Will New Yorkers Get Doored by de Blasio’s Taxi of Tomorrow Opposition?

As Mayor de Blasio weighs the potential $100 million cost of converting his opposition to the Taxi of Tomorrow into official city policy, New Yorkers on two wheels should remember one key feature of the Nissan NV200 selected as the city’s next taxi: It will all but eliminate the possibility of getting doored by an exiting taxi passenger.

The Taxi of Tomorrow would be a win for cyclists. Image: TLC
If it survives the courts and Bill de Blasio, the Taxi of Tomorrow would be a win for cyclists. Image: TLC

The vehicle has sliding doors for backseat passengers, reducing the need for Taxi TV public service announcements reminding passengers not to whip open their doors into the path of a passing cyclist — something that’s not just dangerous, but also against the law.

That improvement and others, including built-in GPS for drivers, rear-side lights to indicate when passengers are entering or exiting, a front-end design that reduces the severity of crashes with pedestrians, “lower-annoyance” horns, and rear cameras drivers can use while backing up, would be lost if the mayor decides to scrap the design.

On Tuesday, a state appeals court reversed a lower court ruling against the city’s Taxi of Tomorrow plan. The case could be appealed to the state’s highest court, and de Blasio said on Wednesday that, although the city’s law department continues to defend the project, he is opposed to it:

I think it is not right to have a single vehicle approved instead of a variety of vehicles that meet certain standards. I don’t like that we’ve lost an opportunity to create jobs here in New York City. I don’t like Nissan’s involvement in Iran. I don’t like a lot of things about this. I think it was a broken process on many levels.

Other criticisms of the Nissan vehicle are that it is not a hybrid and it is not wheelchair-accessible by default. London, which has also selected the NV200 as its new taxi, will have a fully-accessible fleet. A modified accessible version will be made available in New York.

Today, Capital New York reported that if the city ends up switching sides and backs out of the Taxi of Tomorrow plan, the city’s contract with Nissan stipulates that it could be on the hook for at least $100 million in costs the carmaker has incurred in designing and producing the vehicle.

De Blasio, who received significant campaign contributions from yellow taxi interests during his campaign, vigorously opposed both the Taxi of Tomorrow and the Boro Taxi program. Under his watch, TLC has continued to roll out the Boro Taxi plan, though on a slightly slower schedule.

“We are looking at what possible changes could be made to the program,” TLC chair Meera Joshi said in a statement about the Taxi of Tomorrow to Capital New York. “But at this stage, it is premature to assess those options until we have final clarity on the legal situation.”

  • Ian Turner

    It seems plain that de Blasio supports the Taxi of Tomorrow, but is hoping that he can make it seem the courts have forced his hand.

  • I believe that, politically, he’s completley against it, in service of his medallion-owning constituents who funded his campaign.

    What would his political position be without the medallion owners? Hard to say. But I get the feeling he looks after their interests closely, which is enough of a story for all of us.

    Either way, BDB knows he can’t back out of the program, as an elected official of the city, because of the dire consequences of doing that at this point. If the courts let the program pass, he has to order the cars or he is not doing right by the city. The medallion owners – they know about this, if the program is crammed down their throats they’ll still do alright in the end and they know it. So they’re just hoping the courts side with them, because it’s their last hope to do everything their own way.

    Anything BDB says about ToT is lip-service at this point. He is ultimately not the one in-control of the fate of the program. As long as the courts uphold the current opinion, Bloomberg seems to have succeeded in ensuring its deployment.

  • Joe R.

    I somewhat agree with the mayor and the fleets that there shouldn’t be a restriction to one model only. However, I think the models which would be allowed should be required to have many of the features of the NV200, particularly sliding doors. Sliding doors make sense in crowded urban areas. They prevent opening doors from intruding upon sidewalk space, among other things. They make exiting and entering the vehicle easier. Cyclists are far from the only ones to benefit. In fact, I would love to see support for a blanket requirement for sliding or swing up or slide under ( http://www.disappearing-car-door.com/ ) doors on all vehicles sold in the US, not just taxis. The old-fashioned hinged door mechanism exists for one reason only-the motor vehicle industry is resistant to change. It needs to be replaced with something better. As one can see by the site I linked to, it’s perfectly feasible to retrofit slide under doors even on existing vehicles.

    The biggest oversight in my opinion is that electric operation isn’t a requirement. NYC is no place for polluting, noisy internal combustion engines. Converting the entire taxi fleet to electric would go a long way towards solving that issue. The required charging stations dotting the five boroughs would make it easier for other fleets to convert to electric. At the same time, NYC could migrate its bus, police, and sanitation truck fleets to all electric operation. This is an area where NYC should be leading. Motor vehicle pollution is a major 21st century problem for which ready solutions already exist.

  • Daniel

    Given the starting point I think the NV200 is fantastic. It has much better fuel economy and comfort and the price is very reasonable. The safety features for pedestrians and cyclists are great too. Setting a minimum standard and letting everyone build to it would have likely resulted in a single $50,000 car model instead of a single $20,000 car model. The NV200 was designed to fill most of the requirements economically, a custom modification to factory car satisfying a spec would have a whole lot of overhead for not many cars sold.

    For air quality reasons, the future for cars in the city is of course all electric. But placing that requirement on taxi’s alone isn’t a good Plan A. A $10/hr fee for gasoline powered cars moving within city limits would be a good Plan A (gradually increased from $1/hr the first year and lower for 70+ MPG vehicles). The money raised could be used to subsidize electric charging stations within parking garages. Albany may say no to such a plan, but only after the most sensible plans are stymied should we apply more creative solutions.

  • Abie

    How about the bicycle of tomorrow: This bike has mirrors to see traffic behind them. It also has license plates for identification in the event of a hit and run or traffic violation and insurance to cover damages caused by the bicyclists at fault! How about that???

  • WoodyinNYC

    Front and rear lights installed into the bike frame, so the batteries could be changed but the fixture not removed by thieves.

    Day-glo (and nite-glo) colors on tires, rims, frames, and helmets so cyclists are more visible and less likely to be hit and killed by drivers.

    Many cyclists are hit and killed by drivers. No driver has ever been killed by a cyclist. And only one pedestrian per decade is killed by a reckless cyclist.

  • KillMoto

    How about requiring drivers pay the full cost of their activity? The 49% non-drivers pay for the direct cost of driving (http://usa.streetsblog.org/2013/01/23/drivers-cover-just-51-percent-of-u-s-road-spending/) and the $871 billion dollars a year drivers cause due to car crashes (http://usa.streetsblog.org/2014/05/30/one-year-of-traffic-crashes-costs-america-871-billion/).

    How ’bout that?

  • BBnet3000

    Wheres your pedestrian helmet and shoe-mounted ID numbers?

  • Sure. Fine. All perfectly reasonable.

    As long as you can produce a list of actual incidents involving cyclists in a single year that at least covered the cost of running and enforcing such a scheme.

    What’s that? Oh.

    OK. We’ll just drop it.

  • Incidentally, we already have the bicycle of tomorrow.

    The great irony is that it looks a lot like the bicycle of yesterday: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2012/06/of-choppers-long-haul-truckers-and-why.html

  • Joe R.

    Bicycle of tomorrow? These might fill the bill (admittedly most technically aren’t bicycles because they have 3 wheels):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velomobile

  • Kevin Love

    The Pashley Roadster Sovereign that I ride has got a few modern touches, such as Schwalbe Marathon Plus puncture-resistant tyres. And I added 70 litre Basil panniers to the rear rack to haul groceries.

    But it is basically the same British Roadster style bicycle as when Pashley started in 1926. And I really wouldn’t change anything. The design has been perfected.

    As per usual, David Hembrow does a much better job than I of explaining just why this is so. See:

    http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2009/01/anatomy-of-reliable-everyday-bicycle.html

  • Joe R.

    How many gears and what range from highest to lowest? I find out here in hilly eastern Queens I really need a range of about 3 to 1 from highest to lowest. The highest gears might be useful for going 40+ mph downhill, or with a stiff tail wind, while I need the lowest gears for places the hills next to Hillside Avenue. I also need the gears spaced relatively closely (no more than about 15% from one gear to the next). That generally means a ten speed rear cluster and 53-39 front chainrings. I have 12-23 as my rear cluster now but I’m planning to get 11-25 when it wears out. I really need both a lower low and slightly higher high so I can do 99% of my riding on the small front chainring.

    I recently tried a set of these:

    https://www.marvelcompoundtires.com/product/bicycle/700c-x-20-mct-daytona-high-resilient-hp/

    These are the high rebound elastomer which I’ve mentioned multiple times but which were never available the 700×20 size my bike uses until now. I can say after 150 miles so far with them that they’re a pretty major improvement over the regular compound. They ride better. Although there is a break-in where airless tires typically get a bit faster, these are already nearly as fast as pneumatics. My average speeds jumped about 1.5 mph after I installed the tires.

  • lop

    And how safe are those when you crash at 50 km/hr?

  • Kevin Love

    It has 5-speed Sturmey-Archer internal hub gears. And internal hub brakes. Ultra low maintenance. The amount of maintenance I have done on the gears and brakes has been zero. Although, to be fair, at its annual tune-up the mechanic probably does maintenance to them.

    See:
    http://www.pashley.co.uk/products/roadster-sovereign.html

    Mine is the largest frame with the double top tube. At 6′ 8″ I am a giant. So I love the very high 33 cm bottom bracket and large frame. And Brooks leather seat. It fits great and feels very comfortable to ride.

  • Joe R.

    Probably safer than when you crash a regular bike at 50 km/hr. Incidentally, I wiped out at 60 km/hr once after hitting a pothole. Came out of it with only road rash. Bicycle crashes not involving motor vehicles generally don’t cause severe injuries. Those involving motor vehicles tend to be bad regardless of the speed of the bike. Anyway, unlike regular bikes, velomobiles can incorporate roll cages and seat belts if need be but in the end they’re probably safer than regular bikes even without them. You can’t do an endover in a velomobile. That’s one of the big ways riders on regular bikes get hurt. You’re also protected from road rash by the shell.

    While we’re talking about crashes, the best policy here is crash prevention, not crash mitigation. I’ve long learned to anticipate people and plan for worst-case scenarios. The last time I crashed my bike was in 1996. No, that’s not a typo. It’s been 18 years since I’ve fallen from my bike for any reason at all. Prior to that, 99% of my mishaps were due to potholes.

  • Kevin Love

    “Motor vehicle pollution is a major 21st century problem for which solutions exist right now.”

    A car-free Island of Manhattan is a solution that exists right now.

  • Joe R.

    Five gears is OK for most city riding. I need to replace my seat soon with something better (i.e. wider). I know it’s not “sporty” to put wider saddles on road bikes like mine, but I’ll opt for comfort over convention any day.

    I think a 14-speed Rohloff hub would be a viable option for someone like me if only they weren’t so expensive. As things stand now, I don’t spend much maintenance on the drive train other than cleaning the chain every 2000 miles or so. However, I do from time to time need to adjust the derailleur or change shift cables. An internally-geared hub mostly eliminates those tasks.

  • Kevin Love

    New York is more-or-less flat. Yes, OK there are exceptions!

    But, in my opinion, the Pashley is the best bike for me. I’ve heard people say that it is pricey, but the cost is about one year’s worth of MTA fares. What other investment pays for itself in a year and will last the rest of my life?

    For those who want a bike a bit cheaper, and manufactured in New York, the Worksman Cycles “Dutchie” bike is a good option. See:

    http://www.worksmancycles.com/shopsite_sc/store/html/dutchie-men.html

  • Joe R.

    This is one of the exceptions:

    https://www.google.com/maps/@40.715105,-73.773562,3a,75y,328.1h,78.94t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1stfj8nMpK1EHJZikykUqm_g!2e0

    That’s about a 7% or 8% gradient-about the same as the mountain stages in the Tour de France. Thankfully of course, it doesn’t last as long. I struggle to hold 10 mph climbing that, although I’ll typically opt to go to Midland Parkway to avoid severe gradients altogether. Midland Parkway is the only place I’ve found so far where you can go north from Hillside without hitting that accursed hill.

  • lop

    How about for pedestrians?

  • lop

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/12/nyregion/new-york-looks-to-cut-emissions-by-private-trash-haulers.html?_r=0

    Not all vehicles are equally polluting, most can be made much cleaner. You might have an easier time tightening emissions standards. And if you can set up a system to figure out how many hours vehicles move in the city limits to charge them your fee you could figure out which vehicles are registered and have passed emissions tests, and have NYPD pick up any others sneaking in.

  • Joe R.

    We already have cars and trucks running around at well over 50 km/hr and you’re worried about velomobiles???? I’d much rather be hit by a velomobile compared to a car at the same speed. Besides that, these are a lot more visible to crossing pedestrians than conventional bicycles, meaning the chances of someone stepping out in front of one moving at speed are far less.

    They also weigh more or less the same as bicycles, but with no sharp projecting parts like handlebars. I tend to think pedestrians will fare a lot better if hit by a velomobile, compared to a bicycle at the same speed. The shape will tend to just push pedestrians aside instead of impacting them. If you something worth getting upset about, try those horrible bars some people put on their SUVs. If those aren’t a hazard to pedestrians, I don’t know what is.

  • Joe R.

    For stop and go use, electrics make far more sense because you can recover a lot of the kinetic energy when braking. You also have noise pollution from internal combustion engines. I don’t care how much they clean up emissions when things like garbage trucks are hideously noisy. You can literally hear them half a mile away at night, if not further. Maybe if we reduced the background din of motor vehicles, the city would be a much more pleasant place to live. When vehicles are quiet, there would be no need for horns to be so loud just to be heard above idling engines.

  • lop

    I’m thinking in parks and shared use paths, which are already unpleasant because of the few cyclists who won’t slow down while passing. These are faster?

    If you can take lanes from cars for them, great. If you can’t, they’d cause trouble. Even if you don’t hit someone, passing two feet from them at twenty five miles an hour is a damned unpleasant experience for the ped.

  • Joe R.

    What idiot would want to use a velomobile in park? Seriously, these things are fast enough to keep up with traffic even on suburban 2-lane highways. I’ve seen you-tube videos of velomobiles powering down mild hills at 65 or 70 mph, or keeping pace with traffic on level roads at 50+ mph. I’m not seeing the point or joy of trying to ride a vehicle which a strong rider can push well past 40 mph in a park full of much slower cyclists, joggers, crossing pedestrians, etc. Chances are you wouldn’t even have the room to get up to speed before yet another obstacle would make you hit the brakes. And the curves on many of the park roads would preclude very high speeds anyway, pedestrians not withstanding. I can’t think of anything more miserable than trying to ride a velomobile in Central or Prospect Park. If I had one, I might go and take it on the LIE, but I’m avoiding parks altogether.

  • lop

    All true. I just think it’s a hard sell and won’t happen anytime soon, and reducing emissions to increase air quality can happen without electric cars, and can happen a lot sooner.

    For what it’s worth a prius accelerating slowly doesn’t make more noise than a nissan leaf if the battery wasn’t depleted. And even when it kicks on, the 70 or so hp engine in it won’t make nearly as much noise as an engine in your typical SUV. I think it’ll be easier to set noise and emissions standards for motor vehicles generally than for requiring electric cars. (or fuel cell) And by tightening the standards you could eventually end up with electric/fuel cell, or if someone is able to put together a silent ICE that only emits CO2 and H2O and sequesters the rest? Seems good enough.

  • Those Pashleys are heavy bikes that take up a lot of room when parked, which explains why the traditional New Yorker beater bike is a 26″ aluminum mountain bike with slick tires. It’s hard to lug the Pashley up three flights of stairs and park it in an apartment without a foyer.

    I think the longtail cargo bike is a better value than the Pashley because you can carry two kids and groceries on the back, and it still fits in an elevator.

    Also pretty much everyone who cycles interborough needs to cross a bridge, and those East River bridges are long moderate inclines. I live way uptown and after riding my newly purchased Dutch bike home from 107th St, I realized its single-speed couldn’t hack the hill on St Nicholas Ave from 135th to 150th.

    But I don’t take my own advice; I rented a place with street-level access so I would avoid all these issues.

  • lop

    I’m not worried about you getting it. I’m worried about the cyclist that can’t maintain 15 getting it, then getting to go faster, but not fast enough to keep up with cars, or just thinking that the shared use path is more pleasant than the crowded street. And with all the cyclists that avoid slowing down because they want to maintain momentum, what’s the difference with this?

    And if you or a stronger rider get it and ride in the street? Looks like it will be easier to obstruct the view of it behind parked cars because it’s set so low to the ground, which can make it hard to see when crossing the street.

    I’m not saying it can’t be a part of a city, just that it doesn’t seem like it belongs in NYC, as currently configured. Not that the city can’t be made to accommodate velomobiles.

  • Joe R.

    You know what I think will be the turning point for electric cars? It will be when China mass produces them and sells them for less than Detroit sells ICE cars. When that happens, which will soon because China is going big on electrics due to their air pollution problems, people will opt for the electric simply because it’s cheaper, without even considering the other advantages. In the end, people don’t really care how their car is powered, only that it gets them where they’re going.

    With the ever tightening CAFE standards we’re heading towards a largely electric fleet anyway. Once you average in large utility vehicles like SUVs, the only way to meet the CAFE standards will be if the fleet is largely electric. Either way, the electrics are coming a lot sooner than most people think. There’s also the coolness factor. That helped sell new tech LED lighting even when it had no real advantages over conventional lighting in terms of efficiency or total cost of ownership. Things like Formula E will put electrics in the public eye. I think we’re less than a decade away from the majority of new vehicles sold being electric. In the meantime, it won’t hurt to do some of the things you mentioned.

  • Joe R.

    I tend to put the onus on the rider here. Velomobiles can fit in just fine if the rider is aware of their limited visibility to higher vehicles and the ease with which parked cars can block pedestrians from seeing it. I’m frankly of the opinion that it’s up to even a conventional bike rider to see pedestrians, not depend upon them seeing him/her. Same thing with motor vehicles. Any good cyclist already rides as if he/she is invisible. Transitioning to a velomobile then shouldn’t create any new problems. Given how much these cost, chances are good those inexperienced casual cyclists who have trouble maintaining 15 mph won’t be getting them. Rather, it’ll be people like me. I’ll just think of it as a regular bike, but with additional speed ranges beyond what I’m used to, plus less visibility (i.e. a rear view cam would probably be the first thing I put in). That doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be in those speed ranges all the time. As things stand now, I often ride under my physical capabilities just because conditions make it prudent. It won’t be any different in a velomobile. The only difference might be those times when traffic is moving at 40 mph on an arterial without any pedestrians I’ll be in the traffic lane matching traffic speeds, instead of on the right doing 18 to 23 mph.

  • Kevin Love

    “Those Pashleys are heavy bikes…”

    It gets even heavier when the 70L Basil panniers and front basket are loaded with groceries and my wife is riding on the rear rack.

  • Anonymous Coward

    “London, which has also selected the NV200 as its new taxi, will have a fully-accessible fleet. ”

    Just as a point of pedantry: London didn’t select the NV200 as its new taxi. The NV200 is one of many vehicles that operators can use if they comply with Transport for London’s minimum design requirements.

  • Daniel

    Sure, mine was only one suggestion for a better way to get to cleaner air than placing the burden on the taxi. I live near a NYC truck route and just gradient in the soot I clean up from the front of my house vs the back is astounding. Tracking cars moving through the city is not difficult. High quality cameras are cheap, the only thing that really costs money is the labor to install cameras throughout the city and maybe the software to run the thing. As a bonus you could also get real time stats on traffic violations and use this information to improve our street design and our enforcement efforts.

  • lop

    CO2 doesn’t make people sick. It’s not a local pollutant. But that’s all CAFE targets. If you think it’s a good proxy, that cutting fuel usage by a 1/3 cuts emissions by a 1/3? You can clean the nasty stuff, the CO, NOx, particulate matter etc…and that’s what CARB targets. Many existing cars are 90% cleaner than average 2003 model year car. But those standards aren’t nationwide. So I can buy a dirty car in Ohio, then drive it in NYC. Or buy an old clunker that’s even worse.

    And CAFE encourages large trucks, not small cars. Honda fit sized car needs to get 43 mpg in 2025, up from 28 today to meet CAFE standard. Large light trucks need 23 mpg now, rising to only 30 mpg in 2025. They take vehicle size into account when determining fuel economy targets, and it is increasing faster for small cars than big trucks.

    And even if they miss the targets, the CAFE fines are minimal, and in real dollars have declined by more than 50% in the last 30 years. Existing legislation won’t get you what you want.

    And calculating fleet economy using a harmonic mean reduces the impact of electric vehicles to improve the fleet economy, so they won’t save anyone.

    Large trucks getting 30 mpg average, or costing slightly more in 2025 won’t bring about electric cars. You’ll have a much easier time limiting emissions. I don’t mean cutting fuel usage, I mean cleaning up tailpipe emissions, strengthening CARB standards, making them nationwide, at some point phasing out the use of older cars that don’t meet the standards. People don’t care about how their car is powered, you’re right. They care that they can take their car on long trips if they decide to, whether or not they take such trips is immaterial. People aren’t perfectly rational. You will need a huge price disincentive to get people to accept the sacrifices they see inherent in buying an electric car, if you want most or all people to be using them to keep air clean in cities, you will wait a long time. Gasoline and diesel are king today, and will be for some time. Don’t ignore that, just make them cleaner.

  • Joe R.

    You’re forgetting one thing though-increased gasoline costs will make electrics attractive sooner rather than later. With peak oil and increased demand from developing countries we’ll be seeing $10 gasoline soon. Even with a 50 mpg vehicle, a typical 30 or 50 mile each way daily commute is no longer feasible when gasoline tops $10 per gallon. Just the gas alone would cost a significant portion of your daily wages. Unfortunately, thanks to sprawl, plus high housing prices near job centers, long auto commutes aren’t going away in the near future.

    In the end though, it’s when electrics reach price parity or lower with gas cars which will be thing which gets them adopted. I’m not depending upon American auto makers here for many of the reasons you say. Rather, it’ll be the sudden influx of Chinese made electrics which can be bought for less than gas cars from other makers which will change the landscape. People may suddenly get over so-called range anxiety when EVs cost less than ICE cars. As things stand now, I feel most people who mention range to justify sticking with gas cars are just using that as rationalization to avoid spending the premium which electrics now command. When there is no premium, we’ll see that excuse go right out the window. People never want to pay more for something which might be less functional, but they’ve shown time and again that they’re willing to pay less for less functionality. In this case, they may never even notice the range issue. Or fast chargers may make it moot.

    You could make gas cars cleaner concurrently with phasing in electrics, no argument there. However, they still have the drawback of noise, and they can never be 100% clean. In fact, I feel long term gas cars may well be banned from urban areas. NYC and other large cities could jump start demand for electrics by doing exactly that right now-pass legislation which prohibits operation of internal combustion vehicles within its borders within a decade. It’s generally accepted that mass production will be the one thing which makes prices of electrics hit parity or below with gas cars. However, manufacturers are reluctant to commit to building millions of electric cars until they have some sort of reasonable guarantee they’ll be sold. Legislation which essentially provides a captive market for EVs would exactly provide that. If nothing else local fleet vehicles would be forced to convert. It would probably also drastically reduce vehicle use in the city as many people with functioning gas vehicles end up faced with the choice of not driving any more, or buying a new car. If the vehicle is seldom used, they may choose the latter.

    Assuming I’m wrong here, places like NYC have another blunt instrument they could use to make the air cleaner-just phase out use of private autos within their borders as European cities are doing. There is a great case to made for banning private autos altogether from places like Manhattan, perhaps even within the entire city. Or just restricting them to expressways for through trips from NJ to LI.

  • com63

    These things are too tall and will create a safety hazard by blocking pedestrian visibility.

  • Abie

    Listen all you cry baby bicyclists: We all know that most of you are good riders and don’t do anything wrong. But, we also know that most automobile drivers are also good drivers and never have accidents.

    The law requires that auto drivers carry insurance to cover accidents. Bicyclists have accidents also. Automobiles have license plates so they can be identified in the event of a hit and run. Bicyclists are not yet required to do this.

    Now there is good and bad amongst us all. There are thousands of bicyclists as well as auto drivers who violate the rules. Those of you reading this who are amongst them know who you are. If you are not a violator, your resent having to be asked to be identified and pay for insurance. Well, us good drivers feel the same way. But the law is there to protect us all.

    If you do nothing wrong then why worry? But, bicyclists should not be anonymous! Bicyclists should have to pay also for the damages they cause!

  • qrt145

    Switzerland, a nation with a reputation for regulating everything and insuring everything, used to require liability insurance for cyclists, and it got rid of it. Why? They decided it wasn’t worth it for a number of reasons. A major one was that many people already had some other insurance that covered personal liability, but I think there’s also the issue that serious damage caused by cyclists is so exceedingly rare that it’s just not worth the cost and effort to run a system to force everyone to get it. Buying the insurance cost about $5 per year. Compare that with car insurance! That will give you some idea about how minute the risk is.

  • Ian Turner
  • Jeffrey Baker

    That’s a nice sentiment but all-electric propulsion simply isn’t feasible for a fleet vehicle that’s used around the clock. The charging times are so long that you’d need twice as many vehicles and charging depots where drivers could swap to a charged vehicle.

  • J_12

    Joe R, I know you are a big proponent of velomobiles.
    Given its ability to travel at motor vehicle speeds under human power, and the capability to integrate safety features that are impossible on a standard bicycle, why do you think they have failed to create any real market?
    As far as I know, nobody is commercially producing this vehicle. I think that if you want one, it has to be a custom build or maybe a kit.

  • Joe R.

    Most of what I’ve read points to 5-10 minute charging being available soon. There’s also the possibility of on-the-fly recharging as is being contemplated for Formula E racing:

    http://editorial.autos.msn.com/blogs/post–formula-es-electric-race-cars-will-recharge-wirelessly-on-the-track

    It’s a big misnomer that fleet vehicles must be available 24/7. Most of the time there’s at least the downtime while the driver has lunch or bathroom breaks. That’s enough time to recharge or partially recharge. Also, vehicles in fleet service in a place like NYC will seldom exceed the battery’s range in 12 hours of service. Typical average speeds are in the single digits. That’s well under 100 miles in 12 hours. And at low speeds electric vehicles use very little energy per mile (i.e. unlike their gas counterparts electrics get more efficient as speed drops).

  • Joe R.

    Where on Earth do you get that these are not being made commercially? The article has a long list of commercial velomobile producers. Yes, right now for various reasons they cost upwards of $10K, but that’s mostly from using exotic materials like carbon fiber which aren’t easy to work with. I’ve read things which suggest carbon fiber will eventually become cost effective to build things like automobiles with. When it does, the price of commercial velomobiles will fall to $3K to $5K or less-still expensive, but roughly what a decent high-end bike costs these days.

    Why isn’t there a bigger market for these? Cost is one major reason. Another is lack of suitable places to ride them. By their nature, velomobiles need places to cruise uninterrupted by obstacles or traffic controls in order to reach the speeds where their aerodynamic advantages come into play. For now the only place they can mostly do this is suburban or rural arterials. Since velomobiles are currently a niche item, there is no strong demand for nonstop bikeways to run them in places like NYC. That would of course change if they were to become much less expensive. When many (most?) avid cyclists can afford a velomobile in addition to their standard upright bike, then there will be strong demand for urban bike highways, and we’ll have a human-powered transportation revolution. As useful as regular bikes are, they don’t cut it for medium to long distance trips which are currently done by car, train, or bus. Velomobiles could change that if coupled with suitable infrastructure (as is already being built in the Netherlands where they are popular).

    Velomobiles also have the potential to increase human-powered mode share substantially in the suburbs, which is something upright bikes can’t do on account of the typically greater trip distances. We’ll make far bigger inroads reducing auto usage if human power becomes viable for trips of 10 to 25 miles each way.

  • lop

    I hope they don’t tint the windows like that. Part of the danger with tall SUVs is that they almost always have tinted windows, so you cant see through nearly as well, and you can’t tell if the driver is about to backup nearly as well.

  • mattkime

    cyclists should absolutely pay for damage they cause. but i disagree that this means that cyclists need to be insured. insurance is for covering expenses you can’t afford. cycling accidents are a magnitude smaller than auto accidents.

    home / renter’s insurance would be more appropriate.

  • StepUpAndSaySomething

    I don’t see the point of taxis unless you’re in some way unable to walk, or if you’re a rich person too prissy to take the subway or bus. For the former case, I think all taxis should be wheelchair accessible. Also all subways and busses (it seems like busses are the best out if the 3). If your too prissy to be on public transportation with normal people, then I’ve got no sympathy for you.

    Taxi drivers get paid shit, have little training, and cycle through their jobs too quickly. That’s why they are so aggressive and dangerous. We’d all do better if their was a smaller fleet of better trained, better paid cab drivers who focus on moving New Yorkers who physically can’t use other methods of transportation.

  • Joe R.

    Agreed. Taxis can serve a viable function in NYC, but that function is indeed mostly transporting those who can’t get around by walking, biking, or public transit, not those who are afraid to get dirty mingling with commoners. We could have a smaller, better trained, better paid class of drivers if taxis were reduced to this core function.

  • lop

    They aren’t rebuilding the roads so you can buy a car that the road can recharge. Infrastructure is never built that way. The cars have to exist first. I don’t mean be technically feasible, I mean people would have to own them. You can cut emissions 99% still using ICEs at a fraction of the cost. If you want clean air that’s how it’ll happen.

    It doesn’t matter what sort of battery you build 5-10 minute recharging during the day would overload the grid. Even at night it couldn’t be done in mass (as in everyone gets home and plugs in their car within an hour or so of each other? that would overload the grid) without significant infrastructure upgrades. Places like NYC have a very peaky demand curve though, so they can fit electric cars in, but not if they are being recharged during the day in five minutes. There’s capacity at night. Time of day pricing would get people to only charge at night, but even then it would have to be done slowly over hours, not five minutes if you’re talking about millions city wide driving and charging these cars. And for cabs or other vehicles that might not be available to sit charging for a long time while electricity is cheap and plentiful? Swapping out battery packs is a more feasible solution.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    The average NYC taxi drives 180 miles in a 12 hour shift[*]. You can quick-charge the kinds of batteries they use in electric cars, but only to maximum of 80% capacity, and “quick” is half an hour which is a pretty long potty break. With current technology an NYC taxi would need to charge twice in a 12-hour shift. With that frequency of charging and discharging you’ll be throwing away battery packs after a year, at best.

    You’d need a big leap in battery technology before your idea makes sense.

    *: according to random internet factoid attributed to TLC

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