Today’s Headlines

  • Curb-Jumping Driver Kills Woman, Critically Injures 2-Year-Old in Richmond Hill (NYT, WCBS, WNBC)
  • City Government Drivers Have Killed Zero People in Past 12 Months (News)
  • MTA Releases Draft Concept for $400 Million VNB Bike-Ped Paths (Advance, AMNY, News)
  • Police Release Video of College Point Blvd Hit-and-Run Driver Who Killed Mariano Contreras (DNA)
  • De Blasio Tweets About Hylan Boulevard Pedestrian Deaths (Advance)
  • Bergen County Sheriff: “Let’s Face It, Vehicles Are Weapons” (WCBS)
  • More Coverage of Cuomo’s Latest Salvo at de Blasio Over MTA Funding (Politico, News, Observer)
  • City Planning Commission Expected to Sign Off on S.I. Wheel Changes, Which Keep Parking (Advance)
  • Gothamist Talks About the Evils of Shoaling
  • Forgot Your Keys? Citi Bike Members Have a New Perk (Citi Bike Blog)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Mike

    Shoaling is terrible. Just exercise some patience and line up behind the stopped bikes at any given intersection. It’s not hard.

  • bolwerk

    A little off-topic maybe, but if you want to vote in next year’s party primary you better register with your party by Friday.

  • r

    Did people coming up Chrystie Street see this today?

  • Nick Ober

    Could the VNB afford to simply lose one traffic lane on the lower level? The MTA could create a two-directional bike lane with some bollards or lightweight water-filled plastic barriers for virtually nothing.

  • Jesse

    For that Bergen County article the complete quote is a bit more disappointing:

    “You can’t assume anything. Let’s face it, vehicles are weapons. Pedestrians out there, you can’t assume that someone is going to stop for you,” he said. “Stop that text, stop that cell phone use until you’re on the sidewalk.”

    In other words: Vehicles are weapons; for those of you who are unarmed, it is your responsibility to be on guard.

  • Jeff

    I’ve never been a fan of the whole “vehicles are weapons” thing. I mean, most things can be used as a weapon. And while it may seem to us sometimes that the primary purpose of an automobile is to make honking noises and terrorize pedestrians, the primary purpose is still transportation. I don’t call my computer monitor a “weapon” just because I could throw it at someone’s head and kill them.

  • mattkime

    eh, is a spandex clad racer obligated to wait behind someone on a beach cruiser? it seems to me that rules of politeness assume that everyone is traveling at the same speed when there are often big differences.

  • Ollie Oliver

    A baseball bat’s main purpose is to hit baseballs in a fun game. But if you use it to intimidate or beat the crap out of someone it’s a weapon. There’s a reason bars keep a bat under the counter rather than just depending on the bottles behind them. A recent headline talked about someone using their car to force their way through construction workers closing the street, no different than using a bat to mug someone. But the driver was charged with “leaving the scene of an accident.”

    So if you use it as a weapon it should get treated as one. But that’s not what happens right now.

  • qrt145

    I don’t shoal, but I’ve always assumed that the real motivation is not to get ahead of other people, but wanting to stop ahead of the crosswalk, to have a head start on cars and possibly to run the red light.

  • Simon Phearson

    I do. All I ask of the shoalers-to-the-front is – be off your phones and ready to go when the light turns green. If we can get off to a good start, I can cut around you as necessary.

  • Mike

    Yes, they are obligated to wait. I ride a slow bike, but I generally down shift at lights so that I can pull away quickly. I have no desire to be stuck behind some spandex guy trying and failing to clip in to his pedal.

  • Mike

    That’s a terrible place to stop. Generally, you’re blocking (or making things uncomfortable/unsafe) for cyclists coming into the intersection from a perpendicular direction when you stop your bike past the crosswalk. Like shoaling, it’s selfish behavior that demonstrates a total disregard for the safety of other road users.

  • Jeff

    I get that it makes sense to call it a weapon when it’s being used as a weapon. When a motorist bullies their way into a lane I’m occupying, I absolutely see myself as an unarmed individual being assaulted by an armed individual. But similarly to a baseball bat, I don’t think it’s fair to label it as a weapon in general.

  • J_12

    I think it’s reasonable if you consider that most “weapons” require deliberate action to use them to harm people. Even guns require you to load them, aim them, and pull a trigger (not to say accidents don’t happen, but you have to have at least taken several steps toward using the gun in order to have it misfire.)

    Drivers can injure or kill people through simple inattention or distraction because they are operating cars in places where they will by necessity mix with other people (whether in their own cars or not.) This makes motor vehicles fundamentally more dangerous than other weapons. It’s as if lots of people were running around with loaded guns in their hands and random distractions could lead them to pull the trigger.

  • Maggie

    Did the MTA sandbag this study? Last year’s estimate for this was $50 million, if I recall correctly. Staten Island is never going to be able to develop its appeal as a destination for millennials and artistic/creative types without providing better walkability and bikeability.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    I would argue the moment a driver exceeds 25 MPH on a NYC street he has transformed his 4,000lbs Machine into a deadly weapon with responsibilty/liability akin to tsomeone “safely” shooting at a target on Fifth Avenue.

  • Jesse

    I don’t really think the “waiting in line” concept always applies in the street. One of the more absurd complaints that drivers have about cyclists is that cyclists filter up to the light when the cars are all stopped. I’ve heard it called “cutting in line”. I think really what bothers them is the fact that they thought they had passed that irritating cyclist but now they’ll have to suffer through tapping the brake and maybe even moving the steer wheel 2 degrees (the horror!). That and jealousy.

    But of course if you’re on a bike it’s ridiculous to wait. You are smaller than a car so you can coast up on the right. And when traffic is moving, that’s exactly where drivers want you to be! The bike’s size is advantageous to everyone.

    I’m not saying that shoaling could never be rude but the context matters and it’s certainly possible to move in front of a cyclist waiting at a light without being rude. Hard and fast rules are great for cars because they’re so big, clumsy and dangerous but I think people on bikes are nimble enough that they can handle some nuance.

  • The speed of travel doesn’t enter into it. The point here is not that the fast rider is obligated to ride behind a slow rider; passing in a safe way while riding is perfectly fine.

    But when stopped at a red light, riders should just wait at the intersection in the order that they got there.

  • Exactly right. The cause of “shoaling” dovetails with all the other bad behaviours of the bicyclists who make us all look bad. These idiots don’t even acknowledge their responsibility to stop at a red light. So, when they see another cyclist stopped at a light and sitting behind the stop line, they just scoff at that person and pass him/her.

    Recently it happened that I was stopped at a red light on westbound Montrose Ave. at Bushwick Ave. where there was no space between me and the line of stopped cars on my left, and a cyclist came up behind me saying “excuse me, excuse me”, presumably expecting me go or to move out of the way to let him through. I told this guy that it was a red light, and we both just had to wait.

    This guy wasn’t displaying a “sense of entitlement”, in the negative sense. (I don’t even like to use that term as an insult. I typically reclaim the term: damn right I as a bicyclist have a sense of entitlement to the road, because I am entitled to use the road.) His was a sense of “I am the only person who matters”, a truly contemptable trait.

  • stairbob

    What I find is rude is when I’ve just passed a cyclist going clearly slower than me, and they see fit to make me pass them again once the light changes.

  • Joe R.

    I very rarely even encounter other bikes the times I ride, much less come up behind one stopped at a red light. That said, I think it’s a lot more complicated than that. The first issue might be can the red light be safely passed? If the answer is no, the most of the justification for getting to the head of the line, namely because you intend to pass a red light other cyclists choose to wait at, doesn’t exist. On a practical note, I highly doubt this scenario comes into play much because the vast majority of cyclists will in fact not be waiting at a red light if it’s safe to proceed through.

    That brings us to scenario number two, which is one where you’ve been gaining on a cyclist or group of cyclists, and eventually intend to pass them, but the red light isn’t safe to go through. You might still want to get to the head of the pack for that reason, but more polite behavior would dictate that you stop alongside the first cyclist in the pack, not in front of them. After all, the person you thought might have been a slow cyclist may have just been taking it easy for a few blocks because he/she saw congestion ahead, and intends to take off like a dragster once the light changes. Stopping in front of them would obviously be an impediment. So stopping next to them is prudent. If indeed this person is just slow, you can quickly get ahead when the light changes. If the reverse turns out to be true, they’ll probably get ahead of you. If you’re both more or less equal, there might be a little negotiation through body language as to who gets ahead, but in general that’s a worst case scenario.

    Scenario number three is when you happen to catch up to a faster cyclist, or group of faster cyclists, at a red light. Here I feel it makes no sense to cut the line, or even worse to stop in front of the first cyclist, only to have them try to pass once the light changes. This is probably where “shoaling” starts to fall into the category of extremely rude behavior. It should be standard cyclist etiquette that faster cyclists pass on the left, slower cyclists move as far right as safely practical, especially when they know someone wants to pass them, and slower cyclists don’t repeatedly get ahead of faster cyclists, forcing the faster cyclist to pass them over and over again.

    All that said, shoaling and stopping in a crosswalk full of pedestrians, or even worse sticking partially out into an intersection, shouldn’t enter the equation. I’ll admit I may filter forward past a line of stopped cars, and stop just short of the cross street in cases where I can’t actually safely pass the red light, but I never do this if people are in or soon to enter the crosswalk. My rationale for doing this when the crosswalk is clear is simply to get past the intersection, and out of the way of motor vehicles, before they start moving. I’ll typically start moving as soon as cross traffic stops. Most drivers take a second or two to react to a green light. By then I’m already well across the intersection, out of the way of drivers jockeying around. That’s the last place any cyclist wants to be.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    30,000 dead Americans every year might disagree

  • Mike

    This may not be an issue when you ride, but if you commute during rush hour, it’s a huge issue. Way too many cyclists ride in ways that are inconsiderate and potentially dangerous to their fellow cyclists.

  • Mike

    I meant that cyclists should wait in the line of bicycles, not the line of cars.

  • Joe R.

    Was this red light one which the cyclist could have safely passed? I’m only asking because I might personally put what you did in the rude category if you stop at an empty intersection in such a way that other cyclists can’t go around you if they choose, provided there’s room for that. I generally make a point the rare times I physically stop for a red light to allow a bit of room for others to pass on my left. I even do this in situations where in my judgement the red light isn’t safe for a cyclist to pass. If someone else wants to run it, who am I to act as a traffic cop and block them from doing so?

    I equate not letting people pass if there’s room for it to be the same as people who go 55 mph in the left lane, and/or repeatedly switch lanes to prevent faster drivers from going around them. You can do what you like as far as red lights go. If you want to stop at an empty intersection at 3AM it’s your prerogative. I just don’t think any cyclist should be dictating what others do. If it’s at all possible to let someone who wants to pass get by, then do so. If it isn’t then that’s another story. If there just wasn’t room to safely pass you, then yes, the cyclist was a jerk for even trying. If there was and you just sat in the middle of the space intentionally, then you might want to rethink your behavior should this occur again.

  • Mike

    I’m not sure that this is even possible. How big a bike would you need to block an empty intersection to the point another bike couldn’t go around? Also, I don’t think we get to be critical of cyclists actually obeying traffic laws.

  • Joe R.

    I avoid walking, riding on trains, buses, or bikes, period, when it’s rush hour. To me that’s just a horrible, stressful time to be traveling. In this day and age where we can stagger hours, have nonconventional work weeks, have more people telecommuting, I’m not seeing why so-called rush hour should even exist any more. It’s a throwback to the days of shift work in factories. It’s a shame employers largely haven’t gotten past that mentality.

    I also think a secondary issue here is the city failing to keep up with the rise in bike usage. It might be time to make the cycle lanes on Manhattan Avenues 10 or even 15 feet wide. That would fix a lot of the problems you mention. When there’s a shortage of space, people in general revert to reptilian behavior. That’s true whether they walk, bike, or drive. We should devote more space in Manhattan to pedestrians and cyclists, less to motor vehicles.

  • vnm

    Recently, I’ve been get mildly annoyed when people shoal me, but only now that I know it’s a thing to be annoyed by. The way I look at it, it’s still not as bad as when someone is leaning against the subway pole when I’m looking for a hand-hold.

  • Joe R.

    No, at 3 AM this is a nonissue. On the other hand, it’s easy to see someone during peak times stop for a red light smack in the middle of a 5′ or 6′ protected bike lane, preventing other cyclists from getting by, even though they could by stopping on to the right instead.

    I personally couldn’t care less if any cyclist obeys traffic laws or not, same as I couldn’t care less what speed they choose to ride at. It only becomes an issue if they try to force their choices on other cyclists. Bikes aren’t that big. It’s really easy in nearly all circumstances to allow another cyclist to get by you for whatever reason. Even as a faster rider, I stay pretty cognizant of anything gaining on me. If it happens to be another bike, I try to allow them to pass as soon as I safely can.

  • Mike

    Most people don’t have a choice of when to commute. So, while it isn’t ideal, it’s reality. We should speak of reality, not some ideal place.

    10 foot wide bike lanes aren’t necessary — behavioral change is necessary. Look at Amsterdam, where there are many more cyclists. The lanes there aren’t extra wide. Instead, people ride in a civilized manner.

  • Mike

    I disagree with the underlying mentality you seem to have. Cyclists shouldn’t have total freedom to make whatever choice they want at an intersection. We should be bound by rules that lead to as safe an overall system as possible.

  • djx

    “I avoid walking, riding on trains, buses, or bikes, period, when it’s rush hour. ”

    Good for you. Congratulations.

  • Joe R.

    I didn’t say that. I just said if it’s at all possible to allow another cyclist to pass you without compromising your own safety then it’s the polite thing to do. Same thing if a motor vehicle is trying to pass you. There are times I’ve taken the lane and cars just had to follow behind at my speed. I wasn’t being a rude jerk but the street just didn’t have room for them to safely pass me. However, the second I could move to the right to let them by I did. In most cases they only were behind me for a half a block until I could let them by. I almost never heard honking or other signs of impatience in these situations. On the other hand, I’ve seen other cyclists take the lane and stay in it for blocks with a line of angry, honking motorists behind them. They did this even when they could have safely let these vehicles pass. That’s what I mean by rude behavoir.

  • djx

    If people shoal me and get away fast, without slowing me down, I don’t care. If they do it and then actually get in my way when the light changes, it annoys me a great deal.

  • Joe R.

    The absolute worst possible thing we can do is to expect people to do certain things in order for a system to function safely or efficiently. As an engineer I can’t emphasize this enough. “Operator error” has been the cause of more mishaps than anything else. You try to engineer a system to minimize the consequences of operator error. In the case of bikes, if unsafe passing is causing issues you give more room to pass. If cyclists not obeying red lights is an issue, you engineer the need to stop for safety out of the system (i.e. grade separation). If pedestrians spilling into bike lanes causes issues for people cycling, you either install a fence, or move the bike lane away from close proximity to pedestrian facilities.

    People “doing what they’re supposed to do” only works until it doesn’t. We’re coming up against that right now with motor vehicles. A change in infrastructure to minimize the consequences of errors is worth 100 times as much effort trying to get people to change behavior. I’ve found in general you have little luck with that. When I design things, I assume the person will do the most stupid thing at the worst possible time, and plan accordingly. In the end, that makes for a much more robust system than expecting people to always unerringly follow some script. People are really bad at that.

  • Joe R.

    A lot more people could do it too if employees started pushing for it. Management needs to get out of their industrial era mentality. That’s all I’m saying. You’ll always have some number who can’t, but I think we can greatly reduce the impact of rush hour. It’ll be better for transit systems as well where you won’t need to have extra capacity you only use for a few hours per day.

  • Joe R.

    Exactly, although given how rarely I even encounter other riders this probably only happened to me once or twice. Still, it made enough of an impression for me to consider it very annoying. I typically like to jump right up to 20 mph once I’m clear. This is mostly to get the heck away from the pack of cars. When I get stuck behind someone coasting up to speed, that basically means being stuck in a big mess of cars going every which way.

  • bicyclebelle

    Intersections with bike boxes put all cyclists in a line out front of the cars for a reason. That’s where I want to be at every red light, bike box or not, so that I’m through the intersection by the time the cars get into it. I am not going to wait in line behind other cyclists, crammed next to giant vehicles likely to turn blindly into me, just for some false idea of politeness. I can share the width of the road with other riders and they can share it with me. I’m sick of the shaming of behavior that makes us safer.

  • Joe R.

    Thank you for mentioning this. I too want to be right in front of all the cars when the light goes green for the same reasons. I was actually taken aback at all this critical discussion of cyclists just doing something which to me makes all the sense in the world, and especially at inventing a name for it which implies it’s merely just rude behavior. As I said, it’s a lot more complicated than that.

  • I was stopped in the space between the stopped cars and the parked cars. Due to the width of the street, there was not enough room on either side of me for another bike to pass.

    Furthermore, whether passing the light would have been physically possible is uttlerly beside the point. I was stopped. This was not only in keeping with the requirements of the law, but it was in keeping with my ethical obligation to bicyclists’ general interest (namely: the obligation to not earn bicyclists even more contempt from the general public than we already have by staging a public display of arrogant disregard for the law). While I cannot prevent other people from violating these obligations, I certainly am not going to enable and abet someone’s bad behaviour; and it is beyond absurd to suggest that.

    So I will “rethink” nothing regarding this. Our obligation to follow the law is clear. Those who need to rethink are those who provide self-serving rationalisations for anti-social behaviour, and those who advocate the idea that bicyclists have the right to unilaterally disregard the law at their own convenience.

  • Joe R.

    Fair enough—there wasn’t room for him to pass you, and he was a jerk for trying to get by. You weren’t doing anything wrong or rude here, he was.

    I don’t however consider letting someone go by you to run a red light if there’s room for it as abetting bad behavior. It’s always prudent to allow room for something to pass if it’s at all possible. It might not be a commuter/delivery cyclist running a red light, but a cop on a bike answering a call. The time it takes you to tell the difference, then get out of the way, could be life or death. Or maybe the cyclist behind you is getting out of the way of an out of control car. The point is it’s the scenarios you can’t think of which make allowing room to pass you when you’re stopped a good idea.

  • If there is no bike box at the intersection, then placing yourself in front of the cars puts you well over the stop line, and perhaps into the crosswalk. That’s bad behaviour; and it should be criticised sharply.

    It’s this kind of arrogance which makes pedestrians feel vulnerable to bicyclists, and which turns them from our allies into our enemies.

    I am perfectly willing to denounce pedestrians who walk in a bike lane or who walk on the bike paths of the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges. But pedestrians have a perfect right to cross with the light in the crosswalk. Anyone who impedes that right, even on a bicycle, is doing something wrong.

  • bicyclebelle

    Funny. I didn’t say I stop in the crosswalk or take pedestrians’ rights of way. I have no problem with complaining about that behavior- I feel strongly about those- but that is not what this thread is complaining about. That was my point. Talk about real issues.

  • Joe R.

    Let me tell, as someone who has been around the block dealing with getting people to do what they’re “supposed to”, that in general it’s a lesson in futility. People are going to do whatever is most efficient and convenient for them. In NYC that means pedestrians and cyclists will pass red lights, pedestrians will walk in bike lanes if the sidewalk is too crowded, cyclists will ride on sidewalks if the street is unsafe, everyone will consider their need to go faster more important than everyone else’s. Good luck trying to shame people into changing what they do. We’ve tried to legislate morality on other levels for millenia. Look at the drug wars. Big waste of trillions of dollars. I say legalize and tax the stuff. Same with prostitution, same with just about every other behavior which doesn’t overtly harm anyone but the person engaging in it. The nanny state which prevents people from harming themselves is a massive failure.

    The streets are a gray area. You obviously can’t let anarchy reign because larger, heavier faster vehicles are harmful to others. You need some sort of order. However, I submit that this order is best imposed by infrastructure, steel and concrete, not behavioral expectations. The latter can’t work in NYC because it’s a multicultural city. Behavioral norms aren’t consistent across the board. In general, trying to change these norms across the board is a failure. That’s doubly true in NYC with a constant influx of immigrants. Therefore, infrastructure is the answer. Give each user infrastructure which is optimal for their mode, and they will want to use it. No more bikes on sidewalks or pedestrians in bike lanes. More importantly, inherently engineer in safety. If a group has poor red light compliance then don’t try to fix that. Instead, engineer out the need to stop at red lights for safety. If excessive speeds are the problem, design so someone driving too fast will become part of the scenery. The nice thing is infrastructure functions as both an enabler and a full-time enforcer. You’re idea has been tried, over and over again, since man started walking erect. If it had any chance at succeeding, we would have long ago been living in paradise.

  • Joe R.

    Some good may still come of it. This enforcement initiative may well discover that drivers are failing to do what is required of them a lot more than pedestrians. Maybe next time it will be more like: “You can’t assume anything. Let’s face it, vehicles are weapons. Drivers out there, you can’t assume that someone crossing knows you can’t see them because you’re looking at your phone. Stop that text, stop that cell phone use until you’re parked.”

  • sbauman

    Very easily, thanks to Al D’Amato. When he required the MTA to institute a round trip toll in the Staten Island Direction, westbound traffic decreased. The peak hour eastbound (free) direction total divided by 6 lanes is greater than the peak westbound ($16) direction total divided by 5 lanes.

    Water filled plastic barriers are probably a bad idea. Water expands as it freezes – breaking the plastic. Water is also heavy. Light weight hollow metal jersey barriers bolted to the bridge deck are a better choice. You can buy and install enough of them for $300 million to continue the path across Staten Island and into New Jersey.

  • sbauman

    The big engineering difference between this approach is that the path will be cantilevered outboard of the bridge. The previous approach located the path between the vertical suspender cables like the GWB. This was the intent of the VNZ’s designer before Moses raised his hand and the paths departed.

  • Maggie

    I’m bemused that ‘city government drivers haven’t killed anyone in a year’ shows up as a vision zero press release… but hey, great job. I’ll take it.