Today’s Headlines

  • Outer Suburbs Lose Appeal as Energy Costs Rise (NYT)
  • Aging Population, Dependent on Cars, Presents Huge Safety Challenge (NYT)
  • NASA Climatologist James Hansen Calls for Carbon Tax (Carbon Tax Blog)
  • Elderly Queens Woman Struck by Bus in Bayside (News)
  • Truck That Caused Chinatown Crash Deemed Unsafe (AP, NYT)
  • Pedestrians and Cyclists Fight Over Central Park Scraps (NYMag)
  • NYT: Bruno’s Departure a Chance to Reform Albany
  • MTA Board Expected to End Practice of Lifetime Travel Perks Today (Post, AMNY)
  • E-ZPass Giveaways Evoke Past Travel Scandal (City Room)
  • Bike Commuting With Congressman Earl Blumenauer (NPR)
  • Mike

    Think you missed an important (albeit short & vague) one:
    Congestion Pricing Plan Could Return Under New Name
    http://www.1010wins.com/New-Name–Same-Plan/2479339

  • Ed

    Aging Population, Dependent on Cars, Presents Huge Safety Challenge (NYT):

    “Cars of the future may have computerized dashboard displays where the driver could choose a type size and font that was easier to read, and could be customized to show only the information the driver found useful. There may also be collision notification systems and a way to route medical records ahead to the ambulance after a crash. A computer inside the car may someday adjust how it operates, depending on the physical weaknesses and range-of-motion limitations of the driver.”

    Oh that’s wonderful. We are going to design cars for people nearly blind and too weak or infirm to drive, put them behind at the helm of a ton of steel going 80 miles an hour, and then, in anticipation of the imminent catastrophic accident we are encouraging, equip the vehicles with systems to immediately notify emergency responders who can deal with the bloody mess. This is f***ing brilliant.

  • JK

    The NYT piece on older drivers might as well have been written by AAA. It’s as if the walking and cycling public do not exist — nor do seniors who walk. The article equates driving with mobility, and does not include anything about senior pedestrian safety and the fundamental importance of walking for health. As usual the preoccupation is with the safety of the motorist, not with the larger community. This article could have been written in 1953. Could they have interviewed anyone from the sustainable transportation side instead of citing AAA over and over?

  • brent

    Wow- some good propaganda today; office work will have to go on the backburner. Context of NYMag article on C Park is fascinating- a great report on how vehicles traveling at high speeds can pose a threat to pedestrians. Too bad the vehicles are bicycles, “And a bicycle traveling at upwards of 40 mph is no longer a toy but a potentially deadly projectile”. Has anyone ever heard of an article making the same association with cars? Cyclists are also described as insane freaks along the same lines as a “heroin addict”. I would say this is only true for a tiny minority of bikers. Has anyone ever heard of an article describing the great majority of motorists this way? Also infuriating that the police are setting up dragnets to ticket light-running cyclists. I can stand at any intersection in the city and watch at least one car run a light in any cycle- never see any ticketing though.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “And a bicycle traveling at upwards of 40 mph is no longer a toy but a potentially deadly projectile”.

    So put in a speed limit of 15. I’ll bet cyclists are more likely to follow it than motor vehicles.

    You can always clear the road when Lance Armstrong is here working out.

  • They need to fix the situation with the lights at loop crosswalks in Central Park. For the 90% of hours a week when there are no private automobiles allowed on the loop, the lights still go green, yellow, red every few minutes. They need to make the crosswalks more of a “yield to pedestrian” signs/lights for cyclists, joggers, dog walkers and pedestrians to all look for each other at these points.

  • Glenn #6: Agreed!

  • Spud Spudly

    1) I liked the NYMag story but too bad it focused so much on hedge fund biking club racers and dog owners. The problem I see there every weekend is just plain old people trying to get across the road in the crosswalk with the light and having to dodge bikers and bladers of all types. Isn’t there already a 15MPH speed limit? Regardless, signs won’t do squat because most bikers have no idea how fast they’re going and don’t believe they could possibly go that fast. And if they’re already ignoring the red lights why would they heed the speed limits signs?

    And brent, you never see anyone getting a ticket for running a red light? On the corner of CPW and 97th Street most Sundays there’s a cop car (in the bike lane ironically enough) nabbing people coming out of the park. But walk a few hundred feet into the park and there are bikers committing hundreds of red light violations per hour with zero enforcement. I’m not saying that drivers have it rough, I’m saying that pedestrians trying to cross the road have it rough and any animosity toward bikers is caused by the bikers themselves.

    2) I said many months ago that Congestion Pricing had a branding problem and suggested other names like “Environment Fee” or “Mass Transit Funding Program.” But guess what? Too late for that now. People already know about it and any attempt to change the name is going to just give opponents one more way to appeal emotionally to the public. Picture it: “They changed the name but they can’t fool us!” Or: “The mayor thinks you’re stupid.” Or: “Don’t be tricked by this tomfoolery.” And other stuff like that. Too late.

    3) Great comment Ed. If a driver has physical weaknesses, range of motion issues or bad eyesight let’s seek ways to get him off the road, not to enable him to continue driving!!!!

  • Spud Spudly

    Glenn and Urbanis: How about this — instead of a yield system that I don’t think will really work, how about putting in some of those good old-fashioned buttons that allow pedestrians to trigger a red light? You can still find old ones on some city street corners, and believe it or not they used to actually do something. Set the minimum green light at two or three minutes so that pedestrians can’t keep it red all the time. And when there are no pedestrians around it just stays green. That way the bikers get more green time and pedestrians can cross when they need to, providing people actually stop at the red lights. (Maybe some tire spikes that pop up when the light’s red, mmmmmm…)

  • As Mr. Brownstone suggests on yesterday’s headlines, city resources should be allocated based on historical risk, not perception of risk. We can absolutely get more bang (less death) for our enforcement buck outside of carfree parks. As for the signals, which cost very little to operate, the only way to know if they’re better off or on in the absence of cars is to turn off a few of them for some weekends and see if those intersections have more or less reported crashes than others. The rest is just hot air.

  • About conflicts in Central Park: Am I the only one who thinks it’s ludicrous to have a two-lane highway going all around the park? Let’s rip out all the blacktop as well as the traffic lights. Let’s leave only narrow dirt roads and institute a policy that gives pedestrians precedence over all other modes. That should be enough to discourage the drivers as well as the spandex brigade, while pedestrians and casual bikers will get along just fine.

  • Charlie D.

    Pedestrians and bicyclists can get along very well WITHOUT traffic lights. A simple blinking yellow light and a yield to pedestrians signs should do the trick. That way, neither group is waiting needlessly at a red light or a don’t walk sign.

  • Moser

    Vroom, why should the spandex brigade have nowhere to go in the city? You’re really narrowing your world down to a pretty small slice here, though you’re obviously not alone among the SB doctrinaire set. Apparently you would also ban all competitive running events in Central Park too.

    Apparently you don’t know that the hedge fund guys mentioned in the NY Mag article are major underwriters of T.A., or that most of the racers I know in NYC are also bike commuters/utilitarian riders as well and generally agree with this site’s viewpoints other than the obvious absurd stuff.

    The NY Mag piece was a total piece of crap that could’ve been and probably was written in 1978, 1988 (start to mix in roller bladers) and 1998 as well as today. Unfortunately, most of the cyclists quoted didn’t have the sense to smell set up, and considering the trashy outlet that NY Mag is, that is pretty naive.

  • Ian Turner

    NASA Climatologist James Hansen Calls for Carbon Tax

    … from behind a brightly-colored hand puppet.

    (I couldn’t resist)

  • brent

    Spud- I will be the first to admit that bikers run red lights- I do it every day in fact. What is disproportionate is the negative sentiment from the media and even the public at large. There is fear and outrage over discourteous cyclists- the NYMag story even cites a rare instance when a biker killed a pedestrian. Yet, RECKLESS DRIVERS KILL A HANDFUL OF PEOPLE IN THE CITY PRACTICALLY EVERY SINGLE DAY. Where is the public and media outrage over this madness?

  • Spud Spudly

    Brent, you’re right that in general the negative sentiment over bikes is out of proportion to the physical threat they pose. However, as a pedestrian in Central Park I feel much more threatened by bikes than I ever do by cars. Cars are only there a few hours a day five days a week, I never see any on the walking paths and get this — they stop at the red lights! You can cross at the light without worrying about the cars, but you still have to worry about the bikes. (Though I still support banning cars from the park.)

  • Spud #9, excellent suggestion.

    With Central Park, once again we have the problem of too many people (pedestrians, dog walkers, families with children, utility cyclists, racing cyclists, joggers, etc.) competing for too little car-free road space.

    I agree with the premise that a park is a refuge from automobile traffic and that pedestrians should have priority at all times. The problem with the current traffic light configuration is that it encourages cyclists (whether more commuting-oriented like myself or more racing-oriented) to blow through lights. When you have lights than turn red frequently, and often no pedestrians crossing, it feels like an arbitrary imposition. Your suggestion of having lights turn red on pedestrian demand seems a reasonable way to re-engineer the system to meet everyone’s needs most of the time. Pedestrians can cross when they need to and cyclists can continue to ride when there’s no pedestrian traffic. Cylists respect the red light because there’s a compelling reason for it.

    With a set-up like this, I think ticketing cyclists who blow through a red light would be completely reasonable, as it would be endangering other people’s safety (as well as their own).

    I am always sad to see pedestrians and cyclists pitted against one another. All cyclists in New York are also pedestrians and we two groups have common cause in taking back the streets. Where their interests diverge is that cyclists are a minority facing an inadequate infrastructure, whereas pedestrians are a majority and have a ubiquitous network of sidewalks supporting their needs. Cyclists are required to share roads with automobiles where they are a minority, where space is often not allocated to them–and, when it is, it is frequently disrespected (cars parked in bike lanes, pedestrians walking in bike lanes, etc.), putting their lives at risk. So I understand cyclists are angry and frustrated, although I by no means condone careless, rude, and dangerous behavior towards pedestrians.

  • vnm

    Re Aging drivers:

    What many experts do agree would help older drivers is changing the design of roads, especially intersections, where drivers often have problems judging speed and distance. So some states are redesigning them. They are installing left-turn lanes, left-turn signals, street signs well before the intersection and replacing eight-inch traffic lights with 12-inch ones.

    This is code for road widening. Widening roads encourages driving by people of all ages, worsens the already poor pedestrian experience in most places, worstens our rainwater runoff problems, and is an expensive and poor use of tax dollars.

  • Moser,
    You’re putting words in my mouth. I’m not at all opposed to competitive running or cycling. (As a matter of fact, I’ve run a few marathons and I’m seriously thinking about trying a triathlon.) All I’m saying is that a smooth, two-lane highway is incongruous in a park, as are competitive cyclists in a recreational setting. (And donations to T.A. don’t change that, although they’re much appreciated, of course.)

    I’m not proposing any bans at all. Quite the contrary, actually. I have little faith in rules that aren’t reinforced by physical constraints. Speed limits won’t do any good as long as road conditions don’t discourage higher speeds, and the traffic lights don’t command any respect because they just look surreal in the park.

    That leaves the question of where the bike racers should go. My basic attitude is that if you want to operate a vehicle at highway speeds, you can do so on a highway. That may be hard in the city because you’d probably have to go to either New Jersey or Long Island to find a suitable highway. How about a hybrid solution: We get rid of all the blacktop except for a dedicated “Wild West” lane for bikes only, without speed limits, fenced off on both sides to keep kids and dogs out, with bridges for pedestrians to cross?

  • Peds and cyclists are on the same side. Why can’t we just get along?

    I think a little civility goes a long way. In Riverside Park, where I do most of my walking, some bikers call out or use their bells when passing me from behind. Thanks, you guys are great!

    I always look over my shoulder when about to cross into an intersecting path. I wish I didn’t have to, but it helps me avoid collisions. On two occasions, bikers have called out “thank you!” They get the gold medal for civility.

    The bikers who use shared paths at racing speed bug me, but there hasn’t been much of a concerted effort to change their behavior, so why not start with a PR campaign and more “go slow” signs? I’ll bet that would make for more considerate cyclists and happier peds.

  • Mike

    Here’s the gem from that NY Times schlock:
    “Frank Cardimen[‘s] inspiration to help older people stay mobile safely as long as possible comes from his father’s experience a few years ago when he stopped driving. ‘My father died at 85, but he really died at 80,’ Mr. Cardimen said. ‘He was the most active, funny, enthusiastic person, just a jewel. We tried everything possible to offset that loss of freedom, that quality of life, but there was nothing we could do,’ he said. Seeing him ‘just watching TV and eating, waiting to check out, was heartbreaking.’

    When his father lost his ability to drive, he lost his mobility and freedom? The choice was between driving or else rotting away in front of a TV? It was a physical impossibility to WALK?

  • “I think a little civility goes a long way. In Riverside Park, where I do most of my walking, some bikers call out or use their bells when passing me from behind. Thanks, you guys are great!”

    Seriously? I hate it when people do that. If everyone could just look where they’re going and be aware of what’s around them, it wouldn’t be necessary.

  • The thing is, they’re moving much faster than I am. So which is more annoying for me as a ped — bikers signaling their presence in advance, or bikers shooting by me without warning? I prefer the former, but maybe that’s just me. And yeah, awareness is important, but to be aware of every biker about to pass me, I’d have to be twisting my neck around every few seconds. So I prefer the yells and bells.

  • Hi Mark, thanks for sharing your perspective. It’s useful to hear which cyclist behaviors pedestrians find most helpful for sharing the road.

    Do you ever ride a bicycle yourself or are you strictly a walker (in the pedestrian sense, not the UES socialite sense)?

    I’m looking forward to seeing you while you’re striding along the Hudson River Promenade.

  • I rode a bike as a kid, but that was a different world. My sleepy NJ suburb had little daytime traffic back in the 1960s so I could zip around on nearly deserted streets and sidewalks without bothering anyone. Now I’m over 50 and haven’t got the stamina or reflexes to bike safely in NYC. It does look like fun, though. And while I occasionally criticize two-wheeled speeders, I totally support bike lanes, bike safety, bikers’ civil rights, and especially physical barriers to protect bikers from other vehicles. That’s what I would want if I rode a bike.

  • Hi Mark, I understand your not wanting to bike the streets of NYC; however, I’d hate for you to miss out on all the fun. Consider making a trip down memory lane and trying out a Free Bike Friday at Governor’s Island this summer.

    http://www.govisland.com/Press_Room/06-04-08bikeshare.asp

  • When his father lost his ability to drive, he lost his mobility and freedom? The choice was between driving or else rotting away in front of a TV? It was a physical impossibility to WALK?

    In some of these places, it’s not a physical impossibility but it’s just unpleasant and dangerous. My grandfather had a similar experience; he lived in a condo in a sprawly part of Florida, and then my uncle moved him to an assisted-living center in a sprawly part of California. There was nowhere to walk to within a reasonable distance for an 87-year-old man even if he felt comfortable walking there.

    That’s why I like my neighborhood in Queens: you can walk to everything, and there are lots of places (park benches, cafes, senior centers, the VFW) where senior citizens can walk to and socialize. It could be safer, but it’s a lot safer than where my grandfather lived. It’ll be even better when they roll out Safe Streets for Seniors here next year.

  • To sum up: the answer to the problem of incompetent elderly drivers is not to widen the roads with turn lanes. I also read a post somewhere recently where a suggestion was made to ship all the city’s elderly population up the river and get them out of the way of the younger people who drive the economy. I couldn’t disagree more. Older people provide all kinds of useful functions in a society; they’re good to have around.

    The solution is to zone more Sunnysides where people of all ages live together. I have some friends on the next block where three generations live in the same apartment complex. The mother lives on the top floor of one building (the father died last year, sadly). The sister has an apartment in the other building, and the brother lives in another apartment with his wife and daughter (when she’s not at college). They all hang out at the cafe down the street. It’s a vertical village.