Today’s Headlines

  • Hit-and-Run Cabbie Kills Woman on First Ave (Post, Gothamist)
  • NYPD Sends Tough Message to Cop Involved in Drunken Hit-and-Run… Wait, Scratch That (News)
  • Will the Port Authority Rush Into a Bad Design for the New Midtown Bus Terminal? (MTR)
  • Getting the 2nd Ave Subway Running This Year Seems Unlikely (2nd Ave Sagas)
  • Developer Shifts Location of 86th St. 2nd Ave Subway Station From Building Interior to Sidewalk (DNA)
  • The Myrtle-Wyckoff L Station Smells Strongly of Human Sewage Because Sewage Leaks Into It (News)
  • Dangerous Manhattan Bridge Exit Won’t Stay Open 24/7 Any More (Bklyn Paper)
  • The Struggle to Control Flooding on a Hamilton Beach Block By Building a Shared Street (QChron)
  • No More Car Lanes Until Drivers Start Obeying the Law (Advance)
  • Driver Smashes Up Sheepshead Bay Flower Shop (News)
  • Damned Bike Lanes (Gothamist)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Is there a glitch with this TransAlt Petition ?

  • Jeff

    Honestly, that stop sign behavior in the Advance video doesn’t look all that bad to me. At least I can say I’ve seen much worse at other intersections. I guess the whole “rolling stop” thing only because a problem when a motorist’s presumption that they will be able to do so precludes a pedestrian’s right-of-way (and this can be a big, big problem–I’ve had a motorist honk and scream at me for deigning to cross at a crosswalk at which they had a stop sign which they figured they’d be able to “roll through”.).

  • Andres Dee

    The James Court Hamilton Beach story is worthy of attention. There’s the fundamental question of the neighborhood’s sustainability. But the shared street controversy presents an opportunity for innovation. Courtesy of Street View, this block barely has sidewalks to begin with. Rather than fight for the status quo or give up the sidewalks, how about something like a “woonerf”?

  • BBnet3000

    That’s kind of the point though. Most behavior by people cycling isn’t all that bad either, but the suggestion that no new cycling facilities should be built until everyone cycling follows the letter of the law is made frequently.

  • AMH

    Interesting story about restoring F express service in Brooklyn, complete with some ridiculous quotes from clueless officials.

  • Joe R.

    Yeah, that “reduce commuting time by 45 minutes” quote is rather ridiculous. On the Queens Boulevard line, which is what I’m familiar with, the locals take 20 minutes to go from Forest Hills to Queens Plaza. The expresses only make one intermediate stop, and take 12 to 14 minutes. Granted, the MTA runs express trains in general a lot slower than it should, but assuming the expresses accelerated to 55 mph and stayed there, the run couldn’t physically be done in less than maybe 8 minutes. So that’s a maximum potential savings of 12 minutes over the local in theory. In realty right now the savings is 6 to 8 minutes. The F express run might be nearly twice as long distance-wise, but at best the potential time savings is probably on the order of 20 to 25 minutes. The way the MTA usually runs expresses (slow as you know what) it’s likely 10 minutes tops.

  • Unfortunately, pointing out the illogic of those kinds of claims with respect to bicycles will never stop such claims from being made. The people who advance that argument are too deep in their own privilege to see the comparison.

    That’s the nature of being in a hegemonic group (drivers) versus being in a marginalised group (cyclists). The hegemonic group controls the norms of the society; its invented version of reality is widely accepted even when it runs directly counter to what is objectively true. So this assertion about bicycles will continue to be made, despite its being nonsense. The maddening thing is that no amount of explaining why it is nonsense will ever have any effect.

    The problem here in the New York City area is that drivers actually believe that they are entitled to roll past stop signs. And they hold the same belief regarding stopping ahead of the stop line at intersections, and even stopping within a crosswalk.

    Last summer I spent six days riding around Philadelphia. And, to my great surprise, I found that that sort of driver misbehaviour does not tend to occur there. In Philly, drivers actually stop at stop signs. They even come to a full stop before making a right on red. Compare that to the Long Island lunkheads who terrorise pedestrians by not stopping at the red light before turning right.

    Philly drivers can actually be counted on to act legally at intersections. What’s more, entirely absent in the streets of that city is the overall level of menace and intimidation to which we cycilsts and pedestrians in the New York area have become accustomed.

    This experience taught me that drivers’ lawbreaking on a massive scale is not inherent to a big-city setting. When we realise that drivers in a city that is famous for booing Santa Claus are noticeably more civilised than our drivers, we have to conclude that there is something very wrong with our local culture.

    Around the country many people think that New Yorkers are rude assholes. My stay in Philly made me understand that the people who hold this opinion might just have a point.

  • Simon Phearson

    Drivers in Chicago are no better than NYC drivers, in my experience, when it comes to traffic law observance.

    What’s funny about this particular “sting” and your complaint about “rude” New Yorkers is that these drivers are rolling through a stop sign at a T intersection where there is no car traffic turning onto the street. When no children are present, it appears that a rolling stop is a fairly safe thing to do, and drivers likely perceive it correctly as such. Once again, it’s just people responding to the infrastructure that’s been built. When you attempt to stop traffic when there’s no one to stop for… people don’t stop.

  • And yet the Philly drivers make actual stops at stop signs, even when there are no pedestrians crossing in front of them. I certainly didn’t expect to see that.

    Furthermore, the other behaviours which we see in the New York area but not in Philadelphia (stopping at a red ahead of a stop line; stopping at a red within a crosswalk; making a right on red without stopping) are not harmless, and are inherently rude.

  • Joe R.

    Here is a good article describing the fundamental differences between American society and places like Europe:

    Here in the US, we’ll often flout the law if we see it makes no sense, as is the case with drivers rolling some stop signs and cyclists rolling red lights at empty intersections. In other countries people often obey the law for its own sake, even when it makes no sense.

  • Simon Phearson

    There’s no such thing as “inherently rude.” That is an evaluative judgment that begs a normative framework. Similarly, there is no such thing as an action being inherently “harmless” without specifying an entity capable of being harmed. If no one is in a crosswalk or attempting to cross, no one is harmed by stopping in it. Not even the “dignity of the law” or whatever metaphysical woo-woo you are likely to cite as being “harmed” in such a case.

  • neroden

    Philly is pretty normal in this regard. In most cities, most motorists actually do stop at stop signs. And they stop at red lights before turning right-on-red.

    Even in Chicago.

    Yes, you do have something especially wrong going on in New York. Boston drivers are just as bad, but the cops are more likely to ticket them.

  • neroden

    Scofflaw NYC drivers routinely stop in the middle of crosswalks when there are *hundreds of people* crossing the street.

    This is not normal, and it is inherently dangerous.

  • Larry Littlefield

    So how many F trains would make the local stops inbound of Church in the AM peak?

    I didn’t see anything about that in the article.

  • Simon Phearson

    I realize. That is not what is happening in the Advance video, however.

    But I would say that even the drivers stopping in crowded midtown crosswalks are responding, in their way, to the way that our intersections are designed and regulated. As drivers like to complain, there are many places where it is simply impossible to proceed lawfully given the density of pedestrian traffic. That’s not to excuse behavior that puts other people at risk (as I realize it does), but it is symptomatic less of an inherent, citywide disrespect for others than it is what rational people try to do in a difficult situation created by our DOT.

  • The problematic part is frequently people flout the law when they don’t understand the reasons for it, even if those reasons are valid and important.

  • Seth Rosenblum

    There’s an error with the 5th headline. The story is about the 86th street station on the 4/5/6, not on second avenue.

  • Joe R.

    Drivers more so than pedestrians and cyclists simply because being in a 2-ton metal cage tends to shield you from the consequences of failing to follow valid laws.

  • Maggie

    WSJ had a writeup today on New Rochelle looking to revamp its downtown to become more walkable and transit-oriented.

    I think it’s paywalled, but from the article: “Other improvements requested by residents included improved streetscapes, a pedestrian mall, bike lanes, the establishment of a downtown cultural retail and entertainment district and a food hall.”

    The renderings don’t really scream walkability to me though.

  • AMH

    In my experience, the “South Philly Slide” is pretty common, but streets are narrow enough and speed and traffic are low enough that it works. Parking is also banned at corners so that everyone can see each other before there is a conflict.

    In a lot of smaller cities, however, drivers will hurtle full-speed into the crosswalk before slamming on the brakes to check for traffic. The existence of pedestrians does not even occur to them.

  • While I did get to South Philly in my travels, I suppose that more of my riding was done in North Philly and Northeast Philly, for example on the bike lanes on Torresdale, Aramingo, Lehigh, Allegheny, and Rising Sun Avenues, and also on non-bike-laned streets such as Frankford, Cottman, and Bustleton Avenues. This shot on Bustleton illustrates what you said about parking being banned at corners:,-75.0647459,3a,48.2y,244.24h,83.85t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sxdEt3RVvj2x6k8rtojtYHg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!5m1!1e3

    I hope to get back down to Philly this summer, so that I can see whether my experience will be the same.

  • AnoNYC

    It’s paywalled but New Rochelle needs to encourage more mixed use development downtown to achieve walkability.

  • Just cut out this nonsense. Each individual is not entitled to make the judgement about whether not stopping at a stop sign is “fairly safe”. If a stop sign is present, then every driver is required to stop at it. Someone who elects not to do this is committing misconduct.

    Perhaps you’re straining to be consistent with your rejection of the idea that bicyclists have a duty to follow the traffic law. Nothing else could explain the absurd and offensive assertion that drivers are causing no harm by blowing a stop sign — or even by stopping within a crosswalk at a red light — when no pedestrians are present.

    Even if no pedestrians are crossing at a given moment, such misdeeds are witnessed by other drivers, who are encouraged to replicate them. And these acts are noticed by people on the street, who then feel compelled by fear of injury to adjust their own behaviour as pedestrians in response to this now-normalised driver aggression.

    All of this creates a downward spiral in which the antisocial aggressors are rewarded for their misconduct. The result that we see is that a social norm emerges by which mandatory constraints on drivers are increasingly seen as optional. Drivers’ sense of entitlement grows such that these sociopaths actually feel aggrieved by being told to follow the law. It would be comical if it weren’t tragic.

    The recourse of someone who dislikes the placement of a stop sign, a stop line, a crosswalk, etc. is to petition his/her legislators to get those conditions changed. That person certainly may not simply ignore the law based on his/her own unilateral declaration of “lack of harm”. To even make such a ridiculous argument is embarassing.

  • Joe R.

    Of course a petition to have an offending stop sign, stop line, traffic signal, speed bump, and so forth removed is the proper response if we lived in a rational world. I’m not disagreeing with anything you wrote in particular but the hard fact is that there is some truth to what Simon wrote. Often it’s not just that a driver made a judgement that not stopping at a stop sign if safe, but in fact it is safe because lines of sight are such that a complete stop just isn’t needed to ascertain if it’s safe to proceed. Here the fault, if there is any, lies partially with the driver but mostly with the state for improperly using a stop sign when a yield sign would do. Same thing in many cases where a traffic signal is used when a stop or yield sign would work fine. The end result of that blatant misuse of a traffic signal is cyclists, and to a lesser extent motorists, ignoring red lights.

    It’s often said drivers in Europe are MUCH more law-abiding than in the US. To some extent stricter training and enforcement have something to do with it. However, the primary reason is traffic controls in Europe are mostly used properly. You hardly see stop signs there. You see far fewer traffic signals. Speed limits on expressways usually reflect the speed it’s really safe to drive at, rather than some lower limit set by legislators who thought it was “safe”, or perhaps just to derive revenue from speeding tickets.

    Put in layman’s terms, we treat drivers in the US like children who must be micromanaged every second. When they act accordingly it should come as no surprise. The real danger from the arbitrary use of traffic controls comes during those rare times when they are used properly. If 99 out of 100 stop signs are improperly used, you get lulled into the habit of rolling through. The 1 time out of 100 where it isn’t safe causes problems. I am in favor of a petition—a petition to get DOTs across the country to stop misusing traffic controls, then to remove all those which were improperly used. Traffic signals or stop signs are NOT speed control devices, for example. They have a very specific set of circumstances where they’re needed. I’ll bet if you analyzed every intersection in NYC, you would find 95% of the traffic signals and stop signs could safely be replaced with less restrictive traffic controls.

  • Simon Phearson

    I’m just pointing out the simple and ineluctable logic inherent in describing an activity as “rude” or “harmful.” Rolling through a stop sign when no conflicting traffic is present does not cause a harm, and to call it “rude” presumes a normative framework you’ve never justified. Encouraging other drivers to roll through stop signs also is not a “harm,” your speculative hand-waving on the point notwithstanding.

    If anyone is straining here, it is apparent in your constant attempts to conflate traffic law violations with moral condemnations. So, to clarify: A cyclist rolling through a T-intersection stop light is generally violating the law and is not legally entitled to do so. The same goes for a driver rolling through a stop sign at a T-intersection. But when no person is or is reasonably foreseen to be injured or even minutely delayed by those actions, the actions are not appreciably “harmful.” And, as far as I’m concerned, I have zero interest in morally condemning that behavior as “rude” or the persons in question as morally “entitled” to so act because, unlike you, I put the human good ahead of absolute adherence to the law.

  • “Adherence to the law” and “human good” are not fundamentally at odds.

    Nobody apart from a true fascist would claim that the responsibility to obey the law is absolute. When a law is morally repugnant or when it promotes violations of human rights, then disobeying that law is the correct thing to do.

    But absent some such serious defect in the law, acting in a legal manner is the morally superior position precisely because this behaviour maximises the common good.

    When individuals act in accordance with the law, each one of them benefits by getting to live under conditions that are predictable.

    Breaking the law with no justification greater than one’s own declaration that “there’s no harm” moves the society farther from the consensus that is necessary in order to bring about this benefit to all. Such behaviour is not only selfish and antisocial, it is also immoral — notwithstanding any self-serving absolutions put forth by the intellectually dishonest.

    (Of course, a driver’s law-breaking is a more serious moral transgression than a bicyclist’s law-breaking because drivers hurt others while bicyclists hurt only ourselves. Normalising driver misbehaviour places everyone at greater risk of injury and death. Whereas law-breaking on the part of bicyclists tends to cause no physical harm to anyone, but increases the already considerable hostility towards us within our society’s ignorant and irrational majority.)

  • qrt145

    You don’t need a law to have predictability. I see this every day on my bike when I stop at a red light.

    I can clearly see that pedestrians and drivers are predicting that I’ll run the red light. Drivers don’t start moving, and only then with a befuddled expression, until they see that I stopped completely. Same for pedestrians.

    This probably explains why those crazy cyclists who run red lights without even looking can get away with it. In any case, the de facto rule on which people base their predictions is the opposite of what the law says. The law is increasing unpredictability by providing a rule that almost nobody follows. It turns out that I’m the unpredictable one when I stop at the red light! A big worry for me, in fact, is that I’ll be run into by a predictable cyclist when I stop.

    I’ll leave aside the question of whether the predictability supposedly stemming from following the law is in fact a common good, and such a good that would justify following otherwise stupid rules which have no other benefit, other than to say that I think that’s a cultural question of conformity vs nonconformity, not a moral question.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    if New Rochelle creates a complete street on the post road it would be a big start. NR has great potential to reduce motor congestion by 50% and increase property values dramatically

  • Simon Phearson

    To echo qrt’s comment, if the moral force of the law derives from the good produced by promoting predictability, that moral force is correspondingly reduced if it fails to promote predictability, and actions that are not compliant with the law become morally justifiable if they are predictable.

    If you bike as many miles as you claim, and comply with the law as consistently as you would seem to, then surely you can think of several situations where exact compliance with the law results in behavior that no one is expecting and that, therefore, puts you and others at risk. Stopping for a yellow light when you’re riding in a main traffic lane. Stopping to turn left on a street with no dedicated turn lane. Stopping for a red light in a crowded bike path when there’s no cross traffic. Riding in a separated bike lane in parts of the city where they’re overrun with pedestrians. Strictly observing the speed limit when most people are speeding 10+ over the limit. In all of those situations, I would say that we may well be morally obligated to violate the law, in order to avoid harm to others or ourselves, even though the law in those situations doesn’t rise to the level of “moral repugnance” that you’ve described. To argue that we have a greater duty to the law than to avoiding harm to others is what is truly repugnant. When we violate the law, but in predictable and harmless ways, we serve the purposes of the law in promoting the common good.

  • Andrew

    That’s because the article is simply a series of whines from elected officials who don’t understand transit. The entire local run from Stillwell to Jay only takes 35 minutes, so how could an express possibly save 45?

    Given that there’s basically no room for more F trains in Queens (and, I hate to say it, no demand for more F service in Brooklyn), you’re not going to get any more F service on the line than you do today. Whichever trains don’t run express will run local. Plus the G, of course.

  • Joe R.

    Looking at Google Earth, it looks like the F express would skip 7 local stops. If we assume each skipped stop saves about 40 seconds, that’s less than 5 minutes, or in terms of percent maybe 15% time savings over the local. Worth it? I guess if you live near the end of the line. The problem of course is this is a zero sum game. Each F express means one less local.

    I guess you could have the local service exclusively G during peak times so only the F expresses feed into or out of Queens. That avoids the capacity constraint on the Queens Boulevard line but it also means anyone getting on at a local stop doesn’t have a one seat ride into Manhattan.