Today’s Headlines

  • Mohamed Ali, 88, Dies of Injuries After Hit-and-Run Driver Knocks Him Off Bicycle (News, WNBC)
  • Prendergast: MTA Isn’t Considering Fare Hikes to Pay for Capital Program (Advance) …Yet
  • Daily News Scolds the MTA for Not Being a Profit-Generating Business
  • WCBS: Mayor, Council Reach Deal to Decriminalize Minor Offenses, Including Bicycling on Sidewalk
  • Jamaica Driver Plames Pothole, or Something, for Hitting Parked Cars and Pedestrian (Post 1, 2)
  • SI Driver Pleads Guilty to DUI, Vehicular Manslaughter in Death of James Benedict, 67 (Advance)
  • More Coverage of Manslaughter Charge for Bowery Hit-and-Run Driver (News, Post, DNA, Gothamist)
  • Port Authority Doesn’t Have the Money for EWR AirTrain Replacement (Star-Ledger, 2nd Ave Sagas)
  • Greg Mocker Goes for a Ride on Select Bus Service (WPIX)
  • YIMBY Makes the Case for the Utica Avenue Subway Extension
  • Daily News Reports on Williamsburg Bridge Bike Crash

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • ahwr

    It is a political issue, not a technical one. If you claim that cyclists are completely incapable of determining their speed without a speedometer, and there is public support to keep cyclists from exceeding speed limits, then what exactly keeps the city from mandating that all bicycles be equipped with speedometers, and annual or semi annual inspections carried out, all at the vehicle owner’s expense? The MTA had to pay to install speedometers? That cost them money. Telling cyclists they have to have a speedometer on their bike doesn’t cost the city a dime. You act like you found a loophole, bikes aren’t required to have speedometers now, so they can go as fast as they want forever, so the city should spend however much is required to accommodate the rare cyclist that doesn’t want to have to ever slow down even a little bit.

    The idea is design speeds should generally exceed the speeds of something like 99% of cyclists

    In a constrained urban environment that just isn’t feasible.

  • bicyclebelle

    It’s possible the passing cyclist was going too fast, but based on the limited information in the article it is equally possible the cyclist who crashed herself out was the one going too fast- faster than she was comfortable going since it sounds like she panicked. It also sounds like she was under the assumption there were not other cyclists using the path, but this is a crowded path (in good weather at least) with cyclists passing each other frequently all day long. Based on the information it doesn’t seem to me that you can blame- or absolve- the passing cyclist.

  • Joe R.

    Ugh. You’re making a mountain out of a molehill. Under most circumstances, it’s impossible for a cyclist to exceed the speed limit by much. That’s why speedometers will never be mandated. They would be useful only in very limited circumstances. My point is why worry about bicycle speeds at all in those limited circumstances when you have cars right next to go going far faster? Besides that, there isn’t enough money to fund a massive bureaucracy to inspect bikes regularly, or to enforce such inspections. Who pays? The cyclists can’t. When biking costs $1,000 or more annually just to fund the bureaucracy, nobody will be riding. The city would have to pay for this massive bureaucracy. That won’t go over all that well, especially given the limited utility of bicycle speedometers. What would be the justification? To get cyclists to obey speed limits? Why? A bike going a totally over the top speed of 60 mph has less kinetic energy than a car going 20 mph. We’ve already deemed 20 mph to be a relatively safe speed for cars in an urban environment. From a safety and kinetic energy perspective then there’s no reason to worry about bike speeds.

    In a constrained urban environment that just isn’t feasible.

    I call bs on that. We can and do already accommodate far larger automobiles at speeds far exceeding what most cyclists are capable of. It’s more like we don’t want to because we don’t want to spend the money.

  • Joe R.

    You seem like a fairly intelligent person with an above average sense of perception. Joe Sixpack riding a bike will be lucky to guestimate their speed within a 10 mph margin, at high speeds maybe more like a 20 mph margin. That’s the issue. I can guestimate my speed to within 1 mph on good day, 3 mph on a bad one but that’s just me. Most people can’t, even with practice.

    As for the rest, sure, I absolutely agree spending many millions more to retrofit a bridge so a minority of cyclists can go a little faster is a complete waste of money. Then again, so is devoting so much bridge space to private automobiles. I guess it’s all a matter of priorities. The hard fact is even if there were twice as many bridges going into Manhattan they would quickly congest with automobiles. That’s been proven time and again. You can’t build you way out of congestion. Rather, automobile use will grow or shrink depending upon how much space you give it. In NYC, particularly on the bridges, a lot more space should go to bikes, pedestrians, and public transit.

  • ahwr

    Take a look at this:

    It looks a lot more complicated than any sort of setup to check a bicycle speedometer for accuracy. A vehicle inspection doesn’t cost anywhere near $1000.

    Are you saying that doesn’t cover the cost, and the state reimburses the garage for the difference?

    One thing you’ll notice is absent from the inspection list is the speedometer. So scratch the inspection, just mandate that cyclists have a speedometer. Set it up with no penalty if you don’t have one. No fine, no citation, nothing. Then your legal loophole is closed.

  • Joe R.

    The problem with that is bicycle speedometers are notoriously flaky pieces of equipment. They’re easily damaged, the sensors can easily move so they only pick up magnets on the wheel sporadically, the calibration data may be lost when the battery dies, etc. You can install a perfectly calibrated speedometer one day and two days later it won’t be working due to the rigors of riding in NYC. Moreover, due to the size and weight constraints you just can’t make really robust bike speedometers. People have been trying for the last 75 years. They’re getting a lot better, but they still fall short of the most rudimentary car speedometers.

    Also, as I said by default most cyclists are going under a 25 mph limit nearly all the time, under a 30 mph limit just about all the time. Why worry about the speeds a cyclist might hit for a few seconds going down a hill? It’s not like NYC has alpine descents where a bike can be going 60 mph for many miles. I think any effort here might be better served just educating that small minority of cyclists who lack the judgement to slow down a bit when conditions warrant. You don’t need a speedometer at all to make that kind of judgement. If you can’t stop in time to avoid the kinds of obstacles you might reasonably expect in a given situation, then you’re going too fast regardless of what your numerical speed is.

  • ahwr

    I don’t want speedometers mandated. I’m just trying to get you to realize that your loophole is worthless.

    If I’m trying to cross a street at the bottom or in the middle of a hill and cars and bikes are speeding by when I’m in the crosswalk that’s dangerous and unpleasant. You seem fixated on the idea that I’d rather get hit by a bike than a car. It’s a stupid idea for you to push, because I don’t want to get hit at all. Just because you’re on a bike doesn’t mean your reckless behavior should be tolerated. You are saying it should, because you don’t have a speedometer, so you can’t know if you’re speeding. It’s a flimsy excuse, that could be dealt with very quickly if a judge ever made an issue out of it.

  • Cold Shoaler

    I think the answer to all of your questions is that access for people on bikes is an afterthought at best in all of these cases. I’m just glad I can actually ride a bike from one side of the river to the other. I’m grateful for my crumbs and glad I’m not on the other side of the Hudson.

  • Joe R.

    Yes, but you’re talking about a speed unsafe for conditions more than absolute speed. Besides that, there are already laws on the books to deal with cyclists who hit pedestrians in crosswalks. I’m not even sure the crosswalk example is a good one here. If it’s a crosswalk with a traffic signal or stop sign then by definition the only time a speeding bike will be a problem is if it’s ignoring the traffic control but it will still be a problem even if it’s not speeding while ignoring the traffic control. Hence the speed is moot, and therefore there’s no need to worry about it. If it’s an uncontrolled crosswalk then usually this means pedestrians must wait for a gap in traffic before crossing. In that case the speed of passing traffic is moot once again. Besides all that, putting a crosswalk and/or a stop sign/traffic signal at the middle or bottom of a hill is a horrible idea if there are likely to be a large number of bikes. Braking a bike on a downgrade is inherently a very dangerous activity to a cyclist. An endover is much more likely due to the shift in center of gravity. Just as you may not want to get hit by a bike, a cyclist doesn’t want to fall on a descent. I’m thinking of the physics here. That trumps everything else. Engineer the infrastructure so bikes don’t need to brake on downgrades, period. If that means you need grade-separated pedestrian crossings, or grade-separated bikeways, so be it. Or face the lawsuits of cyclists who were hurt because they had to hit their brakes because the state felt it was so necessary for them to obey some number on a sign.

  • ahwr

    Just because you don’t hit someone doesn’t mean you’ve done nothing wrong. Whether you’re in a car or on a bike.

    Uncontrolled intersection means vehicles have to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk. If you can’t safely stop for a pedestrian then you’re going too fast. If bikes going south on Miller avenue can’t stop, you’re saying get rid of the crosswalks (yes, two of them) at sunnyside avenue, forcing pedestrians to walk up and down a hill to cross the street. That’s ridiculous. There should absolutely be crosswalks there. If it’s inherently dangerous to brake on a downhill, then ban bikes riding downhill, make them walk on the sidewalk, if you have a crosswalk at the bottom or in the middle. Pedestrians > bikes.

    It’s not that dangerous to brake. I’ve slowed and stopped for pedestrians when riding downhill. Some cyclists like you push this meme like motorists who say they can’t stop for reds, because they’re worried they’ll get rear ended. Pedestrians > bikes. Every time.

    Engineer the infrastructure so bikes don’t need to brake on downgrades, period.

    Impossible in a constrained urban environment, unless you want to ban bikes from many roads.

    I’m thinking of the physics here. That trumps everything else.

    No, you’re thinking of what you think is fun. You can slow and stop downhill. If you start out trying to race down as fast as possible, maybe not. Maybe that’s a good reason for you not to race downhill, no matter how much fun it is at 2 am.

  • Joe R.

    I give up. The conversation’s over. Attitudes like yours are why most places in the US will never see over 1% bike mode share.

  • Rob H

    The Williamsburg bridge is getting totally out of control, and a part of that is based on policy. I ride over it almost every day– and the “state of the bridge” would be a great full post/article on streetsblog. I’ve written DOT about those garbage cans on the bike lane and they basically told me “too bad”. They’re situated on the downhill side, which makes no sense since they are a safety hazard and there are at least four of them! Why would you want wayward pedestrians crossing onto the downhill side to throw out litter– AND that part of the bridge is supposed to be pedestrian free anyway! There is totally inadequate signage discouraging peds or a way to tell them how to get to the ped side. Sometime there are whole families walking up the bike ramp— very dangerous considering…… that people riding on the downhill side do indeed ride as fast as they can. Riding down today I had at least three people riding directly behind me– and then as I try to let them pass (while dodging trash cans), they ride into the other lane where there is plenty of oncoming upbridge traffic. Getting rid of the cans and pedestrians would go a long way. Some speed signs would help, but many cyclists ignore the signs on the bridge (take the DO NOT ENTER sign onto Delancey street side for instance– people zoom as fast as they can through that concrete gap, even though it poses a big safety hazard at the bottom of the bridge). The bike path is going to be more crowded than ever this summer– it’s worthy of some kind of analysis for improvements– or people will continue to get hurt.

  • ahwr

    I’ve biked the bridge 50-100 times. Every time I see someone walking (most trips) I wonder why they’re there.

    There is totally inadequate signage discouraging peds

    Would signage actually get people to walk an extra 850 feet on surface streets where drivers can be pretty nasty?

    many cyclists ignore the signs on the bridge

    People do what they want if they don’t expect to get in trouble for it, especially if they don’t understand that it might be a problem for someone else.

    tell them how to get to the ped side

    What if they know, but think it’s just an annoying detour, and don’t want to walk downhill to get to a steep uphill on the pedestrian side?

    Why’d they build two paths instead of one wide one anyway?

  • Joe R.

    Pedestrians intruding into space that is supposed to be bike only is a citiwide problem. I have any number of theories on why this is so. It could be just due to simply not having enough space for pedestrians in this city. It could also be due to the general way people in NYC just do whatever they feel like doing, regardless of what signs or laws say (cyclists are just as guilty of that as anyone else while we’re on the subject). It could be to spite cyclists. Or may being that many here are immigrants. They come from countries where it’s common for bikes and peds to share the same space. They see space for bikes, and assume it’s automatically OK to walk in it. If they can’t read English, then signs won’t help.

    NYC seriously needs to reevaluate where it is and where it wants to be with regard to cycling and walking. Any way you look at it, we devote far too much space in this city to private automobiles. We’re also reluctant to spend serious money on bike infrastructure which might negate, or at least reduce, bike-ped conflicts. Take Central Park, for example. Several crossings there just have too many bikes and too many pedestrians to be safe. NYC’s answer is to ticket cyclists rolling through red lights. The real answer is to do what the park’s original designer did in some spots and put up grade separated crossings. There are often no quick, cheap fixes. There’s a reason bike mode share is over an order of magnitude higher in the Netherlands. They’re willing to spend the money for proper bike infrastructure. We’re not. They’re willing to design taking into account the physics and biometrics of cycling. We don’t, and frankly I don’t think we even have a good grasp of the subject, including many here at Streetsblog. We don’t need more studies or delays. We know what works well elsewhere. We just need to build it. We may also need to invent some types of infrastructure uniquely suited to very large cities. Good bike infrastructure has several characteristics—freedom from motor vehicles, freedom from pedestrians, minimal number of conflicts with other types of transportation, minimal number of stops or slowdowns, and as direct a route as possible with as few confusing diversions as possible. Most of what I see built in NYC follows exactly the opposite philosophy. And we wonder why mode share is low and not really getting any higher. People don’t bike for the sake of saying they took a bike. The bike because it’s the fastest, most convenient way to get where they’re going. Treat biking as transportation, not as some kind of environmental movement.

  • Jesse

    Right I totally agree about these two issues. The parks issue is infuriating in part because, if you’re a bike commuter, those are some of the best places to ride after dark because there are no cars. As for the public urination, NYC deserves to be urinated on for failing to provide public restrooms.

    Here’s what NYC should do for the restrooms: every establishment that’s generally open to the public has at least one restroom for its employees; just pass an ordinance requiring that they ALL open at least one restroom to the public. None of this “restroom is for customers only” bullshit. If every business owner is contributing then no one can complain that they are bearing a heavier burden. This at least helps significantly during the day and there are a lot of late-night bars and restaurants too. Plus it requires minimal capital investment (probably some huge takings clause payout but after that the city doesn’t have to worry about installation and maintenance).

    Both of these issues point to the most noxious attitude in American anti-urbanism: the aggrandizement of the private realm and contempt for the public. Unrestricted public access to parks and restrooms is not important because that stuff’s in the public realm. “Real” people don’t live there. Only homeless people and drug addicts. Of course no one considers that the only reason the undesireables are over-represented in the public realm is because we have so marginalized public life — through disinvestment and through the cultural fetishization of the private sphere — that the public realm becomes overrun by only those people who have nowhere else to go.

    City life doesn’t have to be punishing.