Today’s Headlines

  • MTA, TWU Haven’t Moved on Contract Talks in Three Months (Post)
  • Michael Powell: It’s Silly to Oppose Letting Developers Build on NYCHA Parking Lots (NYT)
  • Manhattan CB 5 Votes to Claim Street Space for CitiBike Docks Outside Grand Central (DNA)
  • Carrion Says “Infrastructure Investment” and “Economic Development” Will Be Campaign Pillars (NYT)
  • Son of Staten Island Killed in Indianapolis Ambulance Crash (Post)
  • Brace Yourself, You May Nod in Agreement With Steve Cuozzo’s Take on Midtown East (Post)
  • March 4 Is Transit Awareness Day in Albany (MTR)
  • 1950s-Era Transport Planning Alive and Well in Louisville (NYT)
  • A Proposal to Get More Bang Out of Safe Routes to School Bucks (StrongTowns)
  • The “Worst Cities for Driving” Include a Lot of Great Cities for Walking (WSJ)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • moocow

    Notice the multiple uses of the word crash in the Indianapolis ambulance story?
    He sounds like a motivated kid, I’m sorry he was taken from us.

  • moocow

    And let us not forget Cuozzo is a food critic, he’s at the Post to tell you what wine to have with your Olive Garden endless pasta.

  • Albert

    I was floored to read this unusual bicycle endorsement by the Times in the article about developers building on NYCHA parking lots:

    “…Bill de Blasio…declaring he might pare back the admirable lattice of bike
    lanes that spread across the city.”

    Usually, when a NY newspaper tosses a gratuitous bicycle remark into an otherwise unrelated article, it’s something critical & snarky.  But—the Times mentioning that they actually *admire* NYC’s bike lanes—when they don’t have to even bring up the subject?  How far we’ve come!

    Is this part of a trend toward a mayoral candidate transportation policy litmus test?

  • Hello Streetsblog New Yorkers! San Francisco Streetsblog commenter here. I am visiting New York on Thursday and am considering renting a bicycle and riding around. (I love seeing cities by bicycle!) We want to ride from our hotel near 62nd and York to the Metropolitan Museum, then through Central Park, then to Times Square, then to MOMA, then back to the hotel. It’s a 6.6 mile circuit that would be a long ways on foot but should be a breeze by bike. But as I ponder a pdf of the cycling map put out by the city of New York, I find myself with questions.

    1) I have ridden bicycles for four years on the streets of San Francisco, and I’ve also biked in Seattle, Boston, Honolulu, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin and Vienna. Can I handle riding in Manhattan? Will I die?
    2) I’ve found a shop that rents bikes near my hotel. But I’m bemused that the city bike map shows no east-west bike lanes on the east side of town between E 21st st and E 89th. I like bike lanes. (I like protected lanes even better.) Google maps says we should take 1st  Ave to E 83rd st on our way to the Met. Is E 83rd not a death-defying experience?
    3) I don’t understand why the bike routes in Central Park look to form a big one-way circuit so you can’t go south without first getting to the western side (and it looks like there are few ways to get to the western side.) And the variable hours are confusing–can you only ride bikes when it is auto-free or is that just when it’s most pleasant to ride? Google maps recommends we take 5th ave to Terrace Dr to West Dr. But 5th Ave has no bike lane and, as I remember, about five lanes of traffic with honking taxis? Gosh, I would rather ride in the park.
    4) Google maps recommends riding from Times Square to MOMA on 6th Ave, and then taking E 54th street back towards our hotel. Is this a reasonable thing to do? Again, bike lanes available anywhere in this area look few and far between.
    5) Is there any glorious thing we should really do/see by bicycle that I will seriously regret if we don’t fit it into our day?

    I appreciate any advice and would be glad to offer the same for low death-risk bicycling in San Francisco if you are ever coming out this way.

  • moocow

    Karen, NYC street aggression is somewhere in between SF and Boston, closer to Boston.  You will get drivers who seem to be willfully negligent in terms of your safety.  A quick bit on cross-mid town travel: many streets are stalled with congestion, which makes for much safer bike travel. BUT assume a jaywalker will step out at any time.  Also cab doors can open at anytime/speed too.  My thing, I ride on the left side of one way streets, its legal and way safer, avoids the “right hook” and diminishes the left hook. 

    Try the Staten Island ferry, free and fun, also the Brooklyn Promenade is pretty cool and you cross the Brooklyn Bridge to get to it.  (just don’t be in a hurry)

    Have fun.

  • Eric McClure

    @45589687e8df260df565d048dab64df2:disqus , that Times mention of the “admirable lattice of bike 
    lanes that spread across the city” was penned by Michael Powell, who’s a great supporter of complete streets.

  • Anonymous

    Michael Powell is a consistent, welcome reminder of how much space there is in this city for someone who is both progressive on transportation and planning and left-wing more generally. A great column. 

  • Shemp

    The glorious thing to do, that many of us in the city now take for granted, is to ride the bike paths on the East River Bridges – for cycling, the other 3 are better experiences than the Brooklyn Bridge.

    You can ride bikes in Central Park all the time – yes it is one-way and you can cause chaos if you don’t respect that – you’re on a bike: it only takes a few minutes to go a few blocks in any direction even if it seems a little out of your way.  Also 5th Ave along the park isn’t bad – it’s different in Midtown.  Google makes not qualitative judgements – 6th Ave is a horror show in general, even the part where the bike lane is indicated.  Ride the City is a better wayfinder. 

  • Jesse

    Karen,

    1) if you can handle Seattle you can handle NYC.  The one upside of all of this congestion is that the traffic calms itself.  Motorists just can’t move that fast so their speed relative to yours rarely feels that fast and you are often moving faster than the cars. But don’t expect motorists to show any respect for a bike lane that is merely painted on.  Those are double-parking lanes here for cab pickups / dropoffs, retail delivery and cops entrapping cyclists.  The only bike lanes that work are the protected kind but because the sidewalks are too narrow they often get pedestrian overflow.  This doesn’t mean it’s dangerous though.  It’s just a little annoying.  

    2) Your map is old. Google has a more updated map: http://goo.gl/maps/QQwA7.  There are crosstown bike lanes on 55th, 54th, 53rd, 48th, 44th, 43rd, 40th, 39th, 30th, 29th.  Note that all of them suck though because they are not protected and drivers don’t respect them.  But crosstown streets tend to be less hectic anyway because there’s usually only one or two lanes of traffic. 

    3) Welcome to planning for cars only.  NYC does not understand contraflow bike lanes.  There are lots of one-way streets in New York because that’s deemed the most efficient way to move large volumes of cars at high speeds and the loop in Central Park is stupidly designed with that in mind even though cars are only allowed in the park about 20 hours a week (which is still 20 hours too many).  Like many of the best bike paths in New York, this one was designed with recreation in mind rather than transportation so the one-way design hasn’t really been challenged. But on the weekends when there are no cars there really is no practical reason why the loop couldn’t be a two-way bike path.  It’s wide enough and many people do salmon on it.  There have been ticketing blitzes in Central Park so be careful, but chances are the worst you’ll get is a dirty look (on the east side most likely). 

    4) Again, crosstown streets tend to be mild except for the big two-way streets like 59th, 57th, 42nd, 34th etc… Nothing to worry about here so long as you stay out of the door zone. 

    5) Ride through Times Square at night! It sounds daunting but it really is thrilling.  Also, visit the Prospect Park West bike lane just to pay respects at the ground zero of New York’s bike lane culture war. And  while you’re in Brooklyn you might as well ride down the Ocean Parkway path (completely segregated from cars) to Coney Island. That’s a long ride though.  You can also try riding over the Brooklyn Bridge, for which everyone will hate you (and you will hate everyone else) and then ride to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and get the best view of Manhattan in the city.  

  • Anonymous

    Hi Karen Lynn,

    Great to hear that you want to bike in Manhattan! I bike in Midtown Manhattan often, and I’m familiar with most of the streets and places you plan to visit.

    1) I don’t think you’ll die but I can’t promise anything. I don’t think it’s much worse than Boston (well, depends on which parts).

    2) I wouldn’t worry too much about the lack of bike lanes on East-West streets. They tend to have slow traffic and only one movable car lane. Just “take the lane”. A few major streets, such as 42nd and 57th go both ways or are wider and faster, but you can avoid them easily as there is one street every 0.05 miles.

    3) Yes, it sucks that the loop goes one way. Tourists get away with going the wrong way but I hate them. 😉 There are a few places where you can cross and in my opinion the detour is tolerable, but then again your mileage may vary. But why not see the park loop as a destination too, instead of something to be avoided? 😉 There’s also the option of walking the bike across the park on any pedestrian path. It’s not too far.

    Bikes are allowed in the park anytime it’s open (I think they close at 11 pm or something like that). Cars are only allowed at certain times, but most of the loop has only one car lane and all of it has a bike lane, and it’s pretty good in my opinion (this is thanks to a recent redesign of the loop). Only half of the loop opens to cars at a time; the West half during the morning rush hour and the East half during the evening. Depending on your schedule you might be able to avoid those hours.

    4) I ride on 6th and 7th avenues all the time, but in my opinion they can be too “exciting” if you are looking for a relaxing ride. There are protected bike lanes on Broadway and 8th Avenue, but if you use those you have to be patient because many pedestrians treat them as extensions of the sidewalk. I recommend avoiding 5th avenue because of all the buses (not only transit, but also tour buses and such.) It can be claustrophobic.

    5) I would recommend crossing a bridge or two by bike, if you have the time and energy. I personally love the George Washington Bridge (you can get there via the Hudson River Greenway), which is seldom visited by tourists, but of course there’s the Brooklyn Bridge which is way more popular.

    I also recommend visiting the reservoir in Central Park. Bikes are not allowed there, but you can find a place to lock them nearby. It’s a nice 1-mile walk with great views of the “inner skyline” of Manhattan from a less-known perspective.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Good discussion of density in The Economist.

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/blighty/2013/02/housing

    In the past in NYC, and today in other places such as European cities, people solved the problem cited with a combination of a small city apartment and a modest country cottage. In Stockholm, for example, most people have such cottages.  Here in NYC, however, the country is far away and congestion is bad getting there, thanks to all the suburbs.

  • Anonymous

    Karen,
    Having done some biking as a tourist in San Francisco while on vacation, I don’t think you will have much trouble in New York.

    Sounds to me like you would be happier using protected North/South lanes or the Hudson River Greenway when heading North and South through Midtown, even if it mean going out of your way a little. That is what I tend to do.

    I would just add that there is one of David Byrne’s custom designed bike racks outside of the 54th Street entrance to MoMA. I always get a kick out of locking my bike to one of his racks. Unfortunately, that one often seems to be blocked by a food cart.

    Definitely check out the Hudson River Greenway. I would recommend heading downtown and then across town on Warren Street (through City Hall Park right behind City Hall) and then bike across the Brooklyn Bridge. You may have to take it slow because of pedestrian’s not keeping to their side. But as much as NYC bikers like to gripe about biking on the Brooklyn Bridge, it is filled with tourist for a reason (the Golden Gate Bridge is worse). You won’t want to miss it.

  • CheapSkate

    Karen,
    You can bike in Central Park anytime between 6am and Midnight or 1 am. The only difference is that you should use the bike lane when the park is open to traffic. During car-free hours runners use the lanes and cyclists use the roadway.

    Central Park does have limited East-West routes but you can cross the park at 72nd Street or walk the footpaths which can be quite pleasant. The park loop does have a few hills but that should be nothing compared to San Francisco.

  • Joe R.

    Karen,

    I can’t give you much advice about the specifics of cycling in Manhattan (I live and cycle in Queens) but others here have already done an admirable job of that. I can however pass on a few pointers which have worked well for me and are applicable no matter where you ride in NYC:

    1) Try to leave a cushion of space around you for the unexpected. It’s a given that pedestrians will suddenly appear, cabs will stop and pick up passengers, etc. so it’s best to make sure you have some maneuvering room when they do.

    2) It’s really common for cars to make turns here without using turn signals. Generally, you’ll know this in advance if you hear the engine speed slowing down along with the car starting to drift slightly to the right. If you see this, back off a bit because they’ll probably cut in front of you to turn. If there’s room you can pass them on the left. In fact, in general only pass on the left at intersections. The exception to this is if you’re on the left side of a one way street, such as one the protected lanes on First Avenue.

    3) Make sure to be extra careful around buses. Bus drivers here are actually pretty aware of cyclists, but they still need to pull into bus stops frequently. Make sure to always pass buses on the left when they’re signaling and pulling into a stop.

    4) Cars tend to try to “make lights”, so don’t go the instant a traffic light changes to green. In fact, it’s a good idea to check for cross traffic all the time, just in case.

    Manhattan should actually be less stressful to ride in than some of the major arterials I ride on in Eastern Queens with fast, aggressive motor traffic. As others have said, much of the time traffic is moving slower than bicycle speed. And by all means ride on some of the bridges and/or Greenways if you can. The few places in the city where bicycles can ride without motor vehicles make for a great experience.

  • Wow, thanks @twowheel:disqus , @c3ada303f47cce9fec78f074271108eb:disqus , @14a8960ffa19c6b0ffff4264aba1f641:disqus , @qrt145:disqus , @Geck:disqus , @f8a3c153e184bb0b9bb9d6e02ba08591:disqus  and @2555783a6f62598b6aadd2d882a4830f:disqus for the great advice! I now want to be more ambitious and between/after our museum visits get all the way down to the Brooklyn Bridge and return north up the Hudson River Greenway.  Sounds great! I feel better now about the crosstown routes, am less confused about Central Park and will stay away from 6th Ave. I will expect the kind of driver behavior I see on San Francisco’s most hectic, congested streets. (Which are not my favorite places to ride but I do brave them.)  All very, very helpful. Will have to come back and have an entirely Brooklyn bicycle experience some day.

  • Driver

    Be aware of the many trucks and try to keep some distance from them if you can, particularly on the sides.  Expect the unexpected, from both drivers and pedestrians, and expect to be disrespected by either.  It’s not right, but unfortunately, that’s the present reality.  Don’t blow lights or stop signs in front of the cops.   Make sure you lock up your bike securely.  Have a great trip =)

  • Angus

    Karen, ride down 2av > Manhattan Br > Sands St > Navy > Flushing Av > Kent Av > West St in Brooklyn. It’s a nice 1/2 day ride, and you can see some great parks and opportunities to take pictures of the skyline.These roads are, I think, some of the safer(-est) ones to bike on in NYC, and it’s a great ride. You will be one of many bikes, esp. if it is a nice day. Great places to get something to eat and just walk around in North Williamsburg and Greenpoint. 

    Anyway, that’s my recommendation!

  • Bolwerk

    Silly to oppose, but also silly to think it will help much. Between the parking lots and Soviet-style superblocks, NYCHA needs to do a lot more than just let private developers build glass phalli on public property.

  • Bolwerk

    @f9b2cb395abd5a101456b3b0a40912e1:disqus: that Economist article lost me at “higher density means higher costs.” Probably a crock. Higher density implies higher demand, which in turn means higher prices if supply is restricted. You’d think the Economist of all things would see the importance of that distinction.

  • CheapSkate

    Karen,
    Speaking of the Greenway, you can probably see more NYC sites along this route than any other way short of, maybe, a tour bus. Going south, it passes the Intrepid Air Space Museum with the Concord and the Space Shuttle, The new World Trade Center, the Holocost Museum, and Battery Park where you can catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the Staten Island Ferry. If you have an extra hour or two you can take a free ferry ride to Staten Island or a spin around Governors Island, which also has a ferry terminal there.

    You can take the a east Side bikeways back uptown which passes the South Street Seaport and under the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges. This part ends around 34th Street but the First Ave Bike Lane will bring you right back to your hotel.

  • Joe R.

    @e022fdea653897e77dd613c84576950d:disqus I’ve always been kind of surprised that liveable streets advocates don’t embrace the concept of superblocks (without parking lots, of course). After all, what could be better than a huge swath of land with no motor vehicles which can actually function as an urban oasis? By interrupting the grid you can actually discourage quite a bit of motor vehicle use. I think the problem was more in the execution than in the concept. Most superblock construction from the 1950s/1960s has ugly boxy buildings, chain link fence, little landscaping beyond grass and a few shrubs, and of course parking lots. Instead, suppose you had some buildings adjacent to the sidewalk with shops or other businesses, much nicer landscaping, cyclist/pedestrian paths within the superblock, varied use of the open spaces within the superblock (i.e. parks, pools, gardens, basketball/handball courts, etc.) and of course more varied architecture? You could even largely keep the grid in place, but only for cyclists/pedestrians. I personally feel pedestrian/cyclist space interrupted every 250′ by a cross street is lousy for everything except motor vehicles. The grid spacing actually originated from a time when horse drawn carriages traveled at 5 or 6 mph. Hence a block was the distance you could go in about half a minute. At today’s typical urban travel speeds you can increase that spacing by a factor of  4 to 5 while still efficiently serving transportation needs.

  • @f8a3c153e184bb0b9bb9d6e02ba08591:disqus  That’s what I love about seeing a city by bike. You can cover so much more ground than you can by walking, and you see so much more than by subway or even by car. (Not that I would be crazy enough to attempt to tour Manhattan by car.) Even on a tour bus you can’t really get a feel for the light, the interplay of sky, trees and buildings,or the people going about their daily business of living. Very hard between amplified tour guide spiels to get any sense of a city’s complex, living, breathing urban fabric. In Paris I was amazed at what a different experience it was to bike between the main tourist spots instead of descending into the Metro at point A and popping up like a gopher at point B. I had a much better understanding of how the different areas of the city connected, I went over lovely bridges I’d never crossed before (no bridge experience using the Metro), and I saw so many neighborhoods I had no idea existed. Now a regular commuter probably just wants to get where they’re going as fast (and perhaps, in the winter, as warmly) as possible, but for a tourist, bicycling is by far the richer sensory experience. 

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Higher density implies higher demand, which in turn means higher prices (not cost) if supply is restricted. You’d think the Economist of all things would see the importance of that distinction.”
    Good point to an extent, except for two things.  The cheapest building to build is a rowhouse.  Higher density housing does involve a higher cost of construction per square foot, although it requires less land.  And higher demand increases land cost.

    On the other hand, the author is looking at the cost of housing independent of the cost of transportation, and the public cost of infrastructure.

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