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.
  • moocow

    Thanks Ben, the WCBS “story” needed this response. One of the best Streetsblog titles is followed by a great rebuttal.

  • Hillarious Report

    This report was even so beyond the typical Marcia Kramer bias that it could have run on the Onion News Network.  I actually wasn’t even that mad watching, I was laughing at how out of touch she and CBS2 are becoming with average New Yorkers.  That will eventually hurt them in the ratings which is where it will count.

  • Perhaps someone should point out that one of the all-time favorite bomb-delivery methods is … car bombs.  A car or truck is a much better choice than a bicycle for a terrorist — much bigger cargo capacity, much harder to spot.

    So if terrorism is the issue, the most effective plan is simple:  ban cars.

  • Mike

    The pre-roll ad for a hideous McMansion in the Poconos kind of says it all.

  • Josef

    Parking is the only use of street space that is actually potentially threatening to anyone. That’s why most US Consulates/Embassies do not allow parking in front. 

  • Great take-down. The only thing I’d add, because I ride up there all the time, is that basically all of the construction around the bridge is due to construction, not over-crowding. You can clearly see this in the video even.

    I’m amazed that CBS2 can keep churning out such low-grade “news” without anyone who works there protesting. I mean, sure, Marcia Kramer is a batshit lunatic, I get that, the country is full of people like her. But NO ONE at CBS2 is in touch with reality? NO ONE there advised her that the “What if a terrorist were to ride a bike?!” line was maybe a bridge too far? Really? It’s hard to imagine that not a single person at that “news” organization felt obligated to raise an objection to that “report”. I really do find it staggering. Maybe they try, but are just overruled by higher-ups or something. I don’t get it.

  • fdr

    How did you miss the Post article?
    “Midtown bike-racked – Traffic nightmare looms with lane extension”
    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/manhattan/midtown_bike_racked_X29FyKGDn6R6FC41GmFTWO

  • Why isn’t that labeled as an editorial?

  • Eric McClure

    “Only 90 minutes from Manhattan!”

  • Kramer is all about appealing to the worst in people.  That’s why she actually departed from the pre-released script in her taped report, by saying “Imagine if a man on a bike were a terrorist,” instead of “leaving many wondering what would happen if a man on a bike were a terrorist.”  She’s deliberately fanning people’s worst and most irrational fears.  Disgusting.

    Silverblatt is a perfect FOIL for Kramer. He gets up at CB6 meetings and denounces bike infrastructure projects based on patent misunderstandings of what is actually being proposed, and simply won’t listen when you try to explain the facts. Yet I have never once heard him advocate for pedestrian safety in any way, shape or form, despite the disproportionate rate of pedestrians killed in Midtown East.

    Way to serve the community, Bruce.

  • Her report is like a bad SNL skit.

  • The Ghost of Henry Barnes

    Indeed it’s a total and complete joke. Yet, this non-stop tabloid garbage from the Post, CBS2 and even the NYT Metro desk is going to help shape and define the 2013 mayoral campaign. It already is. John Liu was heard at a recent fundraiser house party in Brooklyn insisting that he’s a cyclist and supporter of biking but the bike network build-out has gone too far under Bloomberg, car-free Times Square project has shunted traffic to other streets and hurt mom-and-pop business, DOT’s data and numbers aren’t trustworthy, there was no public process for these pedestrian and bike projects.

    All of these claims are completely and totally untrue. But John Liu was entirely comfortable and felt like he was on firm ground reciting this bullshit in front of a bunch of Brooklynites he was trying to woo as supporters. So, yeah, we should laugh at Marcia Kramer. She’s a complete fucking clown and hard to take seriously. But don’t underestimate the degree to which a good old fashioned tabloid smear campaign actually works, particularly during election year “silly season.” Remember the Ground Zero Mosque? Bike lanes are your Ground Zero Mosque.

    So, this is the challenge for NYC livable streets advocates and Transportation Alternatives right now. How do we get these 2013 mayoral candidates to pay attention to facts and rational arguments rather than the utter garbage being produced by hacks like Kramer, Cuozzo, Grynbaum (or Grynbaum’s editor)? How do we organize a powerful and diverse enough political coalition that these great projects don’t all get reversed by a regressive DOT commissioner under the next mayoral administration? Time’s running out, folks. Is the vaunted “bike lobby” thinking about this and working on it? I sure hope so.

  • Dan Rather Not

    Marcia Kramer: doing her best to besmirch the legacy of Edward R. Murrow and the Tiffany network every time she files a “report.”

    Pack it in, Marcia. You’ve passed from bad journalist to parody of a bad journalist. Jon Stewart should sue her for copyright infringement. Perhaps Jim Walden will take the case pro bono.

  • Station44025

    Yes: wtc bombing, times square bombing attempt, Oklahoma city,Glasgow airport attack ; all truck or suv bombs. That is exactly why Wall Street is closed to traffic, and barriers to vehicles are placed around likely targets. Marcia Kramer is a completely irrational lunatic. Sounds like 2nd ave should definitely be closed to traffic, or at least all large vehicles should be stopped and searched like they are in the tunnel approaches if there are credible threats against the embassy.

    But good work figuring out how to press a completely irrational point by somehow mixing terrorism into it, no matter how much of a reach it is. I guess Kramer thinks (knows?) her viewers are complete idiots.

  • wkgreen

    I don’t want to give anyone ideas, but wouldn’t a car or truck pack more explosive punch than a bicycle? just curious.

  • Ian

    I agree with your overall point, but the chart showing bike lanes as a percentage of the total sq. footage of NYC streets is disingenuous (and I’ve seen it posted elsewhere on streetsblog). What really matters is of the X miles of streets in NYC, how many linear miles of those have new bike / bus lanes (assuming the bike and bus lanes are built in accordance with standards and serve their purpose)? It makes a staggering graph when you use area, but it’s also not particularly useful.

  • MR

    Obviously, protected bike lanes are almost always a good idea, but I really question the DOT’s statement that on streets where “new” lanes are installed, 10% of all traffic is bike traffic.  That doesn’t seem plausible at all.  At least not in Manhattan.

  • J:Lai

    Ian,
    I think that if the question posed is something like “how much of the city is accessible by bike lane?” then linear miles of bike lane relative to total road miles would be the relevant metric.
    However, when the question is “how much space is allocated to bikes vs cars and trucks?” then area is also relevant.

    For example, a qadruple-width bike line on 2nd avenue would not make the city 4x as accessible by bike compared ot a single bike lane; arguably it adds nothing given that the single bike lane is not at capacity.
    However, such a super-wide bike lane would shift the allocation of space.

    When it comes to a question of how much space should be allocated to bikes vs cars, both metrics are important.

    For example, how much is car traffic impeded when you reduce 4 travel lanes to 3, in order to dedicate one to bikes?  If it is proportional to the decrease lanes (e.g. 25%, give or take second order effects) then the relative area is indeed relevant.

    On the other hand, if taking away a car travel lane completely changes the traffic flow (e.g. goes from steady movement to complete gridlock due to some non-linear effects) then relative linear miles is more relevant metric.

  • Jeff

    It doesn’t appear that way because traffic in bicycle lanes actually moves (a novel concept for a transportation system).  If bicycles occupied 200 square feet of space and sat in low-speed traffic like a bunch of sheep, this number would be more readily observable.

  • @ringrunner:disqus  – Why isn’t Kramer’s piece labeled as an audition for the Onion News Network?

  • JK

    Fantastic piece Ben. Thanks for wading through this deluge of absurdity. Though, you didn’t quite call Marcia out for lumping motorists and bus riders together. Odds are good that transit riders, not motorists should “rule the road” on Second Avenue.

  • • Vigilant journalists like Marcia Kramer know that all bicyclists are terrorists.

  • moocow

    Yikes, I think he said that on my rooftop.
    All politics ARE local.
    Liu has said stupid stuff before, something about bikes not obeying laws, then SB or TA sent round the photo of him on the sidewalk on his recumbent.
    I wish Yassky had won, he is a very smart guy.

  • J

    Headline: “Bike Lanes Enhance Bike Terrorist Commute Options, Safety”

  • J

    Headline: “Bike Lanes Enhance Bike Terrorist Commute Options, Safety”

  • J

    Headline: “Bike Lanes Enhance Bike Terrorist Commute Options, Safety”

  • Daphna

    There is no extension of the 2nd Avenue bike lane, just sharrows.  The extension of the 1st Avenue bike lane is only 15 blocks, with only 10 of those blocks as protected lanes.

    1st Avenue from 34th-40th & 42nd-46th Street – parking protected bike lane.
    40-41 Street – NO bike lane, no sharrows.
    41-42nd Street – non-protected bike lane between two motor vehicle travel lanes.
    46-47th Street – 1/3 of block is a protected bike lane, 1/3 is sharrows only, 1/3 is a non-protected bike lane in between two motor vehicle travel lanes.
    47-48th Street – non-protected bike lane with a very narrow painted buffer
    48-49th Street – non-protected curbside bike lane with no buffer

    49-56th Street – sharrows.  These sharrows are terrible to bike over – like constant rumble strips.  The overhead signs that are supposed to be like the bus signs indicating that the lane is shared car/bike are not installed.

    I thought this plan was for 15 blocks of a protected lane extension and am disappointed it is only 10 blocks of protected lanes and 4 blocks of non-protected lanes.  The protected lane really should go the whole way up to 125th Street as originally planned and approved the by the community boards.  It would be so useful!!!

  • jt

    Your question is so relevant that it must be ignored by the anti-bike crowd. It reminds me of when the Port Authority cited possible terrorism as a reason to end 24 hour access to the pedestrian/bike path on the George Washington Bridge. 

  • Shemp

    Actually, bikes have been ~10% of Manhattan vehicles in many places for quite a while – see http://www.transalt.org/files/resources/blueprint/appendix/table1.html

  • Anonymous

    As a daily (except today because it’s going to storm!) bike commuter to midtown from downtown, who relies on the 1st and 2nd ave bike lane, I must say that “closing the gap” is a must!

    With the gap closed, when heading home, I can take side streets until I reach 2nd ave.  Whereas now, I have to take 5th avenue until I can take 34th street across to 2nd ave (amazingly, cabs avoid the bus lane, even when they’re allowed).  

    I can’t tell you how terrifying the ride down 5th ave has been for me.  Daily, I get taxi drivers honking like crazy and aggressively buzzing/passing me and giving me the finger.  

    This is a daily occurrence.  Even when I’m keeping up with traffic.  It’s really scary.  I’m obeying the law.  I stop at red lights.  I yield to peds. I’ve got flashing lights on. I’m keeping up with traffic.  And I still get tons of cabs honking and swearing at me.  Even though I’m not costing them any time!  There could be a hundred cabs in front of me all packed in.  But yet, these guys want to rage on me!  It’s really scary but, what am I supposed to do?  Pull aside and ride slowly in the door zone–which will cause me to waste time and energy–just so some cabbie can be bumper-to-bumper to the cab directly in front of me  (talk about entitled)?

    I love biking to and from work.  Even when I can take a company provided car home when I work late, I still prefer to bike.  It’s the greatest feeling.  After sitting at a desk all day, I get to actually exercise on my way home.  It’s not about about being a rebel. It’s about preferring a certain mode of transportation based on my personal preferences (exercise, mobility, freedom). And I try my best to be a good bike ambassador.  It sucks after sitting at a desk to just sit again in some black car.  Or wait for the train. And I appreciate the efforts that the City is doing in making it easier for me people to bike to work.  But man, what are the Marcia Kramer’s of the world thinking?  Why does she lobby on behalf of drivers so hard?  Who can afford to drive to work anyway?  Sure, there’s a lot of congestion in mid-town, but, that’s not the bikers’ fault.  Where was she on congestion pricing?  Something that would actually combat congestion.  If more people biked and less took cabs and/or drove then there’d be less congestion.  When I take the 1st ave bike lane up in the mornings, I swear, at 14th street, we’ll have 6 or 7 bikers waiting for the light to change.  We even have bike lane congestion.  The bike lanes are working.  Please keep it up city!

  • MR

    @c3ada303f47cce9fec78f074271108eb:disqus Appreciate the link, although I think it’s fair to take TA cycling data with a grain of salt, particularly a survey that seems to generally target midtown during lunchtime (delivery!).  I guess I’m just thinking about my own observations of the new Columbus Ave lane, where bicycles are nowhere near 10%.

    I suppose different neighborhoods probably see different trends.

  • Anonymous

    Wait.  Second ave is only getting Sharrows?

    So what the f-ck is MK bi-ching about?  

    That area of 1st ave by the UN doesn’t get a ton of traffic either.  It def has capacity because of the tunnel under the UN complex. 

  • moocow

    Natty, are you riding on the left or right side of Fifth Ave? I find all the aggression that you speak of, but not the honking and such, on the left side of the avenue.  And no “right hooks” as cars turn west.

  • Daphna

    Yep, no 2nd Avenue bike lane, just sharrows.  From an April, 28, 2001 article:
    “On First Avenue, reported Falk, the parking protected lane will be
    extended from 34th Street to 49th. After that, cyclists will ride in a
    specially-designed shared lane to 57th Street. The design of the shared
    lane is new to New York City, with the “sharrow” stencil placed directly
    in the middle and a solid white line setting it off from regular
    traffic lanes. On Second Avenue, the same shared lane treatment will
    extend the entire way from 34th to 57th.”

    Unfortunately, as I wrote above, even this scaled down plan described on 4/28/11 is not being installed.  Actually only 10 of the 15 blocks on 1st Avenue from 34-49 are parking protected lanes.  And the sharrows only go to 56th not 57th Street and they are to the left of the lane, not in the center.
     

  • Daphna

    Oops, I meant an April 28, 2011 article, not 2001 – sorry for that typo.

  • CBS Lunacy

    And of course a bike rider is the only person that could strap a bomb to themselves.  There could never be a bomb in a car that could be used to a much more dangerous degree.  Marsha Kramer is insane.

  • (…by car)

  • C.E.

    I rode by the Israeli Consulate today on a rare commute on 2nd Avenue.  I really wanted to yell out something and then though better of it.  Thanks Marcia for almost getting me in trouble…

  • Pro Bozo

    Jim Walden should send this clip to the judge in the PPW bike lane case as evidence that he should postpone the trial until 2014.

  • Mike

    Don’t worry; the sharrows will soon be worn away by the heavy car traffic on 1st Ave, leaving nothing at all for bikes.

    They should have put a protected bike path through the tunnel, similar to the protected bike path on the Fort Hamilton Parkway bridge near Park Circle.  This implementation is a joke.

  • Anonymous

    @twowheel:disqus 
    I take 5th ave from about 45th to 34th (or wherever feels safe to cut over).

    I usually take the left side because (i) I turn left and I’m only on there for about 10 blocks; and (ii) the right side is bus lanes which are frequently actually filled with buses, including express buses). 

    I usually take the left most lane, and then the second left most lane, when I hit the parked cars.  

  • The first and second avenue bike lanes are my commute, every day. I go up 1st avenue every single day in the morning rush hour. The traffic is very light compared to most other avenues, especially in the new expansion sections by the UN. This piece of “journalism” is cherry picking at best and a hit piece at worst. Plus – and let’s be honest here because this is the best part of the bike lane project – bike lanes in New York are 20% about where the city is today, and 80% about where it wants to be in the future.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I used to take 5th Avenue, but now I deal with the pedestrians in the bike lane on Broadway.  Use it or lose it.

  • Anonymous

    Shemp, thanks much for digging out that link to the TA data matrix in the Bicycle Blueprint. I curated that data, back in the day, initially as a pre-emptive strike against any effort to re-impose a midtown bike ban, and later to strengthen the legitimacy of our bike advocacy in general. It’s nice to see it again.

    MR, contributing to the surprisingly high numbers (~ 10%) of cyclists on those midtown avenues was the then-high rate of messenger cycling; food-delivery cycling was still in relative infancy. I’m not sure it matters much what “type” of cycling or cyclists are out there, any more than it matters whether motor vehicle drivers are “commuters,” “non-commuters,” taxi users, truckers, etc.

  • Anonymous

    A few months ago my wife and I stopped our bikes
    at a red light. A somewhat hunchbacked woman crossing the street turned to us
    with the evil eye. Then she yelled “terrorists” and kept walking.

    While I was
    puzzled then, at least now I know who Marcia Kramer’s audience is.

    Note to Channel 2 News Director: The next time that “political reporter” Marcia Kramer insists on doing another “Bike Bedlam” hit piece, remember that she’s not interested in facts. Therefore, don’t forget to add the “EDITORIAL” chyron in the edit room.

    Crap is King, and Jim Jensen’s spinning in his grave.

  • Anonymous

    A few months ago my wife and I stopped our bikes
    at a red light. A somewhat hunchbacked woman crossing the street turned to us
    with the evil eye. Then she yelled “terrorists” and kept walking.

    While I was
    puzzled then, at least now I know who Marcia Kramer’s audience is.

    Note to Channel 2 News Director: The next time that “political reporter” Marcia Kramer insists on doing another “Bike Bedlam” hit piece, remember that she’s not interested in facts. Therefore, don’t forget to add the “EDITORIAL” chyron in the edit room.

    Crap is King, and Jim Jensen’s spinning in his grave.

  • Anonymous

    On Yasky, me too.

    @ Ghost: That’s interesting.  Did anyone at the event challenge his world view? (Not a rhetorical question, just a question–sometimes I think people in power cling to certain notions because no one corrects them.)

  • Anonymous

    OMG Hilarious.  I had a similar experience farther downtown, but not as perfect as that.  That should be a scene in a movie.  I once had a woman in a pool ask me if I was “one of those agitators,” meaning do I splash, which I found hilarious.

  • Mr. Peabody

    Someone out there should print out a bunch of these Marcia Kramer story critiques from Streetsblog, Gothamist and wherever else and send them to Scott Pelley, the new anchor at CBS Evening News. Pelley is a real journalist with a ton of integrity. He really cares about quality reporting and I’m sure he would be truly embarrassed if he knew this shit were going on under the watchful “eye” of Murrow and Cronkite. Perhaps Scott would pick up the phone or walk downstairs to CBS2 and tell an executive producer or Kramer herself to cut this bullshit out because it’s tarnishing his entire news brand. Because it is!

    Scott Pelley
    CBS Evening News
    524 West 57th Street

    New York, NY 10019

  • moocow

    That’s what I do, and what I was going to suggest, sorry its so unpleasant, but then, as bike terrorists we must endure, right?
    And Larry, you must have the patience of a saint, because I cannot stand the pedestrian traffic in that bike lane.  Esp when I firmly believe these are the people complaining about the scofflaw bikers.

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