Bin Laden Is Dead, But the Second Avenue Bike Lane Lives On

Given enough time, the theory goes, a thousand monkeys banging away at a thousand typewriters will eventually compose the complete works of Shakespeare. But Marcia Kramer and the crack news writers at CBS2 only needed a couple of hours, maybe less, to come up with last night’s masterpiece about the extension of the First and Second Avenue bike lanes.

Construction has barely started on this project and already Kramer’s got it covered. Annotated highlights below:

Residents said they’re wondering what officials were thinking when they installed the lanes on First and Second Avenues from 34th to 59th streets.

It’s an area already so congested at rush hour that cars can barely move, reports CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.

“I don’t think it’s going to work,” Bruce Silberblatt said.

Brilliant! Start off by quoting someone who won’t tolerate the loss of one or two parking spaces if it means giving more room to pedestrians and cyclists. Don’t mention the fact that the local community board voted for this project two years in a row. This is the exemplary journalism we’ve come to expect from Marcia Kramer.

Silberblatt’s group, the Turtle Bay Association, took pictures showing how the First Avenue approach to the 59th Street Bridge was already congested.

“It was bedlam,” Silberblatt said. “Anybody trying to ride a bike is taking their life in their hands. It’s that dangerous.”

Classic Kramer jujitsu. This guy who hates the bike lane? He’s actually concerned about cyclists. So concerned, in fact, that he appears to believe no one should ever ride a bike. Whatever his point is, pay no mind to the cyclists and pedestrians who are already getting maimed and killed by preventable East Side traffic crashes in obscene numbers. Don’t cite the stats showing how traffic injuries dropped after the first segments of the East Side bike lanes were installed last year.

A Second Avenue bike lane is next to the Israeli consulate, leaving many wondering what would happen if a man on a bike were a terrorist.

Very true. What would happen if a man who is a terrorist, who is riding a bike on Second Avenue, and who has a broadsword strapped to his rear rack, were to unsheathe his weapon and extend it sideways at arm’s length as he pedals next to the sidewalk? How many Israeli diplomats would be disemboweled or beheaded? Many are wondering.

Just kidding. Of course Kramer is referring to Al Qaeda’s well-known plan to disguise explosives by surgically implanting them in terrorists’ bodies. Such bombs can only be sewn into the flesh of cyclists.

Kidding again. Let’s get real. What Kramer’s really getting at is that Osama bin Laden’s second-in-command, Ayman Al-Zawahri, will not assume the leadership of Al Qaeda as previously reported. The Second Avenue bike lane is taking over instead.

In the end, it may simply be about who the streets are for, what percentage of people who use the streets are bicyclists, and what percentage are driving automobiles.

“It’s a tough number to pinpoint, but where we’ve already installed the new bike path, we see somewhere around 10 percent of the traffic is bike traffic,” Benson said.

Wait, what? Allocating space according to who uses the street? Heresy! The sidewalks of Manhattan would be 40 feet wide. Major crosstown streets would turn into busways. Avenues would have only one or two traffic lanes. On-street parking would cease to exist.

Opponents might argue that the 90 percent who use cars and buses should rule the road, especially in an area with such high levels of congestion.

Okay, right on. Opponents finally get a word in edgewise. Cars rule. The solution to congestion is to fill up as much space with traffic as you possibly can. A return to form for Marcia Kramer.

Except, if you actually gave 10 percent of NYC street space to cyclists, you’d have to build a lot more bike lanes.

There's more than 1,500,000,000 square feet of street space in New York City. According to Streetsblog's estimates, less than one half of one percent of NYC's street network has been allocated to bikes, buses, and pedestrians under Janette Sadik-Khan.
  • Daphna

    Columbus Avenue is a one mile stretch (77th – 96th Streets) of a protected bike lane bordered to the north and south by a dangerous road with no bike lanes and extra wide vehicle lanes that encourage speeding.   The Columbus Avenue protected bike lane will be enormously useful once it is extended up to 110th Street and down to 31st Street on 9th Avenue to connect with the existing protected bike lane from 31st – 15th Streets.  Until then the bike usage of that lane will be less since it is not connected to any safe routes.  But if that lane were continuous, I can easily see that 10% of all traffic on that road would be bicyclists, and maybe much more than 10%.

  • Joe R.

    Sure, this Marcia Kramer piece is, as usual, hack sensationalist journalism at its worst, but we need to look at the elephant in the room.  Why have bike lanes generated such backlash?  I submit the reason isn’t because people hate bikes, or even because large number of cyclists don’t follow traffic laws (that’s been the case actually ever since I could remember).  Rather, it’s because JSK and the NYC DOT made the brain-dead decision (sorry, I’m not mincing words here) to start the bike lane buildout in the most congested parts of the most congested borough, where they’re highly visible and use street space which is at a premium.  If it had been me, I would have started in Eastern Queens and Brooklyn, the Northern Bronx, and then worked my way in from there, eventually creating a citywide connected comprehensive system, rather than relatively useless bits and pieces here and there.  It makes more sense on many levels to offer bike lanes first in places where bike trips are likely to replace car trips, not subway trips, where subway service is sparse or nonexistent, and where there’s room to build bike infrastructure where cyclists encounter as few intersections or stops as possible.  Manhattan has loads of subways and buses to get around.  Even though I love to bike, I couldn’t see myself choosing the bike as a means to get around Manhattan.  Manhattan, even with bike lanes, just isn’t a pleasant place to ride.

    The second thing I would have done is to go over (or even under if aesthetic concerns warranted it) the street in congested areas where space is at a shortage.  This saves street space (which in my opinion should be used to widen sidewalks, not continue to use for cars), and more importantly allows cycists to travel continuously, at probably 2-3 times the average speed they would achieve on protected bike lanes hitting traffic lights every three blocks.  It also neatly separates cyclists from everyone else, decreasing the interactions which lead to the vitriol we read in the comments section of every cycling article.  The popularity of the West Side Greenway, which cyclists going uptown or downtown will often go out of their way to use, speaks to the need for bike “highways”.  Even though the greenway is a relatively poor implementation of this concept, as it still has frequent intersections, it’s a great proof of concept that bike highways would be heavily used in NYC.  Sure, cost is a downside, but in my mind better to slowly build out a really useful bike network than to get things done, on the cheap, and in a hurry, but then experience setbacks and ongoing, even if mostly undeserved, criticism.

    When you have a system which is so good that I might say I’ll ride the 12 miles into Manhattan rather than take the subway, then NYC will have arrived.  That’s not the case now.

  • Mr. Peabody

    Holy shit. Brilliant strategy, Joe. Let me see if I follow. You’re saying DOT should have:

    1. Started building out the bike network in the neighborhoods with the fewest cyclists, the smallest demand for biking and the least political support. Because they *love* bike lanes out in Eastern Queens.

    2. Rather than putting down fast, easy, inexpensive bike lanes that could easily be changed or replaced if necessary, DOT should have done a massive, multi-million dollar capital project and built elevated bike highways… in Eastern Queens.

    Wait a second… You impostor! You’re really Lew Fidler, aren’t you?

  • Cronkite’s ghost

    I have to agree that having Kramer tarnishes CBS’ brand. If this is the kind of reporting they allow on their flagship station, what kind of bad reporting goes on far from the eyes of New York producers?

  • Joe R.

    No, that’s not what I said at all.  The expensive, elevated bike lanes would mostly have been in places like Manhattan, not Eastern Queens where you might have room at ground level.  And why are you assuming there’s little biking or political support for biking here?  Get your head out of your behind.  A lot of people here ride recreationally.  Almost all the kids bike.  The support for a safe place to ride is there.  Moreover, there’s room to build bike infrastructure without the perception that you’re usurping space from other groups.  And while I’ve had negative comments when riding, I’ve never once experienced the level of vitriol which some Manhattan riders here say they have.  Evidently it’s because cycling really isn’t viewed all that negatively here.  For the most part motorists respect me and I respect them.  Same with pedestrians.  Get out of Manhattan some time and see how the rest of the city lives.  Downtown Flushing, last stop on the #7, has loads of bikes.  Students regularly ride to the library there.

    JSK’s strategy has worked so well, hasn’t it?  I guess that’s why we’ve been seeing all these wonderful news stories day after day.  Sure, she’s a visionary, and I give her credit for putting cycling on the map as something more than a means to exercise.  At the same time though, why the obsession with Manhattan?  I never recalled large numbers of cyclists in Manhattan, other than messengers and food delivery people, and they seemed to get along OK without bike lanes.  The number of cyclists in Manhattan has increased on account of the new bike lanes, but the same thing would have happened no matter where they were built.  If anything, the outer boroughs are the place where utility cycling could really take off.  It’s often inconvenient at best to use public transit to go from one part of Queens or Brooklyn to another.  Distances are frequently beyond the comfortable range where people will walk (say 1 to 2 miles).  That leaves driving or biking.  Traffic here is often too fast for inexperienced cyclists to feel comfortable on the road.  Fix that, and you can have more biking here than in Manhattan.

    NYC is more than Manhattan or downtown Brooklyn, but you would never know it from the way Bloomberg or JSK make policy.  Remember how Queens was all but forgotten during that December 2010 blizzard?  I sure do.

  • Joe R.

    No, that’s not what I said at all.  The expensive, elevated bike lanes would mostly have been in places like Manhattan, not Eastern Queens where you might have room at ground level.  And why are you assuming there’s little biking or political support for biking here?  Get your head out of your behind.  A lot of people here ride recreationally.  Almost all the kids bike.  The support for a safe place to ride is there.  Moreover, there’s room to build bike infrastructure without the perception that you’re usurping space from other groups.  And while I’ve had negative comments when riding, I’ve never once experienced the level of vitriol which some Manhattan riders here say they have.  Evidently it’s because cycling really isn’t viewed all that negatively here.  For the most part motorists respect me and I respect them.  Same with pedestrians.  Get out of Manhattan some time and see how the rest of the city lives.  Downtown Flushing, last stop on the #7, has loads of bikes.  Students regularly ride to the library there.

    JSK’s strategy has worked so well, hasn’t it?  I guess that’s why we’ve been seeing all these wonderful news stories day after day.  Sure, she’s a visionary, and I give her credit for putting cycling on the map as something more than a means to exercise.  At the same time though, why the obsession with Manhattan?  I never recalled large numbers of cyclists in Manhattan, other than messengers and food delivery people, and they seemed to get along OK without bike lanes.  The number of cyclists in Manhattan has increased on account of the new bike lanes, but the same thing would have happened no matter where they were built.  If anything, the outer boroughs are the place where utility cycling could really take off.  It’s often inconvenient at best to use public transit to go from one part of Queens or Brooklyn to another.  Distances are frequently beyond the comfortable range where people will walk (say 1 to 2 miles).  That leaves driving or biking.  Traffic here is often too fast for inexperienced cyclists to feel comfortable on the road.  Fix that, and you can have more biking here than in Manhattan.

    NYC is more than Manhattan or downtown Brooklyn, but you would never know it from the way Bloomberg or JSK make policy.  Remember how Queens was all but forgotten during that December 2010 blizzard?  I sure do.

  • Joe R.

    No, that’s not what I said at all.  The expensive, elevated bike lanes would mostly have been in places like Manhattan, not Eastern Queens where you might have room at ground level.  And why are you assuming there’s little biking or political support for biking here?  Get your head out of your behind.  A lot of people here ride recreationally.  Almost all the kids bike.  The support for a safe place to ride is there.  Moreover, there’s room to build bike infrastructure without the perception that you’re usurping space from other groups.  And while I’ve had negative comments when riding, I’ve never once experienced the level of vitriol which some Manhattan riders here say they have.  Evidently it’s because cycling really isn’t viewed all that negatively here.  For the most part motorists respect me and I respect them.  Same with pedestrians.  Get out of Manhattan some time and see how the rest of the city lives.  Downtown Flushing, last stop on the #7, has loads of bikes.  Students regularly ride to the library there.

    JSK’s strategy has worked so well, hasn’t it?  I guess that’s why we’ve been seeing all these wonderful news stories day after day.  Sure, she’s a visionary, and I give her credit for putting cycling on the map as something more than a means to exercise.  At the same time though, why the obsession with Manhattan?  I never recalled large numbers of cyclists in Manhattan, other than messengers and food delivery people, and they seemed to get along OK without bike lanes.  The number of cyclists in Manhattan has increased on account of the new bike lanes, but the same thing would have happened no matter where they were built.  If anything, the outer boroughs are the place where utility cycling could really take off.  It’s often inconvenient at best to use public transit to go from one part of Queens or Brooklyn to another.  Distances are frequently beyond the comfortable range where people will walk (say 1 to 2 miles).  That leaves driving or biking.  Traffic here is often too fast for inexperienced cyclists to feel comfortable on the road.  Fix that, and you can have more biking here than in Manhattan.

    NYC is more than Manhattan or downtown Brooklyn, but you would never know it from the way Bloomberg or JSK make policy.  Remember how Queens was all but forgotten during that December 2010 blizzard?  I sure do.

  • Anonymous

    To be fair, WCBS is traditionally last of the big 3 in the ratings (which has much to do with lead-ins, but that’s another issue.)   I don’t know where they stand right now, but they’ve always been a bit of an underdog in the local news business.   For a long time CBS was known as having an older demo (Matlock was a big a success for them during Kramer’s tenure, for example), so maybe that’s part of her appeal to their business.  If I were an executive, I might look at a losing record and ask myself if maybe we needed to make some changes to the lineup.  Just saying.

  • Joe R.

    To elaborate further, even though I think building from the outer boroughs in would have made more sense, JSK could have started in Manhattan as she did, but with grade-separated bike lanes.  And she could have garnered lots of political support for it by doing as follows:

    1) Take away travel lanes not for bike lanes, but to widen the sidewalks.  Given the spillover of pedestrians into the protected bike lanes, there’s little doubt wider sidewalks are needed along the Manhattan Avenues.

    2) Put the bike lanes above street level, with entrances/exits every block or two.  The cyclist would then either walk their bike on the sidewalk or ride in the street the last block or so.

    3) Have elevated crosstown lanes every 10 blocks or so.  These would be higher or lower than the north-south lanes.  Interchanges would be via a series of ramps.

    4) The elevated bikes lanes provide shelter for part or all of the sidewalk below.  They can also double as utility runs for electricity/cable/fiber optics (this has potential for income to offset the cost of builidng the lanes), and supports for streetlighting.

    5) You can even roof over the elevated lanes to allow cycling in inclement weather, and/or channel prevailing winds into a tailwind for faster trip times.

    The advantage here is you implement a road diet and get traffic calming, same as with the protected bike lane scheme, but pedestrians benefit by getting wider sidewalks.  That’s where the political support comes from.  Cyclists are not yet numerous enough to form a viable political base.  By catering to pedestrians, who are too large a group for the media to pick on, you avoid much of the negative press.  And no politician will threaten to remove the wider sidewalks for the benefit of the motoring minority.  The elevated bike lane is just a nice little bonus which was put in along with wider sidewalks.  It has the benefit of faster, safer cycling trips, plus the potential of adding far more riders than the protected lanes have.  And done right, by renting space on it for utility lines or advertising, it may well be not require additional tax dollars.  Everyone wins.

  • Bay Ridger

    Yeah, because those bike lanes on Bay Ridge Parkway worked out so well for everyone who wasn’t named Dominic Recchia.

  • Driver

    Joe, the problem with your suggestion is that cycling is not nearly as dangerous as risky or dangerous out here in Queens as it is in congested Midtown/Downtown.  Recreational cyclists have an abundance of neighborhood streets to choose from that are not major thoroughfares and are pleasant to ride on.  I doubt many cyclists would want to give up leisurely riding on neighborhood side streets to ride on a protected lane on a street like Northern Blvd or Union Tpke; major thoroughfares where protected bike lanes would likely be placed.   I know I wouldn’t. 
    As for elevated bike lanes in Manhattan, it sounds good on paper, but the residents of Manhattan would likely fight tooth and nail against any unsightly overhead infrastructure.  I know it could be made with thought to aesthetics, but the chances of pushing the project on residents would likely be slim to none.  Those elevated areas would also be a magnet for the homeless and other vagrants to relieve themselves in at night, and seems like a very uninviting situation for individual riders, particularly women, during off peak hours. 

  • Joe R.

    Apples to oranges, Bay Ridger.  Bay Ridge isn’t far from Prospect Park, epicenter of the entire bikelash.  Little doubt there was some spillover of negativity into CB10 when they voted against the bike lanes.  I just don’t see those kinds of negative feelings where I live.  We added new bike lanes on 164th Street and along Jewel Avenue here a few years back.  I’ve yet to hear anyone complain about them.

  • Mike

    Let’s all stop feeding the troll.

  • Joe R.

    Mike-I know you’re not keen on some of my ideas, but it’s a stretch to call me a troll.  I’m only offering up alternatives because from my standpoint what’s being done now isn’t working all that well.  Maybe in your alternate universe things are different.  Since you’re so keen to criticize, then how about offering up some ideas of your own?  As things stand, unless we magically start getting rid of large numbers of cars, I’m just not seeing how we can make street-level riding reasonably fast and pleasant in a place like Manhattan.

    Driver-I’m not seeing how elevated bike lanes are going to be any more of a magnet for the homeless than the subways already are.  Besides, homelessness is a publicly policy issue.  We shouldn’t use it as an excuse not to do this or that.  I agree there might be aesthetic concerns, but look, we have highways which are ten times as ugly as any elevated bike lane might be, yet somehow those got built.

    As for riding preferences, the major thoroughfares are often the only contiguous routes here given how many quiet streets only run for a mile or two before being interrupted by a highway, or park, or railroad.  If utility cycling took off here, yes, they would be highly used if they were made safe.  When I ride out of the city, which is only about 6.5 miles, Union Turnpike is really the only only viable route I have.  73rd Avenue ends at 230th Street.  Everything else doesn’t even get me that far.

  • Joe R.

    Mike-I know you’re not keen on some of my ideas, but it’s a stretch to call me a troll.  I’m only offering up alternatives because from my standpoint what’s being done now isn’t working all that well.  Maybe in your alternate universe things are different.  Since you’re so keen to criticize, then how about offering up some ideas of your own?  As things stand, unless we magically start getting rid of large numbers of cars, I’m just not seeing how we can make street-level riding reasonably fast and pleasant in a place like Manhattan.

    Driver-I’m not seeing how elevated bike lanes are going to be any more of a magnet for the homeless than the subways already are.  Besides, homelessness is a publicly policy issue.  We shouldn’t use it as an excuse not to do this or that.  I agree there might be aesthetic concerns, but look, we have highways which are ten times as ugly as any elevated bike lane might be, yet somehow those got built.

    As for riding preferences, the major thoroughfares are often the only contiguous routes here given how many quiet streets only run for a mile or two before being interrupted by a highway, or park, or railroad.  If utility cycling took off here, yes, they would be highly used if they were made safe.  When I ride out of the city, which is only about 6.5 miles, Union Turnpike is really the only only viable route I have.  73rd Avenue ends at 230th Street.  Everything else doesn’t even get me that far.

  • Driver

    Troll???  Joe R. is a regular contributor here, and although his ideas are very different, he takes the time to write intelligent and coherent posts that are often very out of the box and thought provoking.  That’s much more than I see from you Mike.  I am familiar with several regular commenter here on SB, and although I don’t know Joe personally, I feel like I know quite a bit about him from his participation here.  All I know of you Mike is your one sentence non-contributory post, which in my opinion makes you the troll. 

    Joe, you can’t compare those bike lanes on Jewel or 164th. to protected lanes.   They are door zone lanes, and the reason no one complains about them is they did not remove any traffic lanes.  Take a lane of traffic (two actually because they are two way arteries) away from a Northern Blvd or a Union Tpke, and people will be bitching up a storm. 
    I know your biking habits and motivations are different from many typical leisure riders, but the great thing about recreational riding is it is not terribly important to take the most direct or contiguous route.  Having to travel over a few blocks to cross an Expwy or RR tracks is not extra riding when you are simply riding for the sake of riding, as opposed to getting to a destination quickly and efficiently.

    “Driver-I’m not seeing how elevated bike lanes are going to be any more
    of a magnet for the homeless than the subways already are.”
    Exactly.  Would you want to ride in a tube that smells like the subway?
    And I could be mistaken, but think the reason the got rid of the El’s in (lower) Manhattan was in large part to their unsightliness. 

  • Joe R.

    Thanks for the support, Driver.  Regarding a protected lane on Northern Blvd. or Union Tpke., agreed 100% it would cause an uproar, but there’s probably little need for one anyway.  There are lots of other places we could build major routes for bikes here, such as on the sides of railroad rights-of-way.  This offers an interrupted route with small gradients.  And it’s not overly costly to attached support for a bike lane on the side of a railroad viaduct.  You can also use the medians of highways, space permitting.  Yes, when I ride recreationally I couldn’t care less about direct routes, even on longer rides.  I just happen to stick to arterials because they allow more uninterrupted, high-speed riding than quiet neighborhood streets with stop signs every block, and I’m perfectly comfortable mixing it up with fast motor traffic.  Just my riding style. But if we want cycling as transportation to take off, then direct, safe, fast routes running many miles will become very important.

    Ironically, we have the start of what could be a nice, grade-separated bike route not far from me-namely the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway.  I rarely use it because it really doesn’t go anywhere.  It’s only about 2 miles long, barely a warmup for me.  If extended in both directions it could become a major east-west bike highway for northern Queens.

  • Joe R.

    Oh, almost forgot-yes, the els came down in Manhattan because they were universally despised as eyesores.  They made the streets underneath dark and uninviting.  Don’t forget though they were huge steel structures designed to support trains weighing hundreds of tons, spanning the width of the street.  A well-designed overhead bike lane wouldn’t be any uglier than a pedestrian overpass.  If could even be open and airy.  It wouldn’t need to be more than maybe 20 feet wide tops (to allow one lane with room for safe passing in each direction).

  • Driver

    The only scenario in which I could see cycling taking off as a serious method of transportation in our neck of the woods is if driving became so expensive that the typical working or middle class person couldn’t afford to do it anymore.  If that ever becomes the case, then we would have plenty of free space on the roads to accommodate the increased cycling.
    It makes sense to implement the new bike lanes where there are already plenty of people biking, where the prospect of new bikers is greatest, and where the greatest impact in regards to the safety of biking can be made.  Manhattan seems to satisfy all these requirements.  To try to implement a new bike network with the idea of getting people in the boroughs out of their cars is an idea likely doomed for failure.  Implementing it in Manhattan where people wish they could get around on a bike if it wasn’t so terribly dangerous and can now do so (to some extent) makes a lot of sense. 
         No one is going to ride the 12 miles into Manhattan if they get there and risk life and limb once they cross the bridge.  Building a network from the outside in just doesn’t make sense.  The typical person is not going to ride 12 miles to Manhattan even with a full bike network to and within Manhattan.  Some will, but getting the masses to do it seems highly unlikely. 
         Joe, when you talk about bike networks and cycling significant distances for transportation, you seem to discuss it from your own perspective.  It is clear to me, and I’m sure you know it also, that you think and behave much differently than the average person.  That is in no way a bad thing, I like to beat to my own drum also, but you have to keep in mind the perspective of the typical commuter and their comfort zones and limitations.  I think most (though certainly not all) people commuting from our area would rather spend 1-1.5 hours (I’m not really sure how long it takes) on an express bus reading or web browsing than spend 35-45 minutes pedaling to work and needing a change of clothes when they arrive. 
         One more thing.  Delving into the hypothetical, if we were to build this elaborate  elevated bike network and it were to catch on with the masses, would one travel lane and one passing lane really be enough?  I really don’t think so.

  • Perry Masonic

    There should be a big sign hanging on this thread:

    “Clueless Blathering Morons Leave Your Comments Here.”

  • Driver

    Thanks for another articulate and insightful comment.  Hope things are going well there in troll city.

  • Joe R.

    Driver, best to just ignore the real trolls here while you and I are having an intelligent, give and take discussion on the merits/problems with my ideas.  And make no mistake, I appreciate your input because it helps me see the other side of things.

    I’m basing some of what I’ve said here on the bike superhighways currently being built in the Netherlands.  Long distance bike commuting has become much more popular there recently precisely because there are now routes where one can ride 15 or 20 miles in perfect safety, and maybe need to stop only once or twice.  It would work here also I think, perhaps well enough that one travel lane and one passing lane in each direction might indeed not be enough.

    Yes, true the majority here where I live would prefer the subway or express bus over cycling.  It’s a 40-45 minute trip into Manhattan for me with the bus-subway combo.  No way I’m biking in given the present network because it’ll be slower and more stressful, even though the distance wouldn’t phase me.  I doubt I could make it in under an hour, and probably closer to 1.5 hours if I obeyed every light.  Now let’s say you have a similar network to the Netherlands.  Maybe I do a few blocks on each end on regular roads, the other 11 miles without stopping.  Now I can do the trip in under 40 minutes easy, even potentially under 30 minutes using a velomobile.  Now I’ll probably WANT to bike in.  Same with others.  It’s not so much distance that matters as time.  The majority of people won’t bike commute if it takes longer than about 30 minutes.  The goal then is to maximize the distance you can cover in that 30 minutes in order to expand the feasible commuting radius.

    I agree in principle here that Manhattan may have been the best place to start for the reasons you say.  The problem is the implementation.  Yes, the protected bike lanes offer added safety except at intersections (where most collisions happen).  They don’t really bring anything else to the table.  Experienced riders, which is what every cyclist will eventually become if they stick with it, often avoid the lanes because they’re too slow and too filled with obstacles.  In short, my ideas would have had a better chance of making riding in Manhattan safer, more pleasant, and faster even though they would have cost more.  Given a choice, cyclists will choose completely separate infrastructure over anything else.  The popularity of the West Side Greenway speaks to that.  Separate infrastructure of course need not be elevated.  That only comes into play because in much of NYC there really is no place else to put things.  Existing roads might be perfectly fine in some future where nobody drives any more, but do you honestly see that happening in our lifetimes? 

  • Daphna

    Bike lanes have not generated such backlash.  The media just reports as if there is a backlash.  The media is not reporting responses from a cross section of people, just from specially picked bike lane opponents.  Polls show that New Yorkers support bike lanes.  Te media would likely have falsely reported a backlash against bike lanes whether they were installed in the outer edges of the outer boroughs or in central Manhattan.

    What is needed is for the DOT to go ahead and rapidly build out the network of protected bike lanes and get that network to be connected throughout the city.  Then biking will increase 500-1000% and there will be a million riders and they will have the clout going forward to be able to get and maintain sufficient infrastructure for cycling.  I wish Bloomberg would make completing the network of protected bike lanes his legacy; it would be extremely positive for him because history would show it to be a complete success.

  • Joe R.

    Daphna, it seems we both want pretty much the same thing here-to grow cycling to the point where it becomes a political third rail.  You probably already have your million riders right now.  Problem is they’re mostly recreational, mostly ride a handful of days each year, and just haven’t visualized bikes as anything beyond occasional exercise.  Working cyclists easily make up the largest group of regular cyclists.  After that I’d say it’s a tossup between daily commuter/utility cyclists, or hard core regular recreational riders like myself, but both groups combined number less than working cyclists, at least in Manhattan.

    We need to reach out to those 1 million+ very occasional recreational riders, somehow get the message out that a bike is also a very useful tool.  Sure, protected lanes send that message.  All I’m doing is taking it to the next level.  As you say, rapidly building out a connected network is key.  My method is to do it without attracting negative media attention to it.  Basically, you build something whose ostensible primary benefit is aimed at pedestrians, such as taking away a traffic lane or parking to widen sidewalks.  You next say you’re making the new sidewalk “sheltered”.  Merchants will love this.  So will shoppers.  It just so happens that you’re using the roof of that shelter as a new, elevated bike lane, but you make it sound almost like an afterthought (i.e. why let all that space up top go to waste?), even though that was your primary goal all along.  Now you garner political support from the majority (pedestrians), while further growing the group of cyclists.  And because this is costly, more permanent infrastructure, it will be far more immune to the politics than painted bike lanes.

    The sad reality in NYC is we have a small but powerful lobby of well-connected people who will fight tooth-and-nail any initiative which takes space from motor vehicles, even if the majority wants it.  You can successfully fight this lobby if you get enough people on your side.  Cyclists unfortunately aren’t a large enough group to do this on their own-yet.  Pedestrians on the other hand are the largest group by far in Manhattan.  Moreover, everyone is a pedestrian at one time or another.  If every bike project includes something which benefits pedestrians as much or more, then you can get things done.  In a few years you have your million cyclists riding on infrastructure, with no fear of it ever being taken away.

  • moocow

    Gah! Stop calling Joe and Driver trolls!
    These are new ideas, this is where the next Idea comes from, debate like this. These aren’t rants, these are plans thought out and now being debated. If you have nothing to add, then don’t. You aren’t being forced to read this post.

  • Joe, your plan to deliver real benefits (that happen to be in the form of bicycle infrastructure) to pedestrians sounds a lot like the PPW lane, but more expensive and complex. That expense would make it more difficult to remove, but I don’t see the PPW lane as being in any real danger of that. It delivers the pedestrian benefits that it promised, and majorities of the local population approve of it.

    The worst anybody can say about PPW at present is that well-connected people who value driving and parking above walking or cycling have gotten a slew of negative stories placed in TV and print news. (And filed a frivolous lawsuit.) All it takes is one buddy at CBS 2 and a few at the Times and the Post to get this garbage out there. That’s the major weakness of legacy media outlets; their limited editorial pool is easily corrupted by corporate public relations and personal requests from powerful people.

    Old media corruption seems to be increasing as they lose readers and viewers to the distributed media of the internet, to the point where reading the Times on transportation and other policy issues is cognitive dissonance for the average middle-class non-retired New Yorker. A lot of people in this group still value the NYT brand, but if you challenge them about the paper’s well-known and harmful reporting screwups of the past decade they will talk about the ongoing cultural dominance of its restaurant criticism, etc. Maybe the paper devolves to a lifestyle publisher, which is fine with me. Corruption in that department does less damage.

    While some things could always have been done better, I don’t think an old media backlash could have been avoided. It was not possible to avoid pissing off at least 5 powerful New Yorkers, and that’s all it takes. But the numbers of daily cyclists I’m seeing this summer are massive. And in my neighborhood around Atlantic Av, pedestrians are taking advantage of every tweak in signal timings and sidewalk extensions to take greater ownership of their streets. All that negative press is having no apparent effect on the public. The reactionaries overplayed their hand, and now their media puppets will need to adapt to the shift in transportation priorities or lose readers even faster.

    But whether or not it would have worked any better or worse to start with grade-separated bicycle highways, I’m for breaking ground on them at any time!

  • Joe, your plan to deliver real benefits (that happen to be in the form of bicycle infrastructure) to pedestrians sounds a lot like the PPW lane, but more expensive and complex. That expense would make it more difficult to remove, but I don’t see the PPW lane as being in any real danger of that. It delivers the pedestrian benefits that it promised, and majorities of the local population approve of it.

    The worst anybody can say about PPW at present is that well-connected people who value driving and parking above walking or cycling have gotten a slew of negative stories placed in TV and print news. (And filed a frivolous lawsuit.) All it takes is one buddy at CBS 2 and a few at the Times and the Post to get this garbage out there. That’s the major weakness of legacy media outlets; their limited editorial pool is easily corrupted by corporate public relations and personal requests from powerful people.

    Old media corruption seems to be increasing as they lose readers and viewers to the distributed media of the internet, to the point where reading the Times on transportation and other policy issues is cognitive dissonance for the average middle-class non-retired New Yorker. A lot of people in this group still value the NYT brand, but if you challenge them about the paper’s well-known and harmful reporting screwups of the past decade they will talk about the ongoing cultural dominance of its restaurant criticism, etc. Maybe the paper devolves to a lifestyle publisher, which is fine with me. Corruption in that department does less damage.

    While some things could always have been done better, I don’t think an old media backlash could have been avoided. It was not possible to avoid pissing off at least 5 powerful New Yorkers, and that’s all it takes. But the numbers of daily cyclists I’m seeing this summer are massive. And in my neighborhood around Atlantic Av, pedestrians are taking advantage of every tweak in signal timings and sidewalk extensions to take greater ownership of their streets. All that negative press is having no apparent effect on the public. The reactionaries overplayed their hand, and now their media puppets will need to adapt to the shift in transportation priorities or lose readers even faster.

    But whether or not it would have worked any better or worse to start with grade-separated bicycle highways, I’m for breaking ground on them at any time!