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

  • Bobberooni

    As a biker, saddened but not surprised by Williamsburg Bridge bike crash. As biking becomes more popular and the paths more crowded, this is what will happen if we don’t take precautions. That section of the bridge is steep, and some people treat it as their own personal speedway. I might suggest the following measures:

    1. Speed limit 25mph
    2. Enforce the speed limit through traffic calming measures (speed humps or something)?
    3. Require that bikes passing do so (a) on the left, (b) with enough space (3 feet anyone?) and (c) ring their bell before they do so. Getting this to stick would require a sustained education campaign, but it could be worth it.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “The MTA’s payroll eats up 33% of its revenues.”

    You have a service business. Isn’t that, in fact, LOW (as it is for all city agencies these days)? Isn’t the problem that so much is going to EX-employees, debts, etc? If you want to know how much of our rising tax burden goes to cash pay, as luck would have it, I just wrote about it here.

    “The MTA is “agnostic” on where the money comes from, said Lisberg. “We just know that we need the money.”

    I’m in my first new weeks as a budget analyst for NYCT capital back in early 2001, and the capital department has a meeting. At the end of the meeting the head of the capital program has question and answer, but nobody bothered to tell me that no one is supposed to ask questions.

    So I asked “if the MTA keeps borrowing for ongoing replacement won’t the result be disaster somewhere down the line?”

    The response was this: “we don’t get involved in all that political stuff. You have to trust the legislature.” Essentially the same answer as the quote above.

    For that and other reasons, I ran against the local hack in 2004 and exited the public sector. Nothing I could do there.

    And now essentially the same answer. But also this from yesterday.

    “We all knew this day would come.”

    Expletive deleted.

  • armyvet00

    Jamaica Driver Plames Pothole, or Something, for Hitting Parked Cars and Pedestrian (Post 1, 2)
    The pedestrian was standing between two cars- not sure if he was waiting to cross but this is why I try to avoid crossing the street in this manner! People around here are such bad drivers you can’t trust them.

  • BBnet3000

    This could have been headed off if they’d made the paths wider to begin with. The Williamsburg is the best east river bridge but its still too cramped for its use at the two ends. All of the major bridge paths should be 4 meters wide for a 2 way path, and this was known at the time the bike paths on both bridges were built. We’ve spent tens of millions, and we keep making the same mistakes even today!. Look at the 5 foot protected lanes on Allen St that should be 2 meters/6.5′. Passing is awkward or impossible.

    Obviously fixing basic design mistakes is impossible now, though the Williamsburg bridge could maybe gain about 2-3 feet of width on the bike/ped ramp on the Manhattan end if they decked over the grating that is behind the railings today (but inside of the fence). I walked this bridge recently and this end has an incredibly narrow ped lane, 2 extra feet is a big gain for peds.

    They could at least work at removing the dangerous obstructions that have mostly been added later. Why are there all those trash cans in the bike path on the Brooklyn end of the Williamsburg Bridge? Why are the jutting fence posts mounted on the INSIDE of the old railing of the Manhattan Bridge rather than the outside? Why does the Manhattan Bridge have 90 degree angle stone pillars sticking out rather than behind a smooth acute angled railing?

  • AnoNYC

    It’s still wrong that the city is fining people for being in the park after dark. You should only be fined if you are disturbing the peace (loud and/or destructive), otherwise you should be left alone. This is NYC and most people cannot access private green space.

    As for public urination, we need more publicly accessible bathrooms. What does the city administration expect?

    And having a drink outside should be acceptable as long as you are not obviously intoxicated.

  • Mr Cogsworth

    I don’t think speed humps are a great idea. Maybe “rumble strips” or something of that nature, but I only see humps as 1) jumps, 2) hazards for beginner cyclists on downhill sections, and hinderances on uphill sections.

    Also, those garbage cans have got to go. I consider myself a pretty “aware” cyclist and have nearly hit them on several occasions. They often move from day to day, which doesn’t help either.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The question is, what kind of engineering of consent is going on?

    Do they want us to accept and ignore a reduction in maintenance and the slow rolling collapse of the system, and say “whew thank goodness they fought for us to avoid fare increases?”

    Or do they want us to accept fare and toll increases, and say “whew we avoided the collapse of the system?”

    Of course the labor contracts, pension deals and toll giveaways are settled — that’s money off the top.

  • Joe R.

    I totally agree. We already have laws on the books to deal with people who cause problems in the parks or while drinking in public. We also have laws to deal with those who hit someone riding recklessly on a sidewalk. That gives police all the power they need to arrest those who actually cause problems.

    I guess this is good news in that people caught for these low level offenses will hopefully just be able to mail in their fine instead of wasting a day in court. Decriminalization is usually the first step towards legalization. Once we see the sky won’t fall if these acts are treated administratively hopefully some future enlightened person will make them legal.

  • Ian Turner

    Typical fast-food joint spends 30-35% of revenues on labor.

  • Andres Dee

    MTA doesn’t earn a profit? If it did, you’d hear about how it’s not right that they’re taking away money that private enterprise could be earning.

  • Joe R.

    Sounds like the problem was the garbage can more than the speed of the passing cyclist. A little common sense instead of more regulations is all that is needed. There might be times when it’s perfectly safe to descend the ramp at 45 mph, and there are other times when you have to keep your speed in check. Last thing we need here are speed humps which will damage wheels and hurt more people than they help. I hate speed humps anywhere but on bike only facilities they’re totally out of place.

    Get rid of the garbage cans, improve the lighting, maybe even consider putting a physical barrier between both directions of bike traffic. If we do that then use 2/3rd of the width for the path going down, 1/3rd for the path going up. That will still leave enough room for passing on the uphill section, albeit barely enough, while giving descending cyclists the room they need to safely pass.

  • red_greenlight1

    I think education is the key here. I bet you the lady was going slower and the other cyclist was going to fast when trying to pass her. I get passed way too closely a fair amount after dark. I don’t know why after dark but the bridges do seem to be center points for it.

    People need to understand that bridges are shared spaces utilized by cyclists of all speeds and abilities. You need to give at least 2-3 feet when passing, yell on your left and make sure you’re a full bike length ahead before going in front of the person you’re passing. Finally when waiting to pass you must leave at least one full bicycle length between you and the person in front.

    I’m so sick of people getting on my rear wheel as they impatiently wait to pass or foolishly stay there. If I was more fool hardy I’d start brake checking these twits. I’ve heard the spandex crowd defend this practice by claiming they’re “drafting.” That excuse doesn’t fly with me since I’m a commuter, never agreed to “draft” and have no desire to do so. Think “Do I want a car to get on my ass? Would I appreciate if another cyclist did this to me?” If one or both of the answers is “no” then don’t do it.

    A little common courtesy goes a long way in preventing these kinds of collisions.

  • red_greenlight1

    I agree speed bumps don’t belong on bicycle routes. I’d even say rumble strips don’t belong.

  • red_greenlight1

    How one earth could it possible be safe to go 45mph on commuting route?! You go pedestrians jumping in and out of the bike lane, tourists doing under 8 MPH on Citibikes, skate boarders, people on phones and if its a weekend lots of congestion?

    How is doing almost double the speed limit possibly safe given all the above? I’d like to emphasize this is a shared commuting space not a race track. I firmly believe had this guy been going slower this crash would never have happened. IF you’re going too fast to brake and adjust rapidly for the unexpected you’re simply going too fast.

  • Joe R.

    I occasionally draft large motor vehicles but never bikes. I do this so I can keep pace with motor traffic when I take the lane. I defend this practice because I’m the only one who might get hurt if the motor vehicle hits a flying concrete cow (transportation engineering speak for suddenly coming to a dead stop). In practice large motor vehicles don’t speed up or slow down all that rapidly, so I have plenty of warning. Also, “draft” in this case means I’m 10 to 25 feet behind, not right on their rear bumper. You get 95% of the drafting effect even 25 feet away from a large vehicle.

  • red_greenlight1

    I’m all for drafting of vehicles or people who know how it works and care to be a part of it.

    Most of people who draft me do it with less than 3 feet. Frequently they’re close enough hat I can turn around and touch their front wheel.

  • Joe R.

    I’m talking about 3 AM when nobody is around. Apparently you’re never out that late but most NYC streets are as dead as a door nail that time of day.

    As far as I know the speed limits on most city bridges, at least for motor vehicles, are 45 or 50 mph. There’s no posted speed limit on bike lanes.

    Back in 1985 I hit 61 mph on the Queenboro Bridge on the descent into Queens. Of course, I opted to ride in the center roadway with motor traffic instead of the outer roadway (which wasn’t a bike lane at the time anyway). I knew I would hit some serious speeds given the 30 mph headwind I faced going into Manhattan would now be a tailwind, and hence the outer roadway wouldn’t be safe. Maybe that’s the answer here—tell those who want to descent really fast to just take one of the car lanes.

  • BBnet3000

    The “spandex crowd” definitely does not condone drafting random strangers. They do it in group rides and its rather rude to do it to even another roadie you encounter without permission.

  • red_greenlight1

    Yeah I tend to be in bed like you know most people. Or in no shape to be on a bicycle.

    You do realize that the city wide speed limit applies to bicycles since we have the same legal rights and responsibilities as motorized traffic right?

  • Joe R.

    I get people people drafting me like that occasionally, also. Frankly, they make me nervous. A split second of distraction could overlap our wheels and result in a crash. Generally, I’ll just turn at the nearest opportunity to get them off my back, then perhaps go back on the same street later. Since I only ride recreationally, I don’t mind the detour.

  • red_greenlight1

    Unfortunately, members of the spandex crowd have defended this practice of drafting random strangers online to me. Also about half the people who tailgate me are cyclists in full kit on road bikes.

    I agree it’s very rude and most don’t do it but enough do it frequently enough that I can say they do have a problem.

  • red_greenlight1

    It scares me to be frank. I wish I had more routes I can take but sadly they’re only a few routes that bring me into Manhattan. Also when they do it on the bridges there isn’t a lot I can do.

  • BBnet3000

    Same thing I do when someone is up my ass in a car. Let off the gas (not brake checking) and see how slow they’ll tolerate going until they figure out that they should pass.

  • Joe R.

    Regarding speed limits and bikes you need to look at the UK. Officially over there bikes can’t be cited for speeding because they’re not required to have speedometers. I bet if someone wanted to pursue this through our courts eventually the same conclusions would be reached. In any case, most of the time the city speed limits are moot given that most cyclists can’t approach them, let alone exceed them. Point of fact, I rarely go much above 30 mph these days. Most of the streets I ride on are still signed for 30 mph. I have enough common sense to drastically reduce my speeds in areas with lots of pedestrians or other cyclists. The problem with the so-called spandex crowd is they don’t seem to understand the term “speed inappropriate for conditions”. Sure, it’s nice to rip down descents at 55 mph. It’s also nice not to get killed, or kill others, while doing so. I ride late nights precisely so I can ride as fast as I want without bother anyone else. I don’t get people who do things like fast laps in Central Park at 4 PM.

  • red_greenlight1

    I should start doing this but it’s nerve wracking to do when they are less than a foot from you’re rear wheel. I usually maintain my pace and pullover a couple inches and hope they get the hint. Sometimes I’ll even wave them past or say “You can pass now.”

  • red_greenlight1

    We’re not in UK. We’re in NYS and NYC which have different rules. I dont see any evidence that the courts will change. Ignorance of the law i.e. not having a speedometer is not a justifiable dense for breaking the law. Fair or not that’s up for debate. But we have different laws.

    I agree in the ideal world bicycles would be left to self regulate. However as you point out enough don’t understand the necessity of adjusting speed for road conditions. As usual its a few bad apples running it for the rest of us.

  • sbauman

    I’d check whatever you are using to measure your speed. 60 mph means spinning out with a 225 inch gear. Even a 70×11 chainwheel x sprocket combination will give you only 176 inches.

  • Joe R.

    Here’s my recollection:

    52-12 gear, 26 inch wheels, and I measured my peak cadence at the time at around 180 RPM (based on speedometer readings spinning out in my lowest gear). Do the math and that gives 60.3 mph. My speedo said 61 mph. It was one of those old school Steward Warner dial speedometers so of course it could have been a few mph off. It may have been 57 or 59 or even 62. In any case it was the second fastest I’ve ever ridden. The fastest was an indicated 65 mph on a really steep 2 lane country road in NJ with a fierce tailwind. Coming back the other way was really, really unpleasant.

    Nowadays I have a calibrated bike computer which agrees with the distance on my GPS to within 0.01 or 0.02 mile after riding 20 miles. This means it should give speed readings accurate to a tenth of a mph at any speeds I’m likely to attain on a bike. Highest I’ve seen on it in the last few years was 59 kph (~37 mph). As I said, I don’t go all that fast any more compared to my youth. Thank the poor condition on NYC streets for this.

  • joe shabadoo

    IAmA former budget analyst at NYCT (MTA) Ask me anything about MTA budgets, funding, and fare hikes.
    maybe get some more traffic to your blog.

  • Joe R.

    For what it’s worth there are no official speed limits on the bike superhighways in the Netherlands but when on motor traffic roads there cyclists are subject to the same speed limits as motor vehicles. Really, the issue of speeds generally only comes up in places with steep descents like the bridges. I’ll say it’s more a problem of inadequate infrastructure. While it may not be possible to do this on the bridges, in general any bike routes with steep downgrades should take into account the speeds the fastest cyclists are likely to reach. In practice this means wider lanes, better yet two lanes, require passing in the left lane only, and physically separate both directions of bike traffic with a barrier. Maybe not practical on the bridges, but it should be done anywhere else there are steep downgrades. Properly engineering bike paths can accommodate a very wide speed range. I’ve seen videos of velomobiles on the bike superhighways in the Netherlands going 60, sometimes even 70 kph. Granted, they’re probably are more educated regarding proper passing, but the point is I see this mainly as an infrastructure/education problem, not as an excuse for more laws or more police action against cyclists.

  • Bobberooni

    I think the realistic suggestion in this post is to remove trash cans from the bike side of the bridge. Why do bikers need a trash can in the middle of the river?

  • Joe R.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the trash cans were the city’s lame attempt to slow down cyclists on the descent.

  • BBnet3000

    That is the realistic near term solution for the Williamsburg, but the broader solution is to design bike paths properly from here on out.

    Unfortunately, as the bike plans featured on this blog regularly demonstrate, that is not happening.

  • BBnet3000

    they’re probably more educated regarding proper passing

    Of course they are. Their bike paths don’t have these stupid lines telling them to ride down the dead center, which prevents anyone else from passing.

  • BBnet3000

    You know how the typical New Yorker thinks: A car going 25mph is CRAWLING while a bicycle going 15-20mph is a SPEED DEMON. The reactions to this story are all going to be based on that.

  • Bobberooni

    I still think it’s unwise to insist the city build wide bike paths with no hint of congestion, which parallel notoriously narrow, clogged automobile bottlenecks. Bridge infrastructure is expensive, and it’s not unreasonable to expect people to slow down a bit on it. The Williamsburg Bridge bike path as it is still gets you across far faster than the auto lanes at rush hour.

  • Bobberooni

    That’s hard to believe. The first thing you do if you want people to slow down is make you expectation clear through speed limits, caution signs, etc. Then you launch an education campaign about that. Witness how NYC DOT implemented the 25mph speed limit over the past year. You don’t just throw trash cans in the middle of the street, hoping people might get the message.

    [Note that most bikers who are able to exceed a 20 or 25mph speed limit either have speedometers, or they know how fast they’re going through other means. So no, posting a speed limit is NOT unreasonable.]

  • Joe R.

    Of course I know that. I even have an interesting anecdote. I remember riding about 25 mph down a street, then a few minutes later going back the other way at a more leisurely pace due to a headwind. A woman sees me and says “I just saw you “flying” in the other direction a couple of minutes ago. You do know bicycles have to obey the speed limits, don’t you?” I told her I was well within the speed limit. I was only going 25 mph and the limit is 30 mph, which it was at the time. I asked her exactly how fast did she think I was going? I was nearly floored by her response of “50 to 60 mph”. Being that they’re small vehicles with a short wheelbase, bikes look like they’re going a lot faster than they really are. For that matter, they feel a lot faster. 22 mph on my Airborne feels like highway speed in most cars. Anyway, I thought you might find this story amusing.

  • Joe R.

    This is NYC. After 52 years of living here there’s very little I haven’t seen in regards to silly, adhoc, even dangerous bandaids the city will try instead of fixing problems the right way. While it might be unlikely the trash cans were put there to slow down cyclists, it wouldn’t surprise me if they were.

    I’m all for a variable speed limit here via electronic signs. Make it 20 or 25 mph at peak times, maybe 30 mph during daytime off-peak hours, and get rid of it altogether between maybe 11 PM and 5 AM. Encourage the speed demons to ride during those late night hours.

  • ahwr

    Are any of the free bridges actually bottlenecks for cars? I’d think it’s the surface streets on either end.

  • ahwr

    Seattle might have a legal framework closer to NYC than Britain does.

  • stairbob

    I used to do that (in a car, on the highway), but now I just let them pass at the first opportunity (and usually get right back behind them at a safe following distance.) Pissing assholes off seems like a much worse idea with my kids in the car.

  • Bobberooni

    I’ve been drafted by a random spandex-clad stranger. I asked him politely to get off my tail, he did nothing. Then I used my “cop voice” to command him off my tail, still nothing. Then I brake-checked him — at which point he finally responded. Yea…

  • Bobberooni

    My car’s speedometer doesn’t go above 80mph, does that mean I can’t get a ticket for going anything above 80? Sorry, doesn’t fly.

  • Bobberooni

    The bridge is the bottleneck, but you encounter the traffic on the surface streets as a zillion lanes all converge onto the bridge.

  • Joe R.

    It might if we’re talking about adhering to speed limits over 80 mph, not below. Bikes are not required to have speedometers at all. The fact that many do is moot because none are professionally certified or calibrated as accurate. I’m in the electronics business where many parameters often have to be measured. If you don’t have properly calibrated equipment traceable to NIST or some other standards bureau your measurements are generally not accepted as accurate. If you don’t have any measuring equipment for a given parameter then your measurements are not accepted at all. I can’t hold up my finger and say I just measured voltage.

    A legal requirement for bikes to have speedometers would be impractical on many levels, so it will never make it into law. Without a legal requirement for a calibrated speed measuring device, cyclists have no accurate way to determine their speed. Therefore, they can’t legally be required to follow speed limits. This is exactly how I would argue a speeding ticket before a judge. I suspect if they didn’t rule 100% in my favor they might at least rule that police had to use a rather large cushion to account for variations in guestimates of speed. It might then set a precendent for automatically dismissing any tickets for less than 10 or 15 mph over the limit. That’s good enough for me. It would mean I’m safe up to 44 mph on the 30 mph arterials I typically ride on. I almost never exceed that speed anyway.

  • ahwr

    I don’t think you’ll find much support for the idea that bikes can’t and shouldn’t be subject to speeding tickets. That they shouldn’t be harassed, sure. But the idea that all infrastructure has to be built so a cyclist can go as fast as they are physically capable of travelling at all times? No.

  • Joe R.

    We’re not talking about political support. We’re talking about the simple fact that you can’t adhere to speed limits if you don’t know how fast you’re going! Why is that such a hard concept to grasp? The subway system had the same problem before speedometers were installed. There were instances of trains going too fast for the signaling system, too fast on curves, etc. because the TOs had no reliable way to determine their speed. Unlike with bikes, installation and calibration of train speedometers didn’t have any severe logistical issues. I wouldn’t even want to think about how NYC would deal with ensuring a few million bike speedometers were up to par. At best maybe you could do that on bike share bikes but those don’t go all that fast anyway.

    But the idea that all infrastructure has to be built so a cyclist can go as fast as they are physically capable of travelling at all times?

    Not all but most. If there are good practical or cost reasons for small pieces of a bike network to be substandard that’s fine but in general it’s reasonable to aim for similar design speeds as is done in the Netherlands (at least 30 kph for urban infrastructure, 40 kph for other infrastructure). Note those are minimums. In most cases the designers exceed them by a good margin because experience tells them cyclists might be going above the minimum design speeds in a given location.

  • Bobberooni

    My bike doesn’t have a speedometer, but I know how fast I’m going. It’s not that hard to figure out. In particular, I know exactly where I’d have to slow down a bit if the speed limit were 25mph.

    > If there are good practical or

    > cost reasons for small pieces

    > of a bike network to be

    > substandard that’s fine

    We’re talking about a bridge here. Exactly the kind of situation where cost considerations lead to bicycle AND automobile infrastructure that is substandard compared to the rest of the network.

  • ahwr

    QBB has four lanes inbound, 5308 vehicles 8-9am, 1327 vehicles/lane.

    Williamsburg has four lanes inbound, 3001 vehicles 8-9 am, 750 vehicles/lane.

    Manhattan has two lanes each way, plus three in the peak direction, so five inbound, 2627 vehicles 8-9am, 525 vehicles/lane.

    Brooklyn has three lanes inbound, 3468 vehicles 8-9am, 1156 vehicles/lane.

    QMT has two lanes inbound, 3849 vehicles 8-9am, 1925 vehicles/lane.

    BBT has two lanes inbound, 3106 vehicles 8-9am, 1553 vehicles/lane.

    Are you sure the Manhattan side can accept free flowing traffic of 1800 vehicles/lane out of the free bridges?