Monday’s Headlines: Lew Fidler is Dead Edition

Lew Fidler
Lew Fidler

Rest in peace, Lew Fidler. The former Council Member died Sunday at age 62 (Post, Daily News, no Times). We knew him for many years and we liked him — as a person — though he was never a Friend of Streetsblog. Re-reading Aaron Naparstek and Noah Kazis’s pieces was a trip down memory lane, evoking Fidler in a way that one recalls an uncle that you loved when you were 8, but then realized by age 18 that you disagreed with him on every single issue. The love lingers. But so does the disappointment.

And now, here’s the news:

  • We were happy to see Vin Barone at amNY take the same street safety angle as Streetsblog on Mayor de Blasio’s faltering Vision Zero, as deaths are up 30 percent this year. Activists will rally at City Hall on Tuesday.
  • The Times’s Emma Fitzsimmons did the much-anticipated deep dive on subway elevators.
  • The new Apple iOS will support the MTA’s OMNY system. (Endgadget)
  • Nassau County is facing millions in liability suits because it has such a big backlog of overdue street safety requests. Courts have held municipalities liable for injuries that occur after a dangerous street has been identified. (Newsday)
  • There will be a global Uber and Lyft strike on Wednesday morning (NYDN). It’s a reminder that Big Tech hasn’t made life better for taxi drivers — and the federal government isn’t helping either, as the Trump Labor Department ruled last week that drivers are independent contractors with very few rights (NY Times).
  • The MTA says it’s safe to breathe the air in the L train. (Gothamist)
  • The Post covered the funeral for little Emur Shavkator, the 3-year-old who was killed by a candy truck driver on Thursday. Friend of Streetsblog Melodie Bryant covered a vigil for the boy, at which State Senator Andrew Gounardes announced a “three moving violations and you’re out” bill (H/T Sam Bleiberg).
  • Car carnage injures six in Brooklyn on Sunday. (NBC4)
  • And, finally, it’s not polite to laugh at the misfortunes of others, but when it’s a cop crashing his scooters into a squad car, it’s difficult not to chortle. (NYDN)

And in the “In Case You Missed It” file:

  • City Comptroller Scott Stringer lent his support to State Senator Jessica Ramos’s bill to legalize e-bikes — but Stringer put his finger on the hypocrisy at the core of Mayor de Blasio’s blind spot: He loves e-bikes … except those ridden by our least-fortunate, most-overworked, lowest-paid immigrants.

And here’s a photo from the well-attended “family ride” in Sunnyside on Saturday.

queens family ride

  • Sassojr

    Cop runs scooter into patrol car. I’m guessing the response will be 5 more motorcycle only checkpoints. When will the harassment of two wheeled vehicles stop?

  • Tooscrapps
  • Larry Littlefield

    “The report late last month that a 67-year-old woman walking in a crosswalk across 57th St. suffered a skull fracture and fell into a coma after being hit by a bicyclist who ran a red light is a grim reminder of a truth I’ve resisted: Some cyclists in New York are posing a public safety risk.”

    That is unfortunate, and was reported elsewhere. But that cyclist in this case must have been moving at a high rate of speed. Such cyclists are NEVER ticketed.

    Most “running red lights” by cyclists is the equivalent of jaywalking, and at about the same speed, usually with jaywalkers walking alongside.

  • Jacob

    I’m a bit uneasy about the “Lew Fidler was a terrible policymaker but nice guy” line. How many people died or were injured because of his policies?

  • Fool
  • Joe R.

    Those kinds of cyclists will never be ticketed because there’s no real way to catch them. A cop chasing down a speeding cyclist who just ran a red light at high speed is likely to cause more carnage than just leaving the cyclist alone would. It’s the same reason for why cops generally don’t issue motorists speeding tickets on city streets. The high-speed chases will cause more crashes and deaths than the speeding does. We already learned this back in the 1970s when quite a few people were killed solely by enforcement of the national 55 mph speed limit. This more than offset any supposed reduction in deaths due to the lower speed.

    Also note it’s not necessary for a cyclist to hit a person at high speed to kill them. A lot of the fatal crashes have been caused by the pedestrian falling the wrong way, hitting their head, then sustaining a fatal brain injury. If I recall, in the crash in Central Park a few years which killed a woman, the cyclist was only going about 15 mph.

  • Joe R.

    That’s just an awful, awful piece from a supposed avid cyclist. Cyclists are already ticketed disproportionately to the rates they cause injury/death, and yet he’s advocating for enough enforcement such that “no one is allowed to run a red light”. At the same time he also admits to getting hit from behind while stopped at a red light (this is one reason why cyclists should never stop at red lights as being stopped puts you in a very vulnerable position). The only thing the kind of saturation enforcement he advocates will accomplish is to make cycling so unpleasant, so slow, and so expensive that nobody will bother riding any more. In a city with traffic signals every 250′, it’s not practical to stop and wait at every red light, nor does doing so improve public safety. I’m all for targeted enforcement to catch the relative minority of cyclists who really put people in danger by riding at high speeds on sidewalks or through red lights, but as I mentioned to Larry below I’m not sure there’s any real way to do this without the enforcement causing more problems than the reckless riding does.

    Changing the law to allow yields at stop signs or red lights should actually work to make things safer for everyone. For one thing, cycling advocacy groups would be able to offer instruction on how to safely pass red lights. This is something they undoubtedly shy away from now given the optics of training people to do something which is currently illegal. For another, the police would then be able to focus only on the kinds of cyclists who put people in danger. While there still might not be any way to catch very many of them, they might catch enough to send a clear message to the rest.

    The best solution though is infrastructure. Remove the need to stop from bicycle infrastructure by design as the Dutch did. We don’t have bad cyclists. We only have bad infrastructure.

  • The piece is alright in that it acknowledges the fact that cars represent the far greater risk to pedestrians’ safety, and criticises the police for inappropriately targeting cyclists after crashes caused by cars. It also fairly notes the prevalence of bicyclists who ride the wrong way on one-way streets and who refuse to yield to pedestrians.

    But it fails by lacking any analysis of the fact that traffic laws were devised with cars in mind and with no regard for the reality of bicycling, as well as any mention of the necessary legal reform of the Idaho stop. Laws ought to make sense; and the need for enforcement plummets when they do. Still, there is absolutely no contradiction between working to improve the law and following the law as it currently is. We should all be doing both of these things.

    In a city with traffic signals every 250′, it’s not practical to stop and wait at every red light,

    You need to cut this garbage out. Stopping at red lights is entirely practical. In my visits to Washington, I observed norms of bicyclist behaviour that I can only dream about seeing in my home city, as I was pleased to see masses of cyclists stopped at every red light.

    What’s more, the inconvenience of stopping at red lights amounts to only a minor annoyance. This practice prevents neither efficient commuting nor the sheer pleasure of riding, whether in our City’s streets, or in trips outside the City. If I can commute to work daily, visit my mother on Long Island, explore New Jersey, and even make several trips to and from Philadelphia, all while stopping at every red light, then I don’t want to hear any nonsense about how this practice impedes anything.

    We need the Idaho stop in order to bring logic to the law, and to establish the precedent that different types of vehicles require different standards. But, even if we never get the Idaho stop, any bicyclist can still derive great enjoyment from riding in our City, despite the annoyance of stopping at red lights. And anyone who says otherwise is either lying or delusional.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “The LIRR racked up $225 million in OT last year, according to the Empire Center — consuming nearly a third of the $740 million in fares Long Island commuters pay.”
    Not true. The overtime might be equal to one-third of the fares Long Island commuters pay, but that doesn’t mean they are the ones who paid it.
    Look at the fare recovery rate between agencies, and it’s pretty clear that subway riders paid most of it.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “It fails by lacking any analysis of the fact that traffic laws were devised with cars in mind and with no regard for the reality of bicycling, as well as any mention of the necessary legal reform of the Idaho stop.”

    Right.

  • Fool

    Of course, but this way of putting it is way easier to convey. Messaging!

    -Not that streetsblog cares.

  • Joe R.

    Stopping at red lights is both dangerous to cyclists, in that it puts us in a very vulnerable position, plus it greatly increases the energy and time needed to ride any given distance. A ten mile ride stopping every 3 blocks is exhausting, unpleasant, and slow (trust me, I’ve done it). The same ten miles with few or no stops is much more pleasant. Whether stopping at red lights can be done or not is moot. My point is it makes cycling so unpleasant, inefficient, and slow that many people, me included, would just rather not even bother. That’s doubly true for utility cycling, as opposed to pleasure cycling. A recreational cyclist can often choose the times and places to ride such that they can avoid a lot of stopping. I tailor my regular routes for exactly that purpose. A utility cyclist often doesn’t have such freedom. That means part of the calculus of deciding whether or not to ride, as opposed to using some other means, depends upon the speed of cycling versus those other means. As a general rule of thumb I figure I can average 15 mph in typical traffic levels, but only if I treat red lights as yields. This often compares very favorable to other modes. If I stop and wait the full cycle, average speeds are often reduced to well under 10 mph, in some cases to only 5 or 6 mph. This doesn’t compare favorably to other modes, particularly if the trip can be made mostly via subway. End result is lots of people who might otherwise make these utility trips won’t because of the traffic signals.

    And how many traffic signals does Philadelphia have? It’s not just the shorter red light cycles which increase compliance but also the traffic light density. Waiting 10 or 15 seconds for a red light every mile or two on average isn’t a big deal. Waiting 40 seconds every 3 or 4 blocks, as is the case in NYC, is. An Idaho stop law would be great, but the real solution is systematically removing traffic signals from major bike routes, regardless of the cost.

  • Joe R.

    Another thing to mention regarding red lights is the possibility of getting a traffic ticket just doing what most cyclists naturally do. Irrespective of the other negatives of red lights which I mentioned earlier, one single traffic ticket can be enough to turn people off to cycling for good. I wonder how many people started riding, were caught in one of the NYPD stings, and gave it up? The one ticket I got 20 years ago for sidewalk cycling still sticks with me, to the point I regularly turn off the road if I see police cars ahead, even if I’m doing nothing against the law. If I ever get another ticket for anything, I’m never cycling in this city ever again. Now if tickets can have this effect on an avid cyclist like myself, I hate to think how they affect someone just starting to ride.

  • A ten mile ride stopping every 3 blocks is exhausting, unpleasant, and slow (trust me, I’ve done it).

    No, you trust me. I have done such a ride twice a day on my commute to and from work for the majority of days during the past eight years. Stopping at red lights is a non-issue.

    And Philly’s density of light signals is not noticibly different to New York’s.

  • Joe R.

    I’m happy it works for you. It doesn’t for me. If I recall, your average speeds for your commute are pathetically slow, something like 8 or 9 mph, and that’s despite the 1+ mile across a bridge where you don’t need to stop. I’ll just as soon not bother riding if I’m only going to average jogging speed. A competent rider on a decent bike should be able to average 15 to 20 mph with the right infrastructure. That handily competes with the subway. 8 or 9 mph doesn’t, even including waiting time. I can be in Manhattan in 35 to 45 minutes by public transit. That’s an average speed of 13 to 17 mph. Cycling the way I do is competitive with that, albeit barely. Riding like you do would make the trip take at least 25 minutes longer. That’s an extra 50 minutes daily a hypothetical Manhattan commuter just might not have.

    This isn’t even getting into the times my legs blew out from frequent stopping and I was stranded. Couldn’t ride any more, couldn’t even walk for about an hour until it passed. Again, if it doesn’t happen to you great. It’s a problem for many cyclists. If stopping at every red light was so easy, then why don’t most cyclists do it?

    The best thing we could do for cycling in NYC is remove all traffic signals from major bike routes by any means necessary. The next best thing we can do is get the NYPD off our backs for petty infractions.

  • Simon Phearson

    There is absolutely no reason anyone should take your experience to be instructive or indicative. You have an unusually high tolerance for delay and detour, you do not evidently have the same kinds of practical constraints that most cyclists do, and you are not honest in the way you describe your rides.

  • My bike commute takes just over an hour, which is a very typical length, and only a little longer than the same commute takes by subway

    Your supreme discourtesy in saying that I am not describing my rides honestly reveals an appalling lack of socialisation. This historical moment is largely defined by pathetic little men angrily lashing out with no sense of proportion or self-awareness; you therefore deserve notice for capturing the cultural zeitgeist so precisely.

  • Joe R.

    Not to mention it gives ammunition to our foes. A lot of people still think of and treat bicycle infrastructure as a plaything for cyclists, rather than a transportation system. A lot of the reason for this hinges on the attitude that cyclists either ride solely for pleasure, or if they ride to get somewhere they have all the time in the world (hence no attempts to optimize bicycle routes for speed as well as safety). When someone who bikes reinforces that attitude by basically being content doing a trip in well over an hour which should take 40 minutes tops, the foes will latch on to that.
    So will those who complain about “speeding cyclists” when the same person says 10 mph is an appropriate speed for city riding. The problem is compounded by the fact a lot of the cycling movement either implicitly is OK with these things, or is just too afraid to make more demands for bike infrastructure which functions like real transportation. It seems with every mode other than bicycles, travel speed is second in importance only to safety. Cycling should be no different. We should demand the same type of non-stop travel motorists enjoy on highways. We should also demand that any bicycle infrastructure on local streets be safe and usable up to the legal speed limit, not at the 10 mph maximum a lot of our foes would limit us to.

  • Joe R.

    His point is you tolerate taking over an hour to do a trip which could easily be done in 40 minutes or less if the city actually gave a fuck about prioritizing speed for cyclists as much as it does speed for motorists. Heck, I’ve done the distance of your work commute in 25 minutes on my best days.

  • Hooray for you.

    The only important fact is is that I work about an hour from home, whether I go by subway or by bike. No one could reasonably complain about the length of that commute.

    What’s more, when I’m on the subway, I’m reading; and when I’m on the bike, I am often listening to podcasts or audio books — not to mention exercising. So, even if the commute were longer (and I had a period during my work career when my bus/subway commute each way was two hours), it would still be time well spent, and an enjoyable part of the day.

  • Joe R.

    My point here is if we want more people to cycle for transportation (and I think we’re in complete agreement on that at least) then part of the equation needs to be getting cycling speeds up. The higher the speeds, the greater the potential radius of destinations. The most effective way to do that is obviously to eliminate stopping, at least for most of the trip. Sure, we can speed up cruising speeds as well via e-bikes and/or velomobiles, but for now both are niche solutions. The real answer is to let cyclists get up to speed, then stay there. The beauty of this solution everyone rides at whatever pace they want. You’re happy with 10 mph most days, fine. Maybe one day you leave home a little late, and need to go 15 mph instead. Again fine. I can go 16 or 18 mph on my lousy days, 23 mph on my better days. If I get a velomobile maybe I can go 40 mph. Everyone rides at whatever speed they want. The same person might ride faster when they’re doing longer trips, slower if they’re just going a mile or two.

    There are reasons cycling mode share has plateaued in the low single digits. Doubtless draconian NYPD enforcement has a lot to do with it. So does trips unnecessarily made longer by stupid rules designed for cars, plus lousy bicycle infrastructure which often isn’t safe at anything much over 10 or 12 mph.

  • We definitely need some more non-stop express bike routes. I have mentioned before that every time I am on the Shore Parkway bike path next to the Belt Parkway, or Joe Michael’s Mile next to the Cross Island Parkway, or the bike path next to the Wantagh State Parkway heading down to Jones Beach, I remember that every highway ought to have an adjacent bike lane. On those routes I do around 20 miles per hour rather than 10.

    Still, while that is nice in its own way, and while I want more of that (mainly to facilitate long-distance travel, but also to make commutes more efficient), I think that prioritising speed over all else does not go well with pleasure riding.

    Riding for pleasure means taking in the surroundings. It was by riding for pleasure through Philadelphia that I fell in love with that city, and discovered how polite its drivers are as compared to New York drivers (or, more likely, how horribly rude New Yorkers are as compared to everyone else).

    Also, I became fascinated with Washington by taking several trips there for the sole purpose of riding around. And I really got a feel for just how dire a place Baltimore is by taking trips there just to ride around that city’s streets.

    And, of course, New York comes alive when you’re moving through it on a bike. Bicycle commuting and pleasure riding create two entirely different mindsets; when there’s no destination that you have to get to at a required hour, you are free to really appreciate the beauty and the grandeur that we New Yorkers can sometimes become inured to.

    No bicyclist should ever apologise for riding for pleasure. I certainly won’t be apologetic tomorrow as I use a vacation day to spend my time in the best possible way: enjoying my City by bicycle.

  • Joe R.

    I’ve ridden for pleasure also, where I’m not trying to do any particular trip in any given time. I’ll generally ride fast past the things which don’t interest me much, slow down for those that do, perhaps even cruise around the same block multiple times just to take in the sights. I used to hang around around downtown Flushing on Friday and Saturday nights for example, just slowly riding around, sometimes even on the sidewalks, mostly doing girl watching. Needless to say, that was a pleasure taken away from me when the NYPD starting giving out sidewalk cycling tickets. To this day I resent them for that. I won’t apologize for my pleasure cruises, either, but there are lots of times I just want to go somewhere as quickly as my legs will carry me. I don’t see why the city can’t accommodate both types of cycling.

    Sadly, taking care of my mom, I think this all might be behind me for good. My last ride was that day I crashed last October 7. I really suffered no more than minor injuries but that, and my general fatigue, have put a damper on riding. People will never understand caretaker burnout until they experience it. Given that my mom’s internal organs are in fairly good shape, she could go on like this for a while. That means I’ll probably be her caretaker well into my 60s, possibly even my 70s. I hope I’m able to resume riding eventually, but for now that’s a big part of my life missing.

  • I am truly sorry about the exhaustion and the emotional pain that you are enduring.

  • Simon Phearson

    My bike commute takes just over an hour, which is a very typical length,…

    Not for bike commutes.

    …and only a little longer than the same commute takes by subway.

    This “only a little longer” equivocation is a good example of why I accuse you of dishonesty. You’ve made it extremely clear, throughout your commentary, that you’re willing to exaggerate factual details that are helpful to your argument, leave out inconvenient details, and implicitly discount the relevance of others based on normative judgments that you never make explicit or justify. I don’t – and can’t – really trust that you’re doing a fair comparison here.

    Your supreme discourtesy in saying that I am not describing my rides honestly reveals an appalling lack of socialisation.

    And, obviously, the way to rebut such an accusation is to launch into a grandstanding ad hominem.

    No, Ferdinand, I could just as easily accuse you of representing this historical moment by virtue of the fact that you are impervious to reason or facts and argue in an intellectually dishonest way. I don’t even bother to try any more, because I know that yet another comment reminding you to think of cycling scofflaw behavior from a systemic design perspective instead of from an individualistic, moralizing perspective would just prompt another lengthy, tediously repetitive humble-brag about cyclists being their own worst enemy.

    It might actually be helpful to learn about whatever it is about the WA cycling network that incentivizes cyclists to obey the traffic laws there, and how it might differ from the way NYC’s has been designed. But your bias is so strong you’re unlikely ever to have thought about it in such terms. You’d prefer to think there is just something uniquely inferior about NYC cycling culture – apparently, because it boosts your own ego. So you have nothing useful to contribute to this conversation.

  • Vooch

    A high speed cyclist running beaucoup red lights (say on 1st Avenue) at 30 MPH can easily be ticketed by Police.

    Beat Cop sees infraction – and calls his buddy a few blocks further along. Buddy sets up the collar

    No made-for-tv chase needed

  • Simon Phearson

    I’m sure you’ve noticed, but Ferdinand never fails to support anti-cyclists in the various threads that come up attacking them. He is only too happy to provide them ammunition, even while chastising scofflaw cyclists for doing the same thing.

    The problem is compounded by the fact a lot of the cycling movement either implicitly is OK with these things,…

    Cycling advocacy is preoccupied by achieving “wins” in the form of expanded infrastructure, to such a point that advocates really don’t seem to care too much whether that infrastructure actually serves cyclists – of any variety, really. The newest extension of the Second Avenue lane, for instance, is billed as “closing the gap” at the QB bridge, with not a word on how the proposed solution will severely inconvenience any cyclist traveling downtown (and so can reliably be expected to be ignored by them).

  • Train commute = one hour flat. (If I get on at 8:00, I’ll get to work at 9:00.)

    Bike commute = one hour and ten minutes (I try to leave home at 7:30; but if I leave by 7:45, I will get to work and be able to change clothes before 9:00.)

    And I absolutely agree that design changes are the best way to encourage good bicycling behaviour. Though I never mentioned Washington state. I said that in Washington (the city — D.C.) cyclists stop at red lights.

    Washington’s bike lanes have a few things that ours don’t; for instance, the green paint can sometimes carry through intersections. But the main difference between the two cities is one of cyclists’ attitude.

    Cyclists in that city tend to stop at red lights simply because a red light means stop; and that’s what civilised people living in a society do. Whereas New York cyclists, like New Yorkers in general, just DGAF. So New York cyclists tend to blow lights.

    This is the same cultural norm that leads New York drivers to stop well ahead of the stopping line at red lights, while drivers in Washington stop behind the line, where they’re supposed to stop.

    I am a proud New Yorker; I wear a New York City flag on my helmet. But the plain fact is that New Yorkers are generally assholes — compared not to some genteel Midwestern standard, but compared to the residents of other crowded Northeastern cities. When even Philadelphia, the land where they pelt Santa Claus with ice-filled snowballs, seems polite by comparison, you know you’ve got a cultural crisis on your hands.

    We could use all the infrastructure improvements possible to induce good behaviour; and the best way to ensure compliance with rules is for these rules to be sensible. But overlaid on top of all these structural problems is the problem of New Yorker assholery. To fail to acknowledge this is simple denial.

  • Simon Phearson

    Train commute = one hour flat.

    See, you’re still doing it. Misrepresenting the facts to suit your conclusion.

    You say: train commute is “one hour” – 8:00 to 9:00. Bike commute is “one hour, ten minutes”… for which you plan in an hour and a half of time. Changing at work doesn’t count as part of the commute, for some reason. The additional buffer you build in doesn’t count, for some reason.

    I get it. I like to brag that I can bike, door-to-door, as fast as I can take the subway, as well. But it’s not an accurate representation of the amount of time I have to plan in, in order to bike-commute.

    Cyclists in that city tend to stop at red lights simply because a red light means stop; and that’s what civilised people living in a society do.

    This is precisely the kind of “analysis” that is useless and self-aggrandizing. There’s no way to demonstrate it, using competent evidence; and it suggests no kind of policy solution. And it’s just not true.

    A good deal of scofflaw behavior in this city can be explained by pointing to aspects of the way we uniquely design and regulate our streets. Pedestrians stand in the street, waiting for a chance to cross against the light, because our intersections lack daylighting and light signals are too long, favoring through traffic. They jaywalk mid-block because residences, businesses, and restaurants are densely and diversely distributed. Drivers cheat lights to make turns because intersections lack dedicated turn cycles (since these, in turn, tend to require dedicated turn lanes, which are consistently resisted by CBs since they, in turn, require the elimination of traffic and/or parking lanes).

    Similarly, cyclists run red lights so often in NYC because, while we have installed a number of protected bike lanes for them – thereby attracting and concentrating cycling traffic – in most cases lights are not timed to serve cyclists. So, every cyclist faces a choice: Either inflate your commuting time by about 25-35% in order to “stop” for no cross traffic, or go safely on your away. Their choices, given that context, are entirely predictable and inexorable.

    So, that is why I say that your diverse cycling experience is an excellent opportunity to observe what it is we can do with design in NYC to try to elicit better cycling behavior. But you just don’t have the eye to do this. You say, “Well, I guess there’s more paint.” No, that’s not why cyclists stop more in DC. You prefer to make the issue about culture. For which, of course, you have no solution, either.

    Moralizing heroically about NYC’s “DGAF” culture is pointless and delusional. The behavior we see is just as much a product of decisions NYC government has made regarding land use and transportation design as is our stubborn traffic-crash fatality and injury rate.

  • Joe R.

    And the cyclist turns off on a side street once he/she knows he’s been made.

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