Today’s Headlines

  • Times Backs Right-of-Way Law; Says TWU’s “Slowdown” Is Responsible, Not Threatening
  • Driver Kills Dave Jones, 21, on Nostrand Ave Sidewalk After Fleeing NYPD Traffic Stop (News, Post)
  • Two Passengers Injured When Minibus Driver Crashes Across Hudson River Greenway (DNA, WNBC)
  • Assembly Budget Would Withhold Thruway Cash Until Cuomo Releases TZB Financing Plan (LoHud)
  • Van Bramer Holds Rally to Complain About 7 Train Service as MTA Upgrades Signals (DNA, PIX)
  • Last Night’s Commute Was a Mess, Thanks to Broken Signals (DNA, WNBC)
  • DNA Covers March for Safety Improvements on Queens Boulevard
  • Citizen Enforcement of Idling Vehicles — Will It Work? (WNBC, Observer, Gothamist)
  • DOT Tests Out New All-in-One Road Resurfacing Machine and S.I. Pols Are Thrilled (Advance)
  • College of Staten Island to Launch Bike-Share System Using Social Bicycles Tech (Banner)
  • On First Warm-ish Day of the Season, Citi Bike Rebalancing Held Up Well (bikeshareNYC)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Ian Turner

    I am a big fan of citizen summons, although the idea of giving a portion of the fine to the summons writer sounds dangerous. Will we end up with a lot of fraudulent summons?

    If this works for idling vehicles, we should expand it to parking, IMHO citizen summons are the best way to solve the placard mess.

  • stairbob

    WTG NYT.

  • Joe R.

    The idea is no more abuse prone than the summons quotas which are already being used by the NYPD. You absolutely need to give the summons writer a portion of the summons to make it worthwhile. I think the point of the required classes is to make sure the violation is properly documented.

    I personally feel this couldn’t come soon enough. Idling vehicles are a huge problem, especially during snowstorms when drivers will just come out, turn their vehicles on, and stink up the block for everyone shoveling even if they don’t plan to use their car. Two years ago I asked someone doing that to please turn off their car. It’s not necessary for modern cars to “warm up” before being driven, plus he wasn’t using it anyway. It seemed like he was just out playing with his toy to see if it still worked. Anyway, I asked nicely — three times. He refused. I had to stop shoveling and go back inside because I couldn’t take the smell. At 3 AM I came out again to shovel, and put all the snow right around the car he had carefully dug out (presumably to use the next day). I wasn’t awake to see what undoubtedly would have been a priceless look on his face, but I’m hopeful he was intelligent enough to figure out who buried his car, and why. Thankfully this jerk moved away later that year. Anyway, if this idling law gets people to stop doing it the minute they see a camera whipped out, it’ll be a great thing. I don’t even care if many people collect some of the fines. I just want the practice stopped. And why can’t we start mandating zero emission vehicles in this city? Motor vehicles would be less of a problem if they didn’t stink the city up.

  • Jonathan R

    Mr. De Blasio has a lot of work to do to tame and calm the city’s street life, starting with the worst scofflaws—bicyclists who never got the memo that lights and lanes apply to them, as well as pedestrians rendered stupid by being plugged into their music and smartphones.

    In the competition for New York Times’s Worst Scofflaws, curb-jumping killer motorists get at best a bronze medal.

  • Reader

    That part felt like it belonged in the Daily News, not the Grey Lady.

  • Bolwerk

    It’s no more dangerous than a lot of police powers the state reserves for itself.

    If it works, I’d love to see it expanded to littering and dog shit. It would probably work for graffiti too.

  • qrt145

    Overall I’m very happy that the NYT supports the right of way law, but in addition to the silly statement that cyclists and pedestrians are the “worst scofflaws”, I disagree with the notion that the NYPD has been enforcing the law “vigorously”. There have been, what, a dozen cases in six months? For a crime that is committed at least a dozen times a day? (I base this estimate on the fact that motorists injure about 1000 vulnerable street users a month, and guessing that in at least 1/3 of the cases the victim had the right of way.)

  • stairbob

    Really? I just wrote that part off as noise because it seems SOOO Grey Lady.

  • While bicyclists who blow red lights are objectively far less dangerous than are scofflaw drivers (indeed, a bicycle operated illegally is less dangerous than an automobile operated legally!), this sort of out-of-skew commentary is a typical example of the fact that light-running bicyclists create a memorable bad impression. Crucially, we must realise that it doesn’t matter if there is a true safety question in any given blowing of a light; we must understand that the mere act causes a feeling of contempt for us on the part of observers, who will then imagine a theoretical question of safety, for which they will blame us.

    We bicyclists need to do our part to fight tendency. What you can do: 1) stop at every red light, for the entire period, at all times of day; 2) implore other bicyclists, both privately and publicly, to do the same; 3) when you get the urge to argue that bicyclists shouldn’t have to follow the laws because the laws are stupid or because cars are worse, squelch that urge.

    Of course, the laws *are* stupid; and the cars *are* worse. But those arguments are for another day, for a time after we bicyclists have already attained the status in the eyes of the general public as legitimate road users. But we’ll never reach that point if the worst of us (i.e., those who blow red lights and who go in the wrong direction) define us to society at large.

    The most immediate need is to manage our impression. Despite the fact that car drivers behave far worse than bicyclists do, the fact is that drivers are the mainstream and we bicyclists are still the “other”; we therefore need to be twice as good in order to get half as much acknowledgement.

  • John D

    bus lane / bike lane enforcement

  • ahwr

    Some people who say they want to warm up their car mean they want to run the heater for a bit so it isn’t too cold when they get in.

  • Joe R.

    The article also takes a swipe at pedestrians, specifically “The bus drivers’ union, taking the wrong message from the arrests, has angrily defended its members and thrown its support behind a misguided City Council bill that would exempt bus drivers from the law. It says drivers are being scapegoated as criminals and unfairly pressured to be both safe and on time — which is hard to do on streets choked with pedestrians jaywalking and flouting red lights.”

    If we ever want to have any rational discourse on this subject, then we have to come at it from the safety angle. Pedestrians and cyclists blowing lights at worst endanger only themselves. Even then that’s rare because NYers are great at determining when they can safely pass a red, whether on foot or on two wheels. The exception might be those with their heads buried in their phones (and maybe that’s who we should chide for dangerous behavior).

    In the end it serves nobody to kowtow to ignorant perceptions. All a cyclist or pedestrian gains by waiting at every single red light, clear or not, is wasted time. The only people to whom it matters seeing me run a red light would the NYPD. I take care to make sure that doesn’t happen.

    If you MUST continue to wait out red lights for your own philosophical reasons, then do the rest of us a big favor and at least take the lane when you do so, then slooooowly accelerate back up to speed. If enough cyclists did this then it might actually change perceptions. You’ll get drivers complaining they’re tired of being delayed by cyclists who wait for red lights. If these drivers start asking why can’t the cyclists get out of their way when the light changes, the response can be “Well cyclists have the legal responsibility to stop at all red lights, and they also have the legal right to take the lane. Now we’ll be happy to let drivers go by, when we safely can, but in return for that we want to be able to pass legally red lights when we can safely do so.” Remember the cyclist who passes a red light is well out of a driver’s way when that light finally goes green. This plan of action might actually produce results. Your current plan won’t. Nobody notices or cares if cyclists stop at red lights except in negative ways. I did it for a number of years when I first started riding. I mostly got honked at by drivers turning when the light changed, or told I looked like an idiot waiting at the light by pedestrians, or had stuff thrown at me.

  • Joe R.

    Except the car I’m talking about stayed in the spot all day. In fact, I see that a lot during snowstorms. Drivers come out, start their cars, sit in them a few minutes, go back inside, come out an hour later, repeat, and never go anywhere. If I see someone clear the area around their car, start it, go inside, come back out a few minutes later, and drive away that’s all good. That usually isn’t what I see.

  • Reader

    “We bicyclists need to do our part…”

    “…the worst of us…”

    “The most immediate need is to manage our impression.”

    “We therefore need to be twice as good…”

    At what meeting will “we” tell “our” fellow cyclists to obey the law?

    People should behave because it’s the right thing to do, but the idea that we can somehow get the message out to everyone is absurd. It’s herding cats. You could stand on the bridges for a year straight urging people to follow the law when they descend into Manhattan and you’d still never reach everyone.

    I have nothing in common with other people on bikes other than the fact that I also ride a bike. Cyclists are not a monolithic group. Infrastructure, not scolding, will get “us” to behave faster than anything.

    The Times’ statement was absurd. Period.

  • Joe R.

    Infrastructure is the real answer here, but let me point out the infrastructure must be properly designed. Sticking a protected bike lane on a street where the light timing would compel cyclists to stop every three blocks won’t magically stop red light running. That isn’t to say such infrastructure will be useless. It will at least greatly decrease sidewalk cycling by giving cyclists a safe alternative but it won’t completely eliminate law breaking. There’s only one real way to generally ensure most cyclists will reliably stop at red lights. Specifically, you need to provide routes where there is rarely a need to stop ( http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/02/disappearing-traffic-lights-how-second.html ). Even in the Netherlands with its supposedly “law-abiding” cyclists if you have too many red lights cyclists just won’t stop.

  • A in individual person can do only what he/she can do. You and I and every other bicyclist have the responsibility to play our parts; the fact that any one individual is small does not exempt that individual from the responsibility to try. One must exemplify the change that one wishes to propogate.

    The Times’ statement was absurd — semicolon — yet it exemplifies a widespread perception that every bicyclist must keep in mind as he/she decides how to behave.

  • Joe R.

    You have to realize here the way we can accomplish the most is to simply get many more people riding. Any time you do anything to make riding more burdensome, fewer people will be interested. If we insisted pedestrians wait out the full cycle at every red light, and had ticket blitzes against that and mid-block crossing, we wouldn’t get better behavior. We would just get a lot fewer people walking, which in turn might make some say we no longer need sidewalks. I’ll take an alternative angle to your “perfect behavior”-avoid behavior that really puts others in danger and/or usurps them of their right-of-way. Don’t go through red lights if doing so means you cut off someone in the crosswalk, or force a driver to slam on their brakes. That’s asshat behavior. Avoiding that type of behavoir isn’t particularly burdensome to your average cyclist. And certainly don’t go through red lights around cops. Doing so is like tickling the dragon’s tail. Remember stopping at every red light in a city where we insist on traffic signals every 250 feet can be burdensome enough to discourage cycling, depending upon light timing. In the end we want more people riding so we have political support for more infrastructure, plus saner cycling laws. Ideally we would have enough of our own mostly non-stop infrastructure so stopping at a red light or two every trip is a total nonissue. To get there though we need a lot more people riding.

  • Maggie

    I wonder if they looked at the NYC crash data at all (I always just google ‘nyc crash opendata’) before somehow concluding that NYPD is enforcing this law vigorously. In the 188 days since the law took effect to March 7, NYPD has responded to 111,436 crashes, and nearly 7400 of those had pedestrian or cyclist injuries. 82 people – about 3 each week – have been killed. In those 7400 crashes NYPD cited ‘failure to yield right-of-way’ as a contributing factor in 1030 crashes, where 1071 pedestrians or cyclists were injured or killed. But for a horrific crash like the one last October that injured 9 and killed an 8-year-old girl on the sidewalk in front of her Bronx school, failure to yield right-of-way isn’t actually the listed contributing factor – instead it’s backing unsafely.

    I appreciate the headline, but it’s strange they needed to throw bikers and pedestrians under the metaphorical bus without even mentioning real-life victims like Rylee Ramos. Would be great to know how many times the right-of-way law has actually been applied.

    New York Times famously issued a correction when they got the names of two My Little Ponies mixed up, so I wonder if their editorials get held to similar standards.

  • You’re just discounting the massive perception problem that occurs whenever one of us blows a red light. Big mistake. As I said, the objective measure of safety doesn’t really enter into the affair; the negative perception is created even if no pedestrian is present.

    In other words: at the dinner-table conversation of those who observe a bicyclist blowing a red light, it’s still going to be “those crazy cyclists”. That meme in the culture is what really hurts us; it spreads contempt for bicyclists (which is expressed in op-eds, in complaints to elected officials, in crazies at Community Board meetings, etc.) and dissuades people from taking up riding.

  • Kevin Love

    And those who hate us are going to suddenly stop doing so by stopping at a red light?

    I don’t think so. Red lights are not why they hate us, but are just an excuse.

  • Reader

    I agree. As long as bike lanes are seen as taking away parking or travel lanes and as long as traffic flow is widely misunderstood by amateurs on community boards, people will hate cyclists. Behavior has nothing to do with it.

  • JudenChino

    1) stop at every red light, for the entire period, at all times of day;

    Why not just walk every where too? Sorry but this is ridiculous. I stop and proceed very slowly while looking around with head on a swivel. I objectively do not make a bad perception. I come across as responsible and respectful making eye contact with any and all peds while proceeding.. It’s just not practical to stop for the full cycle at every single intersection all times of the day.

    This is the worst advocacy.

  • Joe R.

    I’m not discounting it. Sure it’s a real phenomenom which undoubtedly occurs, much like I’m sure you still hear dinner table conversation in white suburbs where the n word is used. I’m just saying I refuse to dignify such ignorance with any kind of response, particularly a change in behavior which you say supposedly will appease. We tried appeasing Hitler at first. History shows how well that worked out. You can’t appease people whose views are (at best) grounded in misperceptions, or in this case misperceptions compounded by a healthy dose of psychosis. The “crazies” you mention at Community Board meetings are the best example of this. How on Earth do you appease people who will just up the bar until no reasonable measures will appease them? If/when cyclists stopped running red lights they would next try for mandatory helmet laws, licensing, registration, insurance. Eventually the bar would be set so high nobody would be riding, which is exactly what these crazies really want.

  • qrt145

    I believe motorists hate cyclists mostly for “getting in their way”, and I don’t think there’s much that cyclists can do about that by changing their behavior.

    Many pedestrians hate cyclists because they are afraid of getting hit by a cyclist. Here cyclists can do something: avoid startling people on foot by keeping their distance, and not riding on the sidewalk.

    But yes, I agree that the red light thing is post hoc rationalization (except in cases where the cyclist really gets in someone’s way by running the light).

  • Joe R.

    Well, for my part I do in fact let motorists pass when I can safely do so. Sure, there are times cyclists must take the lane for their own safety. At such times I don’t hesitate to do so, even if I might slow down the cars behind me. However, at the next intersection I will move to the right so they can get by. It may delay me slightly, but it probably helps more in the area of public perception than not running red lights. Most motorists won’t say “Oh, what a great guy, he’s waiting at the red light just like me.” However, they might see someone giving them room to pass, and think “Hey, thanks! That was a nice courtesy.”

    The only time I think cyclists really hurt public perception by running red lights is when they cut off a motorist or pedestrian. Putting aside some percentage of delivery cyclists, most riders I see just don’t do that stuff just out of concern for their own safety. Obviously a motor vehicle has the upper hand in a cyclist-motor vehicle collision but even cyclist-pedestrian collisions are something any sane cyclist tries to avoid.

  • J_12

    Disagree. I see no evidence whatsover that increased compliance with traffic laws would do anything to improve the public perception of bikers. In fact, I don’t think there is a problem with the public perception.

    The problem is with the people in legislative and enforcement positions. Their reference to bikers as “scofflaws”, etc, is window dressing. The real issue, which they are well aware of, is that increased infrastructure for bikes necessarily means less for motor vehicles.

    Playing by the rules is not going to change this calculus, it’s just going to make biking a less attractive option for many.

    Is there an issue with bikers who ride dangerously? Yes, of course, there are bikers who ride the wrong way, or on sidewalks, or without lights, or blow through reds, who create a hazard for themselves or others. But this is a separate issue that is only tangentially related to the mainstreaming of bike riding in the city.

  • You may not think that you make a bad impression; and to an imagined rational observer, you wouldn’t.

    But to people enculturated into American cultural norms and prejudices, under which driving is seen as standard and bicycling as a bit sketchy, your actions (while completely responsible from the point of view of safety) will inspire the thought “who does that arrogant bicyclist think he is, flouting the law?” If you don’t think that this perception far outweighs the benign one, then you’re fooling yourself.

    Our enemies are more far more numerous and far more powerful than we are. If we fail to take the perceptions of this majority into consideration, and consider only how they *should* be feeling, we will be doing our cause a great disservice.

    The best sort of advocacy deals with the problems that we face in the real world. And this is one of those problems. The perception problem created by our behaviour (even by that behaviour which is objectively safe but technically illegal) will continue to hurt our status in society. And this will occur even if we wish that this problem didn’t exist and that the rest of society were fair-minded.

  • “I don’t think there is a problem with the public perception.”

    “Is there an issue with bikers who ride dangerously? Yes, of course, there are bikers who ride the wrong way, or on sidewalks, or without lights, or blow through reds, who create a hazard for themselves or others. But this is a separate issue that is only tangentially related to the mainstreaming of bike riding in the city.”

    No problem with public perception? Separate issue? Tangentially related to the mainstreaming of bike-riding? It’s actually the key issue. One thing that Joe R. is right about is the importance of infrastructure. But what he and you overlook is that this negative perception of bicyclists creates a huge political obstacle to all infrastructural improvements.

    Look, don’t take my word for any of this. Here’s a good experiment: pose as some kind of pollster or reporter, and ask strangers what they think of bicyclists.

    I am certain that you will hear complaints about illegal and dangerous conduct from the large majority of people to whom you speak, in all demographics. And remember that here “illegal and dangerous” is meant as one category. As I said, the public does not make the distinction; all illegal conduct will be to some extent interpreted as “dangerous”, even if its demonstrably not so.

    The level of disgust at bicyclists should never be discounted. It’s only a matter of time before we get the Anti-Bloomberg, the politician who will run explicitly on a platform of rolling back the Bloomberg-era gains. Every act of blowing a red light pushes more people into the camp of such a politician.

  • JudenChino

    I’m not going to alter my life to indulge the irrational delusions of the privileged and prejudiced, especially since it won’t make a single bit of difference. I cross West St and the entrance/exit of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel every day. I habitually see cars, dangerously and flagrantly, blow through reds at speed, often with “pedestrian safety” offices in the vicinity, who don’t give a fuck either, by the way, they’re there to keep traffic moving.

    Your objectives are laudable. I strongly disagree on your tactics and I will refused to be shamed.

    When I go through a red in which there are any pedestrians in the vicinity, I go slowly, and make eye contact. If that’s “disrespectful” to someone then no amount of “hyper-compliance” will make a difference. Oh, and delivery guys are going to blow lights regardless, and so long as they’re safe about it, then they should. We’re not the street killers and I will not allow myself to believe that we are. 3 people killed by bikes in the last 10 years.

  • Unfortunately, it’s the irrational delusions of the masses that we’re talking about. I really wish that you would consider altering your life to account for this, because our collective failure to do so is going to result in the rest of society altering our lives for us, by taking away our bike lanes.

    You are absolutely right to observe that cars blowing red lights is a more serious problem. But it comes down once again to society’s prevailing norms and prejudices. When drivers blow red lights, they don’t risk having automobile access to the streets curtailed. Cars are a permanently entrenched part of the landscape. By contrast, when bikes blow red lights, we do risk having our access to the streets curtailed.

    Will stopping at red lights make everyone love us? Probably not. It will, however, create a good impression in some people. I have on several occasions received thanks from pedestrians for stopping at red lights; one woman even said explicitly that I was setting a good example. Those are the people who will offer counter-arguments to the dinner-table ranters and the Community Board nuts; and we need to cultivate them.

    But it’s true that bike-haters will exist to some extent no matter what we do. Still, that’s no justification for us to break the law, thus giving these people free ammunition and fortifying them further.

  • J_12

    I appreciate your point of view, but it’s completely anecdotal. People on bikes is pretty low on the list of things that the majority of new yorkers care about.
    It gets a disproportionate amount of press because its one of those stories people will click on … and it’s so easy for reporters to take a polarizing angle … but it’s not like this issue is driving elections.

    Even for the subset of new yorkers that are regular drivers, I doubt that bicycles are near the top of their concerns. There is a vocal but very small minority who see bike riders as a serious issue, and they are unlikely to change their opinion in response to changes at the margin of rider behavior.

    I don’t understand the need to search for complicated answers to a simple problem. The drivers of New York and the politicians who represent them don’t want to give up any of their entitlements in terms of parking or travel. Bicycles compete directly for the same resources.

  • Joe R.

    How about if we advocates get behind bicycle infrastructure which didn’t directly compete for the same resources? I know it’s not a popular idea but things like London’s SkyCycle, or the bicycle viaducts on a smaller scale I’ve proposed many times, might be the real answer here. Cyclists win by having non-stop infrastructure totally separate from motor vehicles and pedestrians. Motorists win in two ways. One, they don’t lose parking or travel lanes. Two, they don’t need to deal with cyclists, at least on the main arterials where the viaducts would make sense. I also tend to think cyclists will be better behaved when they can do most of their journey nonstop. Right now there are major gains in terms of time and energy saved by passing red lights. There are also good safety reasons for doing so in some cases. That wouldn’t be the case where you could do 95% of your trip on viaducts. I know the idea generally goes over like a lead balloon around here, but in the end this might be the best way forward.

  • JudenChino

    I don’t think so. Red lights are not why they hate us, but are just an excuse.

    Exactly. If it’s not red lights, it’s the cost of bike lanes, it’s the parking spots, it’s not registered or licensed, it’s 2 people who were killed over 8 years, it’s they don’t pay road taxes, it’s reckless scowflaws, it’s if their bike falls off of the bike rack on the bus from staten island to brooklyn (from the island over the bridge which forbids bikes) then the bus driver is responsible and thus bike riders are douches who don’t care about the working man.

  • Howard S

    you won’t be able to talk anyone into doing this. There’s always an excuse. We should be on the same side as pedestrians against cars. However, pedestrians hate us just as much because we do not follow the rules. I do stop at every light and I’ve been the ONLY ONE that I’ve seen that do that. I’ve also been thanked for giving pedestrians the right of way or allowing them to cross even if they don’t have the right of way. We can only each do what we think is right. One person stopped at a light won’t give others pause. If enough of us are doing it, it will start changing behavior…or at least block the bike lane for those trying to blow through a light.