Today’s Headlines

  • Uber Yanks Its Taxi Hailing App From NYC (The VergeYglesiasNYT)
  • Sarah Goodyear: We’re All Complicit in the Way Delivery Cyclists Ride (Atlantic Cities)
  • Post Readers Want to Keep the Monthly Fare as Low as Possible
  • North Brooklyn Residents on the Hunt for Funds to Park-ify One Block of Union Ave (DNA)
  • DOT Shows Plan for Safer Lefferts Boulevard to Cranky Community Board 10 (QChron)
  • LIRR Ridership to Atlantic Terminal Quadruples for Streisand Show (TransNat)
  • Top Problems for Barclays Neighbors: Idling, Double Parking, Errant Trucks (AYRPost)
  • Delivery Trucks Collide on BQE, Killing One (Post)
  • Can Stefanie Gray Hit All 468 Subway Stations in Record Time? (CapNY)
  • Richard Lipsky and Carl Kruger Are Together Again in Cushy Otisville State Prison (Crain’s)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Bolwerk

    It’s only tangentially transit-related, but, according to a right-wing felled tree rag republished online, upstate cities are pushing back against NYS’s binding arbitration rules for labor negotiations.  Interesting development anyway.

  • I don’t think the delivery cyclists article hits the mark. People attribute the way that delivery cyclists ride to the demands that are placed on the profession/sector, but that’s absolutely not what it’s about. No one who is receiving delivery food really insists that the employees take dangerous risks in the delivery process in order to meet time deadlines. 

    Rather, the entire problem is in the way that our customs provide incentives to perform. Simply put, any road worker who receives compensation on a per-trip basis has the incentive to complete as many trips as possible in a working shift. Taxi drivers and even big rig drivers have been known to take risks when they’re working, trying to game the system by making more money in less time while putting themselves and innocent bystanders in grave danger. 

    You can’t change this culture unless you change the incentives. What needs to happen is that we need to put all of these workers on hourly salaries and to abolish tipping and “pay per delivery” as a compensation mechanism. If you did that, very few delivery workers would feel the need to do dangerous things in the course of duty. It’s as simple as that.

  • Joe R.

    @brianvan:disqus I also think requiring delivery workers to be paid by the hour, prohibiting tips, and charging a set fee per delivery would make sense. The current “free” delivery is only free because the onus is on the backs of the delivery people.

    The major issue I see with changing the current system to a more sensible one is it will most likely result in the loss of most or all delivery jobs. People are very resistant to suddenly paying for a service they currently get for “free”. Without enough people willing to pay the delivery fee, restaurants will lose money paying delivery people by the hour even if they might end up with a few more orders than they otherwise would if they didn’t deliver. Compounding the problem is the fact that if delivery workers do things by the book, the food will take longer to get there, making people even less inclined to think it worthwhile paying for delivery.

    That said, I feel the impending regulation of the delivery industry will have pretty much the same end result-it would no longer be cost effective to continue offering delivery services. People are just going to have to get used to picking up their own food.

    In the end, there are only two ways to keep the current system in place. One is to just tolerate a certain amount of the type of riding delivery people do, and also continue to look the other way with electric bikes. The second way is to provide a framework for delivery people to safely and legally make their rounds. Contraflow bike lanes on all one-way streets would prevent most sidewalk and wrong way riding. Legalizing electric bikes at least makes stopping at every red light possible, whereas on a pedal bike it really isn’t, not when you’re on a bike several hours each day. You could also pass a “reds as yields” law, but strictly enforce it by giving tickets whenever delivery cyclists plow through crowded crosswalks. The idea here is to let them (and all cyclists) save time/energy by going through red lights when it’s safe to do so. Combined with the contraflow bike lanes, this will increase the predictability of delivery cyclists. Pedestrians will know where to expect them. Delivery cyclists will be expected to abide by a minimal code of conduct by yielding to pedestrians before going through red lights. Delivery rounds will still be completed rapidly, but without the lawlessness/unpredictability we have now.

  • Anonymous

    @2555783a6f62598b6aadd2d882a4830f:disqus Your idea of contraflow bike lanes on one-way streets intrigues me so I want to make sure I understand it. Would those be one-way or two-way bike lanes? If one-way, how would conflicts between “right way” and contraflow cycling be handled? If two-way, how confident are you that there’s sufficient road width to handle them? (I work in the Financial District, where streets are narrow, and am fearful of colliding with wrong-way delivery cyclists, who greatly outnumber right-way delivery cyclists and wrong-way non-delivery cyclists alike.)

  • Joe R.

    @Komanoff:disqus Two-way bike lanes would make the most sense here as the idea it to get the delivery cyclists off the sidewalks, period, whether they’re riding with or against the direction of traffic. You do bring up a good point though about some streets possibly being too narrow to handle two-way bike lanes. In that case, I might make the bike lane contraflow, and have sharrows for the right-way cyclists. Of course, this is far from an ideal solution, but my thinking is the wrong-way bike lane and already narrow street should slow motor traffic down enough so the relatively smaller number of right-way cyclists can share the lane without motorists feeling they’re impeding traffic too much. Down the road, hopefully it eventually be politically feasible to eliminate parking on one side of the street so as to fit in a full-width bidirectional bike lane.

    And yes, I feel wrong-way riding is probably the single most dangerous thing both for pedestrians and cyclists riding with traffic. If the logistics of delivering food in a timely manner dictates wrong-way cycling, then we need to put the bikes in a place where everyone will expect them.

  • Anonymous

     It’s neither possible nor desirable to put bike lanes on every street – Given that there is only a limited amount of total street space to be allocated between pedestrians, bikes, cars, trucks, and buses, we have to consider the overall transportation network across all surface modes.

    I think the goal for bike transportation should be to create a network of bike lanes that provide safe routes connecting all major neighborhoods in the city.  Whenever possible, the bike network should avoid overlapping with major arterials for motor vehicle traffic, and major truck routes.  Streets that are part of the bike network should be traffic calmed and engineered to encourage lower motor vehicle speeds, so that the speed differential between bicycle and motor vehicle traffic is minimized.

    Arterials and truck routes should be optimized for motor vehicle traffic, and should in general not include bike lanes.  Any incentive for cars and trucks to self-segregate away from bike routes will be advantageous to both types of vehicles.

    Food delivery riders are not likely to change their behavior significantly in response to bike lanes.  Almost all of their trips are shorter than 1 mile, meaning the advantages of riding in a bike lane are overwhelmed by the extra time to get to that bike lane.  I think that certain vehicle traffic laws should not apply to bicycles – for instance bicycles should be able to treat red lights and stop signs as yield signs – but I do think it is wrong to change the laws to accommodate the kind of riding typical of food delivery riders.

    Just because many of them ride the wrong way, and ride on the sidewalk, doesn’t mean we should just accept this behavior.  It is at best annoying and discourteous, and sometimes it is actually dangerous.  We shouldn’t accept that it is ok for food delivery riders to ride against traffic any more than we should just accept that it is ok for car drivers to speed, fail to signal, and run lights just because they seem to do that naturally.

  • Anonymous

    @Komanoff:disqus : Are you sure that “wrong-way delivery cyclists […] greatly outnumber right-way delivery cyclists”? Meaning that they actually go out of their way to ride the wrong way, instead of just taking the shortest route, which would naturally lead to a 50:50 split assuming a complete disregard for the law?

    Or is it just that you just happen to encounter more of them riding the wrong way when you are riding the right way? Because that is to be expected just on account of geometry. It’s like driving on a relatively empty two-way road and noticing that no one seems to be going in the same direction as you, while you encounter lots of people going the other way. You don’t encounter people going in the same direction because they are going roughly at your speed!

  • moocow

    I second Komanoff’s assertion on wrong way cyclists. It could be the delivery men really don’t understand the rules that apply to them. But after living 4 years in the financial district with a total of 12 below Canal, that’s exactly what I found.
    I even hit an Asian woman jaywalking on a one war street in Chinatown, she popped out from behind a van, looking the wrong way- she knew which way was more likely

  • Driver

    “No one who is receiving delivery food really insists that the employees
    take dangerous risks in the delivery process in order to meet time
    deadlines. ”
    No, but they probably do insist that their food arrives hot and in a timely fashion, and probably don’t care about how it gets done.

    One of the logistical problems with food deliveries which I have not seen addressed is the bunching up of deliveries at mealtimes.  If a restaurant has 100 deliveries in a day, it’s not as if they have all day to deliver them. 45 might be during lunchtime, and 45 during dinner time, and another 10 spread out through the other hours.  Of course these numbers are made up and over simplified, but the reality is the majority of deliveries probably occur during two different two hour windows of time.  If a small labor pool can’t hustle deliveries out quickly, then a larger labor pool with a significant amount of downtime is required.  If an hourly rate is applied to delivery people, then you are not just paying for the food being delivered, but also for all the the excess labor during slower times. 

  • Larry Littlefield

    “A proposal gaining traction with the mayors of Syracuse, Rochester, Albany and Yonkers would require arbitrators to give more weight to a city’s finances when imposing a binding contract. Among the factors would be whether a city can pay for salary increases and health insurance plans without raising taxes or cutting services.”

    The existing law already says that.  It has merely been interpreted by arbitrators differently.  They way they do it, it’s about how much tax revenue is available and what the unions want.  The effect on public services is not considered.  The perfect contract, as the law has been applied, is no services for less money — the unions AND the taxpayers win!

    But the “public interest” is part of the law.  So is the total compensation of similar workers in the private sector.  Perhaps it is the “and we aren’t kidding” clause that is missing.

  • Joe R.

    @J_12:disqus I agree that you can’t put bike lanes on every street. The idea here is to put contraflow bike lanes on those streets with the largest numbers of delivery people. Whether they will use them or not is an open question.

    Thinking about this entire issue some more, what might help far more might be a Google Maps app where you type in the location of the deliveries and the route is optimized. Perhaps the restaurant can do this, then hand a paper with the route to the delivery person. I personally feel delivery people ride against traffic more than is necessary even from a route-optimizing perspective. Anyway, Google can maybe keep some sort of database which can eventually be used to show where contraflow bike lanes might be the most useful in terms of greatly shortening delivery routes. It may turn out that you only need such lanes on a dozen or so streets or portions of streets.

    Regarding the larger bike network, unfortunately in many cases arterials provide the only viable through route, especially in the outer boroughs where many secondary streets eventually run into highways, railroads, cemeteries, or parks. This is why I think elevated, or otherwise totally grade-separated, bike lanes along major arterials are an essential part of a future well-connected bike route. These arterials really can’t be traffic calmed. In many cases there is little room for a protected bike lane. Besides, a protected bike lane would still cross many busy intersections which really can’t be significantly modified to accommodate bikes. The only way to safely accommodate bikes then is to put them above everything. By optimizing the arterials for motor traffic, you draw motor traffic away from secondary side streets. The now traffic-calmed side streets can then serve (often without even needing marked bike lanes) as the “last mile” to/from the major elevated bike lanes running along the arterials.

  • Anonymous

    @twowheel:disqus You got me on the geometry bit, damn, well done. Nevertheless, I remain convinced that in the Financial District wrong-way delivery cycling is more prevalent than right-way delivery cycling, based on (i) my observations of “crossing” (perpendicular) movements, and (ii) ratios as high as 9-to-1 (yep, I’ve counted) in wrong-way vs. right-way, which I imagine sure ensure more than a 1-to-1 ratio of wrong to right.

  • Ian Dutton

    @Komanoff:disqus Significantly, within the last two years Paris has passed a law that allows for cyclists to use one-way streets in either direction. Much of their signage and street markings have been adapted for this. I have never really encountered an issue with the contra-flow-ness, even though Parisian streets are often narrow, drivers unpredictable, and cycle traffic volumes exceeding NYC.

    I can’t say why I find wrong-way cycling problematic in NYC and not in Paris (though even in Paris where it is allowable, it seems to be the exception and not the rule). Maybe only that I ride far more miles in NYC than Paris?

  • Joe R.

    @IanD_NYC:disqus In Paris did you find when you encountered a wrong-way cyclist that they predictably stayed to their left when passing (equivalent to staying right in the USA)? That might be why it was less problematic. I find in NYC wrong-way cyclists aren’t consistent about which side they’ll pass a right-way cyclist. The unwritten rule should be keep to your right. I usually try to force this by keeping a few inches between me and the row of parked cars. If I don’t, then there is often indecisiveness about which side to pass me on. I don’t much like playing chicken at closing speeds sometimes exceeding 40 mph (i.e. a delivery guy on a e-bike and me at my normal 20+ mph cruising speed).

  • kevd

    In Paris they drive on the same side of the road as we do.
    Also, just about every German town has instances of one ways which allow cyclists to ride the wrong way.
    Now, they aren’t that wide, so you probably wouldn’t want to do it for too far or too fast – but it helps get though confusing medieval street layouts.

    Also, their drivers are about 1000% better and more courteous than NY’s. Even in big cities. And pedestrians don’t freak out if you ride past them, 18 inches away… because the pedestrians are used to cyclists.

  • Joe R.

    @kevdflb:disqus My bad. I know they drive on the left in the UK, so I assumed they do the same in all of Europe. Here is a list of countries where they DO drive on the left:

    http://www.rhinocarhire.com/Car-Hire-Blog/August-2009/Which-Countries-Drive-on-the-Left,–a-Handy-Guide.aspx

  • kevd

    And, imagine this… there was one day in the sixties in Sweden when they SWITCHED SIDES.
    They had been like Britain, then on one day the changed to this side (the right side).
    That was probably a really confusing day.
    I think it was a weekend. Off topic, I know. But funny.

  • Anonymous

    @Komanoff:disqus : I’ll take your word for it because I don’t frequent the financial district. In midtown, my impression is that most delivery cyclists do go the right way. Of course, people who complain tend to remember only those who do something wrong, while the rest are “invisible” (confirmation bias, basically). But I know you are a numbers person and look at this rationally. Then I wonder, why do they go the wrong way most of the time? That can only mean that they actually prefer going the wrong way. I know some people have the notion that it is safer to do so because you can face traffic; could that be the reason? Until now, I had assumed that most of the wrong-way delivery cyclists were just trying to optimize their routes. The reason is important, because the former you could fix with education, whereas for the latter you are fighting against economic incentives.

  • “I think the goal for bike transportation should be to create a network of bike lanes that provide safe routes connecting all major neighborhoods in the city.  Whenever possible, the bike network should avoid overlapping with major arterials for motor vehicle traffic, and major truck routes.”

    This is a cyclist’s version of letting them eat cake.

    Unfortunately “arterials” include city streets that tens of thousands of apartment addresses lie on. Their residents may want to ride a bicycle and they may be okay with walking a block or two to a bike lane, but the working cyclists who have to deliver to dozens of such addresses in a shift certainly will not. With no options on the street that are even remotely humane, of course they ride on the sidewalk. They will do this until there is safe accommodation on all streets that people live on, or until the gods of Education and Enforcement make their jobs unprofitable and they are fired. Is that what we want?

    Not every city street requires a bicycle lane but they all must provide safe passage for cyclists and pedestrians. This includes streets that some planner now collecting a pension in  Florida once deemed an automotive blood vessel. Motorists already have their own legally exclusive access roads choking the city, most of which they don’t even pay for. Far from unofficial ceding wide surface streets to the most dangerous vehicles, we should be implementing parking-protected two-way bicycle lanes on every last one of them. We should be asking which streets should be fully and legally exclusive of automobiles, until we have as many miles of those as they have BQEs and FDRs.

    We should not under any circumstances be throwing working cyclists under the semi-truck because we’re unable to see the way our fates are intertwined. That is not only morally wrong, it’s stupid.