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Monday’s Headlines: The Signs Say Edition

Signs like these are popping up all over. This one is from Prospect Park West. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Elections always remind us that complaining about problems is easy, but fixing them is hard.

Case in point? These new, non-official "No motor vehicles" signs that are popping up all over the place (see photo at the top of this post, or this one) as a form of protest for the Wild West quality of New York's streets and bike lanes right now:

Flushing Avenue.
Flushing Avenue.
Flushing Avenue.

We saw the initial news on Reddit and then lots of pictures on Imgur, but the well-made-but-clearly-not-city issued signs have also been the buzz of social media. They raise interesting questions about the law, how the Department of Transportation and the NYPD do their jobs, how members of the public perceive their role, and, most important, what we can all do to make transportation safer, better and more sustainable.

So we reached out to "Croustibat" via a comment on the Reddit post and he immediately got back to us via email: "This is 'Croustibat.'. ... Happy to talk about the Signs project :)."

So we asked some easy follow-up questions (the where's, the why's, the how's, etc). And then we asked the complicated one:

Obviously your signs are 100 percent right: motor vehicles are not allowed in bike lanes in NYC. That’s the law. But in all our coverage of complex transportation issues, we’ve consistently heard from moped riders (mostly delivery workers) that they don’t want to be in the bike lanes, but they feel they have to ride there sometimes because riding in the street is dangerous (many workers have been killed) and they are under pressure from the delivery apps to get their work done quickly and efficiently. What do you think of that, first of all?

And second, did you consider that your sign could discourage a delivery worker from using, say, Prospect Park West’s bike lane, and encourage him to ride in the street, where he could be hit by a car or truck?

So it’s a thorny issue. [We] obviously share the frustration of many cyclists that there are too many fast-moving vehicles in the bike lane, but just wonder if you’ve seen it from the other side.

We weren't accusing anyone of anything, but simply wanted to dive into a complex issue (existing bike lanes are too narrow, existing car lanes are too plentiful, some vehicles don't mix well, etc). Unfortunately, we never heard back from Croustibat. Our lines are still open.

But before letting this issue go, it's worth reminding everyone that protected bike lanes make roadways safe for all users. On Flushing Avenue along the Navy Yard, for example, where Croustibat put up many of his signs, there were 103 reported crashes from Jan. 1, 2016 through Oct. 31, 2016 before the protected bike lane went in. Those crashes injured 42 people: 15 cyclists, one pedestrian and 26 motorists.

But over the same period this year, when the bike lane has been widely used, the number of reported crashes dropped by 54 percent to 47. And total injuries dropped by 45 percent to 23 (and the cyclist injuries were down, too, despite huge increases in cycling on the roadway). (We wanted to compare other roadways where Croustibat put up signs, but crash info only goes back to 2011 on Crashmapper.)

The signs went up last week, but are still in place all over town. We reached out to the Department of Transportation for a comment on Friday, but didn't get a response yet. We'll keep you posted.

In other news:

    • We mentioned last week that community political writer Steve Witt was joining the Adams administration as a flack for the Department of Social Services, but we should have reminded our readers of Witt's never-ending defense of the automobile. Not only did we once call him "The New Steve Cuozzo" for his full-throated defense of a handful of parking spaces in 2019, but over the weekend, the Daily News recalled that time when Witt compared street safety improvements to the Holocaust. For now, the Adams administration is sticking by its man.
    • The other great story of the weekend was the sad demise of the Economic Development Corporation's plan for a Coney Island ferry stop. (Hell Gate)
    • If you missed Dave Colon's story about Saturday's launch of a redesign process for Grand Army Plaza, you really should click here.
    • Rocco Parascandola, the vastly underrated NYPD bureau chief at the News, had a great story about the epic cost of the NYPD's Big Brother program.
    • Maybe we should start going to Somos! MTA CEO Janno Lieber was in sunny Puerto Rico elbowing lawmakers for more money. (The City)
    • On the eve of today's Council hearing on electric bike battery fires, Greg Smith of the City did a long dive into the most-recent catastrophe that included months of complaints against an illegal bike repair shop operating out of a high-rise apartment. But despite what many reporters seem to be calling for, banning electric bikes isn't an option; we prefer solutions that save lives and livelihoods.
    • Speaking of battery-powered devices, there were a lot of takeaways from the Times national desk's e-car story:
      • The Times is still shilling for cars. The story had nary a word about how electric cars don't solve many of the problems of conventional cars, such as road violence and sprawl.'
      • The Times glossed over the huge news: Most e-car buyers aren't replacing a gas-powered car — they're merely adding a new vehicle to the fleet.
      • The Times is about to start a huge push for the conversion of public space into charging stations, given its reporters concerns about how hard it is for apartment dwellers to charge their cars.
    • Another greenway heard from: Activists on Staten Island marched for a better north shore on Sunday. The march highlighted so many things:
      • The need for more connectivity between Bay Street and the waterfront.
      • The scarcity of recreational facilities on the waterfront
      • The need for better walkability, bikeability, better lighting, more public seating
      • The lack of waterfront maintenance (exemplified by the sinkholes, decay of pier 1)
      • Conflicts arising from private ownership/ patchwork of ownership along waterfront spaces
      • Disconnect between all the maritime jobs that exist on SI and the lack of maritime schools to train Staten Islanders to fill those jobs.

"Greenways are a pathway to economic revitalization and job access, an investment in public health, and a keystone to transportation and recreation," said Rose Uscianowski, the Staten Island and South Brooklyn Organizer for Transportation Alternatives. "The North Shore Greenway would bring all these benefits and more. We need our fair share of the RAISE grant funds to take the first step toward a realized North Shore Greenway."

Here they are:

Photo: Scott Heins
Photo: Scott Heins
Photo: Scott Heins
    • Crain's has also started covering the insufficiency of the city's climate plan.
    • This is what happens when a city allows people to just dump garbage on the sidewalk for free — people drive from Pennsylvania to toss their trash here. And kudos to Sanitation Department spokesman Joshua Goodman for pointing out that the curbside lane and the sidewalk are "public space." (NY Post)
    • An SUV driver killed a man on a Nanrobot electric scooter in The Bronx. No charges, of course. (NY Post)
    • Opponents of open restaurants have an open letter in, of course, the Village Sun.
    • Gridlock Sam points out that the "Gridlock Alert" days are coming (the tree is here, after all). Why don't local officials actually do something beyond waiving a white flag, such as mandatory car pooling over bridges, free buses, or elevated tolls during high-use periods?
    • Today's pet peeve: It is impossible to read amNY's online edition because of all the gambling ads:
Unreadable.
Unreadable.
Unreadable.

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