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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.

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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.

“We agree.”

April 11, 2014


FiveThirtyEight takes a look a bike lanes and discovers that they don’t cause traffic jams, using Prospect Park West as one of its key examples:

We can confirm our conclusions about the post-bike lane level of congestion on Prospect Park West with New York City’s Department of Transportation’s final metric. Somebody got in a car and actually drove 19 blocks down Prospect Park West, timing his or her trip during the morning and afternoon rush hours, and also during the middle of the day. The transportation department only attempted each trip once, so there’s not a lot of data for us to use in rigorous analyses. However, the city found that there was no evidence that the travel times of the trips before and after the bike lane installation were any different, and we agree.9

Interesting to note is that after the bike lane was installed “Some of the intersections were just above the level of mild congestion (V/C ratio ≥ 0.5), but not enough to affect the commute a lot.” According to the authors, “Prospect Park West was still well under capacity during rush hour.”

Of course, even if the bike lane had affected “the commute” a little, it would have been worth the trade-off. For in the “war” between bicycles and drivers,” there’s often a forgotten soldier: pedestrians.

The city’s report contains a number of other interesting statistics about the effect of the Prospect Park West bike lane. The number of cyclists using the road went up, and speeding cars, cyclists riding on the sidewalk and injury-causing accidents went down. The road diet isn’t just creating a space for bikers; it’s also making the street safer for other types of users.

A couple of things to consider in reading this story, which has ricocheted around the internet today.

  • The piece is headlined, “Bike Lanes Don’t Cause Traffic Jams If You’re Smart About Where You Build Them.” (Emphasis mine.) To the average NBBLer, that “If” is probably very loaded. As PPW opponent Norman Steisel said in 2011, “We’re not opposed to bike lanes. We’re opposed to this one and the way it was done.”
  • Evidence sways people who are inclined to be swayed by evidence. In an infamous exchange at the height of the PPW madness, DOT’s Ryan Russo offered a thorough explanation to Seniors for Safety member Lois Carswell of why the agency’s numbers on bike lane usage differed from the opponents’ own counts. Carswell’s response: “I disagree with your logic.”

Will FiveThirtyEight’s take sway anyone? Probably not, although it is a good thing that the news organization founded by the guy who correctly called the electoral results in 50 of 50 states in the 2012 presidential election has weighed in on Prospect Park West. It also means that the subject of how we get around is worthy of discussion, debate, and analysis in more than just the advocacy and policy worlds. That’s progress.

Kidical Mass: The Parents Are Back

April 8, 2014

While some people managed to keep on cycling all winter long, many people who bike with their kids were sidelined by the terrible weather. As much my daughter and I love riding together even when the weather isn’t 100% ideal, there was simply too much snow and ice in the bike lanes to make riding with my most precious cargo seem worth it.

But now that spring has (mostly) sprung, lots of parents are back on the road, toting their kids to daycare, school, activities, and play dates. The fact that it hasn’t even been all that spring-like hasn’t stopped a lot of parents from taking to the streets, suggesting to me that the decision to ride with kids isn’t so much a factor of weather as it is a factor of road conditions. Parents ride not when it’s comfortable, but when it’s safe. And comfort and safety are two very different things.

photo 3 (7)

A little rain isn’t a problem as long as you’re prepared, as this mother and child were this morning. Squint and you could be in Amsterdam or Copenhagen.

photo 2 (8)

I spotted the dad above at Union Street and 6th Avenue on Thursday. My guess is that his wife dropped the kid off at daycare in the stroller and he had to get creative to get the bike, the kid, and the stroller home. It’s a solution I hadn’t seen outside of more bike-friendly cities.

photo 3 (6)

That same day I met Lisa and her son in front of the Park Slope Food Co-Op, about to take off on their Onderwater tandem. As you may recall, they’re the subject of a photo I submitted to a Streetsblog contest last year. I frequently see them on 5th Avenue on their daily school run, so it was nice to finally meet the people on the “Amsterdam bike,” as my daughter calls their sweet ride.

photo 2 (9)

Gowanus is full of people on bikes these days, and I spotted the dad and son above on Bond Street on Saturday. (Note the soccer ball in the basket.) It wasn’t a particularly nice day, but there were plenty of parents and kids out and about. With the growing amount of bike facilities in the area, not to mention the area’s Slow Zone, Gowanus is becoming one of the most bike-friendly places between Prospect Park and the waterfront.


Another mom on 5th Avenue, fresh from a school drop-off. Normal clothes, ready to start the rest of her day.


Of course the real sign of a bike-friendly city isn’t just how many kids you see on the back (or front!) of their parents’ bikes, but how many kids you see riding their own. I spotted this father and son at 5th Avenue and 3rd Street a couple of weeks ago. What a sight to see.




Quote of the Day

April 7, 2014

Via The Daily News:

Some motorists on Friday were adjusting to the newly banned left turns. Police were on hand and stopped several drivers in the middle of making now-illegal turns and told them to back up, including a plumber who cursed in frustration at being re-routed.

Pedestrian Candida Gual saw things differently.

“I’m glad something is being done,” the 62-year-old told the Daily News at the intersection on Friday. “Hopefully, we won’t lose another child.”

The Daily News Has Some Advice for Citi Bike

March 31, 2014

A week after The Daily News first asked Citi Bike users to vent their frustrations on Twitter, few have heeded the call.

Less than a week since it last took Citi Bike’s management to task, the Daily News is back with another editorial excorciating the bike share system and suggesting a series of fixes.

Although it is written in response to this tough but thoughtful editorial from Transportation Alternatives executive director Paul Steely White, the News’ take amps up the fake outrage as only they can do.

Fearing that the blue bicycles could wind up permanently locked in their stanchions, city transportation officials and bicycling advocates are for the first time talking publicly about the failings of NYC Bike Share.

Until now, they had engaged in relentless cheerleading while painting anyone who questioned the program’s financial viability or quality of service as anti-bike.

The Daily News has a knack for painting bike boosters with a broad brush, but then claiming offense that anyone might paint the Daily News with an opposite, but equally broad brush.

As I’ve said before, prior to the May 2013 Citi Bike launch most tabloid predictions were not related to the financial viability of bike sharing, were rather about whether such a program would lead to carnage, congestion, and scores of citizens unable to access their own apartments. When people did make predictions about membership, it wasn’t to cast doubt about Alta’s business plan, but to denigrate bicycle riding as just for tourists and not something that any self-respecting “real” New Yorker would seriously pursue. (If only that prediction had come true, Citi Bike might not be in the red today.)

Look, when institutions are as habitually incorrect as the New York City tabloids generally have been about bicycles, they tend to lose not just credibility but also the right to even pretend to be offended by the suggestion that they they may be anti-bike.

But, hey, here we go again. This is some ripe concern-trolling:

Riders must serve notice that they will refuse to renew annual memberships as they come up in May.

It’s as if the Daily News, which  last week encouraged Citi Bike members to take up their pitchforks and torches, is back again to ask, “Why hasn’t anyone taken up their pitchforks and torches?” Besides, how does one “serve notice that they will refuse to renew annual memberships” when the time comes? Stage a protest at a docking station? Burn a pile of Citi Bike fobs in a bonfire of blue plastic? If you’re not happy with Citi Bike but you’ve paid through the end of May or June, perhaps the best strategy is to just wait and, say, let your membership expire.

It seems the Daily News, in their haste to stoke outrage, failed to consider an important fact. While Citi Bike debuted on May 27th with nearly 20,000 members, it wasn’t until just recently that it signed its 100,000th annual subscriber. That means that renewals will be rolling, giving NYC Bike Share LLC — or whatever company winds up running Citi Bike — ample time to iron out the system’s problems. So while we might be able to read some tea leaves in the early renewal rates, it will take some time to measure overall customer satisfaction.

There is also the fact that after a particularly brutal winter, the spring weather will undoubtedly lure more people into paying for a bike share subscription. Indeed, there were eight days in March where Citi Bike signed up more than 100 new members. (On two of those days, new sign-ups topped 150.) That’s an encouraging sign. So if there is any drop-off in renewals from dissatisfied customers, it will likely be offset by an uptick in new subscriptions as the mercury rises.

So, what does the Daily News suggest be done at the institutional level? First, it has this odd demand:

Mayor de Blasio must confirm that he ruled out a bailout when he said, “At this point, city budget money is not on the table.”

If Mayor de Blasio had completely ruled out a bailout, he probably wouldn’t have qualified his statement with this telling phrase: “At this point.” But I can see what the Daily News is doing here. Essentially, in order to be outraged at some point in the future should de Blasio determine that a public subsidy is finally appropriate, the Daily News must create an alternate universe where the mayor’s very reasonable wait-and-see statement translates to taking city budget money of the table permanently. It’s how the fake-outrage sausage is made.

The News then takes the radical stand that Citi Bike should get a new manager, calling for a “tough, seasoned New York professional who is well versed in management, finance, transportation, customer service and rough-and-tumble politics.” (Note to Citi Bike general manager applicants: feel free to crib that line and put it on your resume under “Summary.”)

Joe Lhota is one suggested candidate, but given that he just took a new gig at NYU-Langone, I doubt he has much interest in working for Alta, which the News describes as “a two-bit outfit from Portland.”

He or she must also have the smarts to set a pricing structure that raises revenue while maintaining memberships and attracting use by tourists, as well as to raise sponsorship funding. The mission must be to make bike sharing both flawless and self-sustaining — without taxpayer help.

The Daily News never articulates why bike sharing can not receive taxpayer help, except to say that it must not receive it. Plus, “flawless” is a pretty high bar, one that no other transportation system ever meets.

The new leader must accomplish all of that, perhaps by reconfiguring or shrinking the program, or shut it down.

Reconfigure the program? That’s what most people, including TA’s Paul Steely White, have been arguing for weeks. (A cynic might say that by throwing out such an obvious suggestion, the Daily News is setting the stage to take credit for something that’s already in the works.)

Shrink it? That’s probably not the best strategy if you want to increase revenue, maintain memberships, attract use by tourists, and raise sponsorship funding.

But shut it down? Now we know which audience the Daily News is speaking to. The tabloids smell blood in the bike lane, and the sudden outbreak of concern for bike share’s fortunes seem to have one simple motivation. And that’s sowing the seeds of outrage among an audience the tabloids respect even less than Citi Bike members: their own readers.

The Daily News: to save Citi Bike, we must destroy it.

March 26, 2014
She's reading a map, not The Daily News.

She’s reading a map, not The Daily News.

Among the responses to the news that Citi Bike is running in the red and hasn’t met its obligations to keep docks and bikes in working order, comes this very hysterical reaction from the Daily News, “Boycott the Bikes.”

Citi Bikers of New York, unite: In two months, the bicycle-sharing program’s first annual memberships come up for renewal. Now is the time for riders to make clear that they will not sign up again unless service improves.

At silly as this suggestion is, at least we can consider this “fauxtrage” as a kind of progress. It wasn’t that long ago that The Daily News was ranting about “pedestrian perdition” and other ills visited upon real New Yorkers – including Bill de Blasio! — by the scourge of cycling.

So, does a boycott make sense? Well, it doesn’t even make sense to the editorial writers. Here’s the News’ rationale behind recommending a boycott over other measures:

The city could fine Bike Share NYC, but that would deepen its ills. Or the city could try to boot Bike Share NYC, but that would likely bring the bikes to a halt pending arrival of a new operator.

That’s why Citi Bikers — who have been vocal about the system’s hassles online — must take matters onto their own handlebars. We suggest using the Twitter hashtag #fixcitibike to convey the message: no upgrades, no renewals.

If you’re playing along at home, it would be bad for the city to fire the company running Citi Bike because that would bring the bikes to a halt, but good for members to stop using the system and essentially bring the bikes to a halt. Fining Bike Share NYC — the company’s real name is NYC Bike Share, LLC — would deepen its ills, but depriving the company of annual membership fees would force it to get its act together.

You got that?


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