Today’s Headlines

  • Weekend Subway Ridership Highest Since 1947, Weekday Highest Since 1951 (News)
  • City Vehicle Fleet Larger Than Under Giuliani, With Smaller City Workforce (Post)
  • At Tappan Zee Hearings, Support For Transit Expected to Again Top Agenda (LoHud)
  • Post: Only “Lawyer-Larded Luddites” Oppose Transit-Free Tappan Zee
  • In Prospect Park, DOT Removes Orange Barrels, Asks What To Do Next (Bklyn Paper)
  • New Jersey Vehicular Murderer Held on $3 Million Bail (Post)
  • Meet a Few of Manhattan’s Top NIMBYs (Crain’sNYT)
  • MTA Moves Aggressively and Successfully to Collect Fines (News)
  • Interactive Map Shows Hudson Valley’s Most Dangerous Roads (LoHud)
  • Boston’s Top Bike-Share Users, None Previously a Bike Commuter, Like Convenience (Your Town)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • MRB

    It’s easy to think of drivers as selfless jerks, but here’s a quote on bike-riding [from the Boston hubway article linked above] that we’d do well to assume came from a driver as well: “I’m a big fan of public transportation, but having the option of
    choosing your own route and being the boss gave me a sense of freedom
    that was easy to embrace. Also, my commute time was cut in half. This
    was easy to adapt to.”

  • Danny G

    @17a9f7f5200694ba9a3c7fb363bedb24:disqus Why assume it came from a driver? Anybody who takes public transportation could say the same.

  • krstrois

    That quote MRB cites is important and telling. The “being the boss” angle is one advocates should take more frequently, preferably in a non-clunky, apolitical way. People like cars because they’re private, not because they’re convenient, but they conflate those two experiences all the time. They are willing to put up with hours of traffic and high costs just so they can be alone and feel they’re in control. 

    Yet advocates consistently focus on why cars are not convenient to demonstrate why we should not be driving them. Yes, there are myriad infrastructural and planning problems. Yes, car culture is a tragicomedy, but the car remains a private experience that bolsters all sorts of other romantic American myths — you may be sitting in traffic but you’re free because you’re not with other people and that makes it easier to deny they’re making decisions for you, though the fact that they are may be patently obvious. I wish advocates would focus on how the bike also satisfies that same need for privacy and making one’s own decision. Because you really do open the whole thing up when you do that. And you find that most people who cycle for transportation do not identify with bells and high-vis “bike culture,” and are probably cycling because cycling is easy and makes them feel good, not because driving a car makes them feel bad. 

  • dporpentine

    @cc36704b289cbef0ac72a06121c6c6d8:disqus The problem with the “being the boss” line for biking is that right now “being the boss” on a bike is pretty much synonymous with being a pedestrian-threatening, semi-suicidal scofflaw. The actual threat from bikers may be comparatively low, but I don’t think most people want to be hated the way that many, many average people hate bikers.

    I also don’t think there’s nearly as much privacy on a bike as in a car. That’s a good thing, I think.

  • krstrois

    dporpentine, I understand that point — I wasn’t intending to be literal and suggest an aggro BE THE BOSS campaign. Ha. Mostly, I was interested in the emotion behind what that person said and how advocates could learn from it, since he was someone who did not use a bike before and did not identify as a part of an already extent bike culture. What his experience says to me is that people cycle when it’s easy and makes them feel good. That’s pretty much it. 
    I also wonder how many people would really think of all cyclists as pedestrian threatening scofflaws if we did not have a tabloid media and fearful NIMBY population who use bicyclists to fuel their own little insecure culture wars. Not many, I don’t think. 

  • I’m with krstrois. I think what drivers like about the driving experience is they can eat, listen to loud music, smoke, pick their noses, scratch their crotches and do lots of other things that they can’t do at work or even at home. And driving your own vehicle gives the the illusion of “being the boss” because you can choose your own route.  People may detour for miles just to be able to drive quickly, rather than taking a short, direct route in slow traffic. 

    As a cyclist, you really are the boss because you have true freedom to tailor your route, speed, there”s no congestion can truly immobilize you, and you can can instantaneously and costlessly change modes to pedestrian or mass transit user.

  • Bolwerk

    How do people read the NYP?  Setting aside the impoverished style and syntax, the commentaries are so off-the-wall banal that you almost must have hydrocephalus to find them credible. Other than a dig at libruls, I don’t see one point to that bridge editorial.

  • dporpentine

    @cc36704b289cbef0ac72a06121c6c6d8:disqus @twitter-22824076:disqus  All reasonable points. The only thing I’d say is that my (pretty meaningless, purely anecdotal) sense is that lots of nonbikers have very strong negative feelings about bikers. I see it when I mention that I’m a purist about stopping for lights. All kinds of people launch instantly into tirades about scofflaw cyclists. And I don’t have any reason to believe that it’s more media-influenced than media-influencing. There’s a back and forth between those two things that I think would be hard to unravel on this particular issue (unlike, say, global warming denial).

  • Anonymous

    I agree that, especially in the city, convenience and increased personal mobility at very low cost is the main appeal of bikes, and is probably the most enticing pitch.  I have a car, but the thought of dealing with traffic, finding a parking space, filling it up with gas, etc. means I only use it on certain days and for certain things like hauling heavy objects or going long distances.

  • Anonymous

    I think “be the boss” in the context of transportation means leaving whenever and from wherever you choose.  This is a feature of all private transportation, motorized or not, and contrasts with public transportation that operates from fixed locations on a set schedule.  I would group this feature under the general category of convenience.  Private transportation is almost always more convenient than public.

    Private cars have the advantage, not shared with bikes, of providing a climate controlled cabin, entertainment options such as music, and the ability to transport significant cargo or passengers.  I would group these under the general category of comfort.

    The other dimensions that people think about when choosing how to get around are speed and cost.  The relative speeds of the different modes depend on where and when you are traveling, so it’s hard to generalize. Private cars cost by far the most, but arguably still not enough relative to the externalized costs they impose on everyone else.

  • Anonymous

    @c661ddb94bcffdc2c6124e349eafdc77:disqus  My sense is that the discussion of scofflaw cyclists in NYC is something that was basically non-existant pre-PPW controversy. Maybe I was just out of the loop, but in 20 years of cycling in NYC, I’ve endured more verbal abuse from people while cycling in the past two years than the previous 18 put together.  I don’t know if this is because of the increase in cycling, the existence of bike lanes, or the media’s complicity in an anti-bike PR campaign.  Maybe all 3, but I certainly don’t think the media has helped.  If anything, we’ve gone from no cyclists following the traffic laws to many cyclists following traffic laws in that time, and from bikes almost never being mentioned in the media to constant diatribes.  My hope is that bikeshare, time, and the natural appeal of cycling as convenient and economical will push us through an inflection point where people stop hand-wringing and just adapt to change.  I had to chuckle at your experiences with people launching tirades, because I have found that random strangers love to vocalize their hatred of bikes, ironically, to cyclists conveniently waiting at lights. It’s hardly encouraging.

  • Mbft

    A grave misunderstanding of General Ludd and his followers.

  • dporpentine

    @station44025:disqus I’ve never known a time in the city when people didn’t complain about cyclists–it’s just that now it’s threatening to harden into ideology, I think. Maybe that’s the media’s clearest contribution.

    That said, I share your hope about bike share. It will remind people how great it is to bike–*especially* in New York–while also showing them that our streets are an unnecessarily dangerous place for people on bikes, no matter how safety-conscious and law-abiding you might be.

  • Komanoff

    @station44025:disqus As a daily cyclist here since 1973, and a politicized one for essentially all of that time, I share dporpentine’s perspective that people have always complained about cyclists. Except that I don’t see that attitude hardening now any more than previously.

    I guess you (station44025) didn’t know about the City’s (failed) 1987 edict banning cycling in Midtown. Or the drumbeat of media vilification of cyclists that set the stage for it, like the May 25, 1986 NYT Week in Review article, “Many Bicyclists Are Going Against the City’s Grain,” (Unfort’ly, the link doesn’t include the enormous cartoon graphic showing a nutjob cyclist running through and over everything in sight.)

    Today’s media/cultural vibe toward cycling is so much more positive than a quarter-century ago, it’s not even close.

  • Bolwerk

    People may have always complained about cyclists, but did they ever do so based on any actual observable problem trends involving cyclists? The anti-bike attitude is most likely entirely rooted in the media.  The media says the media is liberal, so it is so.  The media says cars are good, so it is so.  The media says Romney and Santorum are sane, so it is so. The media says bikes are bad, so it is so. The media has pretty well convinced the world that there an epidemic of pedophilia and urban crime, both of which are less likely to harm you than “accidents” involving cars. And the people who hear these things and believe them believe themselves to be “rugged individualists,” often enough!

    I’d really love to know what type of propaganda campaign it would take to turn drunk driving from a felony into a popular port, but I suspect not much if the big media outlets put a little effort into it. People who can actually reason (not Reason) are well aware that bikes are less harmful than cars by many orders of magnitude.

  • Joe R.

    I honestly think the complaining about cyclists is mostly a downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan thing. I’m not seeing much of it here in Eastern Queens, although on account of the anti-cyclist diatribes in the papers, I’ve had somewhat more negative comments lodged at me than in previous years. Thankfully that seems to have abated during the last few months. Even when things were at their worst last year, I didn’t see a single pedestrian commenting when they saw bicycles running red lights or riding on the sidewalk. It’s just been accepted here as a fact of life, same as pedestrians jaywalking. Then again, the streets and sidewalks here have enough room so that cyclists rarely if ever buzz pedestrians.

    My theory is the denser the area, the more likely adding another group (i.e. cyclists) to the mix is going to evoke hostility. We’ve ALWAYS had a good number of recreational bike riders here in Eastern Queens, even when I moved here 34 years ago.  However, Manhattan until JSK added the bike lanes only saw messengers and a few brave souls. The numbers biking in Manhattan have gone way up.  Also, the bike lanes serve as a visible reminder that street space was taken from autos, and given to bicycles. The natural reaction to this is to pick on the new kid in town, with many who had neutral feelings joining in simply because of group think. Every new group has endured this. It’s just something which will pass once bikes start to blend into the background. Once that occurs, people will give no more thought to jaybikers than they do to jaywalkers. Maybe when we reach that point in a year or two we can finally have a rational discussion about changing the cycling laws so police can focus going after only the most dangerous segment of the cycling population (and hopefully going after dangerous driving, although I suspect hell will freeze over before we have any useful action against motorists).

  • Larry Littlefield

    I’m still waiting for the data on pedestrians killed and injured in pedestrian/cyclist collisions, as oppposed to pedestrian/motor vehicle collisions and pedestrians tripping or slipping and falling without a collision with either.  Wasn’t that data supposed to come out soon?  Based on the anectodal evidence, all the serious pedestrian/cyclist crashes have been in Prospect Park.

  • I think we have already passed the inflection point that station44025 mentions. The worst thing anyone’s ever shouted at me while I’ve been out on my cargo-bike and trailer combo is “You’re putting us all in danger,” from a female-type cyclist on the Williamsburg Bridge. Sure. there are always honking drivers, but I don’t perceive their aggravation as directed at me specifically; they just want slow people (of which I’m one) out of their way.

    Off-topic, Larry, nice to see you on the Manhattan Bridge last Thursday!