New Cyclist on NYPD Blitz: “It Makes Me Think Twice” About Using Citi Bike

Officers from the 14th Precinct ticket cyclists this morning on Broadway at 30th Street. Photo: ##

NYPD’s approach to traffic enforcementall but ignore speeding, and launch ticket blitzes against cyclists for minor offenses — is an ineffective policing method if you’re looking to protect New Yorkers from things that are actually injuring and killing them on the street. Logic aside, the NYPD bike ticket blitz continued under this morning’s dry, sunny skies.

Officers were spotted in at least two Midtown locations during rush hour, ticketing cyclists on bike routes for disobeying red lights. As Brooklyn Spoke points out, this type of behavior — proceeding against a signal when the intersection is clear — is the equivalent of “jaywalking,” and isn’t a prevalent cause of death or injury on the streets. But it’s become a priority for NYPD.

Officers from the 10th Precinct were on the West Side Greenway this morning, issuing red light tickets to cyclists at 39th Street, and officers from the 14th Precinct were issuing tickets in the protected bike lane on Broadway at 30th Street.

Sam Shankman, a reporter for travel website Skift, was riding Citi Bike from the West Village to the Flatiron District when, with a green light, she turned from 30th Street to Broadway on her way to the bike-share station on that block. An officer gave her a ticket for running a red.

“The policeman,” she said, “saw me coming down Broadway, and assumed I had run that red light.”

Shankman, who began biking in New York when she joined Citi Bike in May, had just started using the bike-share program again after a hiatus due to July’s high temperatures. “I was doing as much as I could to follow the rules and be safe,” she said. “I was just kind of shocked because I feel like I’ve been doing a pretty good job of learning the rules and trying to follow them.”

Shankman says she will go to court to contest the ticket, but now has a different view of the risks involved with biking in the city. “I will continue to do Citi Bike because I enjoy it,” she said, but she now is wary of getting ticketed for riding a bike. “It makes me think twice about it,” Shankman said. “Who wants to have anxiety if you’re just riding to work?”

Shankman said the officer who ticketed her said that “the bikes are out of control” and are creating unsafe conditions for pedestrians. The last time a cyclist killed a pedestrian in New York was 2009, when a wrong-way delivery cyclist struck Stuart Gruskin in Midtown. From 2009 to 2012, 668 pedestrians and cyclists have been killed on city streets, and driver speeding ranked last year as the leading cause of fatal crashes. In 2012, the 14th Precinct, which handed out bike tickets this morning, did not issue a single summons for speeding.

Did you get a ticket? See any other bike ticket operations on NYC streets and greenways this morning? Let us know in the comments.

  • Joe R.

    Nope. Just repeating the fact that police officers have a lot more respect for the citizens they serve in areas where they know some of those citizens are armed. The police should fear the citizens, not the other way around. The NYPD acts like an occupation force, not a police force.

  • Anonymous

    And there you go again with the false categorical statements. As I have repeatedly mentioned, I average 10 miles per hour on city streets for hours on end, while stopping at every red light.

    And I am no super-athlete; do not suggest that I am capable of something that a Tour de France winner could not do. I am a typical physical specimen amongst non-competitive bicyclists. I am nearly 50 years old. I ride a mountain bike.

    (Side note: if you get numb hands after riding for 20 minutes, that probably means that your posture is all wrong, and that you’re leaning over and putting too much weight on your hands. You should try a mountain bike, on which you can sit up straight, without putting weight on your hands.)

    If I blew all red lights, I’m sure I could increase my average speed at least 50%, to 15 miles per hour or more. But going 10 miles per hour is plenty for me in order to get to and from work in a resonable time, to get a good workout and maintain my weight, and to enjoy touring the City and its adjacent areas on my off days.

    Honestly, I am so sick of reading self-serving drivel from people who seek to defend bad bicyclist behaviour. Yes, the law sucks, the police are agents of state terror and an occupying army, the police target us while ignoring drivers’ malfeasence, and cars are dangerous when driven legally and downright murderous when driven illegally. All of this is true. Yet none of it relieves us of the responsibilty to behave according to the law.

    If I as a bicyclist am disgusted by the rationalisations that bicyclists give for ignoring the law, then I can get a hint of what non-bicyclists think of us.

    Also, it disgusts me as a bicyclist to read that, even after you acknowledge that your behaviour might harm the expansion of bike infrastructure, you don’t care. Take a look at the latest bike map, and compare it to the bike map from 10 years ago. Miles and miles of lanes have been added every single year. No bike lanes in your area (yet)? That’s because you live on the far fringe of the City! The bike lanes would have gotten there eventually.

    Not only have all the bike lanes helped us navigate the streets that they are on, the cumulative effect of their existence is that they have changed drivers’ behaviour. As someone who has ridden all around the City since long before I ever saw a bike lane, I notice that drivers are now more likely to expect bicyclists. This makes the entire City safer for all of us.

    It’s remarkable what we have achieved. And it’s a bloody shame that we’re about to throw it all away, because so many of us fail to take seriously our responsibilty to protect our precious, life-saving bike infrastructure by acting responsibly.

    Anyway, I’ve gone on too long — again. Short version: follow the damn law; you’re not special.

  • Guest

    Try these “rationalizations” on for size:

    – “I know it’s against the law to text and drive, but I have something really important to send, and it’s really short, and I’m really careful.”
    – “I know it’s the law to yield to pedestrians at the crosswalk, but I can’t bother, because everyone knows that to just wait until there are no cars then cross. Besides, if I slow down or stop, someone will just hit me from behind.”
    – “That cyclist who was hit, run and left for dead? We don’t have time to find out who did it? Every cyclist knows what they’re doing is dangerous and they ought to accept the risk.”

    Each of these makes perfect sense to the person making them.

  • Joe R.

    I guess it’s not worth arguing with you any more. The first article I linked to is about the physics. There’s no more debate, period. The study shows exactly what I and others have been saying. Let me ask you this-if following the laws was so easy and unburdensome, they why are so many cyclists not doing so, even when the police are now enforcing them? It’s not just about energy savings, either. I and many others have given valid *safety* reasons, not just speed or efficiency ones (although that’s important too when following the law can result in cycling at walking speed). If following the law places me in greater danger than not following, guess what? I’m not following it, especially little is to be potentially gained.

    No, I never acknowledged that my behavior will harm the expansion of bike infrastructure. That’s your theory, and here your 100% wrong. I’ll clue you in to something-motorists will never like to share the streets with cyclists no matter how well behaved they are. Why? Because it’s another thing to watch out for, and another thing which slows them down. You already see a similar motorist attitude towards pedestrians, and this is in the city with the most pedestrians in the US. That’s why I couldn’t care less whether a motorist gets annoyed seeing me pass red lights.

    I was incidentally discussing all this with my brother yesterday. He very occasionally rides his bike but he drives to work every day (he lives in the Rockaways but works in Flushing so public transit really isn’t practical). Anyway, he often complains vehemently about the number and timing of all the traffic lights the city has installed. He constantly sees people catching stale yellow lights at 50, 60, 70 mph, or driving at such speeds just to make the next light. Now if he is this frustrated as a motorist, you can imagine how much worse it is for cyclists. You’re living in your little Manhattan bubble where the light timing on Avenues isn’t horrible. Try coming out to some parts of the outer boroughs, We have horribly timed lights. We also have loads of double stops (i.e. the light on the next block goes red just as soon as the one in front of you changes). And then you have intersections with three roads where lights do a million things, and if you get caught at a light you’ll be sitting there for up to 2 minutes.

    Anyway, that wasn’t the crux of the discussion. Here’s the best part. I mentioned (and he agrees) that the reason the city installed all these poorly timed lights (and stop signs) is because people increasingly drive like f-ing morons and ill-informed community boards think they can “calm” things down this way. Or put another way, the very situation which has resulted in mass law-breaking by cyclists only exists because people can’t drive. Look at films from 50 or 60 years ago. One thing was struck me was how few traffic lights existed, even in Manhattan. Why? People has more common sense. I noticed the majority of people were going about 20 mph tops. People increasingly insisted on driving like assholes, so the city put in more and more traffic controls as a fault. None of this is the fault of cyclists. Next time a driver complains about me passing red lights, my response will be there’s a good chance this red light I’m passing wouldn’t even exist if people like you knew how to drive.

    Follow the law? Sorry, I’ll sooner stop riding. There’s zero joy in the type of cycling which results if you stop completely at every stop sign or wait at every red light. IF I’m going to stop that often I’ll try to get hired on as a bus operator. At least I’ll get paid for it.

  • Joe R.

    Did you bother to read his post because it sure as heck sounds like you didn’t? He didn’t give a bunch of convenience reasons like you did, he gave safety ones. That’s the difference. Motorists breaking the laws often end up saving only seconds, if that. More often than not all they accomplish is getting to the next red light faster. It’s widely acknowledged that it’s OK for motorists to break the law if doing so avoids a collision, or high likelihood of a collision. A good example might be if you’re waiting at red light and an out of control car comes barreling up on you. That’s similar to what wkgreen is describing.

  • Anonymous

    On the arthritis inflammation, I heard a couple of weeks ago that stopping all dairy products (switching to almond milk e.g.) might help. I know a couple of people who stopped dairy products and the arthritis inflammation they were begging to get in their hands stopped. You could at least try it and see if it works. I had carpal tunnel and was recommended for surgery but refused to do it. The problem is wear and tear on your wrist, of course. You can also consider your posture, if something about it may cause nerves to be impinged. I don’t have the problem anymore but my right hand is sometimes much colder than my left – a sign of carpal tunnel constriction in that wrist.

  • Anonymous

    Just as motorists have limited access highways, the City should put in limited access bikeways. I think they have these in other cities – with on & off ramps etc. As far as stopping at all lights – it depends on the area/circumstances. If there is no traffic, no pedestrians crossing, and it is safe to proceed through the intersection, I agree with you that bicyclists should be permitted to proceed. The red lights and stop signs are there as much to protect the cyclist as the pedestrian who may be crossing. The key is for the cyclist to slow down/stop for pedestrians who may be in the crosswalk or steer around them and then only to proceed through the intersection if safe.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe you should switch to a mountain bike – if your hands are getting numb after 15 minutes. You have said you are not working, so you don’t have to rush on the road. Why not switch to a mountain bike – it would put less pressure on your hands.

  • Joe R.

    Thanks for the suggestions. I’m definitely game to try a change in diet. I’ve read that wheat also causes inflammation. I’ve found that B12 supplements work sometimes. In 2006 there was a brief period where I could hardly walk. I did some research, hit upon B12, and took it. Within a week everything was back to normal.

    I totally agree about not having carpal tunnel surgery. I figure I still can do most of what I need to, including working up to maybe 15 hours a week. It just takes longer. If the carpal tunnel surgery gets botched, I could easily have little or no mobility. My mom had carpal tunnel release surgery twice. She still suffers greatly.

  • Joe R.

    I ride on the hoods, not the drops, so I’m actually fairly upright as it is. Trust me, my hands get numb after a while doing just about anything sad to say, even sleeping. How fast they get numb while riding actually depends upon how quickly I lose moisture through perspiration. In the winter, I can often ride for over an hour before feeling numb. On hot humid days, 15 or 20 minutes.

    All that said, it probably won’t hurt to play around with the seat and handlebar. If I raise the handlebar a bit more, perhaps also move the seat forward, the end result would be a more upright posture.

  • Anonymous

    1) You certainly did acknowledge that you don’t care whether your behaviour does harm: “And if someone gets a bad impression of cyclists watching me carefully pass red lights, frankly I don’t give two sh*ts.” When idiots in the general public speak of cyclists being “out of control”, they are not referencing cyclist behaviour that is actually dangerous; they are expressing disgust at our systematic disregard of the law, despite the objective safety of that behaviour. So you don’t care that you are strengthening our enemies. This antisocial attitude is destructive.

    2) Living in my Manhattan bubble? I live in Woodhaven, on the Brooklyn/Queens border. Manhattan is my favourite place to ride; but in order to get there I have to ride 10 miles in Brooklyn or in Queens, and then 10 more miles in one of those boroughs to get home. So I am highly familiar with conditions in Queens and in Brooklyn, and also those in the Bronx, as well as in Manhattan.

    3) Don’t even try to tell me there’s no joy in riding if you stop at red lights! Riding is the most joyful thing I know, and the most healthful thing both physically and mentally. It literally got me through the worst emotional pain that I have ever had when my best friend died, and saved me from a terrible emotional hole.

    It’s a pity that you cannot help expressing your own preferences in terms of blanket statements. You’re perfectly entitled to your preferences, of course; but the fact is that you are an outlier if you claim that stopping at red lights is impossible, rather than merely inconvenient or annoying.

    Don’t forget that I agree that cyclists should be able to treat red lights as stop signs, and that the state of the law with respect to bicycles is absurd. But it’s tragic that you — and others here — cannot comprehend that cyclists will never achieve our desired changes in the law as long as we’re seen as the “other” in a society where the windshied perspective is seen as normal (which is the case even in a city where car owners are not the majority). Indeed, we never would have had the bike infrastructure that we now have if not for a mayor whose pet project it was.

    Whilte the assertion that “bicylsts will blow red lights anyway; we might as well make it legal” makes sense on the purely rational level, this analysis utterly fails to take into consideration the amount of resentment that such a position generates amongst the majority who don’t ride bikes, and who will respond (not without justification) “why should we reward people for breaking the law?”

    The path to changing the law lies in moving bicyclists out from the “other” category into the “mainstream” category. The only means to do this is for us to be law-abiding citizens.

  • Joe R.

    Well, I’m up a little earlier than usual today and just caught your reply. I’m glad you replied, and not in a totally angry, condescending way because I’ll admit I came down pretty hard on you in my last post. Anyway, yes, I said “And if someone gets a bad impression of cyclists watching me carefully pass red lights, frankly I don’t give two sh*ts.” The problem was you inferred from this statement that this was an acknowledgement that my behavior might harm the expansion of bike infrastructure. I know this is you theory, but sorry, I doesn’t match what I’m seeing. Putting aside the poll numbers I mentioned, don’t you think the next mayor will look like a fiscally irresponsible idiot spending money to take out bicycle infrastructure which the city just spend money putting in a few years earlier? Remember the federal government subsidized 80% of the cost of a lot of our new bike infrastructure. They’re not going to subsidize its removal. Basically, the city will have spent a small fortune just to end up with streets like they were before, and this will be politically unpopular to boot. It’s not happening, trust me. I’m skeptical if we’ll see much new infrastructure, but I’m fairly hopeful what we have will stay.

    I forgot you lived in Woodhaven. Sorry about the mistake. I actually rode through that area last December en route to see a friend in Coney Island. I’m in total admiration of you stopping at all the lights because I know I couldn’t. It’s not a question of hard, it’s a question of just can’t physically do it. As things were I recall I did in fact have to completely stop about a dozen times before reaching the Belt Parkway Greenway because cross traffic was just too heavy to run the reds. I didn’t get cramps at the time, but the problems started on the way back that night. Thankfully, I was able to pass the few red lights I hit on the two miles of local streets before reaching the greenway, then it was 8 miles I knew I could ride without stopping. The headwind didn’t help but I made it off the greenway, up Crossbay Blvd. and on to Liberty Ave. Thank goodness it was 1:30 AM because I that point I doubt I could have started and stopped more than one or two times. That’s how bad my legs were feeling. I finally bonked climbing up Parsons Blvd. past Hillside Avenue, about halfway up, and had to rest a few minutes. That *never* happens on my normal rides, even rides of that length, and it’s because at most I stop a handful of times.

    It gets worse. I noticed some pretty bad pains in the days after that ride, and through the first months of 2013, to the point I had to severely curtail riding because of leg cramps until May, when I started to get back on track. The bottom line though is if I stop more than about half a dozen times in a ride, I’m asking for problems. By about then it’s hurting severely getting back up to speed. A few more stops and I’m actually damaging things.

    I probably should have been more specific about stopping. Yes, it’s a given in any urban riding situation you will need to stop. I typically need to stop for safety reasons maybe two to six times in a 25 mile ride, and that’s not a burden to me in any way, either in terms of cramping, energy expenditure, or average speed. It’s the price I pay for sharing the streets with others. The problem comes when the law and infrastructure requires stopping a lot more than is needed for safety reasons. This is something we both acknowledge. There are lots of ways to fix it, three of which I’ve mentioned. A fourth way is to install vehicle/pedestrian sensors so traffic lights remain green all the time unless there’s cross traffic. Remember most cyclists don’t pass red lights anyway if something is crossing, so this would be the perfect solution. In fact, the heart of the problem in the first place is exactly that traffic lights go red when nothing is crossing. They shouldn’t. That’s just dumb, lazy engineering.

    You’re right about moving cyclists from “other” to “mainstream”. I think this is best accomplished by just getting more “regular” people riding. And Citibike is doing exactly that. Even if a majority don’t ride, once the people they see on bikes look like them, and not stereotypes like “spandexers”, “hipsters”, or “delivery men”, then cycling will be mainstream. I personally feel we may have to wait another term before we reach this point, but I think in 3 or 4 years it might be realistic to do things like change the laws, put in better cycling infrastructure, especially limited access bike highways, and also perhaps even limit motor vehicle access to certain parts of the city.

  • Anonymous

    The City could mandate the construction of parking structures so that more parked cars are removed from the streets. If there were (say) half as many parked cars, it might be possible to add more bike paths adjacent to sidewalks. This is the ideal – not narrow bike paths adjacent to parked cars, but wider bike paths adjacent to sidewalks which would virtually guarantee cyclist safety. The cost to park in the parking structure should be similar to street parking – perhaps car elevators could be used to cut back on endless driving on ramps to get to the upper levels of the structure. The structures might even encourage drivers to eventually get rid of their cars. As you and Ferdinand say, the benefits of cycling are many – but so many people shun cycling because of the risks due to drivers. The only way cycling will expand is if it’s seen as a perfectly safe form of transportation. There is no reason NY cannot have thousands of cyclists on the roads like some European cities, with dedicated parking lots for bikes – not just bike racks. Queens, Brooklyn and most of Manhattan are flat – ideal for cycling. The one big difference between us and European cities is our climate has more extremes, some will not ride in temps under 40 or over 90. Yet, extremely cold or hot days aren’t the norm – so there is no reason cycling can’t expand in NY, as long as there continues to be an effort to put in safe bike paths.

    It is annoying stopping at intersections. For me, basically an ex-rider even though I actually own 2 bikes, I needed to actually hop off the bike onto the street since I couldn’t easily balance in a stationary position, and then get back on and start up again. (This is riding a women’s bike or mixte frame.) However, I never rode particularly long distances – only from neighborhood to neighborhood within Brooklyn, and at that within the flat S part of Brooklyn, which is the easiest sort of cycling – and never really rushed. It’s not only an efficient form of transportation, but fun – exhilarating. The health, fun, psychological benefits of cycling should be stressed to get more people riding – then there will be a demand for better bike paths from an expanded cycling constituency.

    Joe – I take it you work at night, since you are riding overnight. I wonder if your schedule may have something to do with your tendency to cramp after stopping several times during bike rides. Do you also get the cramping if riding in the daytime?

  • Joe R.

    To answer your questions:

    I work at home as a freelance electronics engineer so basically I can set my own schedule. I’ve always been a night person. Indeed, even when I get a good amount of sleep if I have to be up in the mornings I’m not myself, so yes, I tend to work nights.

    The cramping is pretty much independent of when I ride. It seems to be a factor of both the weather, humidity, and the number of stops. Obviously, it would be worse riding during the daytime for the simple reason I need to stop a lot more often due to the heavier traffic. Hypothetically though, if I’m riding in the same type of weather and do the same number of stops, the cramping will be about the same day or night. For what it’s worth anything which causes me to use more effort than cruising, such as climbing hills, will also eventually result in cramping but it takes longer.

    If you want numbers, I might say I’ll develop 250 to 300 watts on hills for a few blocks, compared to 160 to 200 watts cruising, or 500+ watts accelerating. You use different types of muscles (i.e. fast twitch muscles versus slow twitch muscles) when you’re going at levels which exceed your cardiovascular capacity. Or put in layman’s terms, it’s like running a marathon versus sprinting. You can develop power levels well above what your heart/lungs are capable of for brief periods. The problem is the muscle groups you use for that need recovery time. If you try to hit them for those power levels too soon or too often, you can get cramping, or in extreme case, damage. In general the higher the power levels go, the less often you can do those power levels.

    Other things can also cause issues when stopping often. You mentioned balancing in a stationary position, also termed doing track stands. If a person can’t do this, they need to extend one of their legs to balance, or just get off the bike as you did. Extending can definitely instantly cause problems if you overextend, as in cases where you might be stopped and there’s a depression in the street where your foot is. That has happened to me quite often. And in other cases, especially with women who usually tend to be shorter than men, they really just can’t extend their leg enough to balance when stationary. Really, in the final analysis there are a whole host of good reasons to design bike infrastructure which requires a lot less stopping, particularly if it also enhances safety.

    Yes, I totally agree the city should be actively removing on-street parking and also creating disincentives to drive. In the end if we reduced motor traffic volume enough, we could probably get rid of most of the traffic signals/stop signs which are the cause of this issue. Lower traffic levels will obviously get more people cycling as well.

    I hope you eventually go from an ex-rider back to at least an occasional rider. It’s great fun, great exercise, and exhilarating. The latter is really what got me hooked. I love the sensation of speed on a bicycle, particularly when I realize I’m accomplishing this solely by my own effort.

  • Ian Turner

    There’s absolutely no need for any city to mandate parking structures, anywhere. Just reduce off-street parking. If parking is actually so valuable that people are willing to pay for it, the private market will create parking garages by converting from other users. Forcing this process with government is likely just to result it a glut of underpriced parking (which, BTW, is what we have now with this huge street parking giveaway).

  • Anonymous

    Building off-street parking would only help if you truly removed at least as many parking spots from the streets; otherwise you’d be increasing the parking supply and people would respond by buying more cars.

    By “truly removing”, I don’t mean removing the paint or putting a no-parking sign. I mean making sure that nobody parks there. I’m not optimistic, given the current rampant levels of illegal parking, including double parking.

  • Rabi Abonour

    You had no idea that running a red light is illegal? Seriously?

  • Rabi Abonour

    It makes a lot of sense to me. A lot of the people on CitiBikes are probably newer, more timid riders. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the last cyclist to kill a pedestrian in NYC was a delivery rider – in my experience its the people who cycle most who most wantonly break traffic laws.

  • Anonymous

    So your “experience” includes a solid knowledge of the amount of time other riders have logged on a bike not derived from stereotypes of messengers, commuters, Freds, etc.? In addition, obviously, to keeping a mental log of levels of wantonness with a reliability that would make an Elizabethan playwright enviousness.

    Meanwhile, my “experience” suggests that most Citi Bike riders are quite comfortable riding here–and that they break all the same laws at the same or only a slightly lower rate than non-Citi Bikers, owing, I’d bet, the weight of the bike, not generally lower confidence.

    The “Citi Bike riders are mostly newbies” thing will never die, it seems.

  • Rabi Abonour

    Because riding against traffic is a much worse offense than not looking in the direction that no one should be traveling when crossing the street.

    If you are riding against traffic and hit someone, it is entirely your fault.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, I get it. I didn’t know the cyclist was going the wrong way.

  • Anonymous

    “almost been run over by a speeding bicyclist going through lights” — Oh please, the drama… Give me a break. Almost? More drivers break traffic laws that cyclists do but people – such as yourself – are so used to it that tit’s just status quo. Stand on any midtdown intersection and count how many cars blew the light, failed to yield, turned from a wrong line, “almost” hit a pedestrian, stopped in the crosswalk, block the intersection, etc. You will be probably amazed, because this is just normal to you.

  • Janet

    Why are cyclists the scapegoats? Are we just easy targets?

  • Guest

    I think he’s talking about my post below. Calling “troll” is a cynical method of shutting down honest discussion. Fortunately, there are diverse opinions here. And while I do believe that cyclists can do better, I also ride and advocate.

  • Hilda

    Cobbler, I agree with you that bicyclists that buzz people, cut people off, don’t stop for pedestrians, etc. are bad news. But that is not who is getting tickets in these blitzes. The identifying factor is that they are on a bike, and that makes them guilty to the NYPD.

  • Anonymous

    Check out these incredible automated underground bike parking silos in – Japan (where else?)..

  • Anonymous

    We’re easier to catch and the money the city gets for tickets is the same as a car. A bike running a red light should be closer to a jaywalking ticket (though really allowing an Idaho stop makes more sense), but good luck getting the city to change that law.

  • Anonymous

    I guarantee the number of cyclists who “almost ran you over” going through lights is a tiny fraction of the number of pedestrians who blithely walk in front of me (sometimes looking right at me!) when I have the green.

    But you don’t see me lumping every pedestrian into the same group as the lawbreakers, and demanding that cops ticket the ones who cross when there’s no traffic.

  • MatthewEH

    Necromancing this thread: have you ever gone up 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn, under the Gowanus Expressway, from, say, Bay Ridge to Gowanus? Northbound evenings (reverse commute directions), you can manage long sustained runs at 20 mph. You’ll slow for the occasional red light, but there’s very little cross-traffic. Amazingly fun.

  • MatthewEH

    You ridden those Citi Bikes yet? They lumber up to speed. Encourages less pushing the envelope.

  • Joe R.

    I’ve never ridden that way, unfortunately. Being that I live in Eastern Queens, it would be quite the trip just to get there. I’ll have to be content with the few local roads, like the LIE service road, where I can sometimes manage 17 to 20 mph runs, depending upon the winds.

  • How can we demand that policing and legislation be based on quantifiable danger, while being so quantitatively un-dangerous?


  • John Smith

    Bike riders are a public nuisance now…the city could make a lot of money by having undercover cops pull over bike riders. In fact, 90% of bike riders would be ticketed on a typical day….the ticket revenue would definitely justify the cost of enforcement.

  • ladyfleur

    “18 mph is relatively easy to do on a good road bike.” Says who? Maybe for a fit man, but not the average person. My average speed in a sprint distance triathlon was just over 18 mph and I was in the top third of 40 year old female finishers.

    The rest of your argument is reasonable, but I’m sick of having bicycle standards be defined by men who ride hard on lightweight bikes. I ride a bike that I can carry gear on, wearing my work clothes. Anything over 12 mph means I start sweating even on a chilly morning.

  • Joe R.

    Sure, the type of bike one rides can make a huge difference. I have trouble holding any speed much over 15 mph on most mountain bikes, for example. My bike has a rear wheel fairing which probably buys me another 1 to 1.5 mph. Such a fairing can be installed on any bike. Here’s a how-to if you’re interested:—For-your-Bike/

    These serve two purposes. One, they give you a noticeable speed increase for any given effort. Two, they keep sticks and other similar things out of your rear wheel spokes. The second reason was actually my primary motivation for making them.

    That said, assuming we were in a hypothetical world where the primary goal for human-powered transportation was speed, velomobiles might provide the answer for people like you. In the best velomobiles, a strong rider can maintain about 40 mph. An average rider can go 20-25 mph without working up a sweat. Moreover, velomobiles typically have a large cargo capacity, so they’re very practical for utility cycling. The downside of course is that most cost over $10K. However, I feel if they were mass-produced we might get the price under $3K, perhaps even less. I plan to buy a velomobile in time. Even though I ride reasonably fast, I would prefer to be able to ride faster, make more lights, etc. with less effort. A velomobile would facilitate that.

    18 mph in a sprint distance triathlon (the bike portion is 20 km, or 12.4 miles for those not familiar) is pretty decent if you ask me. I once covered 10 miles in 25 minutes. That’s an average speed of 24 mph but I was 19 at the time. Nowadays I find if I don’t need to stop, my average speeds trend towards 17 to 19 mph on level roads with no winds. That’s without killing myself. If I pushed it to my limit, I might be able to average about 21 mph or so over 20 km. Comparatively speaking, 18 mph for the same distance for a 40 year old woman is probably an equivalent feat. On some days you might even give me a run for my money.

  • ffsj

    People want to bike to work and other destinations without spending thousands on a velomobile or breaking a sweat. That’s 10-12 mph.

    If you want cycling to be a good option for most people, then that’s what you have to accommodate. Yes other users lose out sometimes, but there aren’t that many of them and it’s necessary if you want a lot to bike.

  • Joe R.

    As I’ve said repeatedly, good infrastructure can and should be able to accommodate riders of all ages and abilities. Your hypothetical 12 mph rider will certainly get stronger if they keep riding, and will eventually be able to go 15 mph or more without breaking a sweat. Faster riders may constitute a minority in terms of raw numbers, but they actually account for a large percentage of bicycle miles traveled. That fact alone means they should be accommodated.

    I should also mention that e-bikes are an affordable and viable option instead of a velomobile for those who don’t want to work hard. E-bikes allow the best of both worlds-you don’t sweat but you can pretty much keep pace with strong riders.

    There’s no reason here any group should be excluded. Sure, there are die-hard VCs who will oppose any separate bike infrastructure at all, but they are the minority. Most of the time it’s just bad infrastructure which faces opposition by the VC crowd.

    I want everyone to bike who physically can. That can’t happen until you have places to ride which are both safe, and accommodate every type of rider.

    I should also note I’m not 100% opposed to “slow” infrastructure if it’s only for a block or two, provided there’s just no cost effective way to build anything better. Slow is better than nothing at all in that case.

  • lop

    >There’s no reason here any group should be excluded.

    The road accommodates bikes, pedestrians, and cars today. Nobody is excluded. Some are just better accommodated. It’s the same issue. There’s no magic solution (tens of billions building your viaducts isn’t a viable solution, cut construction costs 95% then maybe, but until then absolutely not) to this lack of space. You accommodate one user at the expense of another nine times out of ten. The only question then, is who to accommodate?

    The population willing to bike 15-20+ mph to get around is much much smaller than the population willing to bike 10-12 mph. It’s more equitable to target them for accommodations, because there are so many more of them, even if that means the rider who wants to cruise at 18 mph hits more lights and only ends up averaging 14 mph or less. And the only reason faster bikes might possibly ride more miles total today (which might not be true even before city bike, and almost definitely after), is because they are better accommodated than slow bikes today, and you see the mode share that results. If your goal is to allow a large segment of the population to bike to get around, not just for fun, then you need to accommodate 10-12 mph cruising. This is what’s been found in every city where a lot of people bike. NYC isn’t special, it won’t be different here.

  • Joe R.

    The sidewalks don’t exclude faster walkers, or require them to walk slower (unless they’re very crowded, in which case everyone has to walk slower). Why exactly then would we need to NOT accommodate all types of riders on any type of bike path in order to make it useful to the majority of riders? All you need to accommodate all types of riders is adequate room to pass. That should always exist or everyone will be forced to ride at the speed of the slowest rider. I doubt a 12 mph rider would appreciate being stuck behind a kid on a bike going 6 mph. That’s why you need room to pass, regardless. If a bike path doesn’t have room to safely pass, then it’s seriously deficient, regardless of where it is, regardless of its design speed.

    Faster riders typically hit fewer red lights, not more. NYC isn’t going to time lights for 12 mph on arterials. It would seriously cripple capacity and it would elicit tons of complaints from drivers. It ain’t happening, period, so I don’t know why it’s continually being brought up. At best I can see NYC going with 20 mph zones in most or all of Manhattan, and then having light timing to match that. It may not be ideal for many cyclists, but 20 mph light timing means far fewer red lights even for 12 mph riders than the present 25 to 30 mph timing.

    And the costs of the viaducts should come down dramatically within a decade or two. Right now they would essentially need to be custom built and poured in place in each location. Once 3D printing, prefabrication, and robotic labor take hold (less than a decade for the first two, 2-3 decades for the last), infrastructure in general will become much cheaper. It will also become much faster to build. I can envision a moving factory of sorts which might build a mile of viaduct in a day. A few such set ups could have the entire city covered in a few months. You could even build these things mostly from recycled plastic. With nearly free raw materials plus minimal building costs, the cost issue goes out the window. Who knows, NYC may even eventually evolve to put pedestrians and cyclists above the streets. You’re right, there is a serious lack of space at street level. Eventually we won’t be able to fit everything there, regardless of how much we ask any one group to compromise for the general good. We’ll need cost effective measures to increase space. Taking a cue from nature, the only way is to add levels. As I said elsewhere, this actually has a practical benefit. It means you can still get around if the subways/streets are flooded after a major storm.

  • lop

    >Why exactly then would we need to NOT accommodate all types of riders on any type of bike path

    It’s hard to explain this stuff in generalities sometimes, so here’s an example.

    75th avenue is a minor road, less traffic than 73rd or union. You could time the lights there (adding lights where needed) for less than you do on 73rd or union without causing much trouble for cars. The reason there is less traffic is that the road dead ends for cars at Cunningham. A bit of pavement and a curb cut and it wouldn’t dead end for bikes, you’d connect to the carless motor parkway. The question is, who do you time the lights to benefit, slow or fast riders? Once you get to the greenway then you have no lights so you accommodate a wider range of speeds, assuming fast bikes understand to go slow because elderly walkers with dogs use it too. It’s not a place your velomobiles going 30-40+ would ever be appropriate though, at least not if there are more than a couple of them, and they would have to slow dramatically whenever anyone else is around, which is already often enough.

    Then you have a nice route to main street. You might be able to send it through the park by willow lake as a shared path on boardwalks without it being too out of place, though that forces people to go slow, and then you’d have a way to get to forest hills without dealing with the mess on Jewel or union. Extending the other way to LIJ would be feasible as well, shared path next to union, maybe cut through school grounds to get to 76th then 74th etc…

    Now you have a nice route covering a good distance connecting people to some popular destinations. But you’ve had to compromise several times that reduces the usefulness for those who want to go fast, in that it’s often a shared path, or slow light timings, or on wood planks instead of pavement.

    Sure, a shared path lets people go fast easily when few are on it, but if it’s crowded you lose that. And given the greater speed differential between fast bikes and walkers than fast and slow walkers, it gets crowded enough to slow down the faster bikes with far fewer people. And if it’s utilized well enough for it to be worth spending much money on, then it’s too crowded for fast bikes much of the time.

    It’s not ideal for people biking to Manhattan, but for several closer destinations, as well as to get to transit along Queens Blvd, it would be nice to put together, wouldn’t it? And for those shorter trips, averaging 15 instead of 11 mph doesn’t save you much time, because the ride is so short to begin with, so it doesn’t matter to people as much, and it gets them somewhere without sweating much.

  • bolwerk

    I’m not sure we are that easy to catch unless they’re on bike too.

    The fact is most people will comply when told to stop by a police officer, even if the police have no business stopping them.

  • Joe R.

    That’s all great stuff I would love to see. There’s no argument that at some level of bike traffic fast riders can’t go as fast on a path as they might otherwise be able to go, and you know what, I have no problems with that because I could always do recreational rides at times when I know the path is nearly empty.

    75th Avenue is actually just fine as is to use as a route from Main Street to the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway. From where I go on at 166th Street there are only two traffic signals until the VMP. The way the timing is typically if I get a green at one, I’ll hit the next one on green also. If not, and I can’t safely pass the red, it’s only a 30 second delay which is just fine given that this will be the only delay I’ll encounter over 1.7 miles of riding. 75th Avenue is actually a better bike route than the parallel 73rd Avenue, at least up until the point where it dead ends. 73rd Avenue was totally ruined as a bike route in the last decade when something like ten traffic signals were added. The key here is really to just pick streets for bike routes which don’t have that many traffic signals because they don’t have much car traffic. In that regard, 75th Avenue is ideal. With the VMP connection, you can go quite a distance from my place and only encounter two traffic signals.

    Between Main Street and 164th Street 75th Avenue only has three lights. I don’t go this way as much, so I’m not 100% sure if the timing is optimal, but the times I’ve ridden it the trip didn’t seem to take an excessive amount of time. Bottom line, I doubt you would need to play with light timing much on 75th Avenue to make it a decent part of a bigger bike route. You certainly don’t need to add any traffic lights as those would spoil it, plus they’re not needed. It’s a quiet street with mostly quiet cross streets. One thing I might do is get rid of parking on at least one side of the street in places where it’s narrow. As things stand now, two cars can barely pass each other in such places. If you have a car and a double-parked truck, you have a blockage.

    I know your point was that you might have to choose which type of rider to accommodate but 75th Avenue turns out to be a route which easily accommodates both. There are so few traffic signals that light timing largely doesn’t matter. Also, when traffic signals are spaced that widely even a small change in riding speed means the difference between hitting a light on a red cycle versus a green cycle. Or put another way, normal variation in riding speeds, even with the same rider, due to varying conditions would make worrying about light timing here kind of pointless. Worst case even if a rider hit all 5 lights between the VMP and Main Street right when they flipped to red, that would be what, about 2.5 minutes of delay tops over a distance of about 2.5 miles? Not a cause for concern at all. For a 12 mph rider, that’s a drop in average speeds from 12 mph to 10 mph. For someone like me, it might represent a drop in average speeds from 17 mph to 13.3 mph. Again, not a huge problem. In reality, and I’m too lazy to go through my GPS logs for exact numbers, I think I typically average around 15 mph riding from the VMP to Main Street. That’s just fine. If I could get around all the city by bike knowing I could average 15 mph at all times, that in my mind is good enough. 20 mph average speeds might be nice, but 15 mph is good enough for me to consider biking as transportation viable. The present 6 to 10 mph (which is what you get if you always stop at red lights) really isn’t.

    A great alternate route I take to Queens Boulevard from me is to go to Main Street via 75th Avenue, go left on Main, and then stay on Main until it hits Queens Boulevard. This puts me further east on QB than taking Jewel, but I avoid that traffic-clogged mess, and also avoid that dicey spot where it crosses the highways (and the long slog uphill).

    In the end we’re not going to build a great bike network overnight. I know that. The outer boroughs are seriously lacking in decent bike infrastructure, so I would certainly support something like you proposed. When bike mode increases, we could think about enhancements.

    Oh, and yes, the VMP isn’t a place for 30-40 mph velomobiles. Widespread usage of velomobiles is actually something where my idea of viaducts would start to make lots of sense but until velomobile manufacturers solve the cost issue most people will use regular bikes, me included.

  • Jerry Weinstein

    On Thursday morning, I was unable to find a place to dock my bike at Broadway and 21st. With another CitiBiker, we biked on over to 25th and 6th. En route we were detained by a pair of police officers for not biking in the bike lane. There was no other “offense.” We were both shocked. I pointed out that many bike lanes, including ninth avenue, were rife with pedestrians, making it dangerous to cross. After scolding us, they returned our licenses. I have since contacted my Assemblyperson and CitiBike.


Scenes of Mindless Bike Enforcement From “Operation Safe Cycle”

NYPD’s bike ticket blitz, a.k.a. Operation Safe Cycle, is halfway through its two-week run. The department has promised to target “hazardous violations that create a danger for pedestrians and cyclists,” but the accounts pouring in from readers suggest that police haven’t raised their game since the last flurry of bike enforcement. While it’s tough to get […]