Today’s Headlines

  • Times Editorial Page Sneeringly Advocates NYPD Crackdown on Cyclists
  • CB 1 Committee Urges Closing City Hall Park to Cyclists, Saying They Ignore Dismount Signs (DNAinfo)
  • Fight Over FDNY Crash Fee Heads to Albany (City Room)
  • Gridlock Sam’s X-mas Wishes Include Staten Island Subway, BRT on Highways (City Limits)
  • Emilie Gossiaux, Cyclist Hit By Unlicensed Truck Driver, Left Blind By Crash (News, Gothamist)
  • TLC to Increase Penalties for Rule-Breaking Cabbies (News)
  • Hertz Connect Car-Sharing Begins Offering New Yorkers Electric Vehicles (Transpo Nation)
  • Don’t Turn Hydrant Space Into Parking, Says News
  • Stringer’s Move to East Side a Wake Up Call on Second Avenue Construction (NYT)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • J.J. Hunsecker

    “Remember this boys and girls: if we want to play in traffic, we must follow the same rules as the big cars and trucks. OK?”

    Seriously, I didn’t think the Times editorial was all that sneering or bad.

  • Jeffrey Hymen

    There is a little, but just, sneering in the second paragraph of the Times editorial but for the most part it’s matter of fact.

  • “then the New York Police Department and bike riders have to crack down on these cyclists and make them obey traffic laws like everybody else.”

    You call this a fact?

  • The Times piece wouldn’t bother me much if I could remember them ever once editorializing about cracking down on, say, dangerous speeding. They say:

    Cyclists often complain that the problem is not the bicycles but the cars. It is true that cars and trucks can too easily maim and kill cyclists. But cyclists can too easily injure pedestrians — and themselves.

    This obscures several relevant facts, like the loss of pedestrian life and limb caused by motor vehicle traffic, and the larger truth that a city which is safer for cycling is also safer for walking.

  • Geck

    Yes Nathan, I am trying to figure out how I am supposed to do that. I already glare at the salmon, but that doesn’t seem to do much good. I think it would be nice if the pedestrian and drivers would police their own too. It would make my commute a lot easier and safer.

  • I agree with Ben. Cars kill hundreds of people a year in NYC and tens of thousands across the country. The chance of being killed by a crazed bike rider is about the same as being killed by falling space debris.

    People would like to believe that car accidents happen because the driver is either criminally stupid/negligent or because of some kind of act of god. The reality is that plenty of drivers aren’t very good at operating their vehicles. If “everyone” drove safely, we wouldn’t have tens of thousands of traffic fatalities a year. Drivers aren’t sociopaths, they’re just human and as such, their imperfect behavior has serious consequences.

    Moreover, as Ben notes, drivers have been resisting every kind of effort to force them to obey the rules for as long as I can remember. How many articles has The Post and The Daily News run decrying parking/speeding tickets? Where are the drivers advocating for speeding cameras or red light cameras?

  • I’m eagerly awaiting tomorrow’s editorial about an NYPD crackdown on speeding and red-light running.

    You know, those things that can “too easily maim and kill.”

  • I am sick and tired of people appealing to the collective responsibility of bicyclists for the actions of a few. Does the Times think cyclists are all on some giant group ride as we jump the lights on 41st St & 8th Ave in order to avoid being crushed by yellow cabs?

  • Larry Littlefield

    Is Times advocating a crackdown on cyclists, or a crackdown on anti-social behavior by some cyclists?

    A crackdown on cyclists would include harassment designed to discourage people from riding. Pulling over every bicycle and trying to find a reason to write a $115 dollar ticket, for example. The bell is broken. The rear reflector is at the wrong angle. The brakes aren’t strong enough. Etc. And making anyone who didn’t want to just pay take a day off at work to fight the ticket, and another day off when the police officer didn’t show up on the first day.

    A crackdown on anti-social behavior is something else.

    It does happen from time to time for drivers. Once the police stationed someone to stop drivers from backing up three lanes of the FDR in an attempt to cut the line of cars waiting to get on to the Brooklyn Bridge.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I’ll say it again, if the police want to regulate bicycles (not sure where they would get the money) they should put police on bicycles.

    Perhaps a squad of three would include two on scooters or in a car, and one a bicycle, with the officers rotating turns on the bike and riding for one-third the shift. Having a cop bicycle riding the right way might provide perspective both ways.

  • Bolwerk

    The Times is myopic more than wrong. I can’t recall the last time I heard them advocate enforcing rules against anti-social behavior by drivers, which includes everything from horn honking, to cutting off pedestrians, to speedig. It stands to reason you deal with the big fish first.

  • re:Times Editorial Page Sneeringly Advocates NYPD Crackdown on Cyclists

    Of course with the disclaimer that no one has the right to cause reckless endangerment, cycling is much closer to being a pedestrian and the rules should essentially be the same until at least the mortal dangers presented by cars and trucks have been eliminated.

  • Jeffrey Hymen

    No, Nathan, I call that the conclusive opinion. It is an editorial after all.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Cycling is much closer to being a pedestrian and the rules should essentially be the same until at least the mortal dangers presented by cars and trucks have been eliminated.”

    I would say that depends on how fast one is riding a bicycle.

    But as for cyclists obeying the rules “just like everyone else,” I would hope the Times is not calling for the police to ticket a cyclist rolling through a red light on a side street where no motor vehicles are visible for a block away, while ignoring all the pedestrians jaywalking along side.

  • Joe R.

    “But as for cyclists obeying the rules “just like everyone else,” I would hope the Times is not calling for the police to ticket a cyclist rolling through a red light on a side street where no motor vehicles are visible for a block away, while ignoring all the pedestrians jaywalking along side.”

    Larry, ironically given how the NYPD goes after the easy tickets, that’s exactly the group which would bear the brunt of any stepped-up enforcement efforts, not the commercial cyclist whom police would be loathe to chase at high speeds through crowded Manhattan streets.

    Honestly, this bike hate has gotten out of hand. It’s out of all proportion to what the statistics tell us, which is basically that bicycles aren’t even on the radar in terms of killing pedestrians.

  • fdr

    “The chance of being killed by a crazed bike rider is about the same as being killed by falling space debris.”

    I’m sure Mrs. Gruskin will be relieved to hear that.

  • RE: Scott Stringer on Second Avenue (from the NY Times)

    I’m sure journalist Michael Grynbaum doesn’t watch video on StreetFilms, but he and Stringer could teach the MTA some Copenhagen lessons about providing for bikes and peds at construction sites by watching this one:

    Just fast forward to minute 7:55.

  • J.J. Hunsecker

    It’s very disappointing yet somehow predictable to read the collective comments here. It’s what is often called a knee-jerk reaction.

    Yes, the Times is a bit snide and their doing the bidding of others here. Yet what most of you are saying amounts to “blame drivers, not us,” with a persecution complex to match.

    Instead of imagining the police and wolf packs of other cyclists ganging up on riders, can we think about how to reinforce better behavior amongst ourselves and others first? Taking the attitude of I’m fine, it’s the other guys’ fault really doesn’t take us very far as a society.

  • #18 J.J. Hunsecker, re: Instead of imagining the police and wolf packs of other cyclists . . .

    Yes, good citizenship, good laws, good governement, safe public spaces, and an educated public that knows what reckless endangerment means and avoids it at all costs.

  • Asking two-ton armored vehicles and tenth-ton vulnerable people on bicycles to “share the road” is fatuous. Some would say that society’s responsibility is to protect the weak and vulnerable. Apparently the Times and J.J. above disagree.

  • J.J. Hunsecker

    Yes, society’s responsibility IS to protect the weak and vulnerable. When did cyclists become the weak and vulnerable? I didn’t get the memo.

  • riker biker

    J.J.- Disagree with anyone or anything on this blog and you may attacked. This is and if you’re not with them, you’re against them.

  • Alan Robinson

    I’ll have to disagree with both sides of this argument. Neither the status quo nor strict enforcement are solutions to the problems of vehicle-cyclist conflicts.

    To reiterate the problem, cyclists are in large part unpredictable for drivers. I have witnessed many times where cyclists would have been injured or killed through inattention or recklessness were it not for the foresight of drivers to move out of the way, or to defensively cede their right of way. While most touring cyclists have learned how to be visible and predictable on the road, these skills are often ignored by others. The status quo is dangerous.

    The enforcement proposed by the New York Times is inadequate to solve this problem. Among many problems, those enforcing traffic laws will likely be ignorant of safe cycling practices, and traffic laws and infrastructure do not reflect the capabilities of bicycles.

    A better first step would be to educate cyclists, drivers, enforcement officials, and planners as to what constitutes safe cycling, and how drivers should react around cyclists.

  • J

    As cyclists, we often argue that we (or DOT for that matter) can’t control the actions of reckless cyclists, since that fall under the NYPD jurisdiction. Yet when the Times calls for NYPD to start enforcing some of the rules, we react violently and call them snide.

    If we want bicycling to have respect as a legitimate form of transportation, we must advocate for it to be regulated as a legitimate form of transportation. Sure, this article misses other, larger problems (speeding and the many deaths caused by cars), but this article taken by itself is a welcome call for police to regulate cyclists, which would take away one of the major arguments against better cycling facilities. Put simply, if we want to avoid a major backlash against biking, we simply must get behind better enforcement efforts.

  • Joe R.

    I’ll agree with you conditionally J, with the condition being that police focus 100% of their efforts on actions which truly place pedestrians in danger. Some examples include but are not limited to riding rapidly on sidewalks missing pedestrians by inches, going through red lights at crowded intersections at high speeds, frequently without even a cursory glance to see if it’s clear ( I see this far too often in Manhattan ), and pretty much all riding against traffic ( although I might give a free pass to someone going half a block on an empty street ). Remember that reckless cyclists pose just as much a danger to other cyclists as they do to pedestrians. I particularly despise salmon, especially those riding at night, with dark clothing, without lights. I would be more than happy if we cracked down on this small segment of the cycling population who is probably responsible for 99% of the public’s negative perception of cyclists.

    On the flip side, if we start giving tickets to 65 year olds who might simply feel safer on the sidewalk, or to commuter cyclists passing lights at empty intersections after slowing and looking, then expect to see a lot of the same kind of resistance you might if the police suddenly started issuing jaywalking tickets. Realize that a lot of vehicle traffic law makes little or no sense as applied to bicycles or pedestrians. In some cases, obeying the law is actually more dangerous. For example, when walking, I tend to cross streets in the middle to avoid turning cars. Even when crossing in crosswalks, I prefer to cross on red since I only need to watch for cross traffic, not turning cars. And when cycling, starting out with a pack of acclerating cars all jockeying for position right after the light changes is one of the most dangerous situations you can put yourself in.

    Bottom line is there’s reasonable and unreasonable. Many of our laws are made in ivory towers by people clueless as to how things work in the real world. When laws are disobeyed by a minority, you can argue for greater enforcement. When they’re disobeyed by a majority, it’s generally because they force behavoir which is unnatural or even counterproductive.

    I’m all for having bicycling be regulated as a legitimate form of transporation, with a set of laws which take into account the capabilities and limitations of human-powered transportation. To those who might say why should bicycles have a special set of laws, let’s consider motor vehicles. Here the precedent has already been set. Generally larger, heavier, potentially more dangerous vehicles have more conditions imposed on them in terms of where/how they may operate. This includes but is not limited to stricter licensing requirements, roads where they’re not allowed, and lower speeds they must sometimes adhere to. The converse of that is light, less dangerous vehicles should have fewer conditions in order to operate. The real hurdle is convincing lawmakers of this ( and also educating the general public on the rationale behind this set of slightly different rules ). Having a set of laws which make sense as applied to cyclists indicates a measure of respect for them. The majority, including myself, will in turn return that respect by making every effort to follow those laws.

  • But Jeffrey, whether or not “everybody else” is obeying traffic laws is not an opinion. It’s a matter of fact–to use your original words–and that fact is wrong. NYC streets are notoriously lawless. The idea of motorists or walkers policing each other’s violations is equally absurd, even comical. These aren’t just facts they forgot to check. When you know that something is wrong and you say it to achieve an end, it’s a lie. In this case the lie’s purpose was to provide cover for the extreme condescension in the paragraph that followed.

    It’s one thing to think there should be stepped up enforcement for cycling. It’s another thing to support and defend an editorial that is full of nasty generalizations and indifference to the truth about traffic safety. Whatever stupid b.s. someone saw a cyclist doing a fortnight ago has nothing to do with this editorial being a singular piece of trash.

  • J

    Regardless of the articles prejudices and omissions, we need to be clear that we are in favor of increased enforcement of bicycle regulations by the NYPD. It is entirely possible to do so while also pointing out the following:

    1) The overwhelming cause of injury and death on our streets is the automobile.
    2) The NYTimes has not written editorials about the need to dramatically curb speeding and reckless driving (need to check if this is true).
    3) The NYTimes editorial cites the bad behavior of drivers, bikers, and pedestrians, yet only calls for a crackdown on cyclists. This is patently biased and unfair
    4) The widespread breaking of the law may be indicative of a problem with the law itself, and not the users. Perhaps there is some room for analysis here.

  • Canonchet

    When Marty Markowitz and the New York Times editorial board are both on the same side on an urban transportation reform issue – and both are lined up against you – it is at minimum a sign that you aren’t getting the politics or the PR right. The Times was of course in the other corner on the doomed congestion-pricing plan for private cars, and should be presumed to be sympathetic to having private cars on the city streets replaced whenever possible by bikers, or pedestrians, or bus or subway riders. But instead, the increasingly prevalent popular image of the cyclist as our numbers grow is not of someone just trying to get get to and from work or running regular urban errands but of self-indulgent faux hipsters and/or self-absorbed Lance wannabes who pose yet another unwanted unpredictable hazard to New York pedestrians and motorists alike. Could this be because bike lanes are too often treated as 2-way cycling thoroughfares, and red lights as suggestions, not commands? If a pedestrian steps unthinkingly into a bike apth, it may be better to slow down and say ‘excuse me’ than to yell ‘bike path!’ while ringing your bike bell. If you have a bell. It will be a while before the average NY pedestrian or driver is accustomed to sharing space with bikes as s/he would be today in Paris or Berlin, much ess Amsterdam or Copenhagen. It will happen, eventually. But to get there without unnecessary collisions, literal and cultural, a little civility would help. On all sides.

  • Could this be because bike lanes are too often treated as 2-way cycling thoroughfares, and red lights as suggestions, not commands?

    It could be, but it isn’t.

  • Jeffrey Hymen

    Well said, Nathan, well said, but even more a “singular piece of trash” than that which you criticize.

  • That’s rather beside the point, Jeffrey, but if we agree that it’s an insult to have one’s blog comment compared to the Times’ editorial, then I’m satisfied.