S.I. Advance: Capodanno Plagued By Speeding, So Get Rid of the Bike Lane

Earlier this week the Downtown Express injected some common sense into the public discussion about the value of bike lanes. With protected lanes on Ninth and Eighth Avenue now a valued safety improvement after facing some pushback at first, the paper predicted that initial complaints about the new lanes on the East Side will subside once people get used to them:

We are a huge supporter of bike lanes, simply because they make it so much safer to ride in the city and enjoy the benefits of cycling. Cycling is a healthy and liberating way to get around and commute — no one can argue with that.

But, as with anything new, there’s an adjustment period. In particular, the protected lanes — where bicyclists are separated from moving auto traffic by a lane of parked cars — are a revolutionary change to the streetscape.

The SI Advance thinks the city should
The SI Advance thinks the city should let careless motorists, like the teenager who drove this car into a bus stop and killed Nathan Pakow last year, have more space on Father Capodanno Boulevard. Photo: ##http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2009/02/26/2009-02-26_disabled_man_killed_by_out_of_control_ca-2.html##Daily News##

Over on Staten Island, the local media has a long way to go to catch up. On the same day the Express ran its piece, the Staten Island Advance reverted to bike lane-bashing form, urging the city to erase the lane on Father Capodanno Boulevard:

The bike paths on Capodanno force cyclists and drivers to interact on a street where speeding is commonplace. The bike lanes also interfere with traffic flow, especially where turning cars have to sift through bicyclists traveling straight through on Capodanno. In some places on the road, the bike lane is also the right-turn-on-red-lane for drivers.

Not surprisingly, this has caused lots of confusion and the occasional nasty dispute between motorists and cyclists.

And frankly, except when there’s a major cycling event, there just aren’t enough cyclists who use the bike lanes on Capodanno to justify their continuation, especially under the circumstances.

Yes… If only the bike lane disappeared, motorists could speed and turn right-on-red without “sifting through” cyclists or getting confused by the fact that they’re supposed to share the road. Meredith Sladek at the Examiner has the full response:

Instead of doing away with the bike lane because it “mixes cyclists with speeding vehicles,” how about we start a dialogue on how to curb those who illegally surpass the speed limit, in order to make that heavily residential stretch of road safer for ALL users–on bicycles, in cars, and on foot?  How about we ask the DOT to add to the road–add traffic calming measures… in order to curb speeding and dangerous behavior?

Instead of chalking road damage up to weather conditions, how about we also acknowledge the toll that constant motor vehicle traffic takes upon the pavement?  One winter of storms did not cause all the damage; several years of traffic helped it along more than their fair share.  How about a call for more widespread bus use, advocacy for more bus routes and the re-installation of the North Shore Rail?

Instead of blaming the island’s hardships on cyclists and the minute amount of space they are allotted, this borough  needs to fix the problems at their source.  When there are two major instances of drunk driving and excessive speeding that killed three Staten Islanders in a single week (August 28-Sept 4), more Advance space, political will, and community action needs to be devoted to curbing reckless drivers, and not taking away one of the few safe, protected bike routes that cyclists have.

  • Emma

    I feel crazy…isn’t there no right on red in NYC (ie; staten island)???

  • JamesR

    Not only that, but if there ever were a major cycling event that used that road as part of its route, the cyclists would not confine themselves to the bike lane, nor would they be expected to. No idea what major event it is they are referring to – does the 5 Borough Bike Tour use this route?

  • Someone Uknow

    Emma: There are turn on red such as on Father Cap and Midland. On Ts it only makes sense (no pedestrians are crossing at the time as they have a ‘Don’t Walk’ signal).

    JamesR: 5BBT, unfortunately, ends soon after entering Staten Island (@ Fort Wadsworth). You can bike north to the ferries…

    I live in the area and drive/bike on Father Cap. The only thing preventing drivers from speeding on Father Cap is the threat of speeding tickets (at least for me and folks I talk to).

    Biking on Staten Island is a challenge (think Hylan Blvd). After several near death experiences with turning vehiles I no longer bike at night.

  • Terry

    Father Cap and Midland is NOT a turn on red the sign was taken down years ago!

  • The examiner is wrong, cars can and must use the bike lane when parking and merging to turn. It’s not illegal and they should not spread misinformation.

  • Barb

    JamesR: The Flat as a Pancake Triathlon uses Father Cap and the road is completely shutdown for the event.

  • Bob

    I think we should have a one-time state grant to help any sane cyclists & pedestrians move the hell away from SI. Then, just let SI Chrash-a-Palooza drunken traffic chaos reign freely! Let’s see how they like it then.

  • Someone Uknow

    Terry, I’ll take a picture of the sign tonight and will post it.

  • Jass-I wrote the examiner article. Yes, cars are permitted to move across the bike lane if on-street parking is on the other side of it, and they are also allowed to turn over it if they must cross it in order to turn right/left. However, drivers are NOT allowed to use it as a right turn lane (which they do on Father Cap all too often), nor are they allowed to park within it, and the legal moves I listed above are only permissible when cycling traffic has cleared enough to do such a maneuver safely, and not to bully cyclists who are “in the way.”

  • Danny G

    If people are consistently going too fast, why not replace the asphalt with gravel?

  • Mark Davis

    I live in the north shore of staten island. drivers speeding on local roads and not yielding is rampant. I constantly get honked at when ussign the bike lane or if I’m out of the bike lane to make a left turn I get told to use the bike lane (and presumably make a left turn through 4 lanes of traffic). to quote professor Griff “ignorance is at an all time high.”

  • mcsladek, I dont know if new york law makes it explicit, but the safest way to make a right turn is to merge into the bike lane, and NOT cut across it.

    Bike lane is a traffic lane. Turns must always be made from the closest traffic lane to the curb. Imagine a car turning from the center lane of a road, across the right lane. That’s madness.

    Yes, drivers must yield when merging in, but they must use the lane. Cutting across it leads to right hooks and t-bone accidents.

    Here is a post about the situation in DC:

    California makes it extremely clear in their drivers guide. Most states simply ignore bike lanes, and thus have few laws about them.

    Merging is also required by law in Massachusetts, Maryland, and a few other states.

    The only state that requires the opposite is Oregon.

  • Adam

    So they want to remove the bike lanes so the drives can continue to speed?!?! How about lowering the speed limit, installing speeds bumps and speed cameras instead, so people would STOP SPEEDING?!?!

  • Jass- The NYC law is not explicit on merging procedures; the word they use is “cross.” However, I disagree with the opinion of the Washington DC article, as well as the language of their law, and especially so considering how drivers on Staten Island behave. I don’t believe the safest way is for a driver to merge into the bike lane. The situation you describe, if a motor vehicle turns across another motor vehicle lane, of course it would be madness. Not that I’ve never seen it in action, mind you; I witness it with great frequency. However, that’s also given that automobile traffic is a lot greater in quantity and speed than cycle traffic.

    Your notion that allowing a car to merge into the bike lane would reduce the amount of “right hooks” and other related injuries is situational. I got hit in the bike lane by a van who felt the need to merge without looking–and I was on the driver’s side, too. I also feel like I would have more of an ability to stop/slow if a driver were turning in front of me than if they were trying to wedge themselves beside me. Injuries to cyclists would happen no matter if a merge is in the letter of the law or not, if the driver does not yield or pay attention.

    It’s not guaranteed safe to turn across it without merging either, but again, only if the driver is inattentive. The problem I have with a car being allowed to merge, especially on SI, is that it allows the driver to control a portion of the bike lane. I can also just picture a long line of cars at a Father Cap intersection, all (or even three) have to turn right, and they use the bike lane to cruise on up to the intersection to make the turn, and honking at the poor cyclist that got stuck in the middle. It would also force cyclists who are going straight but are stopped at the light, to defer to the vehicle that is turning and force them to move up into the intersection, potentially putting them in danger.

    The Washington DC law, it appears, also allows drivers to pull into the bike lane to pick up/drop off passengers, and I most certainly don’t want that permissible in NYC. Cabs block the bike lane enough illegally to drop off fares; true “madness” would ensue if they were legally allowed that privilege. It would cease to be a bike lane and would instead turn into a strip of cab parking.

    Bottom line, I think belaboring this minor issue is kind of missing the point of the entire issue, and since the NYC law does not specify merging procedures in bike lanes at all, I hardly think my article about why the DOT should not remove the bike lane from Father Capodanno Blvd is spreading misinformation.

  • Jim

    @ mcsladek-

    The way CA law works is that cars are supposed to merge into the bike lane (the right most lane of travel) before they make a right. However, they are not allowed to cross into the lane until maybe 20 yards before the interesection. Bike lane markings change from a solid white line to a dashed white line before intersections to denote when it is appropriate to merge. In my exeprience(riding every day in Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco) it is much less scary to have a car take the bike lane before the intersection, where they look to merge, than for them to cut across the lane at the intersection, when the driver is focusing on the traffic of the scross street instead. This is not to say that CA drivers follow the law consistently, but when they do, I feel less threatened.

  • Ive had the same experience with Jim.

    Merging means the driver first looks to the right side to merge, and then at the intersection can look left for coming cars (because they never look right for pedestrians).

    Cutting across means arriving at the intersection, looking left and not seeing the bike waiting to the right (again not looking for pedestrians).

    “I also feel like I would have more of an ability to stop/slow if a driver were turning in front of me than if they were trying to wedge themselves beside me. ”

    How? When a car turns right, youre faced when a sheet of metal directly in your way and no where to stop. Bam, direct hit. Worst case with blind merging, youre squeezed and have a chance to hit the car (noise) or stop.

  • I could find you one hundred roads in Chicago that don’t have enough car traffic to justify their continuation. They would be the same one hundred roads that spend more time holding parked cars than doing anything else.

  • QueensWheelMan

    Sorry mcsladek, but I must add my voice in support of the statistics supporting the fact that cars merging into the bike lane is statistically much safer than cars turning across it at the last second.

    You might find it counterintuitive, but the fact remains that it is widely understood to be the safest. While you might not feel comfortable, it does not change the facts.

  • chris

    Actually happy that they removed the bike land from Fr. Cappodonno boulevard.

    That was done with minimal community input, and Staten Island will benefit a hell of a lot more from an express bus to the Ferry rather than a bike lane for suburban Staten Island.

    This is an example of when ideology is correctly displaced by reality – a place a lot of bike advocates are severely divorced from.



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