The Week in Review

  • Just two weeks after announcing the plan, DOT has installed a working version of the heralded Chelsea "cycle track." With markings and temporary barriers now separating bikes from auto traffic, the Ninth Ave lane is the kind of innovation that should add to the swelling ranks of the "urban biker" (as opposed to those commercial and "recreational" cyclists we hear so much about lately). NYC’s "Street of the Future" is already a hit with cyclists, along with most Streetsblog commenters, including Anne, who exclaims: "Wow, it’s like a dream!! Sadik-Khan for mayor!!"
  • Moving right along, DOT Commissioner Sadik-Khan revealed measures her agency will employ to humanize Grand Army Plaza: namely, new crosswalks and 11,000 square feet of landscaped pedestrian islands. While it falls short of the community’s long-term vision for a more people-friendly GAP, the plan was described as a "good first step," especially considering the previously unheard of level of engagement between the citizenry and the city.
  • The "new DOT’ isn’t getting high marks all around, however. In Queens, some Jackson Heights residents are unhappy about the swapping of a bus stop for on-street parking. The change came following complaints about congestion at the corner at 73rd St. and 37th Ave., but Will Sweeney of the Western Jackson Heights Alliance says DOT’s solution — removing a bus stop and filling in the space with three metered parking spots — isn’t exactly what the neighborhood had in mind. And cyclist and pedestrian advocates slammed the DOT this week for conditions on Houston Street, where four people have died since 2005. The latest victim was Hope Miller, a 28-year-old aspiring actress who was hit by an allegedly impaired driver the morning of September 25. At a Times Up! memorial for Miller, volunteer Ellen Belcher called the Houston redesign "a Robert Moses wet dream that’s more geared to cars than people." City Council Member Alan Gerson has filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the project, citing, among other problems, "the DOT’s refusal to include a protected bike lane." After stenciling the outline of a body on the street to mark the spot where Miller was killed, the group moved on to Bowery and E. 4th St., where 24-year-old Julia Thomson was fatally struck last weekend, to install another memorial. Thomson’s killer, also allegedly under the influence, was charged with vehicular homicide.
  • The week would not be complete without some congestion pricing news, and this week offered an especially intriguing development. It seems Walter "We have to do something
    about the pedestrians
    " McCaffrey’s Committee to Keep New York City Congestion Tax Free recently tried to hire UCLA’s Donald Shoup for a study of curbside parking policy. Shoup declined, but pricing advocate Carolyn Konheim says the city itself should try to enlist Shoup to analyze how parking and pricing might work hand-in-hand to reduce congestion. Writes Konheim: "New York is obviously way behind on parking management. In the core of
    Manhattan, there are ten times more off-street spaces than in London,
    and half the drivers into the CBD pay nothing for parking." Maybe Mayor Bloomberg could be persuaded after his recent trip to Europe. Spending time in London (where he has an apartment) and Paris, Bloomberg was fascinated but non-committal about the French capital’s popular bike sharing program. Better hurry before Gavin Newsom beats us to it.
  • For the second week in a row, congestion pricing is the subject of our quote of the week. From Charles Siegel: "During the depression, Will Rogers said that America is the only place where people drive to the poor house. Now that we have entered the age of global warming, we should update
    that to say: America is the only place where people claim that reducing
    driving is elitist.
    Haven’t these Queens residents heard that 80% of the people in the
    world don’t have cars at all? Have they heard that the shift to
    biofuels has already raised the price of corn enough to hard for people
    in Mexico to afford food? Have they heard that the emissions from their
    cars are already causing drought and starvation in east Africa? From a global perspective, anyone who has a car is part of a
    privileged elite. Anyone who works politically to keep driving as much
    as he always has is the worst sort of elitist — willing to sacrifice
    the necessities of the poor to maintain the luxuries of the middle
    class."
  • City Council Member Alan Gerson has filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the project, citing, among other problems, “the DOT’s refusal to include a protected bike lane.”

    I guess things do a 180 all the time in the city, but I’ll be pretty shocked if Gerson is successful on this one. CB2 was incredibly vocal in its support for a bike lane on Houston, and the DOT told them that it was simply an impossibility (though they did offer up the Prince/Bleecker combination instead).

    On the other hand, the no-bike configuration was started under Weinshall, so maybe Sadik-Khan will overrule the original plan. I have no idea what her stand on that proposal is, though. Ian D, have you heard anything about it?

  • Gargamel Tralfaz

    I love the Week in Review!

  • Tuna Loaf

    Regarding the fact that “people claim that reducing driving is elitist”:

    Nowadays, in this country, up is down. War is peace. Hummers are patriotic.

    The fact that NYCDOT is starting to pay attention and is implementing these human-centric (as opposed to car-centric)changes to our streets is an encouraging local development.

  • I checked out the 9th Ave. separated bike path today. Nice, but I sincerely hope that the finished product does a better job of keeping cars out of it!

    It’s not a very long stretch of track, but I still banged on the hood of FOUR delivery trucks and other vehicles that managed to get into it. On a Saturday afternoon! Hopefully my sailor language will deter at least one of those people from doing it again. Alas, there will be many to take their place.

    I really hope it doesn’t end up being the same situation as the painted lanes in Brooklyn: nice and safe for exactly as long as it takes for drivers to get used to seeing them.

  • Barnacle Bill

    Keep banging on people’s hoods and using “sailor language”, whatever stereotypical notion that connotes.

    You eventually will wind up looking like a toothless sailor.

    Welcome to NY.

  • Ali

    I welcome any horn-honking, law-breaking, idiot driver to get out of his car and try to start with me after I bang on the hood of his car. I’ll have him laid out on the asphalt so fast he won’t know what hit him. Hopefully the newspapers will write it up the next day as just another car “accident.”

  • Jonathan

    Ali, “laid out on asphalt” = assault = prison = no cycling.

  • Ali

    Jonathan:

    Thanks for the advice but I don’t ride a bike in NYC. I walk to work in Midtown every day.

    I expect the NYPD would do as good a job of enforcing against me as they enforce against these jerk-off drivers that I experience daily. I’m not worried about prison. I’m much more worried about getting crushed by a runaway cab or turning truck or something.

    My point is simply this: I’m sick of it. And if an NYC driver ever gets out of his car to start something with me, I aim to break his nose.

  • Barnacle Bill

    ‘I’m not worried about prison. ”

    Is that so?
    Ali, ever been to prison?
    If so, which one?
    Ever been sent to Bing?

    The reason I ask is that I don;t know too many felons who spend all day blogging away.

    “I aim to break his nose.”
    What happens if he breaks your nose first and maybe a few teeth, Mr. Tough Guy?

  • Ali

    Not prison but, yes, I was in jail once. I lived.

    If the law-breaking driver breaks my nose first, so be it.

    I will put my nose on the line and take the law into my own hands because the NYPD doesn’t seem to care one iota about enforcing New York City’s motor vehicle laws and I’m sick of it.

    The next driver who drives dangerously or needlessly honks his horn anywhere near me: Beware. I am ready to do physical damage to your vehicle and I am ready to fight you.

    I believe that tens of thousands of New Yorkers feel similar anger, and while they are not prepared to get physical like me, they would be happy finally to see justice done on Midtown’s streets.

  • Barnacle Bill

    An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind, my fried.

    Believe me, jail is nothing like prison.
    Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.

    Presumably you have lived in the city for a while.
    Therefore you have run into your share of horn-honkers and reckless drivers (and cyclists).

    This happens to me weekly, if not daily.

    So, of all the countless times you have encountered such reckless individuals, how many have you beat up? It must be in the hundreds for sure!

    Or, is this tough talk from an milquetoast on an anonymous blog?

    Or is your name not really Ali, as you sit behind your computer in your office, but is it really Walter Mitty?

  • Ali

    I’m not wishing for prison.

    I’m wishing for a civilized and humane city that prioritizes human beings over automobiles and encourages socially, environmentally and economically productive activity over motoring. I’m wishing for an NYPD that cares to enforce our city’s traffic laws. I’m wishing for justice, plain and simple.

    How many times have I been “beat up” by reckless NYC drivers? Daily, I’d say. Every time some thoughtless jerk blasts his horn five feet away from me — at twice a day, I reckon — my body registers it as a kind of beating. My adrenaline flows, my heart rate increases, my body heats up. Psychologically I feel anger. Physically I feel stress. And who knows what sort of beating my lungs have taken from living and working in this city for all these years. My grandfather was killed by a drunk driver before I ever knew him. Does that count as a beating?

    All I’m saying is that I’m ready to fight back.

    And, of course I’m an anonymous person sitting at a computer. What’s your point? So are you.

  • steve

    I don’t advocate or engage in violence, but Ali has a point. Motorists routinely engage in conduct that constitutes a threat of imminent violence. For example, honking at a pedestrian or bicyclist is illegal unless the driver is attempting to avert an imminent collision. For a motorist to honk at a pedetrian or bicyclist simply to make then hurry up is essentially to threaten, “I’m about to hit you if you don’t hurry up.”

    Similarly, for a turning motorist to accellerate to enter a crosswalk so that they can “beat” the pedestrians with the right of way is to fail to yield and threaten the pedestrian. Motorists do the same thing when there is double-parking opposite the bike lane on a single lane road–cars “race” the bicyclists to get into the bike lane even though it is illegal and dangerous to do so (Here’s an example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gK6r9ocFk9w )

    These maneuvers are routine and give rise to the “road rage” that Ali is talking about. I disagree with his proposal for pounding on the hood of a car, as well as with the blocking tactic extensively discussed in a S’blog post last year (couldn’t find it to link to it, but the bicyclist who was almost hit positioned himself in front of the SUV that nearly hit him and wouldn’t move ’til the guy rolled down his window).

    On the other hand, hand signals, facial expressions and verbal comments that unequivocally communicate to a motorist your unwillingness to yield to them and the impropriety of their conduct is often quite effective. And if the motorist has the window up and there is no way to establish visual or audio communciation, then I think its OK to gently knock on the car to get the motorist’s attention (as I do in the clip above) and advise him that he has unlawfully failed to yield.

    You may get a hostile reacion back ( http://nyc.mybikelane.com/post/index/2302 , http://nyc.mybikelane.com/post/index/2171 ), but c’est le guerre. And there are ways to escalate without resorting to violence. After numerous calls to his employer, I have not seen the fellow with the interesting hand gesture (linked above) blocking the bike lane I travel each morning.

  • Jonathan

    The greater part of being civilized and humane, Ali, is turning the other cheek.

    The real issue to my mind is, as you say, encouraging “socially, environmentally, and economically productive activity.” The thoughtless aggression that you (and I) witness daily is the result of withholding that kind of productive work from thousands of our fellow citizens. If you were stuck in traffic daily, breathing poisonous air, enroute to your unfulfilling job in order to provide for your family you might get verbally abusive too.

    Fight the system, not the victim.

  • Abstractly, hood tapping is justified a thousand times over for someone threatened with death. Yet in American culture a harmless knock on a car’s exterior is more shocking than routinely using that car to menace people it could actually, you know, kill. There’s the question of the best means to achieve our ends, but frankly I think cyclists spend too much time bickering among themselves about that stuff. The cartoonish idea of evil cyclists that some New Yorkers cling to has no connection with the reality that I observe, and therefore I don’t see how it could be changed by cyclists’ continued self flagellation. And the more pedestrians like Ali visibly rebel against automotive tyranny, the clearer it becomes that fringe cyclists aren’t the only ones that are fed up with the status quo. Let everyone act for sensible streets in his own way; some of them are bound to work.

    (As for the system being the root of all evil and drivers not being responsible for their own wanton driving, can we PLEASE not even go there.)

  • Dave H.

    “For a motorist to honk at a pedetrian or bicyclist simply to make then hurry up is essentially to threaten, “I’m about to hit you if you don’t hurry up.””

    So has honking at a cyclist ever been considered vehicular assault by a court?

  • change is needed at the state level with the current vehicle and traffic law concerning bicyclist and peds.

    § 1146. Drivers to exercise due care. Notwithstanding the provisions
    of any other law to the contrary, every driver of a vehicle shall
    exercise due care to avoid colliding with any bicyclist, pedestrian or
    domestic animal upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the
    horn when necessary.

  • steve

    Doc’s right–there’s many different ways to resist motorist roadway hegemony and apart from advocating nonviolence I would leave the choice to the individual. Dave H.: interesting question but the answer is probably no. I was not making a legal analysis, just saying that given the laws on honking, a person honked at may reasonably infer s/he is about to be hit. That is not an assault but would justify countermeasures in my book beyond turning the other cheek (which non-motorists must do all the time).

  • Jonathan

    If the driver honks at you, she has recognized that you are there. If she then runs you down, that would mean she meant to hit you. I think it would be hard for her to wriggle out of jail time if she had seen you and refused to yield (honking notwithstanding). Even ambulances with lights flashing and sirens blaring have to yield to pedestrians.

  • v

    on will rogers and “these Queens people”…

    many places, having a car *is* about survival. it’s ridiculous, and a sign of the totally mixed priorities that result in car-dependent middle/lower class neighborhoods. yes, it’s wrong, but it’s true. if i lived in an area of queens that’s far from the subway, i’d cling to my car, too…unless i could see a clear value *to me* to giving it up.

    when you’re expecting folks to act in a way that is maladaptive given their particular immediate environment, there’s a limit to what you can expect. especially if your argument is about bleeding hearts…’oh, what havoc you’re wreaking on the poooooor of the world.’

  • JF

    Sorry, V, there’s nowhere in NYC where having a car is about survival. Even the most far-flung parts of Staten Island have better bus service than the entire state of Idaho. Nobody in Queens is going to die if they lose their car, so can we drop the hyperbole?

    I live in Queens, and I know a lot of drivers. When they say that it’s “about survival” for them, what they actually mean is that it’s about status. If they couldn’t afford to drive, they might have to move into a smaller house, or (gasp!) an apartment, maybe even in a neighborhood with lower-class people! The only survival that’s at stake is their egos, swollen by their Escalades.

    Also, stop the “middle/lower class” fudging. Name a car-dependent lower-class neighborhood in NYC. I don’t think you can. The lower-class ones have good bus, train and/or subway service, and the ones that don’t aren’t lower-class. Hollis Hills? Not lower-class.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    I think one of the best ways to get under some A-hole’s skin who just endangered you life with a deadly weapon (aka a car) is to pull up next to him/her and smile! Tell them so ever politely how nice it was of them to nearly kill you and then tell them to have a pleasant day threatening the lives of other non motorists. Question him with a smile if it makes him/her feel more important. Then way and say goodbye.

    I’ve only had the wherewithal to do this once but man! You should have seen this guy’s face who I did it to; he was so enraged but he couldn’t do anything. I totally disarmed him and he couldn’t reply at all.

    Like my old boss used to say, “Kill’em with kindness.”

    If that won’t work there is always breaking off rear-views and busting tail-lights, not that I have personal experience do such bad, bad things.

  • Spud Spudly

    You don’t want to get into a fight with anyone, anywhere, period. Mr. Tough Guy Mohammad Ali may one day finally summon up the courage to do what he writes about (even if it’s only to come back here and write about it some more) just to find that the other person is perfectly willing to get his nose broken in order to knock him unconscious and use his head as a soccer ball. Prison at that point would be preferable to the ICU or morgue.

    Didn’t you ever see Kung Fu? You only fight when you have absolutely no choice. George Bush should have watched more Kung Fu.

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