Today’s Headlines

  • State DOTs Still Stuck in the 1950s, Lobbying Congress for Wider Highways (MTR)
  • City Council Reportedly Considering Bike License Law; Sean Sweeney Wants It Now (Villager)
  • Cyclist Struck, Seriously Injured By Express Bus at Union Square (Gothamist)
  • State, City Comptrollers to Jointly Audit MTA Maintenance Sked (Post, Observer, NY1)
  • Walder: We Could Close Lines and Do Track Work All at Once (News, Post, SAS, WNYC, City Room)
  • NYT on Climate Bill: Where’s Obama?
  • NJTransit Fare Hikes Have Arrived; Service Cuts Coming Soon (1010 WINS)
  • London’s "Cycle Superhighways" Are Mostly Just Bike Lanes Painted Blue (Guardian)
  • Parks Dept Electric Carts Combust While Charging (City Room)
  • Fantastic: On-Street Bike Parking Debuts in San Francisco (Streetsblog SF)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Larry Littlefield

    RE: shutdown of lines.

    Back in the day (nearly a decade ago now), I showed the folks in the signal program over at CPM how much at the soaring prices being charged it would cost to maintain the system as a percentage of all the income of the people of New York City. And said it couldn’t be afforded, and if money kept being borrowed for it (and other things) the result would be a collapse.

    I said the price had to fall by half (and it has risen since). It was told that a lot of the cost was due to all the work being done nights and weekends on overtime, with much of the time spent setting up and clearing out the construction over and over.

    The Culver line project was in planning at the time. I said even though it was my line, and it would mean an extra hour commuting each day (due to a walk to 4th Avenue), I would rather they shut it down and save the money. Since after 9/11, the same MTA that takes years to change a light fixture rebuilt the entire IRT 7th Avenue line, everything but the hole in the ground (and in some cases the hole too), in eight months. For half price.

    That was then. That is not where this is going. Thanks to the debts and the values of Generation Greed, where this is going is the elimination of ongoing normal replacement not its improvement. Walder should understand what the state legislators and comptrollers want.

    Eventually service would collapse and a line would be shut. After a decade of wranging, perhaps money would be available to rebuilt it. The model isn’t the re-construction of the #1 train after 9/11. The model is the 20 year outage of the Manhattan Bridge.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Point two: it New York will be shutting down subway lines to save money, what about roads? The cost of road maintenance and reconstruction was vastly inflated after it was decreed (during the Pataki administration) that the work take place nights and weekends — when transit riders are more likely to be driving. And drivers have many more alternatives to any one highway than transit riders do.

  • FYI, the only bike licensing legislation introduced in City Council is this bill to regulate commercial cyclists. The Villager article describes a much more restrictive measure that apparently doesn’t exist, except maybe in Sean Sweeney’s fantasies.

  • Clarence Eckerson

    Bike licensing will do nothing. After all, look at all the car drivers who break the law everyday.

    Just today in my commute I saw dozens of laws broken by drivers. I saw an impatient car driver drive up on a sidewalk(!!) near the QBB to get around not wanting to wait behind a queue of cars. (The traffic officer rolled her eyes when I asked if she saw it.) On 72nd street a car turned thru a red light at least 3 seconds late, and then because on-coming traffic was coming at him he leaned on his horn until about 20 pedestrians parted to let him make his selfish turn.

    On the West Side Highway there was a bus letting off school children on a field trip near the Intrepid that pulled across and COMPLETELY blocked the bike path. I waited with about a dozen cyclists, a rollerblader and some joggers for over a minute until she was done unloading. And then she just moved the bus forward where she should have pulled to all along.

    Yeah, licensing cyclists is the way to go. Sheesh. If people driving multi-ton vehicles can’t behave…

  • Ben thanks for mentioning that bill Int. 121; I was hoping you guys would do a story on it. I oppose the hell out of it (and was disappointed that Lappin was behind it), because if it gets anywhere, even short of passage, it would still be a step in the direction of licensing bicycles, even though it only concerns delivery cyclists. If it did pass, I fear it would be a significant step in that direction.

  • Larry Littlefield

    If lots of people really want bike licensing, I have a deal for them.

    Phase it in over 30 years, starting with the young, but spend the money to provide the same support system that once existed for licensing drivers, back when the state was supporting the displacement of other modes by the auto. It is less common today, but back then schools provided driver’s ed.

    The state would provide funds for mandatory bicycle road training for every child in every middle school in the state, funded by the DMV. If a kid didn’t have a bicycle, the state would lease them a simple one-speed, set up for commuting, and locks at a nominal cost. Every child would receive a bike license. After 30 years, only a few old timers wouldn’t have them.

    With the system set up, cut back on school buses, and tell 8th graders adn high schoolers to ride bicycles instead. And raise the minimum age for a driver’s license to 21 (the drinking age could be cut back to 18).

  • Ian Turner

    I’m strongly in favor of maintenance consolidation. The 7 train is down for 5-10 weekends every year; I’d much prefer if it the line were simply shut down for 2-3 weeks instead. I’d leave town, switch to a bicycle, or sublet during that time.

  • Boris

    “In a news conference at City Hall, Mr. Liu and Thomas DiNapoli, the state comptroller, said they would investigate the financial impact on neighborhoods that lose subway service during track work and other upgrades.”

    Funny to see someone considering the impact of less subway service in this one isolated instance. Virtually all politicians seem to believe that the value of any transit service is zero (or at least approaching zero as suburbanization of the city progresses). Why hasn’t anybody evaluated the financial impact of the June service cuts, or service cuts over the decades in general?

  • The proposal for licensing delivery cyclists is aimed at forcing them to pay the summonses they receive as a condition of employment. For sure there’s a problem with them not paying the summonses, but the answer is to have their employers pay, not them. It’s completely unfair for the employer, who makes the lion’s share of the profit from the delivery operation, to offload the risks of the delivery operation onto the delivery force as individuals.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Again, you have to understand where this is going: they want to say the MTA doesn’t need all this maintenance, and it should have to pay compensation to do maintenance, vastly inflating costs. They want to argue against job cuts, or to provide pension enhancements, or justify their funding cuts, and blame everything on the “unaccountable MTA.” These are the same Comptroller’s offices that claimed the MTA had hidden $billions, rather than a hidden financial disaster. Where are the hidden $billions?

    I happen to know about this. I attended the meetings at which maintenance crews and construction managers fought over the limited number of General Orders (GO) diversions available. On the Flushing Line, elected officials have already banned diversions during the U.S. open, Mets games, etc, leaving relatively few weekends available for work. On all lines, there are all kinds of rules as to when work can and cannot be done.

    The G.O.s have to be scheduled in advance. Then in other meetings the construction managers and maintenance crews fight over the limited number of work trains and flaggers available. Not enough, the GO is lost, rescheculed a year later, the contractor demands compensation, etc.

    If Walder thinks that our political class is going to agree to make all this easier, cheaper and more efficient, rather than look for an excuse to put an end to maintenance and ongoing normal replacement so resources can be diverted elsewhere, then he must have been out of the country for the past decade. Like Bloomberg said, the MTA has been used as a piggy bank. These people cannot change, as they are beholden to those who have benefitted from selling out the future, and even if they could, they’ve already put us in too deep.

  • Intro 121 from my reading isn’t bike licensing. It creates a paper trail saying who is employing the delivery cyclist, and makes the employer responsible for their summonses.

  • JamesR

    re: bike licensing: the City Council better not even go there. I can’t think of a faster way to implode the current cycling boom than to implement something like this.

  • Quite right Jonathan and BicyclesOnly, I “mis-remembered” what 121 was really about.

    Nevertheless I still totally oppose it because of the pro-regulation momentum it could create if passed.

  • The model for line shutdowns should be Berlin’s S-Bahn recall last year. Faced with the need to recall 75% of the S-Bahn cars within a day’s notice, Berlin chose to shut down the lines that had parallel U-Bahn, tram, or rapid bus service. New York should follow similar logic in maintenance shutdowns: a subway line should be shut down for maintenance if there’s a parallel commuter line (which should charge subway fare during the service change) or a subway line.

    For example, the 7 could be shut down for 2-3 weeks, but then the LIRR should accept MetroCard to Flushing, and the QB line should be running extra service. The four-track mainlines would have just two tracks out of four shut down at a time. And the L could be shut down if the combined V/M service ran extra trains.

    It’s all painful, but there are ways to minimize the pain for any given service cut.

  • BicyclesOnly

    Thanks for explaining 121, Jonathan!

    I live in the precinct (17th, covering the UES) that issues the most bicycling summonses of any NYPD precinct. It is not uncommon for scores of summonses to be issued in a single night for sidewalk riding, as well as other violations that apply only to delivery guys (like no sign). This reflects the high level of order-in dining among my UES neighbors and their penchant for complaining to the precinct and their elected officials about the delivery force they have put on the road with their insatiable order-in appetites. But despite all the summonsing, nothing changes because the summonses generally aren’t paid.

    This is a highly problematic situation for all cyclists, because it is cited in support of bike haters as proof that cyclists in general are irresponsible and need to be licensed. The fact that these are primarily delivery cyclists involved is not well-known or easily ascertainable, so most people just conclude this is a generalized problem with all cyclists.

    Cyclists ignore this situation at their peril. I oppose general bike licensure as much as anyone, but there has to be some. mechanism of accountability for the commercial bike delivery force that restaurant owners and their housebound order-in patrons have created. It is completely predictable that these delivery guys will ride counterflow and on the sidewalk (nowadays, often on e-bikes) when they are getting 10% or more per delivery. So pending my further review of 121, I support legislation that would force the restauranteurs (and, via a price increase pass-thru, their sedentary customers) to pay the summonses and therefore have an incentive to hire only delivery guys who ride reasonably. The fear that such legislation would create momentum in favor of general, non-commercial bike licensure is outweighed by the real risk that ignoring this situation will lead to general licensure.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    If you can’t make the owners pay FICA or taxes, or hire legal residents, if you can’t get them to follow labor laws what makes you think you can get away enforcing the cycling delivery laws?

    The delivery bicylists are really a very small part of the delivery problem. Look at how many truck drivers kill on NYC streets. Almost all work under severe perverse incentives to speed and run red lights. Difference is they do it in several tons of steel.

  • BicyclesOnly


    As I’m sure you know, authorities responsible for enforcing the labor laws and contribution requirements you refer to are inefficient and reticent, while NYPD and DoF are not so in the case of traffic summonses. If the summonses are issued in the name of the restaurant owner, I bet they get paid.

  • Regarding bike licensing; next, they’ll require licenses for skateboarders, razor skooters, being a pedestrian.

    A cyclist is not much more than a pedestrian on wheels.

    Over 100 people a day are killed by cars in this country not bicycles (3,000 per day globally); not even close; not even even even close; more a statistical anomalie.

  • regarding: “Cyclist Struck, Seriously Injured By Express Bus at Union Square (Gothamist)”

    The buses in this city are big and dangerous like locomotives except they don’t run on tracks, go much slower, don’t weigh as much, and both don’t make much sense in a dense urban environment packed with people.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “If you can’t make the owners pay FICA or taxes, or hire legal residents, if you can’t get them to follow labor laws what makes you think you can get away enforcing the cycling delivery laws?”

    Good point Prince. You can add “pay the minimum wage.”

    Adding law to law with sporadic enforcement just leads to a situation in which those who try to run their businesses honestly are harassed to death, while others get away with murder.

    Fewer rules, more enforcement.

  • re: Intro 121.

    It’s not licensing, okay? The City is not going to start handing out bike licenses. The bill doesn’t require the city to keep any paperwork whatsoever.

    The employer, i.e. the restaurant owner, will have to give the deliveryman a card with the deliveryman’s name and photo and the restaurant’s name. The restaurant also has to keep a log of all the delivery runs, like the log that taxi drivers have to keep.

    The proposed bill in action: I take a job as a deliveryman. Going the wrong way on 95th St with a basket full of General Tso chicken, I get stopped by the police. The investigating cops ask for my ID card. They go to my employer, which has my name down for a delivery to 95th St. The employer then, not me personally, is on the hook to pay the summons that I earned for wrong-way cycling.

    The next day, of course, I get fired.

  • Ian Turner


    What happens if you don’t have a card because your employer didn’t obey the law?


  • Ian, in that case, I hire a lawyer and take the employer to civil court to recover the damages, as it says in the bill.

  • Ian Turner

    Jonathan, you can’t be serious if you expect delivery workers to sue their employers over something like this.

  • Ian, as you are aware, I didn’t write Intro 121. As you are also aware, I didn’t create the situation where restaurant owners exploit their labor force because the workers don’t know any better.

    The inequality between labor and capital in a late capitalist system such as ours is an excellent straw man and can be used in nearly every argument. Nice work bringing it in here.

  • Ian Turner


    The point here, which Larry has brought up and which is perfectly valid, is that when you make lots of rules but then fail to enforce them, the result is that any honest businesses are forced out. In other words, a world where everything is prohibited and nothing is enforced breeds pestilence.

    The motivations of Intro 121 are good, but if the rule will not be enforced (which I suspect it will not), then we would be better off without the law.

  • Ian, point taken. Seems like the appropriate response would be to pass the law and lobby the council for more money for enforcement, instead of accepting the situation as it stands.

  • Ian Turner

    Jonathan, I think we agree that this law with adequate enforcement would be better than the status quo. What seems poised to happen at the moment, however, is the law without any enforcement, which (IMHO) is worse than the status quo. Getting enforcement for this kind of thing is, as you noted, a larger issue than anything relating to bicycle licensing or street safety.

  • Cycling is bi-pedal bi-modal transportation. It is very different from traveling by car. It is not nearly as dangerous or cause nearly the amount of destruction, property damage etc., and it does not require insurance so that any type of regulations trying to treat bicycles as cars is essentially harassment.

    Regulations regarding bicycles should not be much different than those regarding pedestrians. In many cases in New York City cyclists legally travel with pedestrians with no major problems such as across the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg, and 59th Street Bridges, City Hall Park, the West Side Bike Path, Riverside Park, etc., which sets a very valuable precedent for how cyclists should be treated by regulations which is essentially as pedestrians.

    One idea may be a major effort to reduce reckless endangerment such as on the downhill side of the city’s bridges where cyclists do travel way too fast on the downhill side of bridges — power corrupts! Including gravity power — which is something easy to correct.