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Bad Apples

May 14, 2014

It’s time to “separate the issue of bike lanes from the issue of cycling conduct ,” says Albert Koehl in the Toronto Star:

…since the building or expansion of roads isn’t premised on an assessment of motorists’ conduct there’s no logical reason to apply a higher standard to cyclists. Last year 40 pedestrians, including seniors and children, were killed in Toronto in collisions with motor vehicles, but there was no cry to cancel new road projects. Ontario’s Chief Coroner has called all pedestrian deaths preventable. The undue attention to cycling conduct diverts attention from the far greater danger posed by motorists and the best available solutions.

Finally, it isn’t fair to punish all cyclists — by depriving them of safe cycling routes — for the conduct of a minority of bad actors. Motorists as a group are not penalized for the actions of drivers who drink, text or speed. Nor is one pedestrian punished because another crosses against a red while chatting on a cellphone. Those who imply that it’s OK for cyclists to be injured or killed because others behave badly have a rather macabre — and backward — sense of justice.

Koehl also takes aim at pedestrians who seek to deny safe space for cycling because of the bad apples. They’re not just punishing cyclists, they’re punishing themselves:

Those pedestrians who oppose bike lanes because of the conduct of some cyclists are similarly misguided. That opposition, where successful, only yields greater danger for all. New York City, for instance, documented a drop in injuries for all road users after the installation of certain bike lanes.

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THURSDAY: StreetsPAC ride to City Hall

May 13, 2014


On Thursday, May 15, join Councilmember Carlos Menchaca (District 38), Councilmember Ben Kallos (District 5) and StreetsPAC for a solidarity bike ride to City Hall in support of Bike Month and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero Action Plan. Later that day, Chairman Ydanis Rodriguez and the Transportation Committee of the New York City Council will hold their Executive Budget Hearing, focusing on funding the next steps toward street safety for all.

Help us make widespread safety a reality! Vision Zero presents a comprehensive blueprint for ending the epidemic of traffic fatalities, enhancing the safety of all New Yorkers, regardless of their mode of travel. In the past month, more than 20 resolutions and amendments to local law have been discussed, all aimed at making our streets safer.

Starting points in both Brooklyn and Manhattan!

From Brooklyn Borough Hall (2 miles to City Hall)
Meet at steps of Borough Hall at 8:00 AM for brief remarks
– Bike Train to City Hall departs @8:20 AM

*CitiBike option available near the steps of Borough Hall on Cadman Plaza

From Union Square (2 miles to City Hall)

Meet at steps at southern end of Union Square at 8:00AM for brief remarks
– Bike Train to City Hall departs @8:20 AM

*CitiBike option available on Broadway at SE corner of 14th street.

- Please bring water, wear comfortable clothes and a helmet

Both groups will arrive at City Hall at 8:45 AM, and combine for a powerful, unified showing of support for Vision Zero.

StreetsPAC is a political action committee dedicated to improving the safety, mobility and livability of New York City’s streets.

Quote of the Day

April 29, 2014
Plaza Hotel, early 20th Century. Image via Michael Beschloss.

Plaza Hotel, early 20th Century. Image via Michael Beschloss.

From Judge Cynthia Kern, in her decision to dismiss the Plaza Hotel’s Citi Bike lawsuit:

“Specifically, the bike share station at issue was placed on the street, is lower in scale than the many cars that line Grand Army Plaza and is similar in appearance to nearby street furniture such as bus stations.”

That’s pretty much what I said!

Brooklyn’s Livable Streets: Before and After

April 25, 2014

Thanks to Google Map’s new timeline feature, you can now take a digital before-and-after tour of some of the city’s best livable streets improvements.

Here’s Gorilla Coffee on 5th Ave in Park Slope in 2007:


And here’s the same location in 2013, after the installation of a bike corral:


Space for one car or space for eight bikes…and one scooter!

Here’s Prospect Park West in 2009, before the installation of the protected bike lane:


And here it is in 2010:


You can clearly see the effect this road diet had on the boulevard’s traffic.

And here’s one of my favorite before-and-afters in Brooklyn. Sands Street in 2007:


And Sands Street in 2012:


Pretty remarkable.

“There is literally nothing I can do that makes people madder than just riding my bike the way I am supposed to.”

April 25, 2014

On Thursday morning, as I was riding to work via Jay Street, I happened to find the bike lane blocked by a van, as one often does on this rather chaotic corridor. So I did everything by the book: I looked behind me, stretched my hand out to signal that I was merging with the car lane, and merged left, taking the northbound lane.


The Jay Street bike lane is blocked so frequently that you can drop in on Google Streetview just about anywhere and find an example.

Just as I passed the offending van, I heard a car speed up behind me, some honking and then a person screaming at the top of her lungs. The driver of a brown sedan pulled into oncoming traffic to pass me, and as she did she yelled through her open passenger-side window, “Get in the bike lane! Stay in the bike lane!” (She may or may not have used an obscenity to describe said bike lane.)

Mere feet later at Willoughby, the light was red — drivers always need to speed up to the red, don’t they? — and I pulled up next to the woman’s car.  She continued screaming through her open window, “You need to stay in the bike lane!”

At first I remained calm. “Ma’am, see that van back there? I had to pass it.  So you’re welcome to go back and tell the driver to stay out of the bike lane if you want me to stay in it.”  She nodded sarcastically, flashing what could politely be called an excrement-eating grin. (When she told me once again that I needed to stay in the bike lane anyway, I may or may not have told the driver to go have intercourse with herself.)

Then the light turned green and I was on my way. The woman, of course, was stuck behind a number of buses and slow-moving traffic, and I’m almost certain that I was halfway up to the on-ramp to the Manhattan Bridge bike path before she probably turned right on Tillary to get to the BQE. If there was something that delayed this woman en route to her destination, I was a mere speck in the giant cosmos of traffic.

There was nothing particularly special or different about my experience on Jay Street yesterday. It was a sign that the thoroughfare, like so many streets in our city, doesn’t work for anyone. Did this woman want to become so enraged that she could have killed a father of two, taking out another driver and some pedestrians in the process?  Did I need to lose my cool at this woman?  So I mostly chalked the episode up to just one of those things that we’re trying to fix. We’re trying to build streets that foster not only safety, but civility.

In light of all that, I found this epic rant posted on Craiglist Toronto very satisfying. It’s exactly what I would have wanted to say to the driver, had I thought it had any chance of sinking in. It’s titled, “You almost ran me down while screaming ‘get the fuck out of the way’.”

Some choice bits:

…I have something very startling to tell you about the material world: it is not possible for a person on a bicycle to drive THROUGH a parked truck. The person will somehow have to go around it, even if that means minorly inconveniencing you, comfortably sitting in your vehicle with your friends, for a few seconds.

And this is what I had the gall to do today, westbound on Bloor, about 20 feet east of Christie, after signalling, well ahead of you. You, lady in your blue BMW with three friends who were hopefully embarrassed to be seen with you, drove directly up behind me, laid down on the horn, yelled, “get the fuck out of the way!”, and then swerved around me in a way that made me feel really, really unsafe.

People who have purchased/rented/borrowed vehicles capable of going fast have not actually puchased/rented/borrowed the ability to move through a congested city fast. You have purchased a certain amount of comfort and freedom of movement (in distance and direction) not available to those using other modes of transportation. 

Imagine being in line at the grocery store and, feeling that the person in front of you was taking too long to get out their money, standing directly behind them while yelling at them to fuck off. That would be really, really weird! And it happens to me as a person who travels by bicycle all of the time. 

Look: I am a friggin rule follower extraordinaire, a goody-two-shoes, and a people pleaser. There is literally nothing I can do that makes people madder than just riding my bike the way I am supposed to. I feel bad and scared doing something I love and have the right to do, something that is good for the roads, the planet, and the cardiovascular system. It fucking sucks. Your attitude is terrible. 

It’s that bolded sentence, empasis mine, that really sticks with me. I was doing everything right – I signaled, merged, and then quickly pedaled back into the bike lane – but it wasn’t enough for this woman.

Why? Because.

Let’s design better roads, please. For my sake and hers.

Winning the Parking Wars

April 24, 2014


When it comes to parking, “only” is relative.

Take a mile-long bike lane that requires the loss of, say, 15 to 20 car parking spaces in order to install mixing zones or pedestrian islands.  To most people, trading this amount of automobile parking in the name of greater safety and mobility for thousands of people sounds like a fair trade-off.  But to anyone with a strong windshield perspective, seeing the greater good isn’t always easy.  So measuring bike lanes by the number of parking spaces that need to disappear only along the affected corridor is a recipe for controversy.  Whose “only” is it, anyway?

According to Michael Andersen of the Green Lane Project, there’s a better way:

…when it was planning its signature downtown bike project in 2005, Montreal got past those concerns with a very simple tactic. Instead of counting only the change in parking spaces on the boulevard De Maisonneuve itself, a measure that might have led to headlines and perceptions that “half of the parking” was being removed, it counted the total number of auto parking spaces — public and private, on-street and off — within 200 meters of the project.

The district, it turned out, had 11,000 parking spaces. Converting one of the corridor’s two auto parking lanes to a protected bikeway would remove 300 of them, or just under 3 percent.

As Vision Zero planning moves from the murky process of explaining what Vision Zero is to actually laying out projects that will require some amount of physical change to the streetscape — and, yes, sacrifice on the part of drivers — the de Blasio administration would be well advised to consider this tactic.  It’s something DOT used effectively during  the arguments that erupted in Brooklyn last spring over bike share station siting.

Via Streetsblog:

First, some facts: There are 6,800 on-street parking spots in the area bounded by Classon Avenue, Fulton Street, Flatbush Avenue and Flushing Avenue. In that zone, 22 bike-share stations were installed, adding 600 public bike docks. Two-thirds of the stations are on the sidewalk, after community meetings revealed a preference for that type of installation. Stations that were installed in the roadbed took 35 parking spaces, [NYC DOT's Jon] Orcutt told the audience – one half of one percent of the total number of spaces in the neighborhood.

Brooklyn Vision Zero Workshops in April

April 18, 2014


Want to offer your input on what streets should be prioritized under Vision Zero? Brooklynites will have two opportunities this month, with workshops in Brooklyn Heights and Midwood fast approaching. Unlike the town fall forums, which allowed citizens to sound off and talk to officials about problems in their neighborhoods, these workshops will offer a more hands-on experience, with maps and other tools to identify key locations that should be the subject of safety enhancements.

The full flyer, which includes a list of sponsors, is available here.

And don’t forget! Park Slope’s Vision Zero town hall will take place this Monday, April 21st, at PS 321.


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