Today’s Headlines

  • Tri-State to Gov Candidates: Keep Jay Walder (City Room)
  • Walder, Gillibrand, and Stringer Call for ARC Money To Help MTA (News)
  • …While Tri-State Makes the Case for Using It to Improve Cross-Hudson Bus Service (MTR)
  • Judge OKs Lawsuit Against 4-Year-Old For Training Wheel-Aided Bike Bedlam (NYT)
  • After Bus Kills Child, Manhattan Beach Wants Traffic Lights, Speed Bumps, No More Bike Lane (News)
  • Cops Block First Ave. Bike Lane, Then Ticket Cyclists For Riding Outside Lane (Gothamist)
  • So Far, Only 147 Dooring Tickets Handed Out Statewide This Year (City Room)
  • Lautenberg Launches Investigation Into ARC Ethics, Protecting Federal Investments (Transpo Nation)
  • DMI and T.A. Pitch Their Five-Point Transit Plan in the Huffington Post
  • MTA’s Bus Chief Steps Down (2nd Ave Sagas)
  • Maybe Cuomo’s Corvette Collection Would Be More Charming If He Also Had a Plan For Transit (NYT)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Larry Littlefield

    Well, at least Cuomo agrees that motor vehicles are best used as toys.

    I’m not sure what the point of suing a 4 year old is, but the parent was negligent. Supervising toddlers on training wheels racing bicycles on a public sidewalk is like supervising newly licencsed 18 year olds drag racing on a public street. You can’t go that fast. Two athletic 25 year olds in a footrace on the sidewalk could have mowed the lady down too.

    It’s all about speed.

  • Suit against 4-year old cyclist:

    This serves as a warning to all cyclists–use caution, because you must take your victims as you find them. While a bicycle has far less potential to cause injury than a motor vehicle, it doesn’t take much more than a tap and some bad luck to seriously injure a frail person (and not much more than that to kill even a robust person, such as Stuart Gruskin). Even while riding a bike. The relative unlikelihood of a bike vs. a car causing injury is interesting in the abstract, but is no defense once the injury has actually occurred.

    In this case, I think it’s nuts to say that a 4 year old can be held responsible for negligence. anyone who knows anything about kids knows that they don’t have the judgment at that age to merit civil liability. But I agree that the parent who may have set the two kids up to racing their bikes on the sidewalk should be subject to suit. It’s as if a dog owner set their dogs up to do something dangerous, and injury occurred; the owner (not the dog) should be responsible. Which is not to say the parent or the kids did anything wrong in this case, just that the estate of the woman who was allegedly struck should have a chance to prove a case in court.

  • The Cuomo-as-gearhead story speaks volumes about what we can expect in terms of livable streets from this guy. Yech.

  • Doug

    That bike lane ticketing is really reprehensible. If you scan down the comments, you get some more flavor of the other ways in which bicyclists are targeted. Trans Alt must be working with city hall to get rid of this, right?

  • “Walder, Gillibrand, and Stringer Call for ARC Money To Help MTA (News)”

    The link for that story goes to the Manhattan Beach piece, and I can’t find the proper URL.

  • Noah Kazis

    Thanks for the heads-up Ben. It’s fixed now.

  • Cops on 1st Ave: The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the money of law-abiding bicyclists.

  • Maris

    Suit against 4 year old cyclist:

    Um, if the 4 year old is being sued, will she be judged by a jury of her peers? Might we end up with 12 angry toddlers?

    I hope somebody with more comedic skills can take this thread forward….

  • Cops in bike lanes: I was mulling this over on my way home last night. The setup irks me, but an RMP parked in a bike lane is pretty obvious from more than a block away, enough time to detour or to dismount and walk the bike past.

    Since I don’t commute below 110th St, I’m still waiting for those protected bike lanes that cops can block to appear on my route, personally.

  • Ken

    Maris, your comedic skills were enough for me. LOL!

  • Manhattan Beach needs a protected bike lane that does not have the space for cars.

  • J.J. Hunsecker

    BicyclesOnly: So what if Andrew Cuomo is a gearhead who keeps a few vintage cars in his suburban home? It says NOTHING about his policy stances on transit. Saying otherwise just sounds like you’re projecting.

  • Joe R.

    I actually see some good coming out of that lawsuit case involving the four year old. For a long time I’ve thought NYC’s sidewalk cycling law ( 19-176 ) as written made no sense because it allows those 12 years old and under to legally ride on the sidewalk while excluding everyone else. I’ve found that the most dangerous class of sidewalk riders are older children. They’re even more dangerous than delivery people. And yet they’re legally allowed to ride on the sidewalk. That pretty much throws any public safety justification for the law right out the window. Either ban everything which can move at greater than walking speed from the sidewalks ( including young children on bicycles as well as electric wheelchairs ) or allow everything except motor vehicles, but with the provision that you may operate no faster than is reasonable for the conditions. This will still allow tickets for reckless operation on sidewalks, but prevent police harassment of those cyclists who prefer the sidewalk, but operate sanely while there. The police have given out tens of thousands of tickets under 19-176. I’ll bet that 99% of the ticketed cyclists weren’t operating in a way which presented a real danger to pedestrians. If this lawsuit causes our sidewalk cycling statute to be looked at, then at least some good will come of it.

  • Marco

    Joe, I’m not sure that the right response to a cyclist killing a woman on the sidewalk is more cycling on the sidewalk. That’s some pretty tortured logic.

  • BicyclesOnly

    Joe R.,

    The public safety justification for allowing children to bicycle on the sidewalk is clear: it’s safer for THEM.

    You’ve got a fair point that the age may be too high (my son is 12 years old, 5’10” and perfectly safe riding in the street), but on the other hand a lot of kids don’t have the opportunity to learn to ride until they are older. And certainly for younger kids, many of them learn to ride ont he sidewalk because bicycle riding is not permitted in playgrounds and on most park pathways. So where else are city kids going to learn to ride.

    You can’t punish the entire class of older kids for the sins of a few.

  • Joe R.

    I’m not saying that, Marco. I’m just saying that this incident highlights the flaw of using “public safety” as the justification for forbidding sidewalk cycling when the law as written specifically exempts what can arguably be considered the most dangerous class of sidewalk rider. An older child can easily reach 20 mph or more on a 20″ bicycle. That same child also lacks an adult sense of judgement and responsibility.

    I really don’t have a good answer here. I outlined two paths we could take here to make the law more sensible in light of the flaw I pointed out. Either forbid everything capable of moving faster than walking speed, or allow everything ( except cars and e-bikes ), provided it was operated reasonably. Now how well do you think prohibiting electric wheelchairs from the sidewalks will go over, for example? And parents I’m sure will be up in arms if their 4 year old now had to ride in the street. So my guess is the first option is a non-starter. That leaves us with the second option which to me makes more sense. Making ( reasonable ) sidewalk cycling legal isn’t going to lead to more cycling on the sidewalk. Those who feel safer doing this now already do it despite knowing they can get a ticket. Those who ride in the street won’t suddenly ride on the sidewalk if it’s legal because it’s generally slower. Rather, the change I suggest will let police focus their enforcement efforts solely on that class of sidewalk rider who barrels along with little regard for anyone. If the goal is public safety, then that’s who we should be going after. I don’t see what purpose ticketing someone carefully coasting along at 7 mph on the sidewalk, or even in some cases stopped but straddling their bike, serves. The cops tend to go after these types more than the others simply because it’s easier for them. Enforcement is good, but only if it serves a real public safety, rather than a revenue, function.

  • BicyclesOnly

    J.J., I made up my mind about Cuomo’s transportation policy based on a number of things, including his performance in an interview featured in Transportation Nation. The fact that he’s into cars just confirms the view I had already formed.

    We’re shaped by our experiences. My perspective on the streets–including the policies I support–is very much informed by my cycling. I have to assume Andrew Cuomo’s policy views are similalry formed by the fact that he takes pleasure from driving motor vehicles, or, to be specific, “muscle cars” known for the power of their engines.

  • Joe R.


    You’re perfectly correct that the best place for young children to learn to ride is on the sidewalk. This is really part of my larger point. I know quite well that forcing kids to ride in the street is dangerous. My question to you is what difference is there between a child learning to ride, versus an adult just getting started cycling? This is why in my last post directly at Marco, I mentioned that my real goal here is to allow a larger class of riders to use the sidewalk, including any adults who don’t feel comfortable in the street. Protected bicycle lanes also serve this function, but they aren’t and won’t exist everywhere.

  • Marco

    I don’t think it’s a benefit to pedestrians at all to allow more cycling on the sidewalk. I may be new here, but I’m certain that the notion of “livable streets” is not just code for “expanding cycling.”

    Bicycles are accurately characterized here as viable commuting, commercial and recreational transport. They are quick, they are clean and they are metal. You’re trying to torture a technicality that’s not really compelling.

    Listen – I get that us pedestrians are sort of given lip service from time to time so that orgs like TA seem to be representing more than just cyclists. An elderly woman being killed is glossed over above as “Training Wheel-Aided Bike Bedlam,” and the pull quote on the sidebar is a joke about baby jurors. But sometimes the answer really *is* advancing pedestrian protections over the expansion of bicycle access, and taking seriously dangers that irresponsible cyclists (and pedestrians!) pose.

  • Jonathan — why would you detour or dismount? You are free to ride in a traffic lane at any time if it is the safest option.

  • Marco,

    All you have to do is visit pedestrianized Times Square–which was championed by T.A. for years–to see that T.A. is not just about expanding cycling. for less experienced cyclists, it is a serious inconvenience to have to dismount and walk their bikes for 6 blocks, or detour into the intense traffic on 7th Avenue, in the middle of the only protected bike path that runs through midtown. I use a bike for 90%+ of my trips through Times Square, but I supported the pedestrianization.

    My 8 year old daughter and I face that choice each time we take the Broadway bike path downtown. One of the options available to us is for her to ride on the sidewalk and me to ride in the street, with us stopping at each intersection so I can guide her through safely against the turning motor vehicles. We only do this when the pedestrian traffic on the 7th Ave. sidewalks is light enough that we’re not endangering or seriously inconveniencing anyone. Thankfully, the pedestrianization over on Broadway has taken some of the foot traffic away from 7th Avenue. I hope the pedestrians who have to deal with my daughter riding on the sidewalk are able to view this as a reasonable accommodation.

    It’s certainly possible to view each of the transport modes as in a kind of zero-sum warfare with each other. Indeed, some navigate NYC traffic as it it was a Hobbesian struggle of one against all, in which every other person, regardless of mode, is nothing more than an obstacle in one’s way. But the more civilized approach is to design the streets to optimize efficient modes, so that individuals are not permitted to freely impose the costs of their travel preferences and advantages on others. In NYC that means optimizing mass transit, bikes and walking over private motoring. And that optimization may mean, in some cases, cyclists on the sidewalk.

    Joe R., the difference between kids and inexperienced adults sidewalk cycling is that (1) kids tend to weigh less and cycle at slower speeds, thus on average presenting less of a danger to adults (thought this will not be true in any given circumstance); and (2) NYPD would not be capable of sorting out inexperienced adult sidewalk cyclists from experienced ones for enforcement purposes, whereas they can distinguish kids from adults in most cases. So the 12 year old cutoff solves a practical problem dealing with enforcement.

  • Larry Littlefield

    If there was more infrastructure in the street for non-kamakaze cyclists, perhaps sidewalk riding by kids could be done away with. If I had young children today, I would have taught them to ride a bike on Prospect Park West.

  • Joe R.

    “NYPD would not be capable of sorting out inexperienced adult sidewalk cyclists from experienced ones for enforcement purposes, whereas they can distinguish kids from adults in most cases.”

    They wouldn’t need to if the law were written as I proposed-namely that reckless sidewalk cycling is illegal, regardless of age. Sure, that would be a judgement call on the part of the police, but with some training and clear criteria for “reckless”, it wouldn’t present a problem. Even to a layperson, it’s fairly easy to spot a reckless sidewalk rider. A good criteria might be that the cyclist’s closing speed should be inversely proportional to how close they’re passing to pedestrians. On a very crowded sidewalk where you’re always passing within a foot or two of pedestrians, anything much above a fast walk ( 5 mph ) could be considered reckless. On a nearly empty sidewalk 10 or 12 mph might be OK. Anything higher than maybe 12 mph could be considered reckless, period. You can still totally ban sidewalk cycling if you want in very crowded pedestrian areas, or areas where protected bike lanes exist, by posting signs to that effect. However, the blanket ban on sidewalk cycling would no longer exist. This is particularly relevant with regards to the outer boroughs rather than Manhattan. Here often the traffic is moving way too fast for cyclists to feel comfortable riding in the street. And on the street the only place to ride is clearly in the door zone. At the same time, the 15-foot wide sidewalks along these arterial streets are often nearly empty most of the time, and could function similar to protected bike lanes. A blanket city-wide ban on sidewalk cycling smacks of being Manhattan-centric. In fact, a lot of our cycling rules seem to be Manhattan-centric.

    My point with all this is to simply stop harassment of inexperienced adult cyclists who feel more comfortable carefully riding on the sidewalk, or perhaps just want to ride there with their children, especially in the outer boroughs. I’ll admit sidewalk riding isn’t a long term answer. We can and should be building both protected and completely grade-separated cycling infrastructure. If we had enough of that, any rationale for sidewalk riding, even by children, goes right out the window.

  • Regarding the cops parked in the First Ave. bike lane in order to generate tickets: isn’t this called “entrapment”? Not sure if the term holds any relevance anymore, but how else could this scenario be viewed? Did anyone remember the officer’s name? Much info can also be gleaned from photos, if more documentation exists. I’ve never taken the First Avenue lane and NOT seen a cop car parked imperiously in said bike lane; I always just go into traffic, but I’ve somehow never been ticketed. If anyone has more info on the strategy behind this, please add to the thread. Below East 14th Street, to East Houston, that’s the Ninth Precinct. This precinct has an interesting history in terms of setting up scenarios where those ticketed, or even arrested, slap their heads in disbelief…just do a “Ninth Precinct” search on VillageVoice dot com, or hell, even Google, and you’ll get an idea of this Precinct’s reputation.

  • Joe R., You make several valid points. The city’s modal shift program has thus far centered on lower Manhattan and northwest Brooklyn. (Hell, we can’t even get protected bike lanes up to East Harlem, which already has comparable commuter cycling rates!) I agree with your characterization of many roadways further out–dominated by too-fast motor vehicle traffic, often too wide for cyclists to take the lane without serious harassment. Sidewalk cycling could well seem like the only viable alternative to many cyclists, not just children. Especially there is less sidewalk use by pedestrians to begin with in such neighborhoods because a higher proportion of residents own cars than in Manhattan. I don’t mean to castigate and stigmatize cyclists who use the sidewalks in these circumstances.

    As you say, the answer has to be extension of infrastructure beyond lower Manhattan and northwest Brooklyn.

  • Jack– nope, it’s not entrapment.

    “A person is ‘entrapped’ when he is induced or persuaded by law enforcement officers or their agents to commit a crime that he had no previous intent to commit.”

    But in this case, there’s no crime (at least not by the cyclist), so there’s no entrapment.

  • I agree with Joe R that this incident neatly exposes a contradiction of the age based sidewalk riding ban. What gets me is that there is no upper bound for the ban, as if we expect 65 years olds to boldly take traffic lanes from monster trucks, presumably after doing a few lines of Boniva, just to ride a bicycle in a city whose basic infrastructure is still in development.

    The ban on sidewalk riding for people over 12 has not effectively deterred reckless sidewalk riding in its many years of existence. You have to start with that reality, not one where we would give up substantial benefits by scrapping it tomorrow. The NYPD are rational actors, sort of, and if you make it fully illegal for adults to ride bicycles on sidewalks they are going to issue the easiest (most efficient, from their perspective) summonses for that violation. It is not easy to chase down someone riding a bicycle at high speed on a crowded sidewalk in Soho. It is easy to sit in a van after dark and ticket people riding on a deserted sidewalk alongside a torn up and rutted Queens road that is supposed to have a bicycle lane on it, as happened to me. So we get thousands of summonses mostly for the latter kind of violation (the sort where many sidewalk ban supporters inexplicably expect the police to graciously apply extra-legal discretion) and not enough summonses for reckless sidewalk riding to make a difference.

    Narrowing the definition of the forbidden activity to that which is dangerous to others would create more pressure on police to target the behavior that everyone hates. But even then, I wouldn’t expect much. The NYPD are a blunt instrument, as demonstrated by the lane-blocking story also linked above where they wrote out that trusty sidewalk-riding summons code for someone who fell into their “trap” of riding legally in the street around their illegally parked squad car. Our police see cycling itself as the nuisance, and they police it as such when told (and issued grants–thanks!) to do so.

    Which is why we all agree that the vastly more effective way to improve behavior and reduce injury and fatality rates is infrastructure, whether you are measuring costs in personal freedom or just dollars. But should we also try to heal the open wound of broadly violated and unenforced traffic laws for all modes of transport, or leave it to fester for another generation?


    Climate change is by far the most pressing political issue.

    Everything else pales in comparison.

    Curious that local transportation advocacy does not seem to understand this.

    At least StreetsBlog Capital Hill posts related news; but not nearly enough and fitting the level of urgency and importance to transportation issues.

  • “The human force is the engine . . .

    “It’s very clear that we have enough human resources, enough capital, enough possibility to make a good world,” he says. “Let’s do it.”

    “The Future of Humanity, as Explained with Legos,” April 6, 2010

    Hans Rosling, the charming Swedish professor behind the knowledge onslaught called Gapminder, explains where we’re all going with a few Lego blocks. Video below.

  • files/2010/10/climate-change-like-slavery-needs-cultural-shift-to-stop.php

    Climate Change, Like Slavery, Needs a True Cultural Shift to Stop It

  • Automobiles totally blow away humanity’s environmental budget and do not fit in the future.

    Cycling technology has 1% the environmental footprint of cars.

    Mapping City Infrastructure to Live Within Our Means