaline-catalyzing, and angering as a near-miss from a cab is to a cyclist. While I had always tried to stay as far away from pedestrians as possible, I didn’t try so hard as to completely eliminate the occasional, unintentional near miss that justifiably provoked a visceral fear-and-anger reaction from the pedestrian nearly missed. And I realized that there were a small number of cyclists of each “paradigm”–road cyclists, messengers or their fellow travelers, delivery cyclists, otherwise nondescript commuters–who rode with a style that nearly guaranteed near-misses with pedestrians at every red light (or more often, to the extent they were riding on the sidewalk).

    What my advocacy experiences have shown me is that the small minority of cyclists who ride in this aggressive style are a major problem for cyclists who want to promote livable, safe cyclist-friendly streets, because they utterly undermine the credibility of cycling advocates like TA and provide grist for the mill the increasingly well-organized and sophisticated anticyclist-media-NYPD complex. We’re at a point where cyclists can definitively win their physical and political place as a recognized mode of transportation on NYC streets for all time, with our rights presumptively respected by motorists, pedestrians, and police. Our proximity to achieving that goal is clearly the reason for the so-called backlash. But the backlash relies for its moral legitimacy on the behavior of the small minority of cyclists who ride too aggressively. At this moment in the long history of cyclists’ fight for respect and safety on the road, I believe that aggressive cyclists pose as real an obstacle to my safety as if they were headed right at me at night on a narrow bike lane, counterflow, with no lights and earphones, forcing me into the path of motorists who want to drive me off the road. I never would have viewed it this way in 1979, or in 2006, but that’s how I see it today.

    So while I am still deeply ambivalent about personally getting involved in TA’s Biking Rules campaign, I feel that it’s necessary work that TA must do if we are going to seize the unprecedented opportunity for cyclists presented by the Bloomberg administration–by beating back the backlash, and win a place for cyclists on NYC streets that is equal to that of pedestrians and motorists, at least in the sense that others presumptively respect our space and cops don’t feel like they’re doing God’s work when they persecute us for sport. I really hate having to teach my son that many strangers will loathe him on sight simply because he’s riding a bike, and that he should fear cops and expect them to treat him in an arbitrary harsh way. I’m no pollyanna, and don’t believe for a second that arbitrary cops or bikeihating people will disappear–and I don’t blame aggressive cyclists for the existence of such people–but I do believe that the aggressive cycling is at this moment giving the haters, many cops and their pseudo-populist media cheerleaders a moral legitimacy in the eyes of the broader public that is completely undeserved, that threatens this golden opportunity we cyclists have at this particular moment.

    Many apologies for the long-winded comment, but I was woken at 6:00 by school-closing robocalls from my kids’ schools and couldn’t get back to sleep! And I do care passionately about these issues. So Nathan, I hope you’ll reconsider dropping your TA membership, because even if you view the Biking Rules campaign as somewhat “evil”–as I do–you’ll see that it’s a necessary one.

  • Joe R.

    @BicyclesOnly,

    Thanks for the personal history. It somewhat mirrors my own. I started riding regularly at 15 when we moved out here to Flushing from Astoria in 1978. I remember as a teenager going with my younger brother on long bike errands to various stores. My function was mainly to keep him company, and to mind his bike while he was in store. A few times we rode all the way to Green Acres, 20 miles each way. Despite the lack of bike-only infrastructure back then, in many ways cycling seemed better. You didn’t have legions of organized bike haters like Marty Markowitz or the NNBL ( Neighbors For No Bike Lanes, which should really be what the NBBL call themselves ). You could ride on the sidewalks if traffic got too heavy without risking a fine ( and most people weren’t bothered by this ). And the cops pretty much ignored cyclists, although I did get a warning once. I was admittedly doing a few really stupid things. Believe it or not, just that one warning got me to clean up the worst of my excesses. This just goes to show how ill-guided the current no tolerance, expensive ticket for the first offense, policy nowadays is. In all likelihood, had I gotten a big ticket back then, I would have been done riding for good on the spot.

    I hear you when you say aggressive cyclists are a big problem, and yes, it’s not enough to just avoid colliding with things. I’ve long made a point whenever I’m going around a pedestrian ( or passing a slower cyclist ), to keep a buffer of at least 5 feet, better yet 10, even taking the traffic lane if needed to do this. I certainly have the skills to pass within inches if I wanted to. For example, if I wanted to, I can ride right next to parked cars, passing their mirrors 3 inches away, at 20 mph, with zero problems. The thing is that I realize passing someone within inches has the startling effect you mention, so I don’t do it. Sure, sometimes that means slowing when there’s no room for a buffer zone, and it’s no fun, but I do it anyway. This has nothing to do with public relations between cyclists/the general public in my mind, but more about treating others as I want to be treated.

    Getting to TA and the Biking Rules, I understand their goals here, but question their methods. Yes, the aggressive riders need to be dealt with somehow, but stressing traffic rules isn’t the way to go about this. It annoys me in fact because many cyclists, including both of us, don’t follow the letter of the law, and yet are not part of the problem, either. I’d much rather that TA focused on not buzzing pedestrians, even when you have the green, not going at ballistic velocities on sidewalks, and especially fighting for changes in the law. The latter is really what I want cycling advocacy organizations to do for me. Right now the law is only used against cyclists. I doubt that will ever change. Since that’s the case, then let’s change the law such that it can’t be used by the NYPD to harass generally safe cyclists who might not necessarily obey the letter of the law. We desperately need an Idaho-stop type law here, probably more here than in Idaho given the sheer number of lights, their poor timing, the aggressive way drivers start out from greens, etc. And we need to have a nuanced approach about sidewalk cycling. It should be OK on less crowded sidewalks, provided it’s done a reasonable speeds. The outer borough sidewalks can serve the same purpose as buffered bike lanes, namely as incubators for new cyclists uncomfortable with street riding. That’s actually how I personally started out. Now I rarely go on sidewalks. I’m perfectly comfortable in almost any traffic. Anyway, this is what I want cycling advocacy organizations to do. Telling everyone to follow rules which aren’t designed for bicycles to me makes about as much sense as telling a pedestrian to keep up with traffic on a highway.

  • BicyclesOnly, thanks for sharing your thoughtful bicycling memoir and explanation for why you support TA’s policy. I agree with you, but have two caveats.

    First and most obviously, the benefits to following the “Biking Rules” street code mostly accrue to other people. It’s not obvious that following Biking Rules will keep you, the rider, any more safe. One simple example: stopped at a red light next to automobiles. No cross traffic visible. Is it better to cross the intersection against the light and avoid turning autos or is it better to wait with the automobile and have them turn into your path? I prefer to cross against the light; call me a rebel!

    Second, if it were true that “the small minority of cyclists who ride too aggressively” were all individual actors, than I would feel the same as you do; I would grudgingly accept that a behavior-modification campaign was the best way to win acceptance for cyclists.

    However, if TA believes that “setting an example” is the way to change cyclists’ behavior, don’t they realize that the example is not being set by paid-up TA members with fluorescent clothing and front-and-rear lighting systems? For every Larry Littlefield in a blinking LED vest, there are a hundred cyclists in black nylon jackets riding without brakes. They are the ones setting the biking rules for everyone else.

    In order to change their behavior, though, it makes more sense to coerce the businesses that employ them than to pressure the individual riders. Restaurants are reputation businesses, and should be held responsible for the behavior of their employees. It’s the job of the employer to make sure that employees are following the rules, not the job of random bicyclists on the streets.

    Thought experiment: if restaurant delivery staff dressed like flight attendants, rode big heavy Dutch Oma bikes with GPS dynamo headlights and bright red taillights, and strictly obeyed the Biking Rules code, would that encourage or discourage other New Yorkers to ride a bike? I think the former.

    The city heavily regulates the taxi fleet; why not the delivery fleet? Better regulation could improve service (bikes could have GPS built in, so customers could track their delivery online), improve safety (lights and reflectors), and reduce accidents (GPS-activated horn could beep when bike was being ridden on the sidewalk, and brake to a crawl when bike was going the wrong way), and enhance the image of cycling as a dignified and respectable way to get around, even with a couple take-out dinners in tow).

  • Joe R.

    @Johnathan,

    Intruiging idea regarding putting GPS on delivery bikes. I personally think it would be too complicated to brake a wrong-way bike, or beep a horn on the sidewalk, because a bike doesn’t really have an electrical system. Anything added to interface to the bike’s control systems would be adhoc, and unreliable ( that’s coming from someone who’s an electronics engineer ). I think there is nevertheless value in having GPS on delivery bikes. I ride with a Garmin Legend HCx. It’s great in that I can pull my trip logs, and get my travel direction, instantaneous/average speeds on any portion of my ride, and my location. You can spot check the GPS logs of delivery cyclists to see if they’ve been riding the wrong way on one-way streets. Sidewalk riding might be a little more problematic given the imprecision of GPS location. And of course, you have the GPS log as proof of speed in case a police gives you a speeding ticket.

    I’m kind of cool though to the idea of dress codes or heavy bicycles. I couldn’t imagine spending all day dressed properly while cycling in 100 degree weather. And all heavy bikes do is slow you down needlessly. Fast doesn’t necessarily equal unsafe. Back in my brief stint as a messenger in 1981, I once went from 125th Street to West 4th Street in 15 minutes flat. Nothing I did was even remotely dangerous. If delivery guys can make their rounds quickly, without scaring pedestrians, then that’s better for them and their customers. But yes, we need to get delivery cyclists to act more professionally. The wrong-way riding/fast sidewalk riding especially needs to end yesterday. I cringe every time I see stuff like that, knowing that noncyclists project that sort of behavoir onto all cyclists.

  • Joe R., thanks for the positive comments.

    The GPS unit could certainly be built as an all-in-one add-on in with a horn or beeper so that it wouldn’t have to be a part of the bike’s (nonexistent) electrical system. As for stopping or slowing down, I think you could use an electrical signal to tighten a rear disc brake pretty easily.

    To elaborate on your final point about the projections, it’s not only noncyclists projecting that kind of behavior onto cyclists, but cyclists projecting that kind of behavior onto themselves. Seeing other riders ride the wrong way, or without lights, makes it easier to adopt that behavior yourself.

  • “So Nathan, I hope you’ll reconsider dropping your TA membership, because even if you view the Biking Rules campaign as somewhat ‘evil’–as I do–you’ll see that it’s a necessary one.”

    What I see are two separate claims:

    1. Improving behavior among the x% worst cyclists is necessary for cycling to become mainstream.
    2. “Biking Rules!” type stuff improves the behavior of the x% worst cyclists.

    For #1 I’ll just point out that there have been “rogue cyclists” throughout the history of cycling, when it was mainstream and when it was not. You can read about that regularly on Copenhagenize. And look around: there are no shortage of bad apples in all the forms of transportation that are currently mainstream and more socially accepted than cycling in New York. Watch out for those rogue pedestrians! Ha ha. (But do watch out for those rogue motorists.) This nastiest x% business is the reddest of all herrings and cyclists who get defensive and apologetic in the face of it are being played the fool.

    And Jonathan rebuts #2 so that I don’t have to, we’ve all had these arguments on other occasions. While I appreciate your story and I’m sure that Paul White is a swell guy, it does not advance either argument and to the extent that it conflates them, I’m disappointed. You’re a lawyer or something, and you know better.

    But the reason I came back here was to close the book on my decision about TA membership. Sorry but I had to cut my ties, for different but related reasons. So that’s that. If someone wants to start an organization to unapologetically represent walking, transit riding, and cycling New Yorkers–especially to, as Joe R suggested, flank the reactionaries and demand rational traffic laws now–count me in.

  • Disappointment all around, Nathan. You tell me to read Copenhagenize, but what have you to say about the level of law-abidingness of the cyclists there as compared to here in the New York?

    It’s not just a few rouges we have to be concerned with. If your view is that cyclists will change if they get respect and appropriate infrastructure, you know as well as I do that neither the respect nor the infrastructure will be forthcoming if there isn’t a shift in the general mores of cyclists. Too many cyclists piss off too many pedestrians by stealing their right of way, startling them, and sometimes even endangering them. Those pedestrians are numerous, they attend a variety of community meetings, they demand NYPD crackdowns on cyclists, and they get them. Your call for an “unapologetic” organization to defend this behavior and call for wholesale change of traffic laws in favor of cyclists is doomed to failure, but best of luck with it.

  • By the way Nathan, having read your screed about TA, I think your avatar shot is just perfect. Sitting in the armchair, criticizing, participating “excessively” in online communities since 1990.

    Why don’t you try some face-to-face politics? Compared to commenting on blogs, it’s more of a challenge and imposes some restriction on your personal freedom of self-expression, but it has the virtue of actually changing things if done right.

  • Joe R.

    @BicyclesOnly,

    To me it didn’t seem that Nathan was calling for an organization to defend the types of behavoirs you mentioned. I know I’m certainly not. Asking for an organization like TA to push for something like an Idaho-stop type law in NYC is far removed from saying that cyclists should have a free-for-all. Right now pardon me if I see the city’s ( and every single so-called cycling advocacy organization’s ) policy regarding cycling as somewhat schizophrenic. On the one hand, they’re all telling us “hey, use our nice new bicycle lanes. Get on that bike-you can commute to work, use it to run errands, etc.”. On the other, they’re all pushing cyclists to obey rules which make little sense for their mode, rules which have the effect of both reducing the speed and the effective range of bike travel, of often requiring you to sit and wait for a minute or more every few blocks. When cycling is not much faster than walking, why bother? Not one person in an official position has suggested maybe most cyclists don’t follow all the rules because perhaps some of those rules really don’t make much sense, and should be changed. There are lots of cyclists with great safety records who nevertheless would qualify for a boatload of tickets if a police cruiser followed them around. And that’s exactly the problem. A cyclist already has enough to worry about on NYC streets without worrying they might be ticketed if they don’t rigidly adhere to a bunch of antiquated laws which do zip for their safety, quite the opposite in fact in many cases. Remember, all it takes is one ticket to sour a new cyclist permanently on the idea of using a bike for daily transportation.

    You really think the TA is helping cycling which their “cycling rules”? All they’re doing is giving ammunition to the other side. Cyclists could follow every existing rule perfectly and it still won’t help their image. Rather, those in charge will just make up ever more restrictive rules with the goal of raising the bar for cyclists so high everyone will give it up. That’s why we need to nip this incrementalism in the bud. You really want to grow cycling, then we need an organization to explain rationally and scientifically why it makes no sense to rigidly apply the same rules to bicycles as are applied to motor traffic. We also need to explain to those skeptical that this isn’t about creating a free-for-all for cyclists. Anybody currently entitled to right-of-way still will be. The only difference is when there’s nothing there, the cyclist won’t be forced to sit and wait for who knows how long, staring at empty space, often watching the light on the next block cycle to red while they’re waiting, forcing them to repeat the same ritual again one block later, etc. If anything, with a set of rules which makes sense for them, you’ll see most cyclists embrace the idea of following the law, and put peer pressure on their cohorts who don’t, exactly as has happened in places like Copenhagen. That isn’t going to happen though so long as the laws largely don’t make any sense.

  • Let me issue a general apology to anyone willing to work with me to improve the general conditions for cyclists, including safety, infrastructure, traffic rules, as well as the political atmosphere cyclists must contend with in to improve any of those other conditions. I want to work with you.

    Let’s look at where we are. We’re in the midst of a zero-tolerance law enforcement campaign by NYPD against cyclists which is the worst I’ve seen since I began cycling in NYC in 1978, with the exception of enforcement targeting Critical Mass rides after the RNC. When I go to Community Board meetings and Precinct Councils, I’m constantly hearing heavy bike hate. Turn on the TV or open the morning paper, same thing. When I raise the subject of cycling in casual conversations with friends and acquaintances, I often hear some of the same sentiments. And when I’m out riding, all too often I see delivery guys but also some non-commercial cyclists riding in a way that is obviously pissing off pedestrians (they piss off motorists, too, but I don’t care as much about that).

    In order to get what we want–more and better infrastructure, reform of traffic rules, fundamental respect for our right to the road and justice for our fallen–we have to engage politically with people outside the of the cycling community. How do we do that without acknowledging and dealing with the fact that so many outside the cycling community view cyclists as selfish, self-entitled hogs of the road who think no rules should apply to them? I know this is a deeply distorted image of cyclists that is manufactured and fueled by hate merchants like Marty Markowitz and Marcia Kramer, but that doesn’t make it any less of a political obstacle to get what we want.

    For the past six weeks I’ve been either stopping at every red light and waiting it out, or stopping, dismounting and walking my bike around the traffic signal to a safe a legal spot where I can re-mount my bike and proceed legally on my way. Yes, it’s a pain in the ass, it slows me down and its humiliating, but I refuse to get a ticket. And it’s a hell of a lot faster than walking and it’s still faster than taking the train or the bus.

    NYC cyclists, especially the dedicated ones who want to improve conditions for cycling, have to be flexible enough to tough this oppressive environment out, maximize and lock in whatever gains we can, and move on.
    Yes there are cyclists who are discouraged from cycling because they get a ticket or have to stop for a red light. There’s not much that can be done about that except for changing the current situation.

    IMO the only way that can be done is by leveraging our political influence to the utmost: by out-organizing the haters, turning out more people to the community meetings, making sure those people delivery compelling, coordinated messages, getting that message into the press, and yes, getting deeply involved in the next municipal election cycle.

    And part of being successful in all of those things is convincing decision makers in government and the press that the story is NOT that we are hogs of the road, but rather we are people who would prefer to and in fact do have a minimum impact on others’ experience of the road (and also, coincidentally, minimizing our impact on those people’s safety, their share of public health costs, their air quality, their foreign policy, etc.).

    In my view, Biking Rules is one valid and important way of achieving that shift in attitude toward cyclists. It directly undercuts the narrative against us that is reinforced not only by the hate merchants but also by some cyclists, who behave selfishly on a bike in ways I bet they never would on foot, and which raise additional safety implications when done by bike. For those who feel politically committed to holding onto such a riding style, despite all the reasons to change, you are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

  • @BicyclesOnly, I agree with you that

    Too many cyclists piss off too many pedestrians by stealing their right of way, startling them, and sometimes even endangering them.

    But as I pointed out nearly two weeks ago in #27 above, most of those “rogue” cyclists are not independent actors, but employees of restaurants, and therefore it is not the job of random, well-meaning cyclists like you and me to change their behavior, but the job of their employers, the restaurants. They aren’t “rogues,” they are riding exactly how their boss tells them to ride.

    If TA wanted to address the “rogue” cycling epidemic, they would work with elected officials and restaurant owners to professionalize the delivery fleet, which would also have the benefit of improving conditions for working cyclists. I think this approach would be more fruitful than printing up booklets and distributing them to the most law-abiding riders on the streets.

  • @BicyclesOnly, if I may respond directly to your no. 34, which was posted as I was writing #35:

    My opinion is that the Biking Rules program reinforces the antibike narrative by creating an monochrome context in which many cyclists’ behavior is interpreted as “WRONG.” This prompts the antibike crowd to argue, very reasonably, that they are all for “RIGHT” biking, and that until all cyclists are “RIGHT,” “WRONG” cyclists shouldn’t be entitled to full use of the streets. Why build bike lanes when “WRONG” cyclists will just use them to maim innocent pedestrians, they say?

    And even when articulate proponents of cycling infrastructure like yourself advocate for the benefits of extending more bike lanes so that people can be “RIGHT” cyclists, the dichotomy is stuck to you like a bear trap; opponents respond, ‘Yes, that would be great, but until we do something about “WRONG” cyclists endangering the lives of our uncles and aunts, we shouldn’t just give them more precious street space.’

    It reminds me of the fight over needle-exchange programs. In that example, it was necessary to redefine and destigmatize junkies from offenders to victims before exchange programs were accepted as tools for harm reduction. As long as TA (and DOT) keep drawing lines with the majority of working cyclists on the outside, people riding bikes will never get the benefits that they deserve.

  • Jonathan, I have yet to have someone try to “turn the tables on me” when I’m doing the Biking Rules thing by saying something like, “See–the fact that you’re out here trying to get your fellow cyclists to obey the law proves that cyclists never obey the law! The exception proves the rule!”

    On several occasions I’ve gone out on “Biking Rules” messaging rides where a few of us put signs on our bikes (“Wrong Way Buddy,” on the the front, and “I Brake for Peds,” on the back). A number of times pedestrians have stopped me during these rides and thanked me. Not once has anyone tried to turn the tables.

    I’ve also gone to community board meetings with copies of the Biking Rules booklets to tell people that they should be giving them out to the delivery people whom they encourage to cut corners, by tipping them for fast service and complaining about slow service. While some people bristle at the notion they have responsibility to keep the delivery cyclists they are in essence employing in check, none of them has suggested that the TA Biking Rules campaign is proof that cyclists are lawless. In every case, I’ve found the Biking Rules campaign wins advocates credibility and good will with decision makers–at a minimum, on a lip service level, but sometimes in a tangible way.

    I have and will never accept the argument that cyclists have to first obey all the rules, then only then will they be heard to claim their “reward” of roadway respect, infrastructure, accommodation, justice. There is misbehavior by each class of street user, and yet they all get those things (at least to a greater extent than cyclists do) without being held to an unreasonably high standard of conduct. Only once or twice have I ever found someone with the guts to press that argument to my face, and each time I effin’ buried them. It’s an argument one finds in the comments section of the Daily News and the Post, and shouldn’t concern serious advocates to the point we’re afraid to lose credibility by refusing to concede something that is undeniably true–that the majority of delivery cyclists, around half the racer dudes in the park, and a minority of other cyclists ride in a way that steals other people’s right of way, startles them, and sometimes endangers them. I have found that we stigmatize ourselves with that ostrich-in-sand approach, but turning it around through a Biking Rules-type of approach can make us more effective advocates.

    Clearly, Biking Rules and peer-to-peer counseling is not at or even near the top of the cycling advocacy agenda. With the crackdown and the 50% increase in cycling deaths, we’re figuratively and literally getting killed out there. We’ve got to push back hard. But as I learned on my high school wrestling team, we get more leverage to push back if we’re positioned on higher moral ground than our opponents.

  • Joe R.

    @BicyclesOnly,

    You make some great points, but one area where I must digress is your idea that being totally law-abiding is going to gain us any points in the arena of public opinion. I say this because of how the human mind works. People will notice only what reinforces their existing opinions. If 99 out of 100 cyclists stop at every light, the bike haters won’t notice that there is 99% red light compliance among cyclists. No, they’ll focus on that one rider out of 100 who blows lights. And that’s still all you’ll hear about at community meetings. Maybe if you magically could achieve perfect compliance with every single law among all cyclists your idea might work, but that’s not possible in the real world. Moreover, as Jonathan said, the problem is largely commercial cyclists. They have an economic incentive to behave as they do. You can hand out Biking Rules pamphlets to these guys until you’re blue in the face. Most will throw the pamphlet in the nearest trash can ( while riding on the sidewalk to get there ), then do what they always have. The thing we should be pushing for immediately is to change the laws to eliminate the economic incentives for poor behavoir among commercial cyclists. Require pay by the hour, prohibit tipping, make the employer pay any fines. These things, unlike changing traffic laws for cyclists or adding bike lanes, will all have widespread public support. Once made into law, the changes will be dramatic enough to cause complaints about cyclists ( and hopefully NYPD enforcement ) to drop precipitously. In short, cyclists will be destigmatized.

    Another avenue might be to begin filing lawsuits against the press for inaccurate reporting/sensationalism/endangering public safety. As far as I’m concerned, the press has put my life at greater risk for two reasons. One, by creating animosity against all cyclists, they make it more likely some angry motorist will feel justified running me off the road for no reason other than I’m there. Two, the far greater likelihood of being stopped by the police for anything, even if I’m riding legally, in and of itself puts my life in jeopardy. I’m waiting for the day, which I’m sure will be very soon, where some cyclist stopped for running a red light or riding on the sidewalk ends up killed by the police because of crossed signals. Remember the police are allowed to use deadly force for anything they perceive as a threat, even if down the road that threat turns out to be baseless. Maybe the cyclist has a light which resembles a pistol. Or maybe they reach into their pockets a little too quickly for their ID. It WILL happen eventually given the sheer numbers being stopped by police now. It’s never a good idea to have these sorts of crackdowns on any group for precisely these reasons. The police are hired and trained to deal with dangerous criminals, and act accordingly when stopping anyone. There was never any real public safety or other issue that justified this enforcement campaign. While I hope what I just mentioned never happens, if it does, you can be sure the press and any politicians behind the crackdown will pay enormously in terms of public opinion. For what it’s worth, I mentioned this very thing in letters to several politicians, including then Mayor Guiliani, back in the midst of the last crackdown in the late 1990s, during which I received a ticket for sidewalk cycling. You can be sure if any cyclist is hurt or killed by police, those letters are going to be sent to every single news organization to show officials were warned about this over a decade ago, yet choose to go ahead with it anyway.

    Bottom line, I’m predicting this will all die down even faster than it started. For now the public is eating up stories of cyclists receiving tickets, saying they deserve it, etc. That won’t last. If cyclists get hurt or killed during the enforcement campaign, the NYPD loses in the court of public opinion. Even if not, to me if the NYPD has sufficient manpower to give petty tickets to cyclists, then it’s overstaffed and cops should be laid off. That sentiment WILL go over quite well with the Mayor, and probably with much of the general public. One way or another, I’d be surprised if this enforcement campaign lasts until spring. And I’m probably riding as little as possible until then. Like you, I’ve no desire to get a ticket, but I’d just as soon not bother riding at all as stop and wait out every light. For me it’s all about exercise/enjoyement. In the current climate I would get neither.

  • dporpentine

    I will never understand why it’s so hard to stop at a red light and just wait there for the light to change.

  • Joe R.

    “I will never understand why it’s so hard to stop at a red light and just wait there for the light to change.”

    It isn’t if it’s only a few lights in the course of a 10 or 20 mile ride. It’s physically impossible to do every few blocks, which is often the case thanks to most of NYC’s streets having poorly coordinated lights on nearly every block. You try it one day. Stop, accelerate back up to 20 mph, stop again 3 blocks later, repeat for about 20 miles ( and average a whopping ~6 mph in the process despite the exhaustion ). I doubt even Lance Armstrong could do this. Maybe it’s easy for you because you’re one of those guys who only rides a few miles at a time, and only cruises at 10 mph. And if that’s the case however, I’ll bet good money I’ll beat you walking ( or at least come close ), so no point to you even being on a bike. The only point of taking a bike in the first place is to travel 3-4 times faster than you can by walking. If you can’t do that because of a gazillion traffic lights, you may as well walk, avoiding all the other hassles associated with bike use ( parking, flat tires, potholes, clueless motorists, etc. ). Don’t get me wrong. I think a bike is a wonderful mode of transport when it can be used as intended. Sadly, in NYC in the current climate it really can’t.

  • BicyclesOnly

    Joe R.,

    You have a lot of good ideas too (although suing the hate press isn’t one of them). I always pitch legislation to hold the biz owners liable for tickets as the better strategy for controlling delivery cyclists, when I’m pitching Biking Rules.

    I seem to recall that in past comments, you have suggested that the timing of the lights out where you ride forces you to stop for lots of reds–more than I would expect in my travels, which are usually limited to Manhattan and northern Brooklyn. I’d like to see what you’re talking about. Email me at BicyclesOnly[at]gmail.com and let’s set up a date to ride 10 miles or 15 miles out by you.

  • Joe R.

    @BicyclesOnly,

    Email sent. Yes, I know suing the press isn’t one of my better ideas. It’s more like a desperate attempt at revenge for the bike crackdown they’re largely responsible for. As we both know, the public is finicky. Sooner or later they’ll tire of the bike coverage, and the papers will have to find new material. I’d love for it to be reckless motorists.

  • dporpentine

    Joe R.:
    I ride 10 miles a day–5 miles each way–and I stop at every single light I hit. I average about 15 mph when riding. No one has ever looked at me and thought I was athletic.
    As for speed, my commute is still faster this way than it is by any other mode of transport–driving included.
    You’re welcome to join me sometime.
    So I still don’t get it. Just stop at lights. Everybody. Every time.

  • Joe R.

    dporpentine,

    How many lights would you say you hit during your 5 mile commute? If it’s only one or two, then obviously it’s not a big deal. And I assume 15 mph is your cruising speed. Your average speed then would be somewhat less, perhaps a lot less if you hit many lights. Just for point of comparison, if I run lights I’ll average usually 15-16 mph, perhaps 17 mph on a good day, while mostly cruising at 18-23 mph. If I stop and wait out every light, I’ll be lucky to average 10 mph. Remember I ride late nights solely for exercise. I ride that time exactly to avoid all the BS associated with dealing with traffic. There is usually nothing to stop for ( and I do slow or stop if something is coming ). These aren’t Manhattan Avenues where they at least make a little attempt to synchronize lights. The way the lights are set up here, it’s often a case that while waiting for one light, you’ll see the one on the next block go from green to red, then you get stuck there, etc. Passing that first red light, you might not have to pass another for a mile. I don’t get what purpose is served by sitting and staring at empty space for 1 to 5 minutes, waiting for a light to change, simply because “the law” says you’re supposed to. I’ve always granted right-of-way to anyone legally entitled to it. I’ve never had a collision. So exactly what is the problem? As I said earlier, if I have to stop and wait out every single red, I’ll just as soon not bother.

  • Joe R, the other day I rode through Queens, 34th Ave in Jackson Hts, 29th Ave in Bayside, Utopia Pky in Bayside, 164th St in Flushing and others. I can confirm your observation that the traffic lights are poorly timed and too frequent. There isn’t that much traffic, during the work day, to require all those lights.

    What I found more annoying for the novice rider in those areas was how difficult it was to get around the highways and railroads. There’s one approved route, on several small streets with lots of lights, to get from Flushing to Kew Gardens and Forest Hills.

    I don’t get what purpose is served by sitting and staring at empty space for 1 to 5 minutes, waiting for a light to change, simply because “the law” says you’re supposed to. I’ve always granted right-of-way to anyone legally entitled to it. I’ve never had a collision. So exactly what is the problem?

    I heartily agree.

  • Joe R.

    Jonathan,

    Did you ride on 73rd Avenue also? The street between 168th and Parsons Blvd is particularly awful, with 5 poorly synchronized lights in an 8-block stretch. And yes, getting around highways/railroads, parks is particularly difficult. If I want to go east past about 230th Street, the only options are the LIE service road or Union Turnpike. Going west through Flushing Meadows Park there are similarly few options ( basically Jewel Avenue ).

    164th Street has I think 8 poorly synchronized lights in the one mile stretch from Union Turnpike to the LIE. What’s interesting though ( going north anyway ) is if I hit the first light ( on a downhill ) just as it’s flipping to red, I can do the one mile in about 3 minutes flat, usually hitting the rest of the lights just as they’r either going green or red. Still really awful coordination, though. A slower cyclist would probably get stuck at just about all of them.

  • “By the way Nathan, having read your screed about TA, I think your avatar shot is just perfect. Sitting in the armchair, criticizing, participating ‘excessively’ in online communities since 1990.”

    You stay classy, BicyclesOnly! My poor adirondack chair picture is always getting anonymously trolled around here. (Ha, we were both the subject of irrelevant personal attacks in that old message. Irony alert!)

    “Why don’t you try some face-to-face politics? Compared to commenting on blogs, it’s more of a challenge and imposes some restriction on your personal freedom of self-expression, but it has the virtue of actually changing things if done right.”

    I am not sure why you are telling me to try something you just read about me trying to do. And as you also know, I was at the PPW rally and wanted to meet you there, but you didn’t respond. I do believe in face-to-face political organizing and I am troubled by your suggestion that the activity is incompatible with my “personal” freedom of self-expression (and everyone else’s).

    You can have large organizations with a slick, corporate front where the membership voices are glossed over, if heard at all. That’s one way to do it, and a very profitable one since the advent of direct mail. But you can also have distributed, bottom-up, loosely organized and highly effective political groups where even the rowdiest voices are in plain public view. Ever hear of the Tea Party?

    I am being difficult here not just because I hold certain principles more dearly than you, but because I believe that a different kind of advocacy is needed for transportation in New York, to complement the pearl-clutchers at TA. I guess I need to look more closely at Time’s Up. They have a lot more on their calendar than the protest rides (which I don’t want to participate in).

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