TA Calls on de Blasio to Act After Driver Kills Cyclist, 78, on Northern Blvd

NYPD filed no charges and issued no summonses after a driver struck and killed Michael Schenkman, 78, while he biked on Northern Boulevard in Bayside.

Michael Schenkman was the 16th cyclist killed by a New York City motorist this year. Photo via Facebook
Michael Schenkman was the 16th cyclist killed by a New York City motorist this year. Photo via Facebook

New York City motorists have now killed 16 cyclists this year, compared to 14 cyclist fatalities in all of 2015, according to city crash data. After yesterday’s crash, Transportation Alternatives called on Mayor de Blasio to pick up the pace of Vision Zero safety improvements.

Schenkman was eastbound on Northern Boulevard near 223rd Street at around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday when a motorist traveling in the same direction hit him with a Chevrolet sedan. Schenkman, who lived in Flushing, sustained head and body trauma and died from his injuries at North Shore Manhasset Hospital, police said.

The NYPD public information office said Schenkman “collided in the left lane” with the car. A photo published by the Daily News shows the car with a dented hood and a large hole in the windshield — the type of damage that would occur in a high-speed collision. Information released by NYPD did not mention driver speed.

As is customary when police don’t ticket or charge a motorist who kills a person, NYPD withheld the driver’s name, identifying him only as a 25-year-old man. The department said the investigation was ongoing as of this afternoon.

Schenkman was a driver for former public advocate Betsy Gotbaum, the Daily News reported, as well as a long-time cyclist and member of Transportation Alternatives. “Every morning he got on his bike and rode 15 or 20 miles,” Peter Schenkman, the victim’s son, told the News.

“Michael, who was passionate about bicycling, was a beloved Transportation Alternatives member who joined us on many of our bike tours and supported our work to make New York City streets safer for all road users,” said TA Executive Director Paul White in a statement released today. “We are dedicating our upcoming NYC Century Bike Tour on September 10th to his memory.”

In addition, TA has scheduled a “Ride for Mayoral Action” on September 15. In his statement, White noted that a large share of cyclist fatalities this year happened on streets that the city knows are dangerous:

It is significant that Michael Schenkman was killed on Northern Boulevard, which is among the city’s most dangerous streets that the Department of Transportation has designated as Vision Zero Priority Corridors — many of which have yet to see lifesaving redesigns. Of the 16 bike fatalities so far in 2016, half have taken place on corridors, at intersections or in areas that received a “Priority” designation in the DOT’s Pedestrian Safety Action Plans. Four deaths occurred on streets that were designated Priority Corridors but which did not have bike lanes. Of 26 hit-and-run fatalities, 12 were in locations that had a Priority designation — 8 were on Priority Corridors, and two were at Priority Intersections that have yet to receive any safety treatments.

In July TA criticized Mayor de Blasio for denying the City Council’s request to increase the DOT budget for life-saving Vision Zero street redesigns.

Michael Schenkman was killed in the 111th Precinct, which as of July had ticketed 326 speeding drivers all year, and in the City Council district represented by Paul Vallone.

  • J

    After rejecting money for life-saving measures, there is blood on DeBlasio and Trottenberg’s hands.

  • ADN

    “The NYPD public information office said Schenkman ‘collided in the left lane’ with the car.”

    Call the f’ing grammar police. NYPD seems to be deeply confused about the subject and object of this sentence.

    I mean… Literally. The driver who committed this vehicular manslaughter appears to have treated Mr. Schenkman like nothing more than an object in the road rather than a human being. NYPD only reinforces that in their statement.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Of the 16 bike fatalities so far in 2016, half have taken place on corridors, at intersections or in areas that received a “Priority” designation in the DOT’s Pedestrian Safety Action Plans.

    How many of those have any improvements slated that will actually make cycling substantially easier or safer?

  • mc

    Just curious as to how one would redesign a major arterial like Northern Blvd to accommodate bike infrastructure. It’s a heavily traveled bus & truck route, 3 lanes in each direction with a center turn lane. The nearest parallel route for auto traffic is probably the LIE. How would you do it?

  • Vooch

    trivial – the motor travel lanes are 12′ wide, the parking lane is also 12′ wide. The center turn lane is 14′ wide. all of these lanes are dangerously wide. Excessive widyj encourages reckless Driving.

    instead of 12′ motor lanes, make them a safer 10′

    now one has 8′ of width in each direction to create a protected bike lane.

    add in some pedestrian islands, some Ped pump outs, daylighting at intersections and badda Bing bada boom – a complete street that serves more people

    Motor traffic will flow smoother, there will be fewer crashes, and most importantedly, pedestrian safety will be dramatically improved.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Short term: Filtered routes (aka Bicycle Boulevards/Neighborhood Greenways) for cycling along parallel streets with high quality wayfinding (zigzagging will be necessary), with a focus on alternative routes to Joe Michaels Mile but also on making an overall grid to be near to all destinations in Northeastern Queens without being forced to take main roads.

    Longer term: Either protected lanes or capital constructed cyclepaths on Northern Boulevard itself. The latter could potentially take some space from the sidewalks, which may sound sacrilegious on Streetsblog but this area appears to have little foot traffic and 15′ sidewalks.

    What is actually likely to happen here?
    a) Nothing
    b) Narrowed travel lanes like Vooch proposes, but with the space allocated to a wider median and double-parking lanes

  • Joe R.

    Bike viaducts above Northern Blvd. It has way too many traffic signals to be a reasonable bike route at surface level anyway, even if the room existed, which it doesn’t. There really aren’t any parallel through streets which run for any length without being interrupted. You’re correct that the nearest one is the LIE. If you tried to use other streets besides Northern Blvd. for an east-west route you would end up with a confusing mess where cyclists would need to change streets every mile or less. Really, that’s a problem in much of Queens. The few major trunk routes which run any length north-south or east-west also happen to be heavily traveled routes for motor traffic, with no room for any bike infrastructure. Basically, bike viaducts above the major arterials is the only reasonable solution so long as we’re unable to significantly reduce motor traffic.

  • Joe R.

    The lanes are narrower than that in parts, and in places the parking lane is less than 10′ wide. Also, Northern Blvd. has lots of turning movements at intersections which protected lanes won’t help with. And on top of all that it has a gazillion traffic signals which are timed for 30 or 35 mph, and lots of bus stops. Nothing we do at surface level will give anything more than a marginal improvement given these factors, and there’s no room for a protected bike lane anyway in many places. In fact, I find Northern stressful to ride on even at 1 AM. During the day it’s a complete clusterf*ck for bikes, with little which could be done to make it better.

    The issue here is Northern Boulevard, like Union Turnpike and a lot of other Queens arterials, is that it’s a very old road which is quite narrow by today’s standards for the levels of traffic it carries. Really, unless we can get rid of about half the motor traffic, there’s just not a whole lot you can do at street level.

  • mc
  • ahwr

    Much of Northern is 70 feet wide, with two general traffic lanes and a part time parking lane in each direction together with a painted median/turn lane. ~ten feet per lane, not twelve.

  • Joe R.

    Interesting. Don’t forget though that you also have buses on Northern Boulevard. And even if it were politically feasible to get rid of curbside parking you’ll still need loading zones. That design might work if Northern Boulevard had maybe half the traffic it does. The traffic signals would still be a major detriment unless the city got rid of about 80% of them.

  • ahwr

    If you tried to use other streets besides Northern Blvd. for an east-west route you would end up with a confusing mess where cyclists would need to change streets every mile or less.

    It’s only confusing when there isn’t good signage. Traffic calmed side streets can be the basis of a good backbone network to get more people cycling in eastern Queens. When I’m biking to the QBB I know I just have to take 34th west until the bike lane ends then follow the signs. It’s simple enough. I couldn’t tell you what streets I turn onto without a map.



    This approach has worked well elsewhere.


  • Driver

    Forget about ticketing speeding drivers, the real problem is the epidemic of people texting and using their “smart” phones while driving. I’ll take my chances (as a cyclist or pedestrian) with a speeding driver watching the road over someone looking down at their phone any day. The amount of people I see driving (in motion) while looking between the road and their phones, and in some cases only at their phones is extremely disturbing.
    Sadly the 111th will probably use this incident to address the safety of cyclists by embarking on a ticket blitz against them.

  • AMH

    Just the other day I incredulously watched a driver texting from the bus. This went on for several blocks. The NYPD needs to stop harassing people and start ticketing this shit.

  • van_vlissingen

    In the section between 223rd and Douglaston Parkway – a 0.8 mile stretch, there isn’t much curbside parking in the westbound direction.

  • sbauman

    While there is a center turn lane, there isn’t one for bicycles. The collision occurred where the cyclist was probably starting a left turn onto a a bike path, aka the Joe Michaels Mile.

    The center lane at this point is for westbound cars trying to make a turn onto either 223rd St or the Cross Island Parkway (CIP) going south.

    The right, eastbound lane also disappears to permit exiting southbound CIP drivers to go eastbound onto Northern Blv without slowing down. This forces bicycles into the center lane, even if they are not contemplating turning left onto the bike path.

    All of this occurs on a downhill, where speeds are fast for both the cyclist and cars. Reaction time for both is reduced.

    The center lane does not change direction for eastbound traffic until after the CIP is crossed and long after the left turn for the bike path.

    The time of the collision worked against the cyclist. It was shortly after sunrise. Sunlight was probably directly in the eyes of both the cyclist and driver immediately before impact. The driver didn’t need a cellphone to be distracted.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    This is on the route of the NYC Century, and the markings and cue sheet actually say to take the sidewalk. Really astounding considering how many people cycle on Joe Michaels Mile daily.

  • Vooch

    it’s 12′

  • Vooch

    less motor traffic than on first avenue NYC

  • Joe R.

    A secondary issue with this is the topography of Queens. A few times I’ve tried riding side streets to avoid Northern Boulevard. You end up constantly hitting steep hills. In fact, it seems the vast majority of side street routes by me are like this, not just ones near Northern Boulevard.

  • Larry Littlefield

    As a general rule, cyclists should avoid bicycling on major arterials such as Northern Boulevard. But crossing over at this location, there was no other choice.

    That’s an issue.

    I know when I bike to Citifield for a Mets game, and cross the cemetery on Eliot Avenue, I ride on the sidewalk and risk a ticket and hope to not come across any pedestrians coming the other way.

  • Joe R.

    The problem is major arterials are often the only viable through routes if you’re going more than a mile or two. Side streets often end abruptly. Unless you have a map in your head, it’s difficult to remember any route consisting only of side streets. Besides that, side street routes are often much hillier than arterials.

  • ahwr

    Northern, union, and other arterials near you aren’t perfectly flat either. Try 33rd avenue between Crocheron and Union. 46->202->45 from 223rd to 149th. Compare 75th between 199 and Kissena to Union tpke and 73rd. Compare 147 or 150 between QC and Union tpke to Main, Kissena, Parsons. See if the hills on Jewel east of QC with a bike lane are really easier than a ride on 65th. Or if the bike route from underhill after the overpass over the LIE that goes past the golf course and through kissena park to Kissena blvd is really hillier than Booth, LIE, Northern etc…

    Think it’s unreasonable to ask people to remember which streets are flatter in order to ride, when drivers seem to have it comparatively easy? Sure, but that’s easy to fix. Good wayfinding signs and targeted improvements (marked/signed/signalized arterial crossings, removing the occasional parking spot to make a contraflow lane, diverters/opposing one ways for motor vehicles to cut down on traffic levels etc…) could create a non arterial bike network for little money. Queens east of the Van Wyck is set up for this approach to have a lot of potential. Denser areas that don’t have as natural of an arterial/side street division need a different approach.


  • Joe R.

    It’s worth noting those alternate routes you mentioned have other advantages besides being less hilly than parallel arterials. That includes less traffic and far fewer traffic signals. This isn’t universally true of all side streets. In a very general sense, it seems reasonable alternate east-west routes are more common than north-south routes. The alternate east-west routes tend to be avenues. As a result, usually they have longer runs and they get priority over the side streets which have stop signs. North-south side streets typically have stop signs every block. They rarely continue for more than 10 blocks.

    There is some potential to this idea, but we need to designate certain streets as bike routes, sign them so they have priority, and if possible connect them where they’re broken. If the obstacle is a park, it’s as simple as running a path through that park. A cemetery is more problematic. An expressway or railroad probably requires an overpass or underpass.

  • Vooch

    so just like 1st avenue or Columbus or Amsterdam or 2nd or Sicth

    all of which are complete streets

  • ahwr

    Northern blvd. isn’t a one way street.

  • ahwr

    Nope, Northern blvd in Queens has a higher AADT than 1st in Manhattan. Counts available on the map here.


  • Vooch

    70′ Roadway – check
    6 motor travel lanes – check
    2 motor parking lanes – check
    reckless motor speeding – check

    northern Blvd seems a perfect candidate for a complete streets makeover similar to the Manhattan Avenues

  • ahwr

    One part time parking lane, two general traffic lanes in each direction. One painted median/turn lane. Seven lanes, not six. ~ten feet per lane, not twelve.


    In places the Manhattan avenues could shrink lanes or have fewer lanes without undue impact on motorists. The added space could create bus lanes, bike lanes etc…That extra space doesn’t exist on much of Northern blvd. You need a different model to work off of.

  • ahwr

    There is some potential to this idea, but we need to designate certain streets as bike routes

    That’s sort of the point. I’m not saying that side streets are great places to bike right now and don’t need any work, but rather that they could be and that the improvements they need are relatively simple, cheap, and more plausible to win local support for than taking lanes from an over capacity arterial or building expensive elevated structures.

    North-south side streets typically have stop signs every block.

    Flipping stop signs isn’t that hard. But maybe if you don’t combine it with some measure to restrict motor vehicles from using the road you would create more problems than you solve. Or sometimes a four way stop might be appropriate. It might be easier to sell a plan like this if you had all way stops by schools for example.

    If the obstacle is a park, it’s as simple as running a path through that park.

    I wouldn’t go that far. Not every strip of parkland is appropriate for bike paths, especially if you’re asking for one that’s rather direct. For example 159th has an existing crossing over the LIE. It might seem natural to build a bike blvd off of that connection. But it looks like a somewhat disruptive place to run a path through Kissena park to the north. 173rd has a crossing over the LIE. It isn’t that busy south to St Johns. And north of the LIE Fresh Meadows lane isn’t the busiest road though it would need some changes to make it better for cycling. For the stretch next to the Kissena park golf course maybe it would be appropriate to make a new path, using some of the grass between the pavement edge and the trees. That (park?) space doesn’t seem to be used all that heavily right now.

    I would tone down your statement and say in general if the city or state (not just through NYC Parks) owns the land in question then that does have the potential to make installing new pavement simpler. Isn’t that part of the sales pitch here?


    But that doesn’t have to be the only time the city can potentially connect a disconnected road for pedestrians and cyclists.. Look at the gap in 46th just west of Francis Lewis. Is it so impossible that one of the two property owners would be willing to work with the city to install a walk/bike connection? Maybe by selling the land to the city, getting some development concession etc…And that neighbors who enjoy living on that cul de sac can’t be placated?

  • JamesR

    It’s open f*cking season on us out there and not only do the police 100% not have our backs, they have nothing but contempt for us.

  • neroden

    The NYPD *concealed* the *killer’s* name. Since the killer’s name will be needed for the civil lawsuit, this may constitute obstruction of justice if they conceal it from the plaintiffs. Has anyone worked up the legal references for this?

  • neroden

    I’m not sure when this will become war, but if some mayor doesn’t rein in the criminals operating the NYPD within the next decade, it will.

  • Vooch

    a Complete Street moves more People
    more safely

  • The very simple solution is to install a protected phase for bike – peds , where turning cars have a red arrow and do not conflict with bike-$ 25 k per intersection.
    Only a bike lane with this feature will prevent this crash. the current bike lane design with mixing zones will not.

  • ahwr

    15′ sidewalks with very little ped traffic.

    Where on Northern are you thinking? The only pedestrian count the city has on Northern east of the Van Wyck is 50′ east of 161st street. May 2015 weekday 7-9am the count was 306 people, 4-7pm 946. Weekend 12-2pm 640 people. Bus shelters, trees, street lights, fire hydrants, meters etc…tend to be right by the curb. Do you expect all that to be moved? There aren’t thirteen continuous feet of pavement on the other side of that stuff by the way. So put in a narrow five foot bike lane on the other side of that furniture, and I’m not sure you have the eight feet remaining that the city requires, much less than that at bottlenecks. There are bus stops on the road (like Bell/Northern) that see more than a thousand combined boardings+alightings. All those people use the sidewalks. Everyone walking from nearby uses the sidewalks. Everyone who parks a car on the road uses the sidewalks. Over the length of the corridor that 15′ serves more people per unit width than the busiest bike lanes in the city.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Bus shelters, trees, street lights, fire hydrants, meters etc…tend to be right by the curb. Do you expect all that to be moved?

    Yes. Hence “Longer term: capital project”.

    Honestly, way out in this area I wouldn’t do much of anything on Northern for a long time (until NYC really gets cycling off the ground, so sometime in the 2050s?) except perhaps to convert the sidewalk east of 223rd into a multiuse path connecting to Joe Michael’s Mile.

    The rest of the network in this area could for the forseeable future be bicycle boulevards with wayfinding along the back streets, which have been in use in the US since the 1990s, though I don’t expect to see any in New York this decade.

  • Vooch

    If The objective Is moving People & improving Commerce than reallocating roadway space on Northern Blvd to dedcated Bus lanes and PBLs Is The only was to Go.

    The Complete Street Template Is a proven success.

    I’ve cycled Northern Blvd. it’s a Perfect candidate for a Complete street makeover

  • Paul Schimek

    Schenkman was hit around 6:30 am. Sunrise on August 23 in NYC was at 6:15 am at 74 degrees (http://www.timeanddate.com/sun/usa/new-york). He was headed east on Northern Blvd which is at 73.76 degrees. It seems extremely likely that the driver was blinded by the rising sun directly in his line of vision.

  • Joe R.

    No arguing this would be a better approach. At issue is the fact we would need to drastically reduce motor traffic levels for two reasons. One would be so that only one lane each way is needed for general motor traffic. Second reason is to get rid of most of the traffic lights on Northern Blvd. Even with protected bike lanes, the present traffic signal situation makes riding there very unpleasant. At high riding speeds you hit a light every 4 or 5 blocks which is bad enough. At 10 or 12 mph you would probably hit one every 2 blocks. Reduce traffic levels in the area enough so Northern only needs signals when it crosses major arterials. Add the protected bike lane. Seriously consider using overpasses or underpasses for the bike lane at those major intersections. This could potentially give cyclists a safe, non-stop corridor going all the way from the Queensboro Bridge to city limits for nominal cost.

  • ahwr

    Much of Northern has AADT of 30k+. Between the clearview and the cross island the peak hour count was ~2500-2700 a few years ago.


    Say you cut the number of cars/trucks by 70%. Half onto buses, half onto bikes, leaving you with 800-900 cars, a bus every minute or two (counting existing buses), and a 1000+ bikes (more than one person per car) at peak hour. You have a center median busway, with a bus lane, general traffic lane, and bike lane on either side. How crossable will this street be without a traffic light? Would you want children crossing this street without the assistance of a traffic light to stop traffic? Elderly that move at two f/s?

  • Joe R.

    The traffic lights could only apply to the car lanes. You give the bike lanes a flashing yellow bike symbol (i.e. yield to pedestrians) when the car lanes get a red. The buses should have signal priority at all times but there are relatively few of them, so they wouldn’t interfere with crossing pedestrians. You put a pedestrian refuge (which also doubles as a bus stop) in between the car lane and center bus lane in case they get caught there when a bus is coming. With buses every minute or two at most, this won’t be that frequent an occurrence anyway.

    Cyclists may occasionally need to yield to crossing pedestrians, but remember this isn’t Manhattan. Note that I said “virtually nonstop”. I anticipate cyclists needing to slow or stop occasionally for crossing pedestrians, particularly during peak times, but it’s still a much better situation than now when you hit lights every 2 to 5 blocks, depending upon your riding speed.

    The bottom line is there are many streets where you may still need traffic signals for pedestrians to safely cross, but they needn’t apply to bikes if bikes have their own lane. Flashing yellow works just fine. It avoids delaying cyclists when nobody is crossing but still legally protects pedestrians.

    On heavy traffic cross streets you may still need signals applying to everyone. However, in the outer boroughs you typically have only 2 to 4 such streets per mile. This means it may be feasible to build bike overpasses or underpasses at such cross streets if you prioritize keeping cyclists in motion as one of the goals for bike infrastructure . It should be given that this is an important criteria used in places like the Netherlands.

  • Vooch

    agreed with 85%

    Great Post

  • Karen Califano

    I agree with you 1000%. As a non driver, and someone who walks, bikes, uses public transportation, etc. I see so many drivers texting or looking at their phones while they are driving!!!!! It is unbelievable to me that so many people do this on a daily basis on a busy street. Wtf is wrong with people today? First they used to target people talking on their phones while driving, then they helped solve the problem when they came out with “hands free” devices, and some cars even have it where you can hook up your phone to your car now and talk thru the radio speaker. But what about the problem of people texting or surfing the web on their phones while driving? They need to be ticketed and punished for it.

  • ahwr

    You missed the point. Cyclists not having to stop for red lights is something that can work with the right rider culture when there are only a handful. When you get up to 1000+ cyclists an hour, the conflicts will be far more frequent. At peak you have more than 1000 pedestrians an hour crossing between arterials where you want to limit the lights to. And when there’s a line of cars stopped at a red light adjacent to the bike lane visibility is minimal, cyclists would have to slow down to 5 mph or so anyway, they’d have to virtually stop every light. You can’t get an at grade high volume route with minimal signal delay without a massive impact on pedestrians and vehicular cross traffic (including bikes) unless that high volume service is buses and trains. You could have 50 people on a bus go by every minute, and there’s a minimal delay to let it go by for people crossing. Put all those people on bikes or in cars and the conflict is increased by an order of magnitude at least.

    You’re exaggerating the number of lights that exist, and how often you hit them if you’re on a bike too.

  • Joe R.

    So then that just bolsters my case for a bike viaduct. To me the primary issue with putting one on Northern Blvd. (or most other NYC arterials) would be cost. Aesthetics are mostly moot because these are ugly commercial streets anyway. In fact, properly done a bike viaduct could enhance the street, shelter sidewalks (if built over them), carry utility lines and street lights, etc.

    You’re exaggerating the number of lights that exist, and how often you hit them if you’re on a bike too.

    It’s not just the lights. Cyclists in a protected bike lane would be delayed by turning vehicles, pedestrians intruding into the bike lane, probably delivery trucks unloading, and so forth. That means missing lots of lights a cyclist might otherwise make at their normal riding speed. I’ve ridden Northern Blvd. at peak times. Back when I was a strictly law-abiding cyclist, I often couldn’t go more than 3 blocks without hitting a light. Figure maybe 40 seconds to travel 3 blocks. By the time I’m up to speed I’m hitting a light just as it’s flipping from yellow to red. Slam on the brakes, wait 60 seconds, repeat every three or four blocks. About 100 seconds to go 3 blocks, which equates to a whopping average speed of 5.4 mph. It’s not much slower for me to walk, which is partially an answer as to why I often walk errands rather than bike them.

    Back when I used to religiously stop for red lights, it was difficult to get average speeds higher than about 10 mph no matter what routes I took. This was when my area had perhaps 1/3 the number of traffic signals it has now. The bottom line here is if NYC won’t reduce the number of traffic signals, won’t let cyclists legally pass reds, or if it’s unfeasible to do either on account of pedestrian volumes, then we need off-street alternatives. Cycling just doesn’t work on city streets as they’re configured now. It’s unpleasant, dangerous, tedious to have to deal with myriad obstacles plus repeated starting and stopping. Bikes don’t work in such environments.

  • ahwr

    Cross street green + the occasional turn phase isn’t a 60 second red for traffic on northern. Probably closer to half that. You don’t hit every light biking on the street, there are only lights every 3 blocks typically. Your memory from trying it briefly decades ago is flawed or inapplicable to the situation on the ground today. Riding at a moderate pace I can average about 8-12 mph around Queens and Brooklyn depending on route/time stopping at lights during the day without exerting myself too much. Pushing myself it usually doesn’t get over 12 mph, maybe 14 mph if a lot of the route was on a greenway, because I get caught at a lot of the same lights or the next one down to let cross traffic go. So I ride at a moderate pace. 8-12 mph is far faster than walking. With traffic lights/stopping for cars and bikes that don’t yield to me in the crosswalk walking is only about 2-3mph anyway. Get a beater bike and use it for errands, riding at a moderate pace, it’ll save you time if you take a good route and you won’t have to wait for the city to install a network of viaducts. This is a big city with a lot of people. In a world without traffic lights but just as many people moving around in private vehicles (bike+car) or on foot when biking I’d have to slow down to 5mph or so every block to check for cross traffic, including pedestrians. I’m not sure that would end up any faster.

  • Joe R.

    My point is in Brooklyn or Queens the alternative (driving) is faster the biking. In Manhattan it usually isn’t. That’s why you have more bike usage in Manhattan. If we want significant bike usage in the outer boroughs then we have to make it closer in speed to the alternatives. Also, it’s not just average speeds which matter. It’s the fact that biking and repeatedly stopping is strenuous and unpleasant. Even when you’re only stopping once or twice per mile it’s very annoying.

    In a world without traffic lights but just as many people moving around in private vehicles (bike+car) or on foot when biking I’d have to slow down to 5mph or so every block to check for cross traffic, including pedestrians.

    It’s usually arterials with heavy traffic. Many of the lights where arterials intersect with minor streets are there only to allow pedestrians to cross. In the absence of pedestrians stop or yield signs on the minor street work just fine.

    Now visualize that NYC does things to discourage private car use. Some of those people will switch to bikes but most will switch to buses (or the subway if it exists), particularly for commuting. Buses will suddenly become more attractive given that they won’t be delayed by private cars. Overall the number of vehicles on the arterials will likely drop dramatically, perhaps enough to get rid of traffic signals on at least minor streets altogether, certainly enough to allow cyclists to pass reds. The volume of cyclists isn’t going to be high enough to present an issue to people crossing if they pass reds, nor are you going to have 1000 pedestrians an hour crossing streets except maybe in downtown Jamaica or downtown Flushing. By me even during the day you’re lucky if 100 pedestrians an hour use the crosswalks on arterials.

    Another factor here is you can make streets narrower once most of the users are bikes or buses. A Northern Boulevard redesigned for such a scenario might have (in each direction) a bus lane and a bike lane. Restrict deliveries to late night and the trucks can use the bus lane. They can use the bike lane as a loading zone. Total width goes from 70′ down to maybe 40′. Despite that, you could move more people. A bus lane with buses once a minute could move ~3000 people an hour. The bike lane could move over 1000 people an hour at comfortable levels, perhaps over 3000 an hour at capacity.

    As for crossing, remember about 28′ of this 40′ street is either bus lanes or a buffer. The bus lanes at most have a vehicle every minute, so they don’t represent an obstacle to crossing. The buffers obviously don’t. You just have the 6′ bike lane on each side. Most of the time that’s empty enough so cyclists and pedestrians don’t interfere with each other. There might be brief times when pedestrians leave a bus that you’ll have a surge of people crossing. Big deal. This delays cyclists for about the same amount of time a red light cycle on the old Northern Blvd. configuration would. Most of the rest of the time there are few conflicts. Of course, the one thing missing here is private automobiles. If NYC stops trying to accommodate private autos, then it can improve things dramatically for everyone else.

  • ahwr

    1000 pedestrians an hour crossing streets

    I meant the combined number crossing Northern between arterials, say in the half mile between Francis Lewis and Utopia. Not at any given street.

    If we want significant bike usage

    Some of those people will switch to bikes but most will switch to buses

    The volume of cyclists isn’t going to be high

    Most of the time [the bike lane]’s empty

    The bike lane could move over 1000 people an hour at comfortable levels, perhaps over 3000 an hour at capacity.

    Make up your mind. You want people to bike, but few will so the bike lane will be easy to cross, but the six foot bike lane could handle a bike going by almost every second?

    Many of the lights where arterials intersect with minor streets are there only to allow pedestrians to cross.

    And when a car is stopped next to the bike lane visibility is poor, cyclists have to slow to 5 mph, sometimes less, and prepare to stop for the pedestrians they can’t see behind the stopped cars.

    Also, it’s not just average speeds which matter. It’s the fact that biking and repeatedly stopping is strenuous and unpleasant.

    That problem doesn’t go away when you get rid of traffic lights if you aren’t also getting rid of cross traffic, pedestrians included. Ride at a moderate pace instead of going all out and the issue is reduced dramatically.

    Look what you wrote elsewhere:

    I also feel “mixed use” paths need to disappear yesterday in crowded cities. The fact they might work fine in some backwater doesn’t make them a good idea in crowded cities.

    It’s the same thing with uncontrolled crossings. They don’t work well at high traffic levels, even if they work great in small dutch towns. If the bike lane gets enough use to be worth putting in then it’ll have enough cyclists using it for conflict with turning vehicles and cross traffic, pedestrians included, to be substantial. If it’s barely used then it’s not worth putting in, the space would be better used for transit, expanded sidewalks, or even auto lanes/parking. And improvements to the nearby side streets would be a better way to accommodate the small number of cyclists.


The Campaign for a Safer Bike Connection to Joe Michaels Mile

When 78-year-old Michael Schenkman was killed by a speeding motorist on Northern Boulevard last month, he was on his daily ride to Joe Michaels Mile, a bike path that runs for two and a half miles along the Cross Island Parkway. Now business owners and residents in Little Neck and Douglaston are reiterating calls for safe bike access to […]