Remember when Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes litigant Norman Steisel dismissed the DOT’s counts of cyclists on the Prospect Park West bike lane in part because many were perceived to be going somewhere other than work?
Furthermore, the D.O.T. data’s lack of credibility is reinforced by our own videotapes. These show that the Prospect Park West bike lanes are used by half the number of riders the D.O.T. says, and that cyclists are not riding to commute as originally contemplated but are recreational users who could be better served by enhancing the existing lane 100 yards away in Prospect Park.
This argument was, and remains, absurd, since NBBL would often cite the fact that people drive to the park for concerts, Little League games, working out, and other non-work purposes as an argument for preserving the parking and three-lane configuration.
Todd Litman, writing for Planetzien, tackles this and other anti-bike arguments in a great post entitled, “Mythbusting: Exposing Half-Truths That Support Automobile Dependency.”
Critics sometimes argue that walking and cycling primarily provide recreational travel, with the implication that this frivolous. For example, Poole asks, “Why should I—either as a highway user-tax payer or a general taxpayer—have to pay for someone else’s hobby?” But a significant portion of all travel is recreational: travel for vacations, to sport and cultural events, or to shop for recreational goods. Critics assume that automobile trips that serve recreational purposes are important but walking and bicycling trips that serve the same purposes are not. For example, they value a car carrying passengers to walk or ride on a trail, or to a gym to pedal a stationary bike, but not people who walk or bike directly from their home. This is arbitrary, inefficient and unfair, reflecting a bias against non-motorized travel.
The Poole to which Litman refers is the Reason Foundation’s Robert Poole, who, writing in Surface Transportation Innovations #121, tries to soften his argument against funding for a U.S. Bicycle Route System by saying, “I have nothing against bike riders or bike paths. Several of my family members are avid bike riders.”
Here’s Jan Gehl, speaking on safe cycling for people of all ages:
”It is my opinion that to have a substantive bicycle culture it is not only for the extreme sport enthusiasts, the freaks who think, ‘It’s a good day if I survive’. If, like in Copenhagen, you have a bicycle system that’s a real system, it should be city-wide in the major streets. It should be like sidewalks – it goes from one entrance door to another entrance door.”
The Brooklyn Paper has more on this upcoming forum on traffic safety. One of the topics that’s sure to come up for discussion is a neighborhood-wide speed limit of 20 mph:
Forum organizers also include the groups Park Slope Parents and Park Slope Neighbors, the latter of which tried and failed to convince the city to make the neighborhood a so-called “Slow Zone” in 2011. Now it thinks there might be more momentum behind such measures.
“There seems to be a city-wide interest, not only in Park Slope, in doing something about making the streets safer,” said organization co-founder Eric McClure.
Tuesday’s meeting comes on the heels of a well-attended march and rally in Fort Greene last month and high turnout at the most recent meeting of the 78th Precinct Community Council.
This study looked at whether drivers overtaking a bicyclist changed the proximities of their passes in response to the level of experience and skill signalled by the bicyclist’s appearance. Five outfits were tested, ranging from a stereotypical sport rider’s outfit, portraying high experience and skill, to a vest with ‘novice cyclist’ printed on the back, portraying low experience. A high-visibility bicycling jacket was also used, as were two commercially available safety vests, one featuring a prominent mention of the word ‘police’ and a warning that the rider was video-recording their journey, and one modelled after a police officer’s jacket but with a letter changed so it read ‘POLITE’. An ultrasonic distance sensor recorded the space left by vehicles passing the bicyclist on a regular commuting route. 5690 data points fulfilled the criteria for the study and were included in the analyses. The only outfit associated with a significant change in mean passing proximities was the police/video-recording jacket. Contrary to predictions, drivers treated the sports outfit and the ‘novice cyclist’ outfit equivalently, suggesting they do not adjust overtaking proximity as a function of a rider’s perceived experience. Notably, whilst some outfits seemed to discourage motorists from passing within 1 metre of the rider, approximately 1-2% of overtakes came within 50 cm no matter what outfit was worn. This suggests there is little riders can do, by altering their appearance, to prevent the very closest overtakes; it is suggested that infrastructural, educational or legal measures are more promising for preventing drivers from passing extremely close to bicyclists.
Eleven-year-old Esme Brauer, the wonderful daughter of my friends and fellow activists Hilda Cohen and Nathan Brauer, delivered a speech at the March for Pedestrian Safety in Fort Greene that was about as eloquent as any I’ve ever heard from livable streets advocates three or four times her age:
“I’m growing up in Brooklyn. And when you’re living in Brooklyn, you learn the rules of the street. And you follow them,” she said, loudly and clearly. “But no matter how much you follow them, when you are on the street, your life is in someone else’s hands. Everyone else’s hands. And most of these hands are on the steering wheel of a car. So it matters if I follow the rules of the street. But it also matters if you follow the rules of the street. And you can do this easily. Just yield to me. Stop at red lights. Go the right way. Just drive safely. For me and for everyone who walks the streets of Brooklyn.”
You can read more about this week’s rally in this excellent post from the New York Times’ Motherlode blog by Hope Reeves.
Concerned community members will gather tonight at Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope to discuss traffic safety:
In the wake of the deaths of local children, Sammy Eckstein and Lucien Merryweather, we must come together to make our streets safer. We will discuss what actions the city is already taking, and then brainstorm our own list of safety measures that we think are necessary. We will begin strategizing around initiatives that we can start ourselves, and ways to put pressure on city leaders. Hosted by community members Daniel Hurewitz and Adam White.
For more information, contact saferstreetsNYC@gmail.com.
Leslie Albrecht at DNAInfo has more on tonight’s meeting:
“My hope is that…we’ll gather our energy in a way that will create pressure to really make these changes happen and really see results,” Hurewitz said.
Hurewitz said he doesn’t consider himself a traffic activist, but felt compelled to take action after the death of Cohen Eckstein, who was hit by a van at Prospect Park West and Third Street.
The father of two, who lives around the corner from where Cohen Eckstein was killed, said he was disappointed by the seemingly lukewarm response from city officials after Sammy’s mother pleaded for lower speed limits.
Hurewitz is hoping the Thursday meeting will mobilize more people to pressure lawmakers for changes.
“I want this to be a chance to brainstorm ideas so we can turn to our officials and articulate to them, ‘Hey here’s what we want,’” Hurewitz said. “I didn’t know Sammy, but I feel like he was one of our kids. I just feel like his story could be any of our stories.”
And here are two other dates you should put on your calendar if you’d like to get involved:
- Tuesday, November 26th, 7:30 PM, 78th Precinct Community Council meeting.
- Tuesday, December 3rd, 6:30 PM, Park Slope Street Safety Partnership’s Neighborhood Forum on Street Safety, Park Slope United Methodist Church.
Parents, kids, and concerned citizens of all stripes will stage a march for pedestrian safety before tonight’s meeting of the 88th Precinct’s Community Council. I plan to be there with my daughter and hope you can come, too.
Please note that the meeting location has changed to the corner of Cumberland & Dekalb at the entrance to Fort Greene Park.
Learn more at the Make Brooklyn Safer Facebook page.