Today’s Headlines

  • WSJ Poll: 61% Blame MTA, Not Pols, for Transit Crisis as Service Cuts Disproportionately Hit Poor
  • Yankee Stadium‘s 9,000 Parking Spaces Sit Half Empty; Operator Could Default on City Bonds (News)
  • NJ Officials Put Hudson Transit Tunnel Work on Hiatus, Raising Doubts About Project’s Future (NYT)
  • Cyclist Jasmine Herron Killed on Atlantic Ave After Unlicensed Driver Doors Her (News 1, 2, Post)
  • Location, Location, Location: MTA Service Cuts Drive Down Real Estate Prices (WSJ)
  • Tape Shows Ticket Quotas for Traffic Summonses at Brooklyn Precinct (NYT)
  • … NYPD Response Denies a Quota Is a Quota (NYT)
  • Commuter Van Service Starts Today, TWU Drops Plans to Operate Own Line (2nd Ave Sagas)
  • Seeking Staten Island Votes, Carl Paladino Promises End to Verrazano Bridge Tolls (Daily Politics)
  • Letter to Editor Slams Times For Broadway Article Bias

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Larry Littlefield

    As I’ve said before, very few New Yorkers have any moral obligation to these “moral obligation” bonds. Particuarly in this case. NO BAIL OUT!

    The bondholders will end up taking over the parking — just as they have in an one of 100,000 commercial real estate deals around the country.

    And if bond buyers recognize that defaults are possible, that would be a good thing.

  • Anon

    Gee, that sure was a good deal for NYC — give away parkland that’s used year-round, and replace it with a parking garage that’s half used during Yankee home games, and presumably empty the majority of the year.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    Heard about the incident that took Jasmine’s life. Same thing nearly happened to me on Friday when a cabbie swung his door open and somehow I avoided it split second and the car on my left gave me a few extra inches when they saw it happen. Driver was apologetic believe it or not. Need more separated bike lanes….

  • Larry Littlefield

    This has got to be the most depressing set of headlines I’ve ever seen on this blog.

  • Depressing indeed. Another unnecessary, completely preventable loss of life.

    Both of those Daily News articles linked above call the incident that claimed Jasmine Herron’s young life a “freak accident”. This despite the Daily News’ own coverage from several months ago, in which the life of a community activist in the Bronx was cut short when she was doored while riding a bike and then was killed by a bus:

    Doorings are not freak occurences: they happen all the time (see Clarence’s comment above).

  • Clarence, protected bike lanes are slow and crowded, and quiet streets like Bergen and Dean (which parallel Atlantic Ave two/three blocks to the south) are plagued with double parkers. On Atlantic (or Delancey, or QB, or 2nd Ave) you can hum along at 25 mph.

  • From the second WSJ link: “Real-estate data compiled by show a dropoff in sales in some neighborhoods along the bus routes since they ended this summer.”

    And so it begins: the slow-motion death of NY neighborhoods starved of transit options.

  • Doug G.

    Atlantic is routinely clogged with traffic – zero bike lanes there. It’s a parking lot many hours of the day. Atlantic, as a main thoroughfare, could definitely use a bike lane or two. Bergen and Dean have their share of double parkers, but not enough to clog up traffic and surely no more than any other street, bike lane or not. (Regardless, as long as bike lanes are just painted lines on the street, people are going to stop their cars in them. Not too many people park in the separated PPW bike lanes, as far as I can tell.) I ride Dean and Bergen every week and rarely do I find them slow and crowded, nor do I find the city’s few separated lanes to be a problem, although everyone has a different definition of those terms.

    Freak accidents happen when everyone is doing everything right and something still goes wrong. That’s not what happened here. Had the driver a) looked over her shoulder before she opened her door and b) not been driving a car when she was not licensed to do so, this would not have occurred. It’s only an accident in that the driver surely didn’t mean to kill anyone, but there was nothing “freak” about it.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Although someone could be doored in front of traffic on any street, I believe that “not recommended” routes should be added to the city bike map, and major arterials such as Atlantic Avenue should be “not recommended” unless they have protected bike lanes. Perhaps a century or two from now Atlantic Avenue might be a street I would be comfortable having my daughters ride on at night. But some concessions have to be made to the world as it is in the meantime.

    Some may be able to ride at 25 mph on those streets, and in that case they should take a whole lane and stay far away from the doors. The rest of us should stay clear.

  • Steve F

    This was no accident, this crash happened because the cyclists was riding in the door zone – legal, but not safe; the driver flung open the car door without looking – illegal as well as unsafe; the driver was unlicensed, should not have been driving at all (would not be using the drivers door) – illegal and unsafe; the bus was probably overtaking too closely (leave more than 3 feet to pass) – possibly illegal and unsafe. It took four related safety errors to cause this death, but it was not an accident.
    These traffic deaths can be prevented with just a little more attention and care by cyclists and drivers together.

  • Steve F

    Larry, right now on city streets, cycling at 25 MPH is not fast enough to satisfy some drivers. Drivers voice two overlapping fallacies: They think the NYC street speed limit is somewhere well north of 30 MPH; and they think that whatever that speed limit is is a mandatory minimum limit, not a maximum. “Some drivers” includes former NYPD Deputy Chief Bruce Smolka who said that any cyclist was an obstruction traffic, and his attitude pervades the NYPD.
    As far as both these police and drivers are concerned, if you can’t sprint to the next red light at 50 MPH, you don’t belong on any street or road.

    It wouldn’t be so bad if drivers were only crazy on Atlantic Ave, but they repeatedly go berserk on small local residential streets if they can’t race past a bike to the waiting red light. And riding outside the door zone is us waving the red cape to the bull, some drivers can’t deal with it!
    It’s back to the missing education and enforcement issue, we can’t and shouldn’t have to re-engineer every last street to get drivers to share the road safely.

  • Kaja

    If people were thrown in jail for ten years for involuntary manslaughter for a dooring, or even charged criminally with reckless endangerment, then the problem would solve itself in a New York minute.

    The DA is the responsible party here.

  • Steve, thanks for the two insightful posts. I know it sounds callous, but to me it’s a marketing problem. DOT builds bike lanes that are designed for easygoing daylight riders with a maximum speed of 13 mph. Younger, fitter, or less risk-averse riders aren’t interested in going that slowly (slower at night), so they take arterials instead, which have few to zero double-parked cars. Cue the carnage.

    The Procrustean bed of bike infrastructure should be put aside in favor of a Vision Zero approach aimed at eliminating casualties among present riders and walkers. Under Vision Zero, cops would aggressively enforce traffic laws and DOT would reengineer traffic sewers to allow cyclists and pedestrians to travel safely at any speed.

    Kaja, no jury would convict this woman on a felony charge. She’s not the proximate cause of the accident. The DA knows this.

  • carculturekills

    Condolences to the Herron family. This is a terrible tragedy. Dooring a cyclist is supposed to be against the law in NYC. Why can’t the NYPD ever prosecute anyone for it — not even an illegal driver who kills someone???

  • Larry Littlefield

    Driving without a license seems to be rampant here. I wonder if in this case it was a result of prior traffic violations, or driving while avoiding the cost of insurance.

  • LOLcat

    No responsible cyclist should ever ride on atlantic. Getting doored is never the cyclists fault. However, it’s naive and irresponsible for any cyclist to think cars are going to watch out for them. If you ride a bike for any amount of time, your number one thought when planning a route should be to avoid as much risk as you can (you can never avoid it all).

    Whenever I have friends that start biking I always tell them to avoid streets like that at all costs. There is something about two way streets that really unnerves me.

    @Steve: NO F’ing kidding. It should be a moving violation to accelerate to a red light (and why would you unless you want to waste gas). I’ve definitely had to flip a few people off for honking at me so they could rush to the red light. The lack of common sense that pervades licensed drivers is infuriating (Yes, this new yorker has his license). Just this morning I had to sarcastically tell a driver, “that’s safe” as he drove down bergen READING THE PAPER ON HIS STEERING WHEEL

    We need more cyclist cops, to enforce driving and cycling laws (although the only real thing I think cyclists should get tickets for is wrong way down streets and no lights at night)

  • J:Lai

    I think, in the long term, the goal should be to separate bike and car traffic. So for example, Bergen and Dean streets should be traffic calmed streets with bike lanes, which people would drive on only if their origin or destination is on the street. In general, drivers would want to spend as little time as possible on these type of streets due to the slow speeds.

    Atlantic Avenue should not have bike lanes, and should be the preferred route for motor vehicles travelling east/west across this part of Brooklyn. Bikers should avoid Atlantic as much as possible and travel on Bergen or Dean.

    A logical plan for NYC streets needs to segregate motorized and non-motorized vehicles in this way, not in a compulsory manner, but by making certain streets preferential to one or the other type of traffic.
    If this is done in a clear and consistent manner, people will figure out the best routes contingent on their mode of travel.

    Manhattan is an exception, as the volume of traffic makes it difficult to segregate modes, but perhaps congestion pricing could ameliorate this situation by reducing traffic volume.

    While it would be nice for every street to have both car traffic lanes and separated bike lanes, there is simply not enough room on the streets to do this in most places (unless we get rid of on-street parking!)

  • J:Lai

    Regarding the police quotas for traffic summonses, I don’t see any problem here. Law enforcement should aggressively ticket people for moving violations and parking violations (this includes cyclists as well as drivers). If anything, I wish that police would give more tickets.

    The combination of relatively small penalties with a low probability of getting caught leads to rampant violation of traffic laws.

  • Doug

    There’s a great This American Life on the quotas. It really captures the problem: one cop wants to police the beat properly, by talking to business owners and residents and identifying troublemakers; the system prefers to alienate the entire community by taking advantage of all of them to meet quotas. Which is a better community to live in?

    I just had a run in with what I am sure is quotas – I got a summons for riding on the sidewalk. Don’t get me wrong – I think riding on the sidewalk is obnoxious and dangerous. But the cop saw me get on the bike so I could go to the corner and get on a street instead of going 1/2 mile out of my way to get to the same corner (and following traffic laws). No discussion, no warning whatsoever. Instead, immediate summons while cars try to run me over sixteen times a day. What, in fact, did it accomplish by ticketing me… in the rain… on an empty sidewalk… when I live out of state?

    Do I trust cops less now? Yes. Will I think twice before approaching a cop in cases in which there is a hint of my own wrongdoing? Yes. Do I begin to understand the enormous mistrust that the black community has longer had of cops? Yes. If I believe they have anything other than justice in their motives, how can I trust them to do the job they’re paid to do?

    As it was written above, being a cop involves discretion. Quotas remove that with no upside for the community.

  • Steve F

    We pay too much for the cops we got, and

    We don’t pay enough for the cops we need.

    or as B. Dylan says,
    . The cops don’t need you,
    . and man, they expect the same.

  • J:Lai

    come on, it is 2010. Does anyone really still believe the fairy tale about the cop who lets you off with a warning, because you were breaking the letter but not the spirit of the law? Or because there were extenuating circumstances? Or any other such BS?

    I think we have ample evidence to conclude that cops have a specific mission – to issue summonses – and anything else is ancillary. The only time they will bend the rules is when it is to protect another cop. “To protect and to serve” is a marketing slogan, nothing more, as is “Courtesy, professionalism and respect”.

    Having said that, I am curious why someone like Doug above thinks he should get special treatment. If a driver goes through a red light but doesn’t hit anyone or cause a collision, is it ok for a cop to let him go without a ticket? If you want police to enforce traffic rules, you can’t be upset when you are the subject of the enforcement.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Give the cops and managers a little break here. Cops work independently. That means it is quite difficult to prevent them from doing nothing, when they should be working to prevent crime. Tickets are proof that an officer wasn’t at the donut shop the whole time, or at the bar.

    Those who read my Room 8 posts using Census Bureau data know how many cops we have, and what we pay for them. We have a lot, more than double the U.S. average relative to population. Their pay while WORKING is not high, and has been very low in the recent past, while pay in the suburbs is absurdly high.

    The 20 and out pension plan with overtime spiking, however, makes the total labor cost per cop absurdly high. And the number of cops is going to have to go down and down and down to pay for it.

  • Doug G.

    Just to clarify, there are two Dougs who frequently comment here.

    I’m against riding on the sidewalk in all cases, unless you’re 8 years old and on a dirt bike. It would have been one thing if you mounted your bike on the sidewalk and rode five feet into the street, but a half mile is pretty far to go on your bike. We don’t want cars to break rules when it’s convenient and it’s not always for us to judge when it’s okay for such rules to be broken. Why would you trust cops less now that you were busted for a clear violation of the law? (“Man, the cop busted me for stealing, but it was only $20! Now I don’t trust cops anymore!”) It’s not like you were innocently minding your own business when a cop ordered you to stop and show him ID or something.

    I’m with J:Lai. Laws should be enforced consistently. Also, being from out of town is no excuse. Tickets are meant to be punitive as well as preventative.

  • Doug

    Just to clarify, I was going a few feet to get into the street instead of having to ride in the streets 1/2 mile to get to the same point (i.e. to the next avenue, down a block, back to the first avenue, and up a block).

    If the cops are going to enforce laws, they should do so consistently. If we all accept they are ticketing arbitrarily to meet quotas, then I think we all agree on this. The corollary is that if I get ticketed for some bullshit offense like taking my bike from my house to the curb, they had better be ticketing people riding the wrong way, going through lights, riding without lights, etc to say nothing of the myriad car infractions. But they don’t.

    I’m annoyed by cars who sneak through red lights after exercising due caution (i.e. stopping, pulling out, looking) at 2 am, but do I think they should be ticketed for that? No, actually I think lights should go to stop signs when there’s no traffic in the middle of the night.

  • Quotas force police to temporarily enforce the law consistently, highlighting that many of our laws are poorly conceived in the first place. We’ve for some reason completely banned adults from riding a bicycle on the sidewalk, even though most people seem to agree it’s okay to ride for a few feet in front of one’s home. Why should we yield that right to police “discretion” (police power), to be suspended without notice during a quota or just some cop’s bad day? Do we not pay legislators enough to spell out that a violation is only committed if you ride for more than 15 feet?

    I would go further and say that there is no harm in riding on an empty sidewalk and that it shouldn’t be criminalized, or at least that we should have a public debate about it instead of expecting police to act as 3 branches of government every time they see it.

    And who gains what, exactly, from the current ban on riding bicycles on the sidewalk? The public certainly does not enjoy sidewalks free of bicycle riding; all of us see it every day. My favorite thing to observe is that it is often old men complaining the most about people riding on sidewalks, and old men doing the sidewalk riding. (Along with a great deal of conscripted cyclists shying away from dangerous streets.) Seeing as our blanket ban is ineffective, why do the rest of us give up the right to exercise our own discretion about when it might be reasonable to ride on a sidewalk?

    Just some things I ask myself when I read complaints about quotas.

  • As fate would have it I was caught up in this dragnet last night on the way home from visiting friends. Shockingly, police discretion can not be relied upon when a bicycle path has been ripped up for repaving, it is after midnight in Queens, and you just want to get home without being run over on a road with no lane markings.

    If you trust the judgment and sympathy of the NYPD’s lowest common denominator, by all means do not write your representative asking for better laws.