Today’s Headlines

  • Friedman: McCain a No-Show on Renewable Energy
  • Bloomberg Convenes Climate Change Task Force (Crain’s
  • Time’s Up: NYPD Shows No Interest in Working With Mass Cyclists (NYT)
  • MTA Machines Gave Away Rail Tickets for Seven Years (NYT)
  • Subway Computers Crash, Stalling Numbered Lines (NYT)
  • Brooklyn Bridge Repair Plans May Delay Park Development (Bklyn Eagle)
  • City Council Mems Called Out for Reserved Street Parking (News
  • Bronx Shoppers, Jeffrey Dinowitz Peeved Over Towings (R’dale Press)
  • Market for SUVs Continues to Stagnate (NYT)
  • Freakonomics Asks: What Is the Future of Suburbia?
  • Larry Littlefield

    “The Automatic Train Supervision project has been plagued by numerous computer and software problems. Work on the project began in late 1997 and was originally scheduled to be completed by 2002. But it has met with delays and cost overruns and is still being tested. It has cost more than $200 million so far.”

    Just $200 million? Uh uh. The Times should come back with a correction. A big correction. I just hope ATS is doing all the things it was supposed to do.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The future of some suburbia is the bicycle. I believe that, as I wrote here.

    To the extent that suburbs become cheaper than inner cities in some metro area, young people will have no choice but to live there. And there they will re-create the cultural and economic vitality now associated with cities.

    Low commercial rents will allow start-up businesses, meaning innovation will shift there. Low housing prices will make up for higher expenses otherwise.

    The bicycle will provide equal accessiblity to urban walking at one-third the density, and density will rise through the subdivision of houses into multiple units for smaller single, couple and elderly households. Carpooling and commuter buses accessed by bicycle will provide broader access in places without rail. The internet will allow information-based businesses to operate out of houses.

    The only thing that can stop this is politics — local ordinances and NIMBYs seeking to preserve what once was. Where they succeed, housing prices will fall even further. Expect lots of social, economic and racial conflict during the transition.

    Now those exurban developments in the middle of nowhere are going to have real problems.

  • mike

    Nice letter by Bill D. in the Times.

  • Shemp

    Really Mike, you don’t smell any bullshit in the claim that Critical Mass is there to create new bike commuters? Is that what they were doing at the RNC?

  • mike

    Not at all, Shemp. It’s what got me commuting by bike, and others that I know. Of course, now that the fun’s been removed from the ride by the ridiculous and illegal actions of the NYPD, perhaps only the dedicated remain. But if the NYPD manages to emerge from the dark ages in the future, perhaps it could be fun once again, and attract new riders.

  • Shemp, the participants in the August 2004 Critical Mass represented a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of protesters against the RNC whose avowed purpose was to disrupt, and not all of those participants were out to disrupt. Maybe you are against the idea of disruptive protest, maybe you are a Republican. Regardless, it is specious to define Critical Mass exclusively in terms of what happened at the RNC when Critical Mass occurred for years prior (and continues to occur in Brooklyn) without significant friction with NYPD. And no one can deny that (until the post RNC crackdown) it was the most popular monthly bike ride in NYC. Whether it led to an increase in bicycle commuting before the crackdown is an open question. Post crackdown, it is obvious that the ride (at least in Manhattan) does not encourage commuting. As for the Brooklyn ride, I have seen recreational bicyclists (including a recumbent rider) at Grand Army Plaza spontaneously join the ride and marvel at the opportunity to ride safely on Atlantic or Flatbush Avenues. Whether that experience led them to commute, I can’t say for sure.

  • BicyclesOnly: That’s why I think it’s time for Critical Mass to become formally organized to establish a purpose. If there is not a defined purpose, some participants will continue use it to push an agenda that is contrary to its original purpose.

    I think this time is a great opportunity for Critical Mass to make great strides for cyclists. If the ride follows the rules of the road and is organized with a specific purpose in mind, it could greatly improve the anti-cyclist mindset in this city.

  • john deere

    I also find the claims in Bill D. letter to be pretty dubious. I’ve seen Bill D. and others say of CM that “We are traffic” so we don’t need a parade permit. But when I did my last CM in NY 2 months before RNC, it sure looked like a parade, with cyclists deliberately blocking intersections and preventing motorists from crossing at the green light. The Brooklyn CM apparently gets a police escort, but since when does “traffic” get a police escort? The pre-RNC CM’s I attended had such a mob atmosphere, with cyclists giving the finger to and generally behaving rudely to motorists, that the whole event practically begged the city to demand a parade permit.
    Further, Bill is incorrect that NYPD didn’t try to engage the CM. In 2004, prior to the RNC, NYPD sent a letter to Transportation Alternatives, who had no involvement with the ride. But I do remember a lot of CM’ers responding to that letter with the claim that CM has no leaders, so there’s no one for NYPD to talk to. So there’s no one to take responsibility or real leadership. Bill D. is sounding that same refrain about the ride being “leaderless”, so even if NYPD wanted to engage in a dialogue with or about CM, there’s no one for them to talk to.
    That’s certainly not the way any other local bike organization operates. Who needs CM when we have 2 local clubs, with very cheap membership fees, and you don’t even have to join the club to participate in their weekly rides. These clubs have been putting on rides every weekend for decades with nary a glance from NYPD. So why is CM considered god’s gift to cycling? I don’t know. What I do know is that these organizations have leaders, both generally, and for individual rides, who set the tone and the rules for the ride–and the boorish CM behavior is pretty much frowned upon.
    So it’s no surprise that CM has run into trouble with NYPD and other major bike organizations haven’t–the leaderless concept allows the lowest common denominator to prevail. In short, there are a lot of ways to promote cycling that don’t get the police involved.

  • John,

    The open format of Critical Mass has in my opinion served to draw the best, and the worst, in NYC cycling. The NYPD crackdown has driven away many of the best, and appears to have brought out from the woodwork some people who relish confrontation.

    I am not sure what it is about the ride that has made it so popular and attractive, but I’m not aware of any clubs that consistently draw turnout the size of Critical Mass rides. To their credit, one or two clubs make an effort to de-emphasize athletic prowess and high-tech equipment, but my impression is that many beginning bicyclists still feel uncomfortable in a club setting and will prefer a less structured ride such as Critical Mass can offer. I don’t consdieer that “God’s gift to cycling,” but it certainly isn’t a reason to applaud the NYPD’s unlawful and grossly disproportionate reaction to it, either.

    There clearly are ways NYPD could engage the Manhattan ride even without leaders–the Brooklyn ride is the key example–and as far as I know NYPD has not even tried. The Brooklyn ride does not ask for an NYPD escort but they don’t attempt to thwart it, either, as long as the escort respects the ride participants’ right to not obtain approval of their route in advance.

  • Max Rockatansky

    In the CM vs NYPD debate I believe the brunt of the problem falls on the police. There is definitely bad behavior on the part of CM but when the police respond by throwing people to the ground and jailing them overnight is it any wonder that they draw the most radical elements? People looking for a confrontation with the police know where to go. In general most CM rides do not draw the same problems as NY. There have certainly been conflicts but nothing to the extent of the Manhattan rides – neither as consistent or violent. For the record, I’m not a participant in CM.

  • Many drivers fail to use turn signals for ridiculous reasons. This is why it is folly to have a transportation system that depends on non-professional drivers piloting their own vehicles:,CST-NWS-ride11.article

  • Shemp

    I’m all for protest, and even disruptive protest in some circumstances, but I find the “CM has no leaders” claim to be transparent sophistry and the idea of a protest that makes no clear demands to be fairly lame.

  • John Deere

    True–club rides don’t attract near the number of Critical Mass at its peak. I’m not sure why that’s the case. Clubs are also not doing a great job of attracting younger rideres. But both major NYC clubs offer local rides for entry level riders, as well as folks interested in rides that are longer & faster. My point is that rides can go on without provoking NYPD when there is some adult leadership involved reining in the ne’er-do-wells.

    I would disagree that the pre-RNC rides attracted a lot more of the “better” cyclists. I attended some of those, and those were the ones where I saw such poor behavior, that I stopped attending because the ride neither represented me, nor did it represent cycling very well. I quit attending 2 months before RNC, and at that point I felt like CM was headed for trouble in NYC. I don’t need CM; I ride daily here, 25 miles RT, year round. I can’t think of one thing that CM has done that has made cycling here better for me. Can’t say the same for other bike organizations in the City which somehow managed to do rides all the time without attracting NYPD’s attention, both good and bad. If anything, CM’ers preaching that cyclists are traffic while practicing otherwise have set cyclists back, by setting in motion a chain of events in which NYPD tightened up it’s permit rules for all cycling organizations. I’m not defending NYPD by any stretch–but CM is a part of the problem, as illustrated by the fact that no other bike event or organization seems to experience the level of friction with NYPD that CM does.

    What are the other local rides which most resemble CM?
    -The 5 boro bike tour, once a year. No one pretends that it is part of traffic, as cross streets are closed. Bike New York gets a permit to block intersections along the route.
    -Summer Streets. Although summer streets is not a bike event per se, it does suspend the rest of normal traffic operations, allows cops to block intersections, etc.
    -MS Tour in the fall: blocks other traffic onto its Manhattan route. They have to get a permit for it.
    -Tour de Bronx, Brooklyn & Queens: for those part that have a police bubble or close the streets to other traffic, I’m sure they get a permit.
    Major rides of other bike orgs–Escape NY (NYCC), Montauk Century (5BBC), and NY Century (TA)–these rides occur as part of the rest of traffic. I’ve heard TA gets a permit, even though there’s minimal police involvement–partly because NYPD started asking them to, and partly to minimize friction with the City on what is their major fundraiser–it’s also much larger than the other 2 clubs’ rides. I don’t know if 5bbc or NYCC get permits for the parts of their rides that transverse NYC. I don’t think any of these organizations should have to apply for a permit for events that don’t close roads to other traffic. But those are the rules now, and we partly have CM to thank for it.

    Long story short: want to block intersections to other traffic? Want police assistance? get a permit for it. If you are part normal routine traffic, no need for a permit.
    I’d much rather trade NYPD’s assistance to the monthly Brooklyn CM for the following policy changes:
    -devise a real strategy to greatly reduce bike theft in NYC.
    -train officers to treat cyclists as part of traffic, especially when investigating a bike crash–investigate it objectively.
    Those changes would likely have a much bigger positive impact on cycling in NYC than the monthly CM.