Today’s Headlines

  • TA’s Noah Budnick Discusses NYPD Failure to Uphold Traffic Laws on Inside City Hall
  • 22-Year-Old Motorcyclist Kills Pedestrian in Midtown; No Charges Filed (AP)
  • NYPD Happy to Step Up Enforcement in Response to Crashes, If It Involves Ticketing Bikes (Bklyn Paper)
  • More Coverage of NYC’s Slowest Buses (NY1, Transpo Nation, DNAinfo, News)
  • Stringer Reportedly Eying a 2013 Run for Comptroller Instead of Mayor (Post)
  • Pols Never Let a Chance to Play the MTA Blame Game Go to Waste (2nd Ave Sagas)
  • Williamsburg Biz Owners Know the Value of Subway Access (News)
  • Smart Growth Advocates Like What They See So Far From Cuomo’s Economic Dev Councils (MTR)
  • Happy Birthday, Second Avenue Sagas. Five More Years!

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Steely

    Noah Budnick, it is a pleasure to work with you my man.

  • Gotta love the WSJ/AP headline:

    “Motorcycle kills pedestrian in Manhattan.”

    If motorcycles are developing consciousness, I think the NYPD may have a bigger problem than Occupy Wall Street.

  • Daphna

    Regarding the Brooklyn Paper’s article on NYPD ticketing cyclists in Prospect Park:
    The majority of comments about that article stated that the NYPD pirority should be to enforce the law against speeding and other dangerous motorists before devoting resources to bicyclists.  Hopefully the Brooklyn Paper will catch on that their readers disagree with the paper’s anti-bike editorial stance and will change to more fair reporting.

    Also, Natalie O’Neill’s following statement is inaccurate because there have not been dozens of accidents.
    “The crackdown comes after collisions in the park left two women with brain damage — and after dozens of other accidents and close calls.”
    Also, close calls are not counted elsewhere when it comes to motor vehicle violations, but for bikes these perceived “close calls” get pre-emptive attention from the media and the NYPD.  A subjectively perceived close call may not really be one.

    This statement by the NYPD is also disturbing since it shows their bias towards enforcing rules only against one type of road user, the cyclist:
    “Cops say the crackdown will not focus on pedestrians who break street rules — but on “bike enforcement.” ”
    If pedestrians simply understood that they must use caution and look both ways on an active bikeway, then problems with shared use would be solved.  It would be so simple just to put up some signs for pedestrians informing them of this instead of putting a greater and greater burden on cyclists, as if cyclists have the ability and maneuverability to be able to react to any unpredictable movement from a pedestrian, which they don’t.

  • Anonymous

    While looking both ways before crossing is always good defensive practice, I wouldn’t place the blame on a pedestrian who got hit by a cyclist going the wrong way. The park loop is supposed to be one-way, after all. (But none of the recent severe crashes involved cyclists going the wrong way, as far as I know.)

    I was just reading that a woman cyclist was killed by a speeding van in Prospect Park in 1997. ( http://transalt.org/campaigns/cpark ). If the NYPD wants to ticket speeders, why not ticket motorists too? I’m sure they speed more often than cyclists and are deadlier when they hit someone.

  • Eric McClure

    More signs for pedestrians in Prospect Park aren’t going to do much to protect a three-year-old or a dog.

    Cyclists aren’t blameless.  The ultimate solution is for people to ratchet up their respect for, and awareness of, one another.  Getting cars out of the park permanently will help make that easier to accomplish.

  • Daphna

    Cyclists have to pay attention and be aware or they risk serious injury to themselves. I believe cyclists are doing their part in terms of being aware of other road/path users and trying to avoid them without endangering themselves or others.  However, pedestrians do not their part.  Most cyclists are hyper-vigilant about avoiding others, while pedestrians are not.  Pedestrians need to cooperate; they do not need to do not need to be hyper-vigilant like cyclists, but they need to look out to some degree and need to respect other park users.  The dog or the child running in the way is a function of the dog owner or parent not being diligent or disciplined about the animal/child under their care. 

  • Eric McClure

    C’mon, @88b32fb69e499718d95067da9d3d7b03:disqus. Placing 100% of the onus on pedestrians is ridiculous.  And you apparently have not spent much time around kids or dogs.  Many cyclists are highly vigilant, but that’s not universal.  I believe that a pedestrian or a cyclist should be able to make a mistake or error in judgment without suffering serious injury or death at the hands of a driver, and the same goes for a pedestrian at the hand(le bars) of a cyclist.  The attitude that cyclists can do no wrong whatsoever isn’t really going to help create a park where we can all share the space safely.

  • carma

    Daphna,
    While responsible parents of (dogs and children) do their part and not let their offspring run around in open roads, dogs and children do manage to find their way doing so.  and sometimes, this is their way of learning the world.

    to say that a cyclist is always right shows how self-righteous and arrogant you are and exactly why folks hate cyclists.  b/c of this particular thinking.

    look, pedestrians DO need to do their part as well.  but at the same time, is it so much to ask a cyclist to be wary of their enviornment, even if it means yielding where they shouldnt be yielding.

    same thing applies to drivers, pedestrians and cyclist.

  • We are all making the msitake of assigning agency to the mode of transport.  Cyclists, motorists and pedestrians are all the same person.  When I
    start pedaling to work every morning I don’t become a raging dipshit. 
    I’m the same person I was when I was walking home from the subway last
    night.There are certainly psychological and physical components of operating a car that create more risk to others than operating a bike, but a person inclined towards risky behavior is going to engage in that behavior regardless of whether their vehicle has two wheels or four.   

    I know that it’s easier to think of the guy who just cut you off as a kitten torturer AND a terrible driver, but the reality is probably something less sinister. 

    I almost ran down two children who were running full tilt into traffic-I was on my bike.  I felt horrible.  I’m sure that someone who saw that situation could easily have come to the conclusion that I’m a reckless cyclist who doesn’t care about children, but that would be untrue and riduclous.   The dangerous situation in which I found myself was the result of a series of events over which I had little control.  My ability to avoid a collision was the result of luck and little bit of good bike handling, but my opinion of toddlers had little if anything to do with what happened. 

    The best thing we can do is create streets and cities that present fewer opportunities for bad behavior to have bad consequences. It might make us feel better, but it’s silly to moralize about the behavior of cyclists and pedestrians. 

  • Anonymous

    Re: Prospect Park road users, it’s not about “blame” of one segment of society or another. In all walks of life there are idiots and hapless individuals. As an overall society it becomes necessary to manage the situation and properly assign responsibility, and that is where we are failing.
     
    While it may be true that cyclists also get hurt, a bicycle has the potential to do the greater harm when it comes into contact with someone on foot, and so I have no problem with giving the pedestrian the advantage when it comes to their need to access the park. The pedestrian trumps in that situation. The problem, however, is that the right-of-way, as it is currently being interpreted, is coming with no strings attached. But how can I do my part to yield to someone if I don’t know where to expect them? I could even see putting in more crosswalks with blinking yellows if people would use them. There is also no respect given to what anyone might be trying to do for a normally safe activity that could easily be made safer that can’t be done anywhere else. Is it really that big of a deal to wait a second before crossing?
     
    It might be useful to leaflet park users, as the NYPD has recently been doing to cyclists, but it needs to be done across the board to EVERYONE. Where is Transportation Alternatives and their bike ambassadors? And YES! by all means, get rid of the cars and change the road so that it makes sense. That can’t be said enough times.

  • Ian Dutton

    Stringer for Mayor.

    Comptroller? *shrug* Unless the calculus is to build name recognition citywide instead of jumping into 2013’s crowded field…

  • carma

    as a cyclist and a driver.  you simply HAVE to expect the unexpected.   even if it means yielding where you are not obligated to yield.  simple as that.  ‘f’ the rules to the point where theres no such thing as jaywalking and everybody is perfect.

    expect children to run blatently, meaning in order to avoid a catastrophe, DO drive and bike at slower speeds where you the unexpected may happen.

  • Daphna

    To Eric McClure, You are not reading what I wrote at all accurately.  I am not placing 100% onus on pedestrians for collision avoidance as you indicate.  What I am saying is that cyclists are looking out 100% and doing their utmost, but pedestrians must cooperate and be aware.  Pedestrians must at least look our to a degree, even if their vigilence and awareness of their surroundings is far less than that of cylists, they must have some awareness.  Cyclists can not avoid everything even if they are paying attention 100% (which they almost always are since their own safety is contingent on them paying full attention to the road).

  • carma

    Daphna, I disagree that cyclists are paying attention 100%.

    Thats almost saying that drivers also pay attention 100%.  or all pedestrians dont jaywalk.

    the fact is that ALL users will be not paying attention a portion of the time.

  • Eric McClure

    @Doug_Gordon:disqus , it only starts with the motorcycles:

  • Daphna

    Carma, I never wrote that a cyclist is always right.  You are criticizing me for an attitude  of self righteousness and arrogance that I never expressed.  I am saying exactly what you wrote, that pedestrians need to do their part to be aware of others.  I am also pointing out, that for their own safety, cyclists already have to do their part to be aware of their fellow road/path users; cyclists’ own safety is contigent on doing since they are very vulnerable.

  • Daphna

    To Carma,
    Bicyclists can bike in the safest way possible where they are expecting the unexpected as you suggest and still not be able to avoid a problem.  There is a limit to what one can react to and compensate for.  In a shared bike/ped road/path, or when crossing a bikeway, there needs to be awareness and cooperation from the pedestrians.  I am not saying pedestrians must maintain the same level of awareness of the road that bicyclists miantain, but they need some.

    Also, bicyclist are actually the more vulnterable of the two types of road users (bike/ped).  Typically a bicyclist will be more hurt than the pedestrian in the event of a collision between the two, so bicyclists have a strong motivation to yield and be careful.

  • The Truth

    @twitter-1528021:disqus – I strongly disagree that people are just people, with the same inherent behavior.  Attitudes toward other road users strongly affect mode choice in the first place.

    People inclined to bully others are unlikely to ever volunteer to ride a bike, where they would be subject to the bullying of others.  Instead, they decide to buy the biggest SUV they can afford – or at least finance…

  • Anonymous

    Cyclists can also get distracted by looking at the squirrels and whatnot. 😉

    While I totally share the feeling that cyclists are generally much more aware than pedestrians, I’m sure most readers of this blog would object if a motorist used Daphna’s argument after hitting a pedestrian or cyclist (“I was 100% paying attention to the road, but I couldn’t react when the pedestrian suddenly walked onto the road!”). Yes, it may be the victim’s fault to some extent if he or she was jaywalking, but “100% awareness” is not the same as safe driving/riding. You can think you are safe because you are looking at the road without blinking and have cat-like reflexes, but that won’t help you if you are simply going too fast or are badly positioned to stop or maneuver when a yet unseen obstacle comes up. In defensive driving or riding, you try your best to assume that behind every blind spot, behind every curve and hill, and between every pair of parked vans is a pedestrian just waiting to spring onto the road, and adjust for that assumption by either going more slowly or farther away from the side of the road or both. (It is difficult in practice to be so paranoid 100% of the time, because it might require going at 5 mph most of the time, but you can still try your best.)

  • Joe R.

    Here’s the problem in a nutshell-cyclists do certain things inherent to their mode, and so do pedestrians.  Cyclists are going to go fast, particularly on downgrades.  Pedestrians in general aren’t going to have the alertness level of a cyclist.  It’s nice to say in theory both can make allowances for each other, but it doesn’t work that way in the real world.  There are always going to be situations where no amount of advance planning can avoid catastrophe because humans will always make mistakes.  That’s the heart of the problem-humans make mistakes.  People just won’t do what they’re “supposed to do” 100% of the time.  We’re not machines.  The present system fails to account for that.  A mistake by either party now can result in injury or worse because the system itself is flawed

    The only solution which works well 100% of the time for disparate modes is grade separation.  Sure, it’s more costly in the short run, but cheaper in the long run.  It’s 100% self-enforcing.  It makes clear which users belong where.  The fact is the same issues come up over and over again, and always will unless we start doing things differently.  We’re NOT going to change basic behavior in the long term no matter the level of enforcement.  The only real answer is infrastructure which lets all groups do what they naturally want to do without conflict.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “The only solution which works well 100% of the time for disparate modes is grade separation.”
    How about time separation? The bicycle racing clubs have races on weekend mornings all the time in Prospect Park.  They are out early, with cars in front and chaperones near entrances to the park.  And it is not a problem.

    The state traffic law’s first provision is that vehicles should not travel at unsafe speeds given the conditions.  All that stuff about specific miles per hour follows.  Having lots of clueless pedestrians around is a condition.

  • Driver

    “People just won’t do what they’re “supposed to do” 100% of the time.  We’re not machines.”
    The problem we have is many people are not doing what they are supposed to do a good majority of the time.  The problem is not that everyone is being safe and cautious, and there are still the occasional accident due to extreme unavoidable circumstances. The problem is that many people (drivers, cyclists, and pedestrian alike) are not fully aware or cautious on a fairly regular basis.  We all see it in our daily lives.  The real solution is to change the way people think about their surroundings and about others.  It sounds like an unattainable goal, but in my lifetime I have seen significant changes in the way people think about certain things (smoking and child safety come to mind), so it may not be impossible. 

    We as people are definitely not perfect and making mistakes is a certainty.  But if everyone operated with a greater sense of awareness and a better sense of caution and prudence, the resulting damage from our human misjudgments would likely be greatly reduced.  

  • Driver

    “The problem is that many people (drivers, cyclists, and pedestrian
    alike) are not fully aware or cautious on a fairly regular basis.”
    Before I get barked at, yes I realize drivers are much more capable of inflicting damage, and focusing on changing the thinking of drivers would by far be the most important in reducing overall damage and injuries.  That doesn’t mean everyone else wouldn’t also benefit from the same prudent type of thinking. 

  • Joe R.

    @SB_Driver:disqus You’re 100% correct that people don’t even do what they should do the majority the time.  In large part this is because “the rules” often don’t make things safer, but they do often make things much more sub-optimal.  If we want to start getting people to at least think about their surroundings differently, then I submit we should rely less on formal laws and traffic control devices.  The problem with our gross over-reliance on these things is they give people a false sense of security, while at the same time taking much of the thought process out of walking/driving/cycling.  That’s a fatal combination.  We want people to think more, to be more aware of their surroundings.  That’s only going to happen if the state stops doing the thinking for people via laws and traffic control devices.

    It gets even worse when “the rules” force people to do grossly sub-optimal things.  For example, waiting out the ridiculously huge number of red lights or don’t walk signals one encounters in NYC will double or triple the time it takes to walk or bike anywhere.  End result, these signals are routinely ignored, or at best treated as “proceed with caution”.  This is of course is even worse than having no laws at all.  The way to effect change is to use formal traffic control devices sparingly, only when there is really no viable alternative.  Doing that will make compliance with them much less burdensome, hence much more likely.  The rest of the time just allow everyone to figure it out on their own.  The mental exercise of doing this will eventually result in a major change in behavior.  We’re all guilty, and any solution which puts too much of the onus on any one group will never work.

  • Driver

     Joe, I respect your opinion but I disagree with your thinking on this matter. The perfect example would be a typical crosswalk at a busy intersection where cars and pedestrians both have the green light but pedestrians have the right of way.  The lack of respect of regard for pedestrians by many is astounding.  It has nothing to do with rules (I think you would agree that the pedestrian having the right of way to cross is appropriate), but is a simple case of  a commonly held  “I’m better/more important than you” attitude that drivers have the power to express.  Pedestrians and cyclists (not all of them of course) also exhibit this type of attitude, drivers just have more “muscle” by way of their vehicle.  Cyclists often bully pedestrians, and pedestrians often bully other pedestrians because of this same sense of superiority.  It has nothing to do with the rules.  Pedestrian jaywalking is so commonplace that pedestrians essentially follows the same scenario that you propose.  Yet pedestrians still regularly take risks and do foolish and dangerous things.  Same for cyclists.  Most cyclist proceed when it the way is clear regardless of stop signs or traffic lights (I think this is how it should be).   The sub optimal system of rules that you refer to really doesn’t apply to many cyclists, yet they still make risky and foolish moves around cars and trucks and buzz past pedestrians with the right of way. 

    Keep in mind that I work on the streets of Manhattan (as a driver and pedestrian) so what I see there is much different from Eastern Queens where we live.  I also work in the Bronx and occasionally in Brooklyn, all of which are more densely populated and heavily trafficked than our neck of the woods.

    People always seem to want to push the limit.  People will stand at the edge of a subway platform even there is no good reason to.  If the speed limit is 55,
    people will drive at 65-70 when there is no traffic.  Raise the speed
    limit to 70, people will be driving at 80 and 85 when there is little or
    no traffic.  Allow right turns on red, and people want to make a right on red whether there is traffic or pedestrians coming or not.  Give people an inch and they want to take a mile.  Many
    people just seem to operate like that; not just in transportation but in
    many areas of life.

    One last thing.  I don’t see how
    “End result, these signals are routinely ignored, or at best treated as
    “proceed with caution”.  This is of course is even worse than having no
    laws at all.”
    is a whole lot different than
    “The rest of the time just allow everyone to figure it out on their own.”
    In my opinion when people regularly jaywalk or bicycle through lights, they ARE essentially figuring it our on their own.  If we allowed automobiles to operate the same way I don’t see how this wouldn’t be extremely detrimental to the more vulnerable road users. As a pedestrian and occasional cyclist, the prospect of this scenario in a dense environment is frightening to me. 

  • Joe R.

    @SB_Driver:disqus Most of the issues you have with my line of reasoning are because of traffic density, rather than because of the concept itself being flawed.  When there are enough natural gaps in motor traffic, there are no issues for either cyclists or pedestrians if auto traffic essentially has no rules.  Point of fact, I missed something which is an integral part of this “no rules” scenario-basically the idea that if a motor vehicle hits a vulnerable user (cyclist or pedestrian) they’re automatically considered at fault.  That single rule is enough to keep motorists in check in a “no traffic rules” scenario.  You can also reinforce the idea that motorists must drive at reasonable speeds by making mixed use streets narrower.  Too many city streets resemble expressways.  This is why compliance with the 30 mph speed limit is very poor.

    Traffic density is often used as the excuse for having more rules and more traffic controls.  This is like putting a bandaid on a gunshot.  It there’s so much traffic that a no rules scenario becomes questionable, then steps should be taken to reduce traffic density first.  Since you mentioned Manhattan, congestion pricing might be a good first step.  Perhaps outright banning of nonessential vehicles might even be necessary.  Regardless of the methodology, the goal should be to get traffic density to something closer to what we have here in Eastern Queens at maybe 9 or 10 PM.  That’s about the traffic level where a no rules system will work well.  If we can’t get to this traffic level with congestion pricing or banning some types of vehicles, then we seriously need to think about grade separating each mode because I’m not seeing any other way large numbers of motor vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians can coexist without some or all groups being forced by rules, or just plain congestion, into grossly sub-optimal operation.

    The selfish behavior you mention seems to be in direct proportion to the traffic density.  If everyone didn’t do as much as they felt they could get away with, everything would grind to a halt.  Even as it is, the “system” we have in place really doesn’t work all that well.  It still takes way too long to get from one point to another, whether you’re walking, driving, or cycling.  This frustration is what results in people doing seemingly stupid things just to save a little time.  When traffic is free flowing, with fairly consistent, reasonable trip times, we don’t see as much of this type of behavior.  The present mess which you describe quite well exacts a huge economic toll on this region, plus a huge annual toll in lives.

    I personally think past a certain density level, it just makes no sense to accommodate private passenger vehicles (that especially includes taxis).  That’s really the heart of the problem.  If Manhattan and other dense areas just had buses, emergency vehicles, and delivery trucks (late nights only) on the streets, things would be just fine for cyclists and pedestrians even without many rules or traffic control devices.  Unfortunately, we largely have a bunch of legislators stuck in the 1950s who think auto access to every corner of the city is somehow necessary for its economic vitality.  The irony is 75 years ago NYC had nearly as many people as today, but less than 1/10th the number of motor vehicles,  yet it functioned fine, some even say better, than it does today.