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Park(ing) Day 2014

September 18, 2014


Park(ing) Day, an “annual worldwide event where artists, designers and citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks” is tomorrow. And this year’s Park Slope edition promises to be great.

Via Eric McClure of Park Slope Neighbors:

We’ll be taking over a metered parking space in front of Ride Brooklyn at 468 Bergen Street in Park Slope, just across Flatbush from the 78th Precinct’s famous guerrilla bike lane. We’ll be there from 8 in the morning until about 3 p.m., and the 78th Precinct will be offering bike registration (handy if your bike ever gets stolen). We’ll be handing out Vision Zero literature, and you may get the chance to say hello to new 78th Precinct Commanding Officer Captain Frank DiGiacomo and his Community Affairs staff. Stop by, say hi, grab a latte and muffin from Gorilla Coffee, pick up any bike accessories you may need from Ride Brooklyn, and help us make our little slice of International PARK(ing) Day a big success.
I’m not sure if having the police this directly involved is a first in the history of Park(ing) Day, but it’s certainly unprecedented around here. Many thanks to the 78th for their continued commitment to safe streets.
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Josie and the Fourth Grade Bike Brigade

September 12, 2014


If you’re in the neighborhood or able to make it out to Park Slope this evening, there’s a fun event featuring two things that should be part of every kid’s life: bikes and books.

Kenny Bruno; his wife Beth Handman, assistant principal of P.S. 321; and their daughter Antonia Bruno, co-wrote “Josie and the Fourth Grade Bike Brigade,” the first in what will be a series about an active and environmentally minded Brooklyn girl. Via The Brooklyn Eagle:

“Josie and the Fourth Grade Bike Brigade” follows fourth grade student Josie. After spending a summer with her grandmother in Ecuador and taking a class trip to the zoo, she is prompted to take action to slow global warming. In an effort to go green and discourage the use of cars, Josie organizes the Fourth Grade Bike Brigade. Her best friends, brothers and other characters from the neighborhood go along for the ride, but not everyone joins in – and when those who oppose the plan voice their opinion, trouble begins for Josie and the Bike Brigade.

Kenny, Beth, and Antonia are celebrating the book’s release with two events, starting tonight:

  • Friday, Sept. 12, 5:30 pm, Barnes & Noble (267 Seventh Ave.)
  • Wednesday, Sept. 17, 7 pm, Community Bookstore (143 Seventh Ave.)

I’ll be at the event this evening with my own members of the bike brigade and hope to see you there.

This isn’t New York!

September 2, 2014

It used to be that New York wasn’t Amsterdam. Now Jersey City isn’t New York!

There are some longtime Jersey City residents who oppose the plaza.

“It’s bad enough they closed it to traffic, but the space is only going to attract a bad element,” said Frank Mezilli, who has lived in the city since 1961.

A friend of Mr. Mezilli’s, Christina DeFelice, agreed.

“They’re trying to turn it into New York City or Hoboken, and it’s not,” she said.


Postscript: Operation Safe Cycle

August 27, 2014

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Margaret Badore at Treehugger asked for my thoughts on Operation Safe Cycle:

It may be too early to know if the enforcement effort will make any impact on the number of cyclist injuries this year. Gordon is doubtful that the average bike commuter will feel any different about their daily bike ride after Operation Safe Cycle. “The streets are going to be exactly the same and they will not have moved the dial with cyclist behavior,” he said. “The problem of scofflaw cycling isn’t going to be solved through periodic crackdowns, it’s going to be solved with infrastructure.”

Operation Safe Cycle officially ended yesterday yet – surprise! – my ride in today felt no safer than any other day. This being the last week before Labor Day, the streets certainly were quieter than normal, but I saw no shortage of “bad” behavior for all kinds of road users. Starting next Thursday, parents will begin clogging bike lanes with their cars as they drop their kids off at school, car services will be back up at full capacity as people return to work, and the streets will be filled with angry drivers who wish they were still on vacation rather than sitting in gridlock. A real Operation Safe Cycle might involve building better infrastructure to give all those drivers more attractive options.

The Post Versus Reality

August 15, 2014

It’s almost the end of week one of the NYPD’s “Operation Safe Cycle” and the New York Post is very concerned about the efficacy of such a limited crackdown.

Our only problem with Operation Safe Cycle is that it’s a two-week pilot program. So at the end of the month, cyclists will feel free to go back to breaking the law — riding recklessly and endangering themselves and others.

Would Bratton do the same with other quality-of-life initiatives? We doubt it.

Lawless bikers require permanent reminders. Otherwise, the problem will just keep going round and round.

Emphasis mine.

So, would Commissioner Bratton do the same with other quality-of-life initiatives? You will not be shocked to learn that the Post’s rhetorical question doesn’t stand up to a basic Google search.

May 13, 2014:

Drivers, think twice before failing to yield to pedestrians or using your cellphone: The NYPD is on day one of a two-day crackdown on drivers who aren’t paying attention to the rules of the road.

May 20, 2014:

…the NYPD is starting a “48-Hour Speeding Enforcement Initiative” starting at midnight Tuesday through Wednesday.

That’s a grand total of four days spent cracking down on driver behavior that is known to cause death and grievous injury. And on just two of those days, the NYPD wrote over 5,000 tickets for failure to yield and cellphone use. Imagine what “permanent reminders” to lawless drivers would yield!

But, you know, bikes.

UPDATE: Jen Chung at Gothamist points me to a seven-day motorist crackdown, also in May of this year, “conducted in 21 selected precincts throughout the five boroughs.”

Clusterf*ck on Varick Street

July 25, 2014

It’s said that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. It’s also the definition of New York City traffic.

As anyone who follows me on Twitter knows, my office is located just above one of the most gridlocked intersections in Manhattan, if not the entire city: an oddly angled spot where 7th Avenue South becomes Varick Street and Clarkson turns into Carmine. This intersection is also located about eight blocks north of the entrance to the Holland Tunnel. And while that vital connector to New Jersey is actually named for Clifford Milburn Holland, the chief engineer on the Hudson River Tunnel Project, I like to think it’s a cruel joke, meant as a poke in the eye to all those who understand New York City’s shared heritage with the Netherlands and the vastly different approaches both places take to streets and automobiles. This isn’t Amsterdam, that’s for sure.

Each weekday, starting at around 4 PM — but sometimes as early as 3 or even 2 — the traffic funneling to the tunnel begins to back up. The streets soon grind to a halt, and intersections like the one just under my office become moats of steel and exhaust, impassable for all but the most intrepid of pedestrians. Anyone in a wheelchair or pushing a stroller is mostly out of luck and either has to take their chances in the narrow trenches between grills bumpers or detour a block or two out of their way to get safe crossing. Drivers, obviously not respecting signals and only interested in filling up any space that opens before them, don’t tend to care much that people may be crossing or that crosstown traffic also needs to get through. Emergency vehicles? Forget it.

The Hudson Square BID employs pedestrian safety managers at intersections along Varick Street, and they do an admirable job keeping the intersections clear, but their northern border is just one block below the 7th Avenue South/Varick/Clarkson/Carmine tangle. In my two-and-a-half years in this location, I’ve never seen an NYPD traffic enforcement agent assigned to this or any other intersection on 7th Avenue South. Community Board 2 is aware of the issue and has spoken to the NYPD about it, yet the situation continues. And you can see the consequences on a daily basis. Both of the above videos were shot within the last hour of this posting.



Dawn of the Planet of the Longtails

July 14, 2014

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Mikael Colville-Andersen, in one of my favorite Copenhagenize posts, describes Denmark and the Netherlands as “the Galapagos Islands of modern Bicycle Culture.”

These two countries and the main city in each have evolved in each their own way over the past thirty or forty years. Many of the details are interesting anthropological observations that would probably be difficult to trace to the root.

In “very general” terms, Mikael describes the peculiar differences between bicycle riding in each country, from the Dutch preference for panniers and the Danish preference for front baskets to the different bikes used for hauling cargo in each location. These differences are small but noticeable, and any fan of livable streets who’s been to both countries can’t help but wonder when and how the two locations parted ways along the evolutionary trail.

But here we are in New York City, standing at the dawn of our own biking civilization, so to speak, and we have the opportunity to watch one unique species take the very first steps on an evolutionary path that may define it for generations. That species is the bicycling parent.

Carrying children on one’s bicycle is nothing new in New York City. People have been using things like the Topeak Baby Seat to carry very young kids for years. But something has happened as the city has grown increasingly safe and family friendly. Parents who want to continue bicycling as their families grow have to figure out the best bikes for carrying multiple kids, all the while doing the many things that parents do, from schlepping to school and soccer practice to grocery shopping and doctor’s appointments. If you want to carry a growing child or two and the supplies and provisions that go with them, the old Topeak seat just won’t cut it anymore. That was Phase 1 of New York’s evolution as a biking city.

Judging by what I’ve seen recently, Phase 2 has firmly begun. But rather than the Dutch bakfiets or the Danish cargo trike, the bike that’s taking hold among New York City parents seems to be the longtail.

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The longtail, as its name suggests, has an extended rear “tail” or longer wheelbase than a conventional bicycle, allowing for a long rack and more than enough space to fit two or even three children and, depending on the model, enough groceries to feed a family for a week. Popular models include the Yuba Mundo, Xtracycle, and the Trek Transport. Dutch versions such as the WorkCycles Fr8 — which I ride with my kids — and various models by De Fietsfabriek can also be spotted with increased frequency, thanks in part to Rolling Orange in Cobble Hill and Adeline Adeline in Tribeca.

Like Mikael, I’m speaking in very general terms. One does see the occasional bakfiets here and there and I can recall seeing at least three cargo trikes around New York this summer. But longtails seem to be growing in number by the day. Just a few years ago one would have been hard-pressed to see two or three of these all year. But just this morning during my commute to work I saw three such bikes, likely fresh from summer camp drop-offs. Evolution on steroids, one might say.

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So why have these bikes taken root here? Why have New York City parents largely chosen these models over the kind of kid-hauling bikes their Dutch and Danish brethren prefer?

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First and foremost, it’s about the size. Lacking a large box in front, these bikes are lighter and easier to navigate through New York’s narrow, squeezed-by-cars bike lanes than a bakfiets. Dropping the kids off at school or camp and then heading to work is a piece of cake, whether it’s up and over a bridge or via a bike lane that’s frequently squeezed by motorists, such as Jay Street.

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Then there’s the parking. The threat of theft being what it is, New Yorkers like to park their bikes inside if they can help it, and a heavy bakfiets or cargo trike isn’t exactly the kind of thing that makes it up a brownstone stoop or through an apartment hallway very easily. Not that longtails are made of carbon fiber, but they’re not impossible to lift up and down a set of stairs. And for people who do have to leave their bikes outside, these bikes are no wider than a conventional bike, making them pretty easy to lean against a railing without being too obtrusive. Until the city starts providing more on-street bike parking in residential areas — and making some of its secure in the form of bike cages or this Danish design — I don’t see how bakfiets or cargo trikes will ever have the chance to evolve into the mini van of choice for New York City parents.

So there you have it. Evolution in progress. And you were there at the beginning. Let’s check back in 10 or 20 years and see what’s happened.







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