Today’s Headlines

  • De Blasio: TWU Ad Blaming Him for Subway Funding Gap “Pitiful” (Politico, News)
  • City’s Capital Plan Is Already a Stretch; Can de Blasio Afford to Pay More to MTA? (City Limits)
  • Hit-and-Run Driver Kills “Inebriated” Man, Who Died of Injuries Two Weeks Later (WPIX, Advance)
  • Owner of Grand Central Sues City Over Rezoning for Office Mega-Tower Next Door (NYT)
  • WSJ Columnist Tests Out Citi Bike, Finds NYC Isn’t Bike-Friendly Enough
  • WNYC Maps Where Citi Bike Stations Are Consistently Full or Empty
  • GE in Discussions With DOT About Piloting Sensor-Laden “Smart” Street Lights in NYC (DNA)
  • Highway Patrol Officers Sued for Excessive Force During Staten Island Traffic Stop (Post)
  • Brooklyn Spoke: NYC Should Allow Cyclists to Follow Leading Ped Signals, Like DC Does
  • Governors Island Will Get a Boost in Ferry Service From Brooklyn Next Year (DNA)
  • Is Anyone Really Surprised That Citi Bike Is Faster Than a Crosstown Helicopter? (HuffPo)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Joe R.

    It’s generally accepted worldwide that bike mode share falls off significantly if the trip takes over 30 minutes each way. It’s not a question of whether people can ride an hour or more at a leisurely pace. Sure they can. Rather, it’s that most won’t. Therefore, the only thing you can do to increase potential trip radius is to increase average speeds so you cover more in that 30 minute window. You can do this by limiting stopping, using faster equipment, or both. With velomobiles on non-stop infrastructure the potential 30 minute travel radius can be over 15 miles. So yes, ten miles can be quite doable under human power, but not with heavy, slow bikes on paths with frequent stopping.

  • OK, but ahwr said that many people are not able to ride 10 miles, not that they are not willing. It’s the bit about not being able that I was disagreeing with.

    If someone is too impatient to take an hour’s ride to work, then that is a problem with that person’s mental state, not with biking infrastructure.

  • Joe R.

    People tend to be lazy. Often even if a subway ride and a bike ride both take 30 minutes the person will opt for the subway. They might even opt for a 45 minute subway ride over a 30 minute bike ride just to not expend the effort. It’s a pity more people don’t try to extend themselves. I recall a friend of mine mentioning he started a bike ride only wanting to go a few miles. The person he was with pushed him, and he ended up going over 40 miles. Just to be clear this guy is far from a great example of physical fitness.

    Sadly, most people aren’t like you or me when it comes to bikes. At best they see riding as a chore, something to be done just to get from point A to point B. That’s why they’re not willing to spend more than 30 minutes riding. 30 minutes I’m sure is just a warm up for you, as it is for me. I start feeling good after I’m going for an hour. On a good day I can keep going at a medium to hard pace for over two hours. If I didn’t mind doing a leisurely pace, I could probably ride all day.

  • Simon Phearson

    Well, you can think that if you like, but that pretty much dials you out of any serious discussion on bike infrastructure or increasing bike modeshare. What Joe’s describing is just descriptively accurate.

  • ahwr

    Anyone who can physically ride a bike can keep it up at a leisurely pace for about an hour.

    Fair enough. So change it to some can’t physically ride a bike, and some of those who can bike won’t want to bike more than a few miles, certainly not more than ten, at least in some weather conditions. No matter how rarely they have to stop or how few car drivers and pedestrians they have to interact with. They either don’t like it or don’t want to spend the time and energy on it. But those who don’t want to bike far but are still willing to bike short distances can still have their transportation options improved with bike parking near a subway station that they currently use a bus or taxi to get to.

  • Simon Phearson

    You seem to have missed my point, while helping to demonstrate it. Sure, smart transportation policy would install facilities that would give people the option of biking to transit instead of either taking transit the whole way or biking the whole way. But that’s not what we have, nor is it anything that anyone is forcefully advocating for. So it doesn’t make sense to install bike infrastructure that relies on the assumption that no one needs to go more than a few miles at a time.

  • Simon Phearson

    It does, if you’re looking at what the average rider is willing to undertake. You might be willing to ride from Park Slope to Morningside Heights – I would probably be, as well – but most people aren’t going to do that, especially if they have transit options that can get them where they’re going faster.

  • ahwr

    So it doesn’t make sense to install bike infrastructure that relies on
    the assumption that no one needs to go more than a few miles at a time.

    Maybe I’m missing your point. There isn’t a fast place to bike or place to park your bike at a subway station today so we should build a fast place to bike and it doesn’t make sense to talk about building a place to bike that isn’t as fast even if it’s paired with parking at the subway station?

    The only multi modal accommodation I tend to hear from cycling advocates is to be allowed to bring their bike on transit.

  • Simon Phearson

    Advocates are fond of saying that cyclists don’t need to go the same speeds that car drivers do, so they’re not too concerned when we end up with bike infrastructure that tends to constrain the speeds at which cyclists can safely commute. What I’m saying is that claim relies on the assumption that no one has to go very far on their bike, which is plausible only when cities are arranged that way or when multimodal accommodations exist – e.g., safe, reliable bike parking, ways to take your bike on trains/buses, etc. But in fact we *do* have to travel fairly significant distances, and our transit system doesn’t currently have satisfactory multimodal accommodations. So the slow-riding advocates are simply wrong about the speeds that our bike infrastructure needs to handle: If we continue to build infrastructure that suits only slow riding and force cyclists to use it (which we do), then we’re effectively ensuring that people will bike less, until we address either the way that our city is arranged or the way our transit system neglects multimodal commutes.

    I’m not opposed at all to focusing efforts on building multimodal accommodations rather than bike highways. But you can’t argue against bike highways while ignoring the root conditions that drive the need to bike fast without implicitly accepting a lower bike modeshare.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    a 5 miles radius around Midtown covers a huge area

  • It’s actually the position that I am countering which removes one from conversations about bike infrastructure. If you just accept the notion that people are unwilling to ride for more than a few minutes, then you have to believe that improvements in bike infrastructure are a waste.

    Whereas I am convinced that anyone who can ride a bike can stay on it for an hour — or long enough to go from one edge of Queens or Brooklyn to the other, or from Harlem to Wall Street. And I think that a good many will do this if conditions are right. This is why I am in favour of bike lanes (even imperfect ones, and even sharrows) as a means of inducing more people to give this a shot.

  • Mike

    NYC out of Midtown has a somewhat higher density of road users than the Dutch countryside. The parallel doesn’t work.

  • Mike

    Also, if you’re riding recreationally for speed, there are very few places, if any, in NYC where that’s appropriate.

  • Simon Phearson

    But what you’re describing just doesn’t line up with reality. Most people won’t ride 10 miles to work or devote an hour of physical effort to the task. They just don’t. You can point out that they are physically able to do so, but that won’t change the way people reason about it.

    That seems likely to be the case even if you have perfect infrastructure. Back when my commute was a 9-mile minimum, I had a fully separated bike path for almost the entire length of the trip, from an affordable neighborhood into the city’s central business district. No stoplights, very few car crossings, and little in the way of pedestrian traffic. I was still pretty much one of only a handful of people who did it.

    And going further and stating that you think sharrows or inferior bike lanes will get more people out there for longer commutes – again, you’re just fighting reality. You can talk about such infrastructure conveying a message about the normalcy of bike commuting, blah blah blah, but in the end the interested but concerned rider isn’t up for it.

    There might be a way to change people’s predispositions – your argument relies on there being such a way – but the way to do that is almost certainly not going to be to morally browbeat them into suiting up and taking on a longer commute on infrastructure where they feel unsafe. Give them mileage incentives at work, provide shower and parking facilities at work, build separated infrastructure that every cyclist can feel safe using – maybe. Pointing out how they’re being lazy and overly sensitive to cycling risks? No, that’s not going to do anything.

  • Simon Phearson

    If you draw a circle around Midtown, maybe. Try tracing safe-ish bike routes from there, and see how many affordable neighborhoods you can reach.

    You can’t get from Williamsburg to midtown within five miles, for instance, much less much of the rest of Brooklyn. I live and work basically on opposite sides of the East River, and it’s still three miles for me. And those aren’t even “affordable” places to live.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    true a 5 mile radius from Midtown might mean a 7 miles ride.

    my daily ride is 3 1/2 miles one way

  • Jonathan R

    Port Authority to Grand Street & Vandervoort Ave, the most remote corner of Williamsburg, is 6.9 miles along Ridethecity’s “Safer route.”

  • D’BlahZero

    I agree that speed humps rate pretty low on the list of inconveniences to people on bikes, however they aren’t a legitimate part of any 8-80 cycling network and show a clear lack of vision on the part of DOT.

  • Joe R.

    The problem is when they’re not maintained, or not made properly in the first place. That can cause an inexperienced rider to easily fall. Besides, as several people have already said, speed humps don’t belong on bike networks. If you’re putting them in to get people on bikes to slow down, perhaps because of a conflict area with pedestrians, it might be better to just redesign the route to eliminate the conflict. Then again, NYC is great at using bandaids for many problems, instead of bothering for a proper fix.

  • Joe R.

    Maybe that will be true in certain places during rush hours, but it’s hard to see this being true citiwide for much of the day. There just aren’t enough people who might be riding at the same time to crowd bike lanes. Look in the Netherlands. Once you leave the downtowns the paths look amenable to going whatever speed you feel like.

    And then there’s e-bikes. Once NYC gets its head out of its behind and legalizes their use, you’ll see lots of people wanting to use them for trips which are longer than they’re comfortable doing under their own power. In fact, I have a gut feeling if biking gets really popular here, more people will be on e-bikes than on regular bikes. That might push the prevailing speeds on bike paths to 20 mph or more. At the very least it will force the city to properly build bike paths to allow safe passing.

    Fast riders may only seem dangerous to you now because most bike paths in NYC lack room for safe passing. That’s one of the easiest things to fix. If you or others enjoy riding like pensioners that’s your prerogative but remember this doesn’t suit everyone. A good analogy might be suppose we built sidewalks to only accommodate people like my mother who can manage 1.5 mph on a good day? They wouldn’t be very useful, would they? It would take an average walker twice as long to get anywhere. That’s much like expecting people on bikes to go 6 to 10 mph. An average rider on a heavy steel bike can go 12 or 13 mph without killing themselves. Many will go a little faster. Quite a few people in the US prefer lighter, faster bikes where 16 or 17 mph might be a relatively sedate pace. If you don’t accommodate these people on bike paths they’ll ride in the street. When people see cyclists in their way right next to a bike path, support for bike infrastructure vanishes. That’s exactly the situation we can avoid by accommodating all users, from 8 to 80 and from 6 mph up to at least 25 mph.

  • Joe R.

    It’s not places but times. Just about any street in NYC after 9 or 10 PM has hardly any users. That’s when smart people who ride for speed go out.

    NYC can accommodate fast riding, either utility or recreational, at all times of the day if it built a system of bike highways. We spent far more building car highways, despite the fact a car is a far less appropriate means of transport in a big city than a bike. It might make sense to either build brand new bike highways, or to take a lane on existing car highways for bikes.

  • Mike

    In a city with intersections as frequent as our has, going quickly is just speeding up to slow down. Or to shoot through a red — I can’t tell you how many times a cyclist running a red at speed has forced me to veer dangerously to avoid crashing my bike.

    And e-bikes should stay illegal. Or be classified as motorcycles and forced to ride with cars and motorcycles.

  • Joe R.

    NYC needs to get rid of about 90% of traffic lights. That solves the problem you mentioned. There’s no need to have a traffic signal every 250 feet. Look at your beloved Netherlands. How many traffic signals did you see once you left downtown? And most of the ones they put on bike paths are there to give bikes priority over motor vehicles. NYC has horrible infrastructure. We should fix it, not ask cyclists and pedestrians to do things which are unnatural to them because we refuse to do so. If NYC didn’t have so many red lights, perhaps cyclists wouldn’t be running them as much, dangerously or otherwise.

    And e-bikes should stay illegal. Or be classified as motorcycles and forced to ride with cars and motorcycles.

    So the people who might get on e-bikes if they were legal and classified as bikes will continue to drive dangerous motor vehicles. How exactly does this make things better except from your selfish perspective that you don’t want anyone riding faster than you on bike paths? Every other big city legalized e-bikes. NYC should too. If it can’t do so citiwide, then at least legalize them outside of the Manhattan CBD.

  • Mike

    The Netherlands is far less dense than NYC and doesn’t need traffic lights. We do, and they aren’t going anywhere. And, even in Amsterdam, people slow down to a near stop when going through a non-light intersection. Here, people zoom through reds. Yes, we have subpar infrastructure, but we also have subpar cyclists.

  • I don’t recall “morally browbeating” anyone to ride a bike, or charging that anyone was being “lazy and overly sensitive to cycling risks”; and I certainly agree that that would be an ineffective approach to changing people’s habits.

    I simply stated that the hypothetical person who can physically ride a bike but refuses to do it for an hour is not going to be swayed by any improvements in infrastructure, as the obstacle to riding exists only in that person’s mind and not in the objective universe. We therefore should not be concerned about such a person, and concentrate on reaching those who can be reached.

    Furthermore, I agree as well with all of your suggestions: bike-riding incentives at work, shower and parking facilities at work, and separated infrastructure on the streets.

    So I am not sure exactly what point you are trying to make. Also, it seems that you are not acknowledging the contradictions that you are maintaining.

    First, if you seriously believe that “interested but concerned” people won’t be persuaded to ride at all except on protected bike lanes, then you must be saying that biking as a mode of transport is impractical, because protected lanes will always be just a small fraction of the bike lanes in any city.

    And if you hold that, even given a network of protected lanes, people “just won’t” make trips of longer than a few miles (the proposition which I emphatically reject), then it would follow that there is no point in constructing these bike lanes.

    In fact, bike infrastructure comes in a spectrum. Of course separated lanes constitute the best possible case, both in terms of providing comfort and safety to those who are already riding, and in terms of inducing more people to take up cycling. Separated lanes are better than painted lanes, which are better than sharrows, which are better than no markings on the street at all.

    And it would be absurd to deny the cumulative effect of all of these lanes, an effect which manifests itself everywhere, even on streets that have no bike lane. Having ridden in Manhattan from 1981 through the present day, I can tell you in no uncertain terms that it is much better now — everywhere, even on bike-lane-less streets such as Lexington and Madison Avenues.

    Please note that this cumulative effect of bike infrastructure is evident in spheres other than the street, as well. Every time you roll your bike into a bodega without so much as a blink of an eye from the proprietor, you are seeing this effect in the culture at large. Doing this in the 1980s was impossible; in the 1990s it was possible only rarely, and then only with a great deal of schmoozing and pleading; but today it is a common occurrence.

    We’re still more-or-less on the upswing when it comes to the cultural momentum that normalises bicycling. This phenomenon certainly alters people’s perception and influences their choices. It is only when the bad actors amongst bicyclists finally piss off the general public to the point where they start taking away bike lanes that this effect will begin to wane.

  • Joe R.

    Bad infrastructure breeds bad cyclists and vice versa.

    Most of NYC is as dense or less dense than the Netherlands. You need to get out of Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn more. Manhattan in my opinion isn’t a particularly great place to encourage cycling anyway. The infrastructure is hopelessly slow unless we build viaducts. There are plenty of other transportation options. Getting someone on a bike in Manhattan most likely means they switched from public transit. In the outer boroughs you can potentially replace a lot of car trips with bike trips. That and the lower density (which is more conducive to cycling) means we should shift the focus away from Manhattan.

    Get rid of enough cars and you don’t need that many traffic lights. Granted, the political will to do so isn’t there but it’s by no means written in stone that NYC can’t get rid of most traffic signals.

  • Mike

    You’re just plain wrong about the Netherlands and density. It’s really not that dense, even just a mile out of the center of Amsterdam. They have the added advantage of almost the entire country being perfectly flat (except down by the German border). I routinely bike through areas far from Downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan (I’m assuming places like Forest Hills and Bensonhurst count). It’s not even close.

    This is what it looks like just over three miles from Amsterdam’s Central Station:,4.9696275,3a,90y,80.35h,100.87t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sCzEOTwlU15GBq35EPd4fSg!2e0!!7i13312!8i6656

    The bike lane is that second road over by the cows.

  • Joe R.

    Try biking in parts of Queens or Brooklyn which are more than a mile or two from subway stations. Forest Hills is dense because it’s near an express subway stop. You might be surprised how a lot of the eastern parts of Brooklyn and Queens look. Those are exactly the places where I think we could get a huge mode switch from bikes to cars because public transit sucks, and most trips are too long for walking (but not for biking).

    While on this subject, you’re basically making a case here, albeit unintentionally, that cycling isn’t really suited for dense places like NYC. When you shoot down all the things I show you in the Netherlands, say they can’t be done here because there’s no room, or it costs too much, then you’re basically saying the only cycling we can grudgingly accommodate is very slow cycling with frequent stopping. That means cycling is pretty much useless as a serious mode of transport other than for very short trips. But now you have to factor in that NYC is huge, so many useful trips will by definition be longer, much too long to bike, at least unless you do things to dramatically speed up bike travel times. In effect, you’ve made a good case for why bike mode share here will never get above a few percent. I’m not saying I disagree, either. If we keep doing what we’re doing, then bike mode share will stay in the cellar. If perhaps we get our heads out of our behinds, realize that for bikes to work well maybe we need to emulate what exists in the Netherlands, even if it means we have to build over streets instead of on them.

  • Mike

    I never said anything costs too much, or that cycling isn’t suited to NYC. All I’ve said is that high speed cycling isn’t suited to most of the city, and that many of our fellow cyclists ride like assholes. I’ve also pointed out that I ride a slow 11 miles to work and it’s not a big deal — it also isn’t what many would consider a short trip.

    If the golf course you’re thinking about is Marine Park, then I don’t know that putting a great path instead of the beaten up one there would make much of a difference in overall mode share. There aren’t vast numbers of people in the Rockaways, and that route doesn’t really go anywhere else.

  • Joe R.

    It’s the Kissena golf course near me.

    If you say high-speed cycling isn’t suited to the city then you’re basically saying mode share will never get over a few percent. People choose a mode partly based on travel time. With bikes physical effort factors in also. The fact you and Ferdinand do what most would consider a long bike trip at a fairly slow average speed doesn’t mean it’s something most would consider practical. You may both just enjoy riding, so time isn’t as important. Most people (that includes me) consider travel time. I ride only recreationally now but I might consider riding for travel reasons if a bike offered the same or better travel time than alternatives. On most of my usual trips it doesn’t. I’m 35 to 45 minutes from midtown by subway (Q64 to Forest Hills, E/F to Manhattan). During most of the day, it would take over an hour to bike. In fact, it would take over an hour even late nights if I biked legally, stopping at every red light. I don’t have an extra hour to kill for the round trip, nor would I want to be on roads full of auto exhaust for that long. This is how most people think.

    Now build some good local bike infrastructure (i.e. protected lanes) for the “last mile”, plus some non-stop bike highways to cover most of trip, and that calculus changes. If I can get to midtown from where I am in 30-35 minutes or less by bike, then that’s what I’ll use most of the time.

    How many of those “assholes” you see are likely delivery people being paid by the delivery? That’s another thing we could fix yesterday by requiring that delivery people be paid by the hour. These people have a financial interest to ride like that.

    Worth a mention also while on the subject of asshole cyclists-you probably didn’t see many in the Netherlands precisely because they weren’t hamstrung by miles of dense, slow roads. If you really see cows 3 miles from Amsterdam’s center then people who like to ride fast only have to tolerate a little slow riding to get where they can highball to their heart’s content. Not so in NYC. You have the cycling equivalent of road rage precisely because there are few places within easy reach where a cyclist can get it all out of their system. Again, this makes the case for my bike highways.

  • BBnet3000

    Say they make it a curbside lane, and anyone who criticizes it for not being elevated to half-height or protected with a curb, flex-posts, or armadillos is ignored or told they aren’t considering “the big problem” (which is always what to do with the cars or how to get people to stop driving rather than how to make cycling better).

    Now what? This lane is constantly parked in, intruded on, and narrowed by drivers putting one side of their car into it. I use it solely because its “better than Jay Street”, but I think we all know how low that bar is set.