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

Jay Street on Friday.
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.

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.

  • r

    DOT to Activists: “Sure, but this could be a parking space!”

  • AMH

    The most obvious rebuttal to this is saying that the smashed tomatoes don’t matter if no one was in the lane at that time. If a cyclist is present, maybe drivers will give him/her more room. But of course those of us who ride at all have experienced those routine close calls. Tiny “murderstrip” door zone lanes give you no space from either parked cars or moving ones.

    The law requires three feet when passing, so a driver passing a cyclist in a DZ bike lane is breaking that law, right? A bike lane should be at minimum seven feet wide to ensure three feet clearance on both sides, yes?

  • r

    All true but that all depends on drivers paying attention. Distracted or impaired drivers are a huge threat to people on bikes and a growing one at that. DOT should design accordingly.

  • brainguynyc

    What protects pedestrians from bikes and e-scooters?

  • qrt145

    What protects pedestrians from other pedestrians?

  • brainguynyc

    The law also requires that bikes and e-scooters follow the rules of the road. Bikes and e-scooters consistently go through red lights, travel the wrong way, hop on to sidewalks, etc.

  • brainguynyc

    What?

  • Simon Phearson

    Physical and grade separation. A.k.a., “sidewalks.”

  • brainguynyc

    The law also requires that bikes and e-scooters follow the rules of the road. Bikes and e-scooters consistently go through red lights, travel the wrong way, hop on to sidewalks, etc.

  • brainguynyc

    Bikes and e-scooters should be ticketed more frequently. They are dangerous!

  • Simon Phearson

    Fascinating. But you’d asked what protects pedestrians from cyclists and scooter riders. I told you.

  • Simon Phearson

    Pedestrians should be ticketed more frequently. Right now I never know when they might walk out from behind vehicles into my line of travel, jog into my path, begin crossing against their light when I have the right of way, etc. They are dangerous, too!

  • brainguynyc

    Sure NEVER see bikes and e-scooters going down the sidewalk.

  • Simon Phearson

    The fact that users of these vehicles sometimes break the law is not actually relevant. Drivers frequently park and drive in protected bike lanes. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t “protected.”

  • brainguynyc

    Bikes and e-scooters frequently break the law and cause a dangerous situation for now unprotected pedestrians. “People who live in glass houses…” Very relevant.

  • AMH

    All the smashed tomatoes offer some clues as to why. Wouldn’t you rather face traffic so you won’t be run over from behind? Ride on the sidewalk away from deadly cars? Get a head start so they’re not tailgating you?

  • Andrew

    Bikes and e-scooters frequently break the law

    As to motorists and pedestrians.

    and cause a dangerous situation for now unprotected pedestrians.

    Motorists who break the law kill more people in a week than cyclists and e-scooterers do in a decade. You’re deliberately ignoring the elephant in the room.

    “People who live in glass houses…” Very relevant.

    If you believe that cyclists don’t deserve to live because some cyclists sometimes break laws, I can’t wait to hear what you think about motorists.

  • zach

    The law also requires pedestrians to follow the rules of the road. Pedestrians consistently go through red lights, cross mid-block, stand in the street trying to wave down taxis, read on their phones while crossing the street, etc.

  • brainguynyc

    I know you have a point here, I just can’t find it.

  • brainguynyc

    You know if you substututed the word “bike” or “e-scooter” and make a few adjustments I could use the same statement. BTW pedestrians always have the right of way.

  • brainguynyc
  • Simon Phearson

    You seem to have missed the point of my comment. And no, pedestrians do not always have the right of way.

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