2014 has been a pretty good year as far as livable streets in New York City go, most notably with the reduction of the city’s default speed limit to 25 mph. It’s a huge step in the right direction, a major victory for Families for Safe Streets, and a sign of good things to come.
This past year was also an interesting year for me here on the blog and off of it. I was privileged to meet so many loyal readers in the flesh at various events and, much to my delight, every now and then during my rides to and from work. I truly appreciate everyone’s comments, criticism, tips, and friendly hellos.
For the curious – or in case you missed them – here are my three most popular posts of 2014:
- “Dawn of the Planet of the Longtails,” a look at the family bike that’s slowly taking over New York City.
- “The New Yorker Versus Vision Zero,” my response to Nick Paumgarten’s “Talk of the Town” piece on the new 25 mph speed limit.
- “Bored to Death,” a deep dive on Timothy Egan’s op-ed in the New York Times about what actually makes cities safe for cycling.
I’ll take that as advice for 2015 – apparently my readers like pictures of cute kids on bikes and long posts involving media criticism.
As this year ends, I’d be remiss if I didn’t put in a plug for the organizations that are working to make a safer city and that serve as my inspiration in so many ways. If you’re still looking to make a year-end charitable donation, the wonderful folks at Streetsblog and Streetfilms as well as Transportation Alternatives will put your money to good use. With all that we have left to do to advance Vision Zero and make a better New York City, I hope you’ll give them your support.
Have a safe and happy New Year.
Brad Aaron at Streetsblog has an excellent takedown of the new victim-blaming public service campaign from the MTA. While I’m a safe streets advocate and agree with Brad’s criticisms, my initial reaction to the PSAs was largely filtered through my professional experience as a TV producer and writer. My day job involves looking at images, writing words, and making sure that those two things add up into one coherent narrative. So when I saw “Cycling for Trouble,” a new bike safety public service announcement from the MTA, the first things I noticed were the glaring inconsistencies, ridiculous images, and downright incorrect information in its brief thirty seconds.
The ad begins with a young man getting ready for his ride. First he puts on gloves:
Note: gloves are not required when riding a bicycle in New York City. Yet.
Then he puts on his helmet:
Note: a helmet is not required for adults when riding a bicycle in New York City. Yet.
Then he makes sure his bike has tires:
Note: although not legally required, a bicycle equipped with tires is highly recommended.
Then he puts on his headphones and goes for a ride:
Look, I agree. Wearing headphones in both ears while riding a bike is Not a Good Idea… if you’re riding in the heart of Midtown, on Jay Street in Brooklyn, on in any other very congested part of the city. (Having an earbud in one ear is perfectly legal, however.) But on a pathway along an empty beach? Really? Is this the most effective visual way to convey that wearing headphones isn’t the smartest thing in the world? So even before the central message of this PSA has a chance to really get out there, any skeptic who stops to process this image – that is to say, any New Yorker – is likely to be taken out of the moment entirely.
Then there’s this mini-scene, where the guy slowly coasts through a quiet park – another place where wearing headphones isn’t really all that bad – as he points to perhaps to a pal or just someone he wants to notice him:
That’s quickly followed by this image:
The sequence above is very strange: A man who methodically prepares for his ride by putting on gloves, strapping on a helmet, and making sure his bike has tires suddenly morphs into a cocky-yet-clownish character from a bad comedy video? It’s just dumb and not very well thought out.
Then the man takes to the street where bouncing bold graphics tell us what he is listening to:
This, of course, is a total surprise if you can’t hear the techno-inspired beat that begins playing the moment the man puts on his headphones. It’s just so strange. Would listening to Serial or WFAN at a low volume be “Not Good”?
Anyway, apparently the music is so loud that it causes the man to go blind, since he crashes into the same bus that’s been right in front of him for at least a block:
This is just dumb on top of dumb, and makes me suspect that no one familiar with biking in New York City, or even bicycles in general, was involved in this spot’s production. Part of the reason wearing headphones in both ears isn’t a good idea is because it makes it harder to hear cars or other cyclists approaching from behind you. On the Manhattan Bridge, what bike commuter hasn’t been stuck behind a person huffing up the incline with a set of earbuds wedged into his noggin? There’s no amount of bell ringing or “On your left” loud enough to get that guy to hear you and move over, so you’re more or less screwed until Canal Street. But its pretty rare that I see an earbud-wearing cyclist coming from the opposite direction on the bridge and think, “I better be careful. That guy who clearly has me in his line of sight can’t hear me.”
Oh, and another thing: there hasn’t been a documented case of a headphone-wearing cyclist rear-ending a bus, at least not one resulting in serious injury or death. Believe me, if an idiot died doing something like this, it would be on the cover of the Post for a week. And that’s perhaps the biggest failure of this spot: in presenting a situation so unlikely it’s less common that getting killed by a falling air conditioner after being knocked over by an exploding Mister Softee truck, the message gets totally lost and subjects the entire piece to the wrath of Gothamist. Even WNYC got in on the act. That’s probably not the outcome the MTA expected when the idea for this PSA began.
Then there’s this image and catchphrase at the end of the spot:
I guess “Stay alert. Don’t crush bicyclists and pedestrians with your multi-ton vehicle” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
Before you scroll directly to bottom of this post to leave a comment, here are some disclaimers: Speaking on a cellphone or texting while riding a bicycle is not something that I condone. On the busy and sometimes dangerous streets of New York City, you need all your wits and senses about you. When you’re on your bike, I do not recommend listening to music on headphones, staring into an iPhone, chatting with a friend, or taking a selfie. Eyes on the road, #bikenyc!
With that out of the way…
You may have read that New York City Council member Mark Treyger is poised to introduce legislation that would make using a cellphone while riding a bicycle illegal. At first glance, such a proposal sounds like a good idea. After all, given my disclaimers above, who would be against making it illegal to do something as potentially distracting and dangerous as using a cellphone while biking? Plus, Treyger’s bill doesn’t exactly seem like it’s all that punitive.
Tickets for texting or talking on the phone while biking will carry a $50 fine, which could rise to $200 for repeat violations.
But first-time offenders who don’t hurt anyone or cause property damage could avoid the fine by taking a bike safety class, which the city Department of Transportation and NYPD would be required to start offering next year.
Treyger said he proposed the classes to make it clear the ban wasn’t a money-raising gambit.
“We think we should be emphasizing education rather than collecting revenue,” he said.
This seems perfectly reasonable. Other cities, such as Chicago, have made texting-while-biking illegal, and the movement is gaining favor among legislators elsewhere in the country.
But there are lots of reasons to be suspicious of such a bill, Treyger’s motivations for proposing it, and how it might be enforced on the street. While I’m inclined to re-emphasize my disclaimer above — Please, don’t use a cellphone while biking — I’m also very much against Treyger’s bill. Here’s why.
1. It’s legislation by anecdote.
From the Daily News:
Treyger said he was prompted to introduce the ban when he saw a cyclist on Stillwell Ave. in Brooklyn texting and veering in and out of traffic, nearly causing an accident.
And the Post:
Councilman Mark Treyger (D-Brooklyn) says his bill was prompted by seeing a distracted cyclist nearly cause a multi-car accident near his office in Gravesend.
When considering such an account, one has to consider the source. Treyger’s most recent contribution to the Vision Zero discussion was to call into question the placement of a speed camera as nothing more than a “gotcha” trap against motorists. Since, to the best of my knowledge, Treyger has not previously sponsored any sort of meaningful bike-safety legislation, questioning his motives here as well as his account of this alleged near-accident is reasonable and prudent.
Chicago Alderman Margaret Laurino, who proposed that city’s texting-while-biking law, said that it was “‘common sense’ in leveling the playing field between bicyclists and motorists.” That idea — that cars and bikes must be held to the same standard — is a common thread in legislation such as this, and smells somewhat of a “no fair” reaction to the rise of Vision Zero and the safe streets movement: if drivers have to obey particular laws, then so do cyclists. Indeed, that’s what Tregyer told the Daily News: “If it’s reckless for drivers to do it – which it is – it’s just as irresponsible for cyclists.” But this is the logic of my five-year-old daughter, who thinks it’s unfair that I have different rules for her than I do for her 21-month-old brother. Again, I’m not arguing that texting while cycling is smart or all that safe on the mean streets of New York City, but it most certainly is not “just as irresponsible” as texting while operating a two- or six-ton piece of complex motorized machinery.
It’s fine for some laws and public safety campaigns to be borne out of personal experience or observation — or even pet peeves — but they have to hold up under the weight of data and statistics. Which leads me to…
2. It’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.
Texting or using a cellphone while cycling has been a factor in exactly zero fatalities or serious injuries. Treyger has argued that such statistics aren’t collected because the behavior isn’t currently illegal, but that, of course, is hogwash. The NYPD and their surrogates in the tabloids report on all kinds of circumstances that allegedly contribute to crashes. Other more neutral agencies, such as the Department of Health, track all sorts of information as they relate to injuries and fatalities in NYC. If a texting cyclist had seriously injured or killed a pedestrian or caused a multi-car crash we’d have heard about it by now.
3. We already know what makes cycling safe.
Protected bicycle lanes that are separated from vehicular traffic. Green waves and signal timing that prioritizes the slow and steady movement of people on bicycles over people in automobiles. 20 mph speed limits. Bicycle-friendly cities are already doing a lot of simple things to protect people on bikes from death by car. Banning cellphone use isn’t even among the top 50 things on their lists.
4. It actually doesn’t apply equally to motorists and cyclists.
Treyger’s bill “would ban any use of a cellphone, tablet or computer except when attached to a hands-free device. It’s currently legal to fiddle with a smart phone while riding a bike.” Drivers are free to fiddle with GPS devices, dashboard touch-screens that require them to take their eyes off the road just to change radio stations or adjust the AC, and many other non-cellphone devices. These distractions have likely caused more fatal crashes than texting-while-biking. There’s also plenty of research to show that hands-free devices do little to limit a driver’s cognitive distraction. If Treyger wanted to save lives, he’d propose, or at least discuss, banning the use of a cellphone in any form, handsfree or otherwise, while operating a motor vehicle.
5. It’s a waste of resources.
The courts are already clogged with cyclists who have been cited by the NYPD for behaviors which are not actually illegal. Do we need to send more people to a courtroom — or even a classroom — for something that hasn’t been shown to cause a measurable level of harm?
Then there’s the question of limited manpower in the age of Vision Zero. An officer who spends ten or twenty minutes issuing a citation for a minor traffic offense can not spend that same ten or twenty minutes issuing citations for another, more serious offense. This is why many bike advocates are frustrated when the NYPD tickets cyclists for going through a red at a T intersection. It’s not that anyone condones any and all red-light running, but rather that by stationing officers at low-stakes locations, the NYPD is missing an opportunity to target more serious offenses, even against cyclists. Which leads me to…
6. There are serious concerns about how the NYPD would apply such a law.
Far from “leveling the playing field between bicyclists and motorists,” Treyger’s bill could have the unintended effect of tilting it against people who bike. Given how some precincts prefer fish-in-a-barrel ticketing against cyclists over measures that would actually make New Yorkers safe, there’s no reason to think the same thing wouldn’t happen here. Indeed, this was one of the chief concerns of advocates in Chicago:
The Active Transportation Alliance, a group which promotes biking, walking and mass transit use, supported the ordinance but was concerned that bicyclists, because they are more visible than motorists, would be more often targeted than phone-using motorists.
Additionally, we’ve seen time and time again that low-level criminal infractions are disproportionately used as a pretext for pulling over young African-American and Hispanic males.
…the facts in a recent CUNY Law School study show that from 2008 to 2011, the New York City Police Department issued more tickets in minority neighborhoods than in other neighborhoods to cyclists who rode their bikes on the sidewalk. Of the 15 neighborhoods with the greatest number of summonses for the crime of bicycling on the sidewalk, 12 consist mainly of blacks and Latinos.
That NYPD might abuse such a law is not reason alone to oppose it, but it is important to understand the context and stewardship into which such a law might be enacted.
Treyger’s bill may or may not pass. I can certainly see many in the advocacy community deciding to get behind it — or at least not actively opposing it — on the grounds that arguing against it is too nuanced a discussion for New York City right now. With cyclists Public Enemy Number One and even the DOT’s current strategy of protecting cyclists leaving many scratching their heads, coming out against what seems on its surface like a common-sense law might feel like a waste of political capital.
There is reason for optimism, however. New York City has certainly seen its share of go-nowhere, anti-bike legislation proposed by city council members who never before took an interest in cycling safety. Yet one of those city council members has since gone on to be a stalwart supporter of Vision Zero, lower speed limits, and safe streets. If David Greenfield can evolve into a Vision Zero hero, then there’s hope for Mark Treyger yet.
I’m working on a new and exciting (non-blogging) project with a partner and need your help! Do you have a great bike story? Something you’d want to tell in your own voice? Something amazing, terrifying, wonderful, interesting, curious, strange, scary, funny, or some other adjective that you’d like to share? Then I want to talk to you.
Ideally, your story is something that sticks out in your brain as highly memorable, the kind of thing you’d want to tell to someone the minute you walked into a room. Some ideas:
- “A helmet saved my life!”
- “Not wearing a helmet saved my life!”
- A strange encounter with a driver, fellow cyclist, pedestrian, or police officer.
- “I was riding with my kid when suddenly…”
- “You’ll never believe what happened. This guy rolled down his window and said…”
- True tales of breaking the law.
The above is by no means a comprehensive list. Anything goes!
Contact me at brooklynspoke [at] gmail [dot] com. Include a brief summary of your story — a short paragraph is enough — as well as your name, neighborhood, and contact information. I’ll try to respond to everyone who sends me something.
Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read this blog over the last four years. My favorite part of doing this is interacting with so many smart and passionate people.
The default speed limit in New York City is set to drop to 25 miles per hour on November 7th, and because this is New York some people are not happy about it. Nick Paumgarten of the New Yorker, for example.
A week after Halloween, a new speed limit of twenty-five miles per hour will go into effect on every surface road in the five boroughs of New York City, except where stated otherwise. The idea is to make the streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians, a particular aim of Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Actually, the idea is to make the streets safer for cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers! (Please leave out that last part if you want to play up the “war on motorists” angle.)
Fourteen children were killed by drivers last year. You won’t find a citizen who didn’t wish that this number were zero.
Of course not. But what you will find are a lot of people who don’t want to do anything that could make that wish come true.
Smooth open road is so rare, at least in the denser parts of the city, that a lead foot can hardly resist the urge to hit the gas. In a city of lost time—there’s never enough, never enough—any chance to regain some is sweet.
You’re stuck in gridlock on your way to an appointment or event. Pot holes and winter-scarred roads make it nearly impossible to drive at a comfortable pace. Suddenly, a freshly paved, traffic-free stretch of pavement opens up before you. So, lead foot that you are, you hit the gas. I mean, who can resist, right? Then you hit a child in the crosswalk and that child dies a horrific and violent death, visiting immeasurable grief upon a shocked family and traumatizing dozens of witnesses, all because you had Mets tickets or an 8:05 curtain or something. If there is a philosophical opposite to Vision Zero, it can be found in the sentence, “In a city of lost time–there’s never enough, never enough–any chance to regain some is sweet.”
More cameras, more tickets, more squad cars lying in wait. Now we demonize speed.
Actually, we’re demonizing dangerous behavior. This is the result of greater understanding of the pathology of traffic deaths, as well as a growing cultural rejection of the notion that fourteen dead children per year — as well as dozens upon dozens of adults — are part of the cost of modern society. Take a time machine back to the early days of M.A.D.D. and imagine Nick Paumgarten’s 1980s counterpart writing, “More tickets, more squad cars lying in wait. Now we demonize drinking and driving.” That guy would look like an idiot now, right?
This feels funny: a city that has long identified itself as sleepless and fast, aspiring to everything lickety-split, is being asked to slow down. Slow food, slow money, now slow cars—the New York minute will henceforth be sixty seconds long.
This assumes a bizarro New York City where the taxi driver yells at Ratso Rizzo, “I’m drivin’ here!” As a service to Paumgarten, here are some things that are central to the city’s “sleepless and fast” identity that will remain unaffected by a 25 mph speed limit: Bars that never close. Mongolian food delivered to your door at midnight only ten minutes after you placed the order. Getting an egg and cheese sandwich from the coffee cart on one corner because the line at the coffee cart on the other corner is too long. Exiting the 2/3 just as the 1 arrives across the platform. Day trading. eBay Now. Buying a Crown Heights brownstone for $415,000 today and flipping it for $1.8 million tomorrow.
Manhattan is 13.4 miles in length. At twenty-five m.p.h., plus a grace tick or two, that’s a half hour, end to end. This seems about right, considering that to the Manhattanite the default timespan of a trip from any part of the borough to another, be it by car, bus, bike, long board, or train, is presumed (often incorrectly) to be thirty minutes. So maybe the new speed limit was devised with that in mind, the same way that the standard capacity of both the vinyl LP and the compact disk suited the length of Beethoven symphonies.
Or maybe the new speed limit was devised with science in mind. In fact, explaining such scientific theories might make a great New Yorker story. I hear that Malcolm Gladwell kid is good at explaining complicated subjects.
We’re all really heading somewhere. The Roosevelt Island tram goes eighteen m.p.h., which is a little faster than the elevators in the Empire State Building (15.9 m.p.h.). The Zamboni at the Garden does nine m.p.h.; the East River, at peak ebb or flood tide, hits half that.
The Cyclone goes sixty mph, which is a lot faster than a Rockette’s legs in the Radio City Christmas spectacular (31.8 mph). See how easy it is to pick to arbitrary “New York” things to illustrate a point? But only one of these stats is correct and neither of them are relevant to appropriate automobile speeds in a crowded urban environment.
In the revival of “On the Town” that’s just opened on Broadway, the number “Come Up to My Place,” in which Hildy the cabbie shows Chip the sailor the sights of the city, has Hildy driving a mile a minute—sixty an hour. That would now probably earn her six points (plus a fine for not wearing a seat belt).
In the musical “Guys and Dolls,” the number “Luck be a Lady,” in which Sky Masterson sings about betting his life on one roll of the dice, has Sky singing underground–in a sewer. That would now probably earn Sky Masterson a bite from a giant crocodile (plus a rare form of cancer for not wearing a wetsuit).
One day, we may all wistfully recall our own grim, turn-of-the-millennium on-the-town cab rides—hurtling home after a late night out, storefronts racing by in a blur, potholes rattling the hubcaps. No seat belt, either.
In 2001, there were 393 traffic fatalities in New York City. You could also smoke in bars!
The speed-limit change is another milestone in the ongoing struggle for control of the streets—our latter-day version of “The Pushcart War,” except that instead of venders with peashooters, aiming pins at the tires of big trucks, we have the Citi Bikers with Instagram accounts, tsk-tsking the cabbies and S.U.V.s.
POWER, THY NAME IS A WELL EXECUTED LOW-FI FILTER. #tsktsk
The most persistent objections come from the people for whom driving is part of the job. Delivery, plumbing, construction. You’re not going to use bicycles to build the Hudson Yards.
There are many New Yorkers, myself included, who rarely need to carry more than an iPhone. But when you need to make an argument for the preservation of unfettered motoring, suddenly everyone’s a delivery guy, plumber, or building Hudson Yards. Or they’re carrying watermelons everywhere.
“Nobody drives around the city more than me,” a master rigger (cranes) said on Monday. “It’s got worse with the people. It’s not the cars. The cars have been going the same friggin’ speed.
This might be a good time for to summarize “The Pushcart War” by Jean Merrill because I’ve never read it. Via, Peter C. Baker in, wait for it, the New Yorker:
Merrill’s main characters are pushcart peddlers in New York City. Their enemies are the big trucking companies, who want the roads cleared. Traffic is getting too heavy, and their trucks aren’t making deliveries as fast as they would like. For the trucking executives, the solution is obvious: get everything but trucks off the roads. The pushcarts are their first target, the opening salvo in a campaign to rule the streets of Manhattan. On orders from above, truck drivers start nudging pushcarts off the street, sometimes even smashing them. “The Pushcart War” is the story of the cart venders’ decision to fight back: they blow out truck tires with peashooters, lie to the police about it, stop traffic with marches, and generally do whatever it takes to stay in business.
According to one character, the trucking companies, collectively called The Three, believe that “the only way to get where you wanted to go was to be so big that you didn’t have to get out of the way of anybody.” This is known as the Large Object Theory of History.
Back to Paumgarten’s man on the street:
We have this diesel pickup, and it’s good to have a car with a big engine in the city, because when you come to a light the thing roars, and the people look up. And then they start to scatter.
This is also known as the Large Object Theory of History.
Speaking only from personal — and highly anecdotal — experience, few crosstown Manhattan routes are as pleasant to ride on as Prince Street on a weekday morning. Running west through Nolita and Soho from the Bowery to 6th Avenue (where it changes into Charlton Street), Prince is one of the best parts of my morning commute, second only to the Manhattan Bridge. Prince features a curbside-bike lane, relatively low volumes of automobile traffic, and huge numbers of cyclists. Squint and you could be forgiven for thinking you were on Elmegade, a hip side street filled with shops and cafes in Copenhagen’s Nørrebro district.
Of course, you’d have to squint very hard. This being New York, the pavement isn’t the smoothest, cyclists don’t always have the utmost respect for traffic signals or pedestrians, and the bike lane is frequently blocked by parked cars. But nevertheless, the street seems to work. With just a little more effort — such as a green wave, a restriction on the giant trucks that frequently get stuck making the tight turns in the neighborhood, and a periodic enforcement sweeps to keep drivers out of the bike lane — the street would work much better for everyone who depends on it, including motorists.
So that’s why it was very surprising and more than a little distressing this morning when I saw that the New York City Department of Transportation had devoted not just one or two, but at least five safety managers to instructing cyclists to stop for red lights and travel in the direction of traffic. Here are two at Mulberry and Prince:
Before you stop reading and scroll down to make a comment about cyclists needing to obey the law just like everyone else, please look closely at the picture above. You can see a grey car parked just a half a block away in the bike lane. Here’s a better shot, taken as I followed this cyclists across Prince:
To the best of my knowledge, these DOT safety managers did not ask drivers to get out of the bike lane.
Here are two more, stationed at Prince and Broadway:
This is actually an intersection few cyclists “run.” The southbound traffic on Broadway would make doing so nearly suicidal, and the pedestrian traffic is so thick that it’s actually quite rare to see someone try to snake through, although it does happen. I’m willing to be proven wrong, but I’d say this spot has some of the highest red-light compliance by cyclists on any stretch on Prince Street.
Here’s another DOT safety manager at Broadway and Greene, talking to someone regular readers may know, Robert Wright. That white object in the bike lane is some sort of newspaper kiosk, the kind of object that would probably win a face-off with a front wheel. Robert, who was coincidentally ahead of me this morning, asked the safety manager to move the obstruction from the bike lane. The metal box was not moved.
So what’s the purpose of assigning safety managers to Prince Street? Safety? Maybe. I have seen a number of cyclists going through intersections with pedestrians in the crosswalk. This is a behavior that drives me crazy, and I would never argue that we should wait until after someone is hurt to encourage safe cycling. Is it culture change? Perhaps. But it’s pretty damn hard to change the culture without the infrastructure changing ahead of it; the minute those DOT safety managers disappear is the minute everything else about the street remains exactly the same.
I’ve argued before that sometimes cyclists “break” the law for very rational reasons. Despite the rather low stakes on Prince Street, at least compared with other streets, some cyclists might go through red lights in order to safely get around a car that’s parked in the bike lane, rather than wait and have to make a merge with moving automobiles when approaching a pinch point. Another reason cyclists might “run” the lights on Prince is the timing of the lights themselves. After getting the green off the Bowery, the light at Elizabeth and Prince immediately turns red, subjecting people on bikes to a rather long wait at a generally empty intersection. The same thing happens when the light changes at Broadway; only the fastest cyclists can make it just one block to Mercer without hitting a red. It’s a pretty poor sequence for cyclists seeking an efficient crosstown journey. It’s also a pretty poor sequence for officials seeking red-light compliance among cyclists. A green wave that allowed reasonably-paced cyclists to turn off the Bowery and not hit another red until they made it to 6th Avenue — or even all the way to Greenwich Street — would go a long way toward making the street more predictable and safe for everyone. (One can wait for the light at Elizabeth Street to change back to green and actually hit a steady stream of changing greens almost all the way past Broadway, but it’s not something that is listed on any sign; I only found out about this recently from a friend and fellow advocate.)
Sadly, the biggest effect that the deployment of safety managers to a location such as Prince Street seems to have is cynicism, not just among experienced advocates such as myself or Robert, but among even casual riders. At least the few I spoke with while waiting for the light at Broadway were scratching their heads about this use of resources and were not too happy about it. “They try to encourage people to use bikes, but they don’t really make it safe,” said one. After surviving the gauntlet that is Chrystie Street and, after that, the Bowery — two streets where trucks barrel through red lights and speed limits are an oft-ignored suggestion — it’s insulting to get to a low-stress street such as Prince and be told, in not so many words, “Behave, cyclists!” That cynicism is certainly not diminished when so-called safety managers can’t be bothered to stop drivers from parking in bike lanes half a block from where they’re standing or when they can’t remove a metal obstruction to the sidewalk. And that cynicism is only enhanced when the police — who are supposed to be the actual safety managers of New York City — are among the worst rule breakers.
This photo was also taken on my trip across Prince Street this morning:
I’ve commented before that bicycles feel like the bastard stepchildren of Vision Zero — despite featuring an image of a car and a pedestrian, a bicycle is conspicuously absent from the official Vision Zero logo — and this morning’s action did nothing to dissuade me of that notion. Considering that an elderly woman was killed about two blocks from Prince Street just a few weeks ago, these kinds of actions won’t get us to Vision Zero. And they certainly don’t make people who ride bikes think that the city is on their side.
The DOT safety managers were back again this morning. Here are two stationed at at Prince and Mulberry:
And here’s one man stationed at Broadway:
Meanwhile, here’s the intersection with Crosby Street:
Perhaps you’ve noticed the huge amount of bike traffic streaming over the Manhattan Bridge every morning and wondered how many cyclists come over per hour. The above video, shot and edited by Clarence Eckerson, Jr. of Streetfilms fame, might satisfy your curiosity. It’s by no means scientific, but it does offer a nice picture of the huge amount of bikes being pedaled into Manhattan these days. Many thanks to Clarence for putting it together and to concerned citizen Steve O’Neill for serving as our traffic counter.