The Times Seeks a “Dialogue” About Bikes Clogging NYC Streets

Danger! Danger! NYC streets may get clogged with bikes! Photo: ##https://twitter.com/BrooklynSpoke/status/350717488000020480/photo/1##Doug Gordon/Brooklyn Spoke##

Who can resist this tasty New York Times linkbait? Not us. The paper wants responses to this preposterous rant from reader Gary Taustine. Mr. Taustine sees Amsterdam, with its 32 percent bike mode-share and minuscule pedestrian death rate, as a cautionary tale for NYC, with its 1 percent bike mode-share and 150+ pedestrian deaths per year:

The horrendous bicycle congestion in Amsterdam (“The Dutch Prize Their Pedal Power, but a Sea of Bikes Swamps Their Capital,” Amsterdam Journal, June 21) portends my worst fears for New York City if Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s crusade to promote cycling at any cost is not scaled back by his successor.

In addition to the ubiquitous tombstone-like parking stands for the new bike-sharing program, Citi Bike, more and more bikes are appearing on our sidewalks, clumsily chained in bunches to anything stationary, cluttering pedestrian areas and complicating emergency services, trash collection and sanitation.

The density and vertical nature of our city mean that hundreds of cyclists could live, and park, on a single block, leaving neighborhoods with all the charm of a junkyard.

Cycling should be neither deterred nor promoted, but certainly not singled out as a privileged mode of conveyance whose operators enjoy segregated lanes, free parking and exemption from the licensing, insurance and safety precautions (like helmets) required for other two-wheeled vehicles such as motorcycles.

One shudders to think of all the motorists who could live on a single block if we designed traffic lanes for motor vehicles, let people risk their lives by driving without a helmet, and gave away street parking for free, leaving neighborhoods with all the charm of a garage. New York would choke on traffic!

It would be even worse if we forced developers to build parking, subsidized massive garages, and let people kill other people with their cars without any consequences. Oh right, we do all of that and it causes actual problems.

The Times will publish responses to the imaginary problem of too many bikes (email letters@nytimes.com) in the Sunday paper. But it will also grant the last word to Mr. Taustine, who gets to submit a “rejoinder” to the reality-based perspectives on urban transportation planning that are heading his way. The deadline to submit is tomorrow.

  • Taustine’s first few paragraphs make the point very elegantly for taking away more space from cars and dedicating it to more/better bicycle infrastructure.

  • Anonymous

    One thing is true: NYC won’t have enough lampposts etc. to lock everyone’s bikes as cycling becomes more popular. Which means there will be a need for more bike racks on the street and indoors.

  • P B

    WTF?!?

  • Ah, the halcyon days of pre-2007 New York City, when car parking was abundant, cars sailed through traffic-free streets, ambulances never had a problem responding to emergencies, and sanitation trucks never left behind a single bag of garbage.

    As a dedicated advocate, even I agree with Taustine. I will absolutely vote for any mayoral candidate who can bring about the city he thinks existed before Bloomberg and Janette Sadik-Khan ruined things. It sounds too good to be true!

  • J

    Ugh. Clearly a guy who has never been to Amsterdam and dislikes bikes, read the article about how there are a lot of bikes in Amsterdam and wrote this drivel. Yes, there are growing pains with more bicycles on the street, but the benefits of promoting cycling are clear:
    -increased mobility
    -improved health (mental & physical)
    -improved work productivity
    -reduced pollution
    -reduced noise
    -improved urban realm (less space needed for car movement & storage = more space for everything else)

    As Ben wisely points out, Mr. Taustine conveniently ignore the many many problems with out current state of car hegemony. In this case the sea of cars, highways, on-street parking, parking garages, traffic jams, road rage, smog alert days, injuries and deaths related to automobiles are the MASSIVE elephant in the room. Sadly Mr. Taustine, like most Americans, has become absolutely blind to it.

  • Anonymous

    There’s plenty of room if you convert car parking on street to bike corrals. You can fit at least eight bikes in the space of one car.

  • It’s a better problem to have than a car parking problem.

  • Anonymous

    I agree; I was thinking of bike corrals when I said “bike racks on the street” (the exact word slipped my tongue). My point is that some action needs to be taken: the status quo of using lampposts is not sustainable.

  • david

    Somehow cars are not ugly and clog parking. I do agree abandoned bikes are an issue. I did notice problems yesterday with all the newbie bikers; some are clueless about bike etiquette. Citi bike should include a rules for the road chart in the key pack. A. Right, red, return; keep to the right of oncoming bikers. B. ride at an appropriate speed for a congested area. C. Announce your presence when passing. D. Don’t merge into flowing traffic. (There are more) I almost questioned weather biking has been now ruined for seasoned bikers in NYC.

  • Mark Walker

    “Free parking” is listed among the vices of cycling. OK, let’s end the tyranny of free parking. Everyone should pay to park any kind of vehicle on any city street. That means no more free parking for cars on any city street. Of course, if you’re using Citi Bike, it could be argued that you’re already paying for parking as part of the service. For privately owned bikes, cyclists should pay only a small fraction of what motorists pay because several bikes fit into one car-parking space.

  • Anonymous

    For sure. I just wanted to reinforce that the parking space is already there, it’s just dedicated inefficiently to space-hogging cars where bikes parking provides an 8:1 ratio.

  • Ian Turner

    Shall we also have a dialogue on immigrants stealing our jobs, or on exactly how much taxes should be raised?

  • Michael Klatsky

    the key pack includes a large brochure explaining the rules of the road, bike etiquette and riding tips.

  • I’m gonna be in Amsterdam next week for 2 days. Boy do I have some fun ideas on shooting “parody” video. Thanks NY TImes.

  • Ben Kintisch

    I also wonder if this gentleman has been to Amsterdam. Every time I hear someone rail against Europe/Copenhagen/Amsterdam as symbols of everything terrible that New York should never become, I think, “Have you been there?” I have visited both Copenhagen and Amsterdam. They are great cities, the people are happy, their businesses are thriving, they are popular with tourists, and very few of their citizens get killed by motor vehicles. So what’s so bad about Amsterdam and Copenhagen?

  • J

    When you’re main knowledge of a city comes from a single negative article (and accompanying photo), and it happens to coincide with an existing bias (against bicycles) you end up with a distinctly slanted perspective.

  • Bolwerk

    Bike congestion sucks, people. If my congestion doesn’t come with climate-altering and health-impairing toxins, I don’t want it!

    Every moment you spend in idling traffic is more gasoline you have to buy! More Exxon profits! Buy Exxon stock!

  • Anonymous

    Speaking of bike parking, I was looking to park one of my bikes in a garage and I was comparison shopping (since $100/month/bike is a lot for a freaking bike) and the garage next my apt claims they don’t take bikes. I think this is against the law. Shouldn’t i file a complaint with someone over that?

  • Anonymous

    When I’m in Amsterdam I’m usually more concerned about getting my head taken off by a tram. But that could be because I’m usually baked off my ass. Shame they outlawed magic mushrooms, but at least you can still get magic truffles.

  • Anonymous

    I find ironic that shortly after Taustine’s letter, which was prompted by the NYT’s report on bike congestion in Amsterdam, the Times published this story: “Seven-and-a-Half Million Cars Trigger Parking Wars in Delhi”. http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/01/seven-and-a-half-million-cars-trigger-parking-wars-in-delhi/

  • Jake Stevens

    Wouldn’t the cost of collecting such a “small fraction” (50 cents an hour?) exceed any monies received. Seems like a solution without a problem.

  • NIMBY

    Haven’t you heard? They’re not New York!

  • Miles Bader

    Have at ’em boys…!

  • Miles Bader

    You can fit at least eight bikes in the space of one car.

    … or more. Dual-level bike racks are a cheap, effective, and well-developed technology…

  • Anonymous

    The only dual-level racks I’ve seen were in Amsterdam and they only allowed you to attach a lock to a single wheel. That’s OK over there where wheels are bolted on, but not so good over here. Have you seen a good design for dual-level bike racks?

  • Miles Bader

    Dual-level racks are huge in Japan, but I’ve never payed much attention to the design details. Nobody really spends much effort to lock their bikes because hardcore bike-theft doesn’t seem to be a real problem (and it is ridiculous what you see … things like $3000 bikes just leaned against the wall outside a busy store, with a simple lock just preventing the wheels from turning).

    Still, it doesn’t seem very hard: the only thing you need is some part of the rack close enough to the frame that you can get a typical bike lock around both. A metal hoop would be enough.

    A bigger potential issue might be that dual level racks often have moving parts, with the metal channel the bike sits in tilting down to make it easier to get the bike up there for someone who’s not strong. That works fine in a well-maintained location, but it might not be so good in a street parking situation with questionable maintenance standards…

  • In this case the sea of cars, highways, on-street parking, parking
    garages, traffic jams, road rage, smog alert days, injuries and deaths
    related to automobiles are the MASSIVE elephant in the room.

  • Daniel Winks

    I’d check to see if it is indeed against the law and file a complaint for the sake of filing a complaint…but I’d get a wall-mount bike rack or something and keep the bike in the apartment.

  • Daniel Winks

    There’s a LOT of parking meters in Columbus that are 50c an hour or so. They seem to be profitable, even when spaced ridiculously far apart to accommodate the fattymobiles. If they were spaced much closer together, I’m sure it’d be even more profitable.

    The real reason why bike parking is normally “free” is because it SAVES the city money when one rides a bike. It COSTS the city money every time someone drives. As such, the city DOESN’T WANT people to drive, ever. Parking meters and such are just one of the many deterrents to driving. Places like Denmark go much further to discourage driving, and the US would be wise to imitate most of their measures.

    It’s not so much “you need to pay for this space” as much as “we’re charging you money because we don’t want you here”.

  • Daniel Winks

    There’s a LOT of parking meters in Columbus that are 50c an hour or so. They seem to be profitable, even when spaced ridiculously far apart to accommodate the fattymobiles. If they were spaced much closer together, I’m sure it’d be even more profitable.

    The real reason why bike parking is normally “free” is because it SAVES the city money when one rides a bike. It COSTS the city money every time someone drives. As such, the city DOESN’T WANT people to drive, ever. Parking meters and such are just one of the many deterrents to driving. Places like Denmark go much further to discourage driving, and the US would be wise to imitate most of their measures.

    It’s not so much “you need to pay for this space” as much as “we’re charging you money because we don’t want you here”.

  • Jake Stevens

    I agree. I think charging parking fees for bikes when we want to encourage their use is not very useful. Bike parking in lots almost makes sense, but more in the way of “paying someone to watch your expensive bike.”

  • Anxiously Awaiting Bikeshare

    Also, practice makes perfect.

    New bikers will make mistakes. It hasn’t ruined anything for me.

  • Chris

    I have been to both cities too and lived in NYC, and the only thing NYC has it going over those two cities are billionaires. Those two cities rank top ten for personal safety and livability and where does NYC rank?

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