Monday’s Headlines: Hanukkah Gelt Edition

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And here’s today’s non-donation-related news:

  • Cops are searching for the hit-and-run driver who killed a Staten Island man in Brooklyn on Saturday, as Streetsblog reported. (NYDN, NY Post)
  • As David Meyer anticipated in Streetsblog this fall, the stretch of greenway along the FDR Drive near Waterside Plaza has been delayed. (Town and Village)
  • In his latest piece in Outside magazine, the Bike Snob argues against selling cycling as great for the planet. He’s right: We do it because it’s the best way to get around.
  • It’s pedestrian-herding season in Midtown! (Nicole Gelinas)
  • In case you missed it, amNY followed Streetsblog’s coverage of last week’s terror attack on the protected bike lanes in Sunnyside. (amNY)
  • Two Manhattan politicians use facts to remind pedestrians that they’re much safer now than they were five years ago because of protected bike lanes. Remind the mayor! (Our Town)
  • The Times once again looks at the issue of cabbie suicides. (NY Times)
  • One-time GOP powerhouse Al D’Amato — yes, still alive! — is telling President Trump to stop screwing around and fund the essential Gateway Tunnel. (NY Post)
  • Vision Zero suffers a blow in Jersey City. (Jersey Journal)
  • Autonomous vehicles will affect cities in many ways. One you might not have thought about is loss of revenue from traffic tickets. (Next City)
  • A policy expert for Bird blames drivers and poor infrastructure for e-scooters scofflaws and injuries. (Governing)
  • The most prolific letter writer in American history since Alexander Hamilton, Larry Penner, just landed a pro-gas-tax letter in the Chicago Sun-Times. Proud of you, Larry.
  • Sure, it rained, but Sunday’s annual Ciclistas Latinoamericanos de New York Santa Ride was great fun.

santa ride 2018 best

  • And, finally, we have long admired Todd Maisel’s photography work and were happy to see that he’s still shooting, despite being laid off by the Daily News for no good reason. He did these nice shots of a driver who clearly was speeding when she hit a speed bump and overturned her fancy car. Conor Greene adds the crucial detail below Maisel’s tweet.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Reminder: while taxi drivers may be committing suicides at a higher rate, because they borrowed money to invest in the depreciating asset of medallions which should never have been an asset at all, rising suicide is a long term national trend, one big enough that when combined with other things is enough to reduce U.S. life expectancy.

    https://larrylittlefield.wordpress.com/2015/11/08/death-is-the-ultimate-statistic-ii-the-most-important-news-in-ten-years/

    That doesn’t mean they don’t have problems. It means the U.S. has problems.

  • Maggie

    Are medallion debts dischargeable in bankruptcy? I agree with you Larry. Individual medallion owners who invested in formerly capacity-controlled assets on a speculative basis and are now underwater to their lenders: these people need help and a path forward. The rash of suicides is a big red flag that a holistic approach to working out these debts is very overdue.

  • Maggie

    Rare for me to disagree with the Bike Snob, but I do on the climate question.

  • qrt145

    Why? Do you think that the most effective way to motivate people to use a bicycle as a mode of transport is to talk about the climate? Seems unlikely to work with anyone who isn’t a climate activist. In contrast, making people notice how many thousands of dollars they could save a year could work with anyone; you just need to convince them that the bike is safe and practical enough.

  • Maggie

    Because safe bicycling infrastructure has a major impact on whether people can / are willing to consider substituting bicycling for short to medium distance car trips.

    And because cutting short to medium distance car trips is (in my opinion) a full-on moral emergency in terms of cutting our carbon emissions to within Paris-compliant ranges. Safe bicycling infrastructure – a built-out network, implemented as rapidly as possible – 100% needs to be part of a climate action and resiliency plan.

    We can dicker around and not do it, but the ultimate costs keep escalating. In the 1970s, they had more time to kick the can down the road. We’re frittering away time that we don’t really have anymore.

  • kevd

    get’s me places quicker and cheaper than subways, buses, cabs and walking did it for me. In most of America that might not work, though.

  • kevd

    “cutting short to medium distance car trips is (in my opinion) a full-on moral emergency in terms of cutting our carbon emissions to within Paris-compliant ranges.”
    I think his point is that most people won’t be motivated by that argument.
    If you look at US policy and voting patterns – Eben’s point seems to be a valid one.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I don’t know if they are, but they should be.

    The “medallion king” who tried to corner the market certainly got out from under the debts — to the Small Business Administration.

    The other side of this is not enough income to get by.

    This is a city where politicians insist on members of public and contractor unions getting richer and richer, mostly in retirement benefits, but people are happy to see the unorganized squeezed more and more to cut their costs.

    There is an attempt to turn a luxury — a chauffeured private car ride — into a middle class commodity. In the long run it won’t work, unless we allow robocars to run people down without liability, or drivers can somehow commute from Dhaka.

  • Maggie

    I mean whether individuals are immediately motivated by it or not, the climate science keep working the exact same way. Carbon emissions are heating up the atmosphere. Ice melts at the same temperature.

    Biking is more or less exactly as fun as it was in the past few decades – that selling point hasn’t really changed. The climate need is urgent today, and it has severely escalated. I disagree with the idea that we can ignore this side of the equation. I don’t get it.

  • qrt145

    The article was not about infrastructure or policy, but about what motivates individuals to choose to ride a bike. I agree with you that safe bicycling infrastructure should be part of a climate action plan.

  • Joe R.

    First off, I think using “climate change” as the reason to stop using fossil fuels has been a horrible approach. We already have plenty of other great reasons which might resonate more with the average person. Environmental pollution which causes cancers and respiratory illnesses is one. Until we started wholesale burning of fossil fuels in the Industrial Age cancers were practically unknown. Now they’re epidemic. Quality of life issues from smelly exhaust is another. Then there are all the geopolitical reasons. Price fluctuations of fossil fuels play havoc with the economy. Wars to protect oil supplies have cost $5.6 trillion and counting since 9/11. All of these things affect people in the here and know. People are much better reacting to things affecting them now, not things which may or may not affect them 25 or 50 years from now. I believe climate change is real and it’s imperative that we act, but we can come up with a whole bunch of other good reasons which are an easier sell.

    Second, even if we use climate change as the reason, we primarily need to sell this to the policy makers who will build out the new bicycle infrastructure, not to the average person on the street. Once the infrastructure is built, then we can sell bike travel as a faster, cheaper way to get around to the general public.

    I don’t know if I believe it 100%, but one of my teachers at college said we passed the point of irreversible, catastrophic damage from global warming right around the time I was born (1962). He said Carter’s policies, while well-meaning, wouldn’t have had any appreciable effect. Note that his conclusion may have been based on dated models and data but it’s food for thought. I personally believe to some extent we’re long past the point where conventional actions like reducing fossil fuel usage can make much difference. We may have to try geoengineering to reverse the affects of global warming at this stage.

  • Joe R.

    Yes, but only the individual medallion owners, who were duped, should be helped. The fleet owners who hoarded hundreds of medallions, artificially inflating the price, should see everything they own evaporate into thin air. A medallion is a business license. The way it should have worked was for the city to have a waiting list of people who wanted medallions. When a driver retired, his/her medallion would become available to the next person on the waiting list. No individual would be allowed to purchase more than one medallion. And the medallions would be sold at a price basically high enough to cover administrative costs and no more. Medallion owners couldn’t resell their medallions to someone else. This would keep medallions for their intended use, which is to let someone run a business driving a taxi.

  • Maggie

    I think you’re right that there’s a lot of very expensive damage that’s already nearly baked in to our future, based on past carbon emissions.

    We still, in my view, need to take an outlook that’s longer than ‘the next election’ and shorter than ‘the 2030 plan that’s somebody else’s problem entirely.’

    It’s possible we won’t see political shifts until credit rating agencies start forcing them by pricing local climate risk into municipal debt. But again, the longer we wait, the much, much higher the costs. They’re staggering. It’s a lot cheaper to start fixing the problem right away.

  • Joe R.

    I think a tipping might be when valuable coastal real estate in places like NYC and Miami is suddenly seen as vulnerable and loses a lot of its value. Money talks. This is what may get people to finally wake up. If I could wave a wand and make policy, we would be off fossil fuels world-wide in 5 years or less. As bizarre as that goal sounds, I think it would be feasible with a worldwide focused effort. Unfortunately, people need to literally see the water lapping at their feet before they’ll take this problem seriously.

  • Joe R.

    NYC just doesn’t have the space for chauffeured car rides to become a middle-class commodity. That fact seems to escape those who run Uber or Lyft.

  • Joe R.

    Don’t underestimate human-powered travel. In Manhattan and the adjacent areas it’s a slam dunk as far as getting around faster, no argument there. Even out by my it’s often nearly as fast, sometimes faster, over trips of significant distance. For example, one trip I used to do fairly often when I was younger was my place to the Lake Success shopping center located on Union Turnpike right after city limits. It’s 6.5 to 7 miles each way, depending upon the route I take. Normal travel time by bike was about 25 minutes but I made in as little as 21 minutes occasionally. By car the average travel time was about the same, while best-case travel time was maybe around 18 minutes, just 3 minutes under my best-case bike travel time.

    In other places where cars might average higher speeds, human-powered travel in velomobiles can still compete. I watch videos on you-tube where people use velomobiles to average 30 to 35 mph on trips in suburban-type places. Cars don’t do a whole lot better.

    The only area where human-powered travel can’t really compete is longer distance travel done primarily on highways. That’s only a small percentage of trips. Most car trips nationally are under 10 miles and average 30 mph or less overall. Human power can easily compete.

  • kevd

    See, what you’re doing again is preaching to the converted.
    Does it make me think that “yes, I have been making the right choices!”? Sure.
    Does it make you think the same thing?
    I’d bet.
    Does it convince many others who are currently using more carbon intensive modes?
    I tend to doubt it.

  • kevd

    I’lll just respond to the first sentence because I ain’t got time for a typical Joe R. novella.
    I’m not underestimating. I can average 12 on fixed gear on slightly nubby 28s in NYC traffic. If velomobiles were so amazing I would have heard about them somewhere other than from Joe R.
    $8000 buys the typical american a used car. They ain’t spending 8K on a velomobile. But $300 for a bike to got 2-5 miles? Maybe. Even if it IS slower than driving – because $300 can’t buy a car.

  • bolwerk

    Telling people biking is going to save the planet seems kind of hyperbolic, because climate change is an issue where transportation plays a mostly subordinate role.

    But at least talking about how bikes fit into a net zero emission transportation regime seems like a debate that needs to be had. Now, not in 20 years.

  • bolwerk

    Human-powered travel isn’t that competitive with other modes unless someone already wants to cycle. Most people are some of: old, sick, busy, disinterested, unable to store their bike on one side of their journey. rain-phobic, cold-phobic, heat-phobic, heat-sensitive, have cardiovascular issues, find dealing with automobiles stressful, find dealing with cops? stressful, are going to be pulled over because they’re black (cops? again), need to wear a suit, and countless other factors. Yes, you can mitigate some of that for some people, but you can’t fix them all for everybody.

  • bolwerk

    It’s kind of like arguing that motorcycles are competitive with cars because you can get around on them faster. You can, but….

  • Joe R.

    Well, we have to get the price on velomobiles down to under $2K, better yet $1K, before we have the potential to see mass adoption. I’ll admit they’re too expensive for most people other than cycling enthusiasts to consider. A lot of people see them, think they’re cool, want to buy one, but then get sticker shock at the price. No reason we can’t make them for a lot less. Start by using molded plastics for the shell instead of carbon fiber.

    E-bikes are kind of a halfway house between velomobiles and regular bikes. The 28 mph speed pedelecs especially could offer a viable option in much of the US.

  • Joe R.

    The physical limitation and need to not sweat/wear certain clothing can be addressed with e-bikes. The climate and precipitation issues can be addressed with fully enclosed velomobiles or something similar, although of course as I mentioned elsewhere the price on those really needs to drop dramatically for mass adoption.

    Nobody is saying human-powered travel can work for everyone, but if we can get it to work for a critical mass of people it can take some load off mass transit and get lots of people out of cars.

    The cops are a big problem which can be dealt with in one fell swoop if we had an administration which just said to the NYPD “stop harassing cyclists for petty infractions”. It can also be dealt with by legalizing most of the things which currently get cyclists tickets, like rolling through red lights or stop signs. I actually wonder how many people who tried cycling in this city were permanently turned off to it, not because of poor streets or crazy drivers, but because they got an expensive ticket doing something they felt was no worse than jaywalking? I’ll bet it’s a significant number. The “saving money” argument falls apart after your first $190 red light ticket.

  • Maggie

    Yes, I agree with you.

    But look: arguing for biking as a fun mode of transport that’s superior to any other dates back to John Forester’s days. We know how well the approach works. People will substitute biking as long as they feel safe and comfortable.

    I’ve sat through enough NYC community board meetings where it’s taken months or years of advocating for another mile-long segment of an incomplete network that goes in after a ghost bike or two. I just don’t think this approach is moving at the right speed to build out a climate-appropriate network. Lots of city politicians shrug that off as someone else’s problem. I don’t feel comfortable letting the climate implications slide.

  • qrt145

    You are still saving a lot of money after a $190 ticket, but yes, they suck, and the extremely exponential penalties for “recidivism” (even during a single traffic stop) are a huge problem.

  • bolwerk

    I don’t buy that argument that it will ever take a load on mass transit. If anything, successful biking infrastructure will put more of a load on mass transit. People who can cycle for one thing can take mass transit for another.

    That’s not a bad thing, either.

  • kevd

    “climate-appropriate network”
    you did it again.
    can we just say “bike network”?
    They literally don’t care about the climate implications – even the ones who claim they do (deBalsio)

    I mean, go nuts! Just don’t expect them to start caring or doing anything more quickly.
    I actually think 30,000 more Citibikes will do more to expand the bike network – as it builds a constituency of a few hundred grand who will personally see just how crap our current network is – and none of them will have to be converted to climate warriors.

  • kevd

    “E-bikes are kind of a halfway house between velomobiles”
    Agreed.
    I’m all for ’em. Even though I don’t ride ’em.

  • kevd

    you’re definitely gonna have to explain way better there, bub.

  • kevd

    true true.
    No one drives one way and subways the other way.
    But many citibike one way and subway the other.
    I’ve biked to work, seen it pissing down with rain and taken my bike on the train home (I often work late so it ain’t that crowded).

  • Maggie
  • fdtutf

    Until we started wholesale burning of fossil fuels in the Industrial Age cancers were practically unknown. Now they’re epidemic.

    There is a view that says that cancer is a natural, even inevitable, consequence of aging for large numbers of people. Cancer rates were lower when life expectancies were lower simply for that reason.

  • bolwerk

    It’s just none of these two-wheeled modes are, by themselves, drop-in replacements for automobiles. “Mass adoption” of them (the clean/quiet ones, anyway) would be great, but even if you get that it doesn’t follow that they become general use transportation options.

  • bolwerk

    Yeah, that’s really very cool too. If we want to expand bike use in urban spaces, I think making it integrate as well as possible with transit should be part of the strategy. Think “complementary,” not “competitive.”

  • kevd

    Agreed.
    I think a serious goal should be turning our current suburbs from predominantly 2 cars/family to 1 car/family like one finds in say, Germany.
    Most families have cars there.
    But most families have 1 car.
    Big shopping trips, vacations etc. often happen in the car.
    But little errands and lots of daily commuting can happen via foot, bike and transit.
    Just getting to there would is going to take a couple decades.

  • Joe R.

    https://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/scientists-suggest-that-cancer-is-man-made/

    Keep in mind people burned stuff for fuel in ancient times, but it was less common than now. Cancers may have existed in small numbers due to this, but not in the epidemic proportions we see now.

    I’ve heard the cancer is part of aging theory myself but I don’t buy it. If it were, everyone would get cancer eventually if they lived long enough. There’s also the theory people are always getting some cancer cells in their body, but the immune system fights them off before they have a chance to take hold. I find this theory a lot more plausible. With modern pollutants and lifestyles (i.e. obesity, lack of sleep) causing more spontaneous instances of cancer cells, eventually the immune system misses and then you have cancer. Therefore, it makes sense cancer is more prevalent as you age due to your immune system weakening. However, in the absence of environmental pollution, cancer would likely be a rarity, even in the very old.

    As an aside, if we were able to mostly conquer cancer and heart disease, average life spans should exceed 100 years. Somewhere between 100 and 110 for most people the organs fail to maintain homeostasis.