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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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?
The reaction in the general press, blogosphere, and on social media to the Wall Street Journal’s report that Citi Bike is losing millions of dollars has been nothing if not predictable. While the report itself, ridiculous charts notwithstanding, was fair, many took the opportunity to proclaim, “We told you New York wasn’t Paris!” Those whose dire predictions about bike share failed to materialize — No one will use it! The streets will run red with the blood of tourists! Traffic will snarl to a halt! No driver will ever find a parking space again! — have been especially prone to gloating.
At least in the days before Citi Bike launched one could blame the hysteria on casual ignorance or a fear of the unknown. This time around the schadenfreude being enjoyed by some of the city’s biggest bike haters requires a unique detachment from reality. Indeed, the old NIMBY prediction that the bikes would only be used by tourists is perhaps the most ironic and detached of all, since it’s the relative imbalance of annual member use to day- and week-pass sales that seems to be among Citi Bike’s bigger financial problems.
While there are many things that need to be worked out before anyone can honestly answer what will happen with Citi Bike, there’s a more philosophical question at play right now, and that is whether or not New York City’s bike share system should be subsidized. Rational questions about the relative merits of subsidizing ferries over bike share aside, for those who let their dislike for bikes cloud all rational judgment, the answer seems to be no.
So what are the arguments against subsidizing bike share that are floating around out there? They seem to boil down to five things:
1. “But Bloomberg promised!”
It is true that Mike Bloomberg and Janette Sadik-Khan went to great lengths to emphasize that zero taxpayer dollars would go into Citi Bike. In fact, here’s what the mayor said a year before it launched:
“Citi Bike won’t require any city or federal tax subsidy to operate the system,” Bloomberg said, before pausing for dramatic effect. “I think that bears repeating. We are getting an entirely new transportation network without spending any taxpayer money. Who thought that that could be done?
Bloomberg promised a lot of things, but time, circumstances, and, of course, mayors change. Bill de Blasio’s entire campaign was premised on the idea that certain policies of the Bloomberg administration were, at best, misguided and, at worst, bad for the city. Put Citi Bike on that spectrum wherever you like, but it’s fair for the city to re-evaluate whether its bike share system needs to be self-sustaining and whether it ought to be measured using the same yardstick that’s applied to other public infrastructure.
2. “Citi Bike is horribly run! Why should the mayor offer to fund something that’s in such disarray?”
The city should not subsidize Citi Bike until it can conduct a thorough audit of its operations, cash flow, and other details related to Alta and NYC Bike Share, LLC. And no serious advocate disagrees with that either. The current management should be given a serious chance to turn the ship around or, if it comes to it, step out of the way and let another company run it before the city thinks about subsidies.
3. “I don’t want my taxpayer dollars supporting something I don’t use!”
That’s not how taxes work.
4. “I don’t want my tax dollars supporting a rolling billboard for Citibank!”
There is something icky about having to brand what should otherwise be considered a public good. But the protected bike lane to that public good being branded went directly through a lot of heavy anti-bike sentiment, leading us to where we are right now.
New York City’s bikelash was at a fever pitch between 2010 and 2012, and it undoubtedly influenced the decision to make the bike share system go it alone. It’s certainly understandable that Bill “I’m a motorist” de Blasio may be wary about opening up a Pandora’s Box of bike hate, but as I noted above, times change. The same people who today are saying they don’t want the city to subsidize Citi Bike are the same people who last year complained about Citi’s sponsorship. You can’t please everyone, but now that bike share is a part of the fabric of New York City, there are probably fewer people you can’t please. Citi Bike was the nail in the bikelash’s coffin anyway, and my guess is that subsidizing it would result in about a week’s worth of tabloid whining before the city rushes headlong, like Kübler-Ross on steroids, to acceptance.
I get that bright blue bikes rolling around town are an affront to the sensitive sensibilities of “real” taxpaying New Yorkers. But taxpayers subsidize all sorts things, from sports stadiums to parking garages for sports stadiums, that benefit private companies. In fact, there’s one giant advertisement for a bank just down the street from my apartment that received copious tax breaks and real estate handouts from the city not so long ago. For a fraction of the cost of those giveaways, the city could subsidize a transportation system that helps tens of thousands of New Yorkers get to work, go to school, go shopping, and otherwise live their lives.
5. “I hate bikes because they’re dangerous and take previous parking spaces and these damn hipster transplants are ruining everything with their gentrification and five-dolalr coffee leading to the the downfall of New York City and it all started with Bloomturd and czarina Sadist-Con and her socialism don’t they know this isn’t Paris BLLLAAAARRRRGHHH!!!!!”
Sorry, but I can’t help you. Might I suggest a Citi Bike membership?