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Activists to DOT: ‘This Smashed Tomato Could Be My Head!’

11:22 AM EDT on April 26, 2019

Jay Street on Friday.

We see your red cup — and raise you a smashed tomato.

Activists around the country are laying red Solo cups along the edges of unprotected bike lanes, but here in New York, at least one is making his anger about dangerous streets far more graphic.

Doug Gordon put ripe tomatoes along the busy — and still unprotected — stretch of Jay Street near the Manhattan Bridge — and within 10 minutes, at least one had been run over by a driver. The implication, of course, is that tomato could have been a cyclist's head.

"I was not at all surprised that the tomato and many of the cups were crushed," Gordon told Streetsblog. "Anyone who rides Jay Street to the Manhattan Bridge knows that drivers of cars and trucks encroach into the bike lane all the time and think nothing of getting within inches of people on bikes."

Activist Doug Gordon put this tomato on Jay Street.
Activist Doug Gordon put this tomato on Jay Street.
Activist Doug Gordon put this tomato on Jay Street.

On Twitter, Gordon added, "Imagine a transportation planner designing a street where the only thing protecting people on bikes from cars and trucks was a tomato or a paper cup. And yet planners think nothing of 'protecting' bike lanes with paint."

Gordon told Streetsblog that the cups symbolize the city's failure.

"The speed with which so many of the cups and tomatoes can be crushed by cars shows that city planners need to think hard about what they're offering in terms of safety when they stripe a bike lane or plan a bicycle lane network or when they claim that a thin stripe of paint or even a buffer will be respected by drivers," he said. "New York is building a lot of bike lanes but the question remains: For whom are they being built? Experienced, confident riders? Well, you'll run out of those pretty quickly which is why cycling levels have stagnated under Mayor de Blasio even though there are more bike lanes than ever before. The real goal of any smart city in the 21st century should be to build bicycle lanes for all ages and abilities, where people from 8 to 80 years old feel safe going about their daily business by bike. That won't happen with paint."

The comment follows up on a more pointed post recently by Gordon after a fellow rider posted a video of the hellscape of Jay Street at Schermerhorn Street in Downtown Brooklyn: "This leads me to my repeated call for DOT bike planners to let their kids ride from Atlantic to the Manhattan Bridge and see if they're still okay with the design."

Queens activist Laura Shepard and Greenpoint cyclist Jack Raver have also been laying down red cups. Theirs haven't been run over, yet, but the neat row does at least remind the city of the need for more protected lanes, they said.

The effort is part of a national movement today called the #RedCupProject, which involves activists all over the country putting the ubiquitous frat party vessels on the edge of unprotected bike lanes. The effort was started by Denver activist, Jonathan Fertig, who told StreetsblogUSA, "Our hope is that the #RedCupProject will impress upon Mayor Bowser in DC, Mayor Hancock in Denver and mayors/city councilors everywhere that there’s no more time to delay to rapid deployment of safe cycling infrastructure.”

The movement has been embraced in D.C., where activist Dave Salovesh was just killed in an unprotected lane.

Streetsblog reached out to NYC DOT, but has not heard back.

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