Today’s Headlines

  • Pricing Cited as Gennaro, Weprin Oppose Queens Rezoning (AMNY, G.Gazette)
  • Former Council Members, and Lew Fidler, Against Term Limits (Sun)
  • Cyclists Say Painted Lane Ends Too Soon; DOT Plans No Changes (Daily News)
  • City Should Encourage Acceptance of Cycling (NYT)
  • A Bike-Commuting Planner’s View of Miami (Planetizen via Transit Miami)
  • More A Train Birthday Coverage (NYT, Daily News)
  • Glass Doors No Solution to Subway Station Heat (Second Ave Sagas)
  • Economist Touts Air Conditioning as Answer to Climate Change (NYT
  • Reducing America’s Offspring Emissions (Slate)
  • Painted Bus Lane? Where? (Uncivil Servants)
  • Hilary

    Re the road too-narrow to extend the painted bike lane: As a sailor, I find fault with the concept of “Share the Road.” Why isn’t there a clear protocol to indicate who has right of way? In this case, can’t there be a sign that says “Road Narrows. Yield to bicycles”? I assume it’s a short stretch, and that the occasional car will simply slow down or even stop until the bike reaches the safe harbor of the separate lane again. Where did this “share the road” idea originate anyway? Imagine a rotary giving that signal to motorists? Or an on-ramp on a highway?? Or a pedestrian crosswalk??

  • Brooklyn

    Re: Henry Street. The Daily News must have gone out of its way to quote the two most nancyboy cyclists I’ll ever meet. YOU TAKE THE LANE. The whole lane. You give the cars behind you no chance to squeeze around. Let’s have less frightened kittens around here and more real riders, please.

    There’s no chauvinism at work here, only common sense. Henry Street is obviously residential, short blocks with untimed traffic signals or stop signs at every intersection. Any driver trying to use Henry as a through street deserves the delay they get.

    In addition, the road widens approaching Union Street, giving cars ample opportunity to pass less than a half mile from Atlantic Ave. Finally, parking on both sides of the street serves as the strangest kind of traffic calming. Creating a narrow metal corridor gives cars the greatest disincentive to speeding of all — they could damage the cars around them.

  • steve

    Hilary,

    Installing signs directing “motorists yield to bicyclists” where we know conflicts will occur is a great idea. There should be signs like that in the abrupt lane termination scenario in Brooklyn, and in the many other spots where DoT has failed to deal with abrupt lane terminations or other hazards in a satisfactory way, such as:

    -http://www.flickr.com/photos/11992136@N08/1202252273/ (11′ pinchpoint in Central Park where cyclist was killed)
    -http://www.flickr.com/photos/43954081@N00/1342193291/ (34th Ave. on-street lane directs bicyclists onto sidewalk)
    -78th and Columbus (bike box directs bicyclists to get right when they need to keep left in order to follow the lane east)
    -77th and Columbus (absence of bike box even though bicyclists are required to switch from right-hand on-street lane to left-hand on-street lane in order to proceed west past Columbus).

    I disagree with the suggestion that we apply the “law of the sea” to the roadways. My understanding of the traffic laws in NYC is that as a general matter, bicyclists and motor vehicles have the same right to be on the road and the same obligations as each other, except as where other specific rules provide to the contrary or fundamental differences between bicycles and motor vehicles make it unreasonable to impose the same obligations on bicycles.

    There are two key exceptions to the general principle of equality: (1) motorists are at all times obligated to use “due care” to avoid hitting bicyclists, and so must yield to bicyclists to avoid collisions where reasonable; and (2) bicyclists traveling on a roadway with an on-street bike lane must in most cases use the lane when it is available and it is reasonably safe to do so, and no motorist can for any reason interfere with a bicyclist proceeding in an on-street bike lane.

    Proposing a general right-of-way for bicyclists over motor vehicles, similar to the law of the sea in which motor-powered craft must yield wind- or human-power craft, is more likely to result in relegating bicyclists to bike lanes than in enhancing bicyclists’ rights or safety on the road–at least in the present situation, where bicyclists are a small minority.

  • steve

    Brooklyn,

    You are suffering from a bad case of testosterone poisoning and it is clouding your judgment. It is far better for cyclists to have the option to take the lane if they wish, or to proceed with the right of way in the bicycle lane if they do not. Insulting bicyclists that are advocating for a better network of on-street lanes so that those two options are developed only serves to marginalize bicyclists and create a huge “entry cost” for non-bicyclists who need to get started in on-street lanes before feeling comfortable taking the lane. You seem too caught up in your own heroic posture as a “real rider” to recognize that getting non-bicyclists, families, seniors, and kids out on the road requires on-street lanes at least on a transitional basis. Consider the bigger picture, will you?

  • Clarence

    Henry Street: When the reporter called me I had just gotten back from riding Henry Street where I saw up in front of me a scene that happens far too often – a mom riding with her child on back of her bike had just been forced to pull over to the side by a honking driver. She was a little upset and I told her about staying in the middle and trying to ignore the drivers, but if you got tons of metal behind you and your offspring with you – plus she looked like a newbie cyclist – well most people will err on the conservative side.

    Of course you take the lane. That is what I do as a physically fit veteran rider, but it is not as simple as that. When drivers use that street they love to bully cyclists. Unless you can maintain 15-20 mph on that very narrow long block you are gonna get honked and yelled at – and remember it is an uphill stretch, so a majority of riders aren’t gonna be able to do that.

    How do we fix this at least a little? I told the reporter that I would love to see the SHARE THE ROAD signs which have been in the wrong place for almost 10 years – one at Degraw (recently missing) and Sackett – moved to streets like Warren or Kane – BEFORE the street gets horribly narrow. Also helpful: sharrow markings for those six blocks or so would help. Though I would love to see the lane continue to Union, let’s face it with the way the street geometry is working, the only solution is to get rid of parking. And in this neighborhood, it is not happening.

  • Hilary

    Let’s not use the term “right of way” because it has different meanings on roads and the water and confuses something we agree on. “Right of way” on the water doesn’t refer to the right to use a lane or space (even shipping lanes). It’s the right to PROCEED vs the obligation to yield. It removes ambiguity, which is a principle hazard in boating and (I believe) in mixed traffic of all kinds. The rules of priority on the water are based on relative mobility, which has to do with size, wind direction, motor vs. sail, etc. They are complicated but clear, and every craft understands them. Liability follows strictly.

    On the contrary, the rules of “sharing a road” are NOT well understood. “Share” is not the right word. If we share a seat, we squeeze into one seat. If we share my dinner, we each get half. Motorists don’t know that bicyclists have the right to a full lane on a shared road, and so will try to squeeze by them. Let’s strengthen the point by taking Brooklyn’s suggestion:
    NARROW ROAD: BICYCLES TAKE LANE. CARS YIELD.

  • psycholist

    I ride down Henry frequently and always wondered why the bike lane mysteriously ended. Just ride in the middle of the damn street – what’s the big deal? A bike has just as much right as anyone else, when the lane widens I ride to the side of the street and cars can pass. Anybody who honks and intimidates a woman riding a bike with a child seat deserves to wait as long as possible. Besides it is a very residential area, people who want to drive quickly should be on Court. Another suggestion to slow down speeders is to put in speed bumps. It’s fairly common to see cars moving way too quickly in that area – a lot of kids are around there, it’s a tragedy waiting to happen. By the way – to the earlier comment, if the city would put in the bike lane there would be no reason to take the lane. Unfortunately if you were forced to only ride in bike lanes you wouldn’t get anywhere in this city….

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    When drivers use that street they love to bully cyclists.

    If it’s a regular pattern of bullying, isn’t there some kind of public shaming technique that is useful in cases like this?

  • Hilary

    Uh oh — did I leave some ambiguity in my last suggested sign? Did Psycholist think “Bikers take lane” meant “bike lane” even if there is none?) So change that to “Bikes take center lane”.
    Point remains: End ambiguity.

    For the case of the biker who PREFERS to yield, for whatever reason, there can be eye contact with the motorist and waving the car on. But it is the biker’s prerogative to yield her right to proceed.

  • steve

    Hilary, it’s not so simple. All but the most experienced of bicyclists will prefer to yield to motor vehicles when traffic is moving in excess of 20 MPH. And there is no reason to sit in slow-moving or stopped traffic in the center of the lane on principle, sucking exhaust from the car ahead of you, when you can safely and lawfully pass motor vehicles and alleviate congestion by removing yourself from the queue. Bottom line, there are some ambiguities that most bicyclists would prefer to keep intact.

    But I still agree that problem spots like Henry Street should get special signage to ensure that motorists yield to less experienced/confident bicyclists who are lured there by the on-street lane only to have it disappear on them. Longer-term, I take psycholists’ point and urge that we make the buildout of a fully-connected logical and efficient network of on-street lanes a top priority, in order to get more non-bicyclists, families, kids, and seniors out on the street.

  • Clarence

    Angus wrote : If it’s a regular pattern of bullying, isn’t there some kind of public shaming technique that is useful in cases like this?

    That honku guy used eggs one block over on Clinton Street many years ago. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Okay in all seriousness, it still amazes me that no one on the long block between Kane and Degraw haven’t mobilized to stand out there with signs saying, “Please Stop Unecessarily Honking. People Live Here.”

  • Bravo to Hilary (#1 and esp’ly #6) for trenchantly articulating the need to apply to road behavior the sailing principle of motor yielding to sail.

    The Toronto Coroner made this very recommendation — he wanted it written into an Ontario “bylaw” — in his 1998 study of cycling casualties. It struck me then (and now) as a brilliant and powerful organizing focus.

    I wrote about it in this 2001 op-ed. I’d love to get some traction for it here, or anywhere.

  • I agree that “Share the Road” is literally ambiguous, but it does begin to convey that the roads belong to both cars and bikes (and peds!).

    I really like the idea of site-specific “Yield to Bikes Because the Next Bit is a Little Dodgy” signs.

    In my city, I proposed alternating “Share the Road” signs with “Bikes by Right” signs and doing public relations to educate motorists about respective rights to the macadam. (Progress to date on the proposal? None.)

    Three other quick thoughts:

    If we are going to embrace the seafarer’s ethic, we (as bikers) need to understand the consequence on our looking out for pedestrians.

    Those of us who aggressively take the lane (when necessary) don’t really “take” it. We really only borrow it for a moment or two.

    A honking car behind me knows I’m there. It’s about the safest situation I can be in (in traffic). At least until I have room on the right, I begin to ease over, and the motorist tries to make up for lost time by squeezing by too closely.

  • Jason A

    re: Queens Rezoning

    With the congestion price fight and now this, I find it perverse that so many auto-friendly politicians in both the City Council and Albany have got away with trotting out “the MTA stinks!” argument–without acknowleding the responsibility they share for the crummy state of the subway. Uh, exactly who’s fault is it that the trains stink? If any politician in the region publicly acknowledges that the MTA is an overburdened mess, they should be confronted with pointed questions as to what moves are they are taking to address the sorry state of nyc transit.

  • psycholist

    Sorry for the confusion, that last bit wasn’t very clear. So here’s my point more succintly: bikes should take their own lane as necessary to ride safely and not be bullied off the road. Secondly, we need a cohesive system of bike lanes throughout the city. Although I’m fairly comfortable riding through traffic, many aren’t and the streets should be accommodating to all.

  • steve

    Charles, I agree with your general point and I’m relying on the same provisions of the traffic laws cited in your op-ed. But I would I would clarify the point in terms of timing and means vs. ends.

    I would love to implement your principle of general priority for bicyclists over motorists in NYC when bicycling becomes more prevalent here. NYC would then join the ranks of other great bicycling cities where motorists yield to bicyclists as a matter of course, in all situations. But given current perception and reality in NYC of cycling as a minority (~1% – 5% share) mode, I fear that pushing for a general priority rule now would only play into the generalization of Bloomberg and others that “bicyclists are lightweights” that can’t hold their own in traffic. The response would be, “If you need motorists to yield to you as a matter of course, then stay at the curb or in the bike lane; that way motorists will know where to expect you and can yield to you.” I’m all in favor of a frank dialogue over whether the traffic laws should be changed, but a bid by bicyclists for a general priority could undercut their “equal right to the road.”

    I think we do better to focus on enforcing the existing laws. The current “due care” principle is sufficient to require motorists to yield to bicyclists in most situations, as supplemented by signage or bicyclist priority signals in trouble spots, on-street lanes or off-street paths, or other devices giving cyclists priority over motorists as needed. There is an appalling lack of awareness of the due care principle by motorists, and a lack of enforcement by police and the courts, but I would expect the same enforcement problem even if a general priority rule could be implemented. The transformative effect of confident bicyclists, well-versed in the traffic laws, asserting their equal right to the road (and their pre-eminent right to bike lanes and paths) is probably much greater than that of a new principle of general priority that most motorists and police would likely resist.

    I am also concerned that analogies in the area of bicycling law can muddy the waters. We often read on S’blog the claim that many NYC bicyclists don’t seem to know or understand basic traffic rules. I also read comments here by people suggesting that they bicycle according to principles such as, “bicycles are like pedestrians,” or “bicycles are vehicles, just like cars.” There is merit in both analogies (and in the analogy of bicycles to sail or rowboats)–they illustrate existing problems and enable people to imagine solutions–but they don’t accurately capture the law. The existing NYC traffic laws grant bicyclists the better part of each of these analogous situations, and more. I don’t think folks should simply go forth and implement analogies like that in their everyday cycling. I don’t take you to be advocating that they do so, but that may not be clear to everyone.

  • Dave

    I regularly drive down Second Avenue below 14th St where there is a bike lane and where traffic is always heavy given the loss of a lane for the bike lane and tons of double-parking.
    There are almost always bikes on the non-bike-lane side of the road slowing down traffic even further. I have on numerous occasions rolled down my window and tried to let these people know that there is a bike lane. I am usually cursed out F*** Y** being the common phrase.
    I once heard a bike-rider barrel through a red light and then curse at the pedestrians in her way (who were legally crossing the street.
    Has any bicyclist ever been given a $40 ticket for not using the bike lane where there is one (I believe that is the law)? Have they ever been ticketed for going through a red light and harrassing pedestrians? And don’t get me started on bikes on the sidewalks…
    Before we put even more bike lanes out there let’s get the bikers to use the bike lanes and follow the rules of the road.

  • Hilary

    Steve, We are not proposing any change in either law or policy – just its clarification. “Share the road” does not mean “share the lane.” But motorists do not know this (and often it’s not clear where the lane is.) I understood your earlier post about the benefits of ambiguity for bikers – to be able to maneuver around cars in stalled traffic – and think this could still happen if we limit the “Yield to Bikes” areas to those situations where a car passing a bike poses a danger to the bike.
    This happens with pedestrians of different girths and speeds. Faster ones overtake slower ones — but generally don’t squeeze by one on a single-person escalator, or squeeze themselves into a turnstyle or revolving door. Those mores haven’t been established with cars and bikes yet, so we need some signage that educates us when it’s “single file.”
    Like the helpful signs that try to get men not to spread their legs across 3 subway seats ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reality Check

    Dave:
    “Loss of a lane for the bike lane”?? Is that really how wide it is?
    Are the cars driving that are being slowed down by bicyclists in this heavy traffic exceeding 30 mph?

  • mike

    Dave,

    Bicyclists are not required to use the bike lane.

  • steve

    Thanks, Hilary. I’m all in favor of the DoT putting up an official statement that explains that “share the road” as stated in signage or signified by sharrows means that motorists must yield to bicyclists. I’m also in favor of wider use of those signs and sharrows. I was addressing the notion of a generalized requirement that motorists yield to bicyclists in all cases.

    Dave, I assure that many bicyclists have received summonses for failing to use a bike lane, even when they didn’t deserve it. I have seen it happen with my own eyes, many, many times. Usually, the smmons is not deserved. I use the buffered bike lane on Second Ave. on occasion, and it is often blocked by cars (the same double parked cars you are complaining about) and/or pedestrians. In those circumstances, bicyclists are not required to use it. Also, if the bicyclist is proceeding at a speed that would prevent him/her from being able to avoid a sudden dooring in the bicycle lane, then the bicyclist can choose a trafic lane instead, because using the bike lane would be unsafe.

    You are wrong that traffic is heavy in that spot because of the bike lane. The motor vehicle traffic was there before the bike lane was, I recall from when I lived in that neighborhood. It is caused by the following factors: (1) all southbound traffic is required to turn east or west at Houston, creating confusion and delays,(2) Second Ave is the preferred southbound truck route on the East Side, (3) motorists are always double parking there, as they do elsewhere, and (4) NYC is generally congested with motor vehicle traffic.

    I have a better idea: let’s kick all the motorists off the roadways until they start following the speed limit!

  • Dave

    Reality Check:
    Make sure you know your facts first…between the bike land and buffer a full lane of traffic was removed from Second Avenue below 14th St. And yes between that a bike in a traffic lane on the other side of the street two lanes are lost.

    Mike:
    When a bike lane is present bikers are in fact required to use it (except tp weave around double-parked cars and other obstructions). Look into and you will see my $40 fine is correct. Rarely enforced except for the anarchists that are part of the mass ride once a month.

    Steve:
    If Second Avenue is so congested why did they choose it for the bike lane? Here’s a redical thought…let’s get rid of the meters on one side of Second Avenue and use it for deliveries and bike lane while keeping the lanes of traffic. Too much meter parking just encourages people to drive into the city anyway.

  • mike

    Dave,

    You are incorrect. Bicyclists are only required to use bike lanes that are “usable”, meaning bike lanes that are free of potholes, debris, obstructions, etc. The law also says that this list is not limited to the above reason. You can also make a case that older bike lanes (less than the 5′ standard) are not “usable”, nor are standard 5′ ones because they places bicyclists in the door lane. Furthermore, bicyclists are not required to be in the bike lane when approaching a turn.

    Weaving in and out of the bike lane in the above situations is extremely dangerous, so I don’t fault bicyclists for not using them if they do not feel comfortable doing so.

    Next time, please read the law before you type.

  • steve

    Dave,

    Here’s the law on when bicyclists are required to use bike lanes:

    โ€”34 RCNY ยง 4-12(p) Bicycles.
    (1) Bicycle riders to use bicycle lanes. Whenever a usable path or lane for bicycles has been provided, bicycle riders shall use such path or lane only except under any of the following situations:
    (i) When preparing for a turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
    (ii) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, motor vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, pushcarts, animals, surface hazards) that make it unsafe to continue within such bicycle path or lane.

    I think your idea of having commercial deliveries and bikes share one lane so that you can get where your going 5 mins sooner is self-serving and stinks.