New York in 1993 has been a topic of discussion since the New Museum opened its exhibit exploring the city of two decades ago. Now, another time capsule has been unearthed: a promotional video from Transportation Alternatives inviting New Yorkers to take part in Bike to Work Week.
While some things have remained the same — bike commuters can still score some free coffee and breakfast on Friday morning — the city’s streets and physical landscape have changed. Noah Budnick from Transportation Alternatives and Clarence Eckerson from Streetfilms both pointed out that some of the video was shot along the West Side Highway before Hudson River Park was built on land that had been parking lots.
For more information on the 2013 edition of Bike to Work Day, you don’t have to pick up your landline and call TA’s office. Instead, direct your computer (or phone) to the Bike to Work Day website for the complete schedule.
Citi Bike isn't enough of an adrenaline rush for Simone Weichselbaum. This bodes well for its success. Photos: Daily News (left, right)
Daily News reporter Simone Weichselbaum likes her bikes light and fast. The self-proclaimed “proud bike snob who is rarely without her SE Draft steel-frame fixie” said in 2009 that “biking here can be a death sentence,” and that bike lanes are “battle zones.”
So it’s no surprise that Citi Bike — featuring a 45-pound three-speed with balloon tires and a low center of gravity — wasn’t her cup of tea. What she intended as a scathing review of the bike-share two-wheelers might turn out to be their best endorsement yet.
“The seat is wide and spongy. The handlebars are extra wide. The tires are fat,” Weischelbaum wrote, as if it were a bad thing. If even the Daily News’s resident bike daredevil couldn’t manage to do much beyond an easy pedal on a Citi Bike, it’s hard to see how the unfounded nightmare visions of “hell on wheels” conjured by the paper’s editorial board could come true.
To be fair, Weichselbaum did run into a common problem when she tried to take the bike out of its dock, but only because she was doing it the wrong way. “The thing wouldn’t move. I kept yanking on the handlebars. Nothing,” she wrote. If she had followed instructions printed on the bike and lifted by the seat instead of the handlebars, she could have saved herself the trouble.
Bicycling should be for everyone, not just people who keep a fixie in their apartment for a high-speed, high-stakes experience. For those just looking to get around town safely, cheaply and quickly, Weichselbaum’s review shows that Citi Bike should be exactly what they need.
Across the street from Grand Central, a new pedestrian plaza is being installed this afternoon. Jonny Hamilton, who works nearby, snapped this short video of DOT workers laying down the new surface at Pershing Square between 42nd and 41st Streets, on the east side of the Park Avenue viaduct.
Once the plaza is installed, the block will also receive two bike-share stations with 59 docks each, making it the city’s biggest bike-share hub.
An airport bus stop was relocated to accommodate the plaza and bike-share stations, ”turning that street essentially into a bike-share plaza that would really allow it to be a gateway to Grand Central,” DOT’s Kate Fillin-Yeh said at a bike-share planning meeting with Community Board 5 last year.
On the other side of the viaduct, Hamilton said the southbound block of Park Avenue didn’t get attention from DOT crews today, but it will soon: a plaza plan in the works for that block since 1987 is scheduled to begin construction next year. The space will be managed by the Grand Central Partnership business improvement district.
Think of this Streetfacts chapter as a PSA about how, in just a few generations, we have tightly restricted American kids’ freedom to roam, play, and become self-sufficient.
The percentage of children walking and bicycling to school has plummeted from almost 50 percent in 1969 to about 13 percent today. Although distance from school is often cited as the main barrier to walking and bicycling, many families still drive when schools are close to home. According to the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, driving accounts for about half of school trips between 1/4- and 1/2-mile long — which in most cases shouldn’t take kids much more than 10 minutes to walk.
There are plenty of factors at work here: Lack of sidewalks and safe walking and biking routes. The fallacy of “stranger danger.” School districts banning walking and biking outright. But all of these problems lead back to the original and biggest blunder: We continue to design our cities and towns for cars instead of for children, families, and human beings.
Look for more Streetfilms on this issue in the next year.
Elevated from today’s headline stack, via Animal NY: A driver on a South Williamsburg street refused to share the road with cyclist Rafael Huerta, and after harassing Huerta in the street three times with his vehicle, refused to take responsibility for his actions. Instead, he claimed the cyclist was at fault — but video from the cyclist’s handlebar-mounted camera indicates otherwise.
The video begins with Huerta riding eastbound on Wallabout Street, starting at Kent Avenue. (Wallabout is a parallel route to Flushing Avenue, which has shared-lane markings but also heavier truck and auto traffic.) The street is two-way and the lane is relatively narrow; the video shows Huerta riding in the right-hand third of the lane.
After the intersection with Franklin Avenue, a gray Toyota minivan driver passes him, then hits the brakes and moves to the right, squeezing him between the moving vehicle and parked cars.
Following a third encounter where the driver swerved into his path, Huerta stopped, and the driver, a middle-aged Hasidic man, gets out of the car and says, “You are not allowed to drive in the middle of the street.” This is incorrect. According to state law, as encapsulated in DOT’s “Bike Smart” guide, “Cyclists should ‘take the lane’ when necessary.”
As Huerta calls 911 to report being harassed, a third man comes over, and the driver calls Huerta a liar. “Don’t bang my car,” he says, laughing. “He’s harassing me right now.”
This incident thankfully ended without physical harm to anyone, though not before a plainclothes police officer intervened to break up the crowd that had gathered around Huerta, blocking his way. Huerta says in the video’s description: “Please refrain from using racial comments…This man doesn’t represent the Jewish community…And I don’t represent the biking community either.”
Harassment like this isn’t limited to Hasidic Williamsburg. A few years ago, Streetsblog reported about two cases, one involving a cyclist and one a pedestrian, in which people were physically endangered or injured by motorists, then cited by police for damaging the vehicle of the perpetrator.
The headline from today’s City Council transportation committee oversight hearing was Janette Sadik-Khan’s announcement that the official launch date for Citi Bike is Memorial Day. Meanwhile, for Transportation Committee Chair James Vacca, it was another occasion to flail at bikes and defend cheap parking under the guise of holding a budget hearing.
Council Members Vacca and Recchia want to make sure that cyclists are a revenue source for the city — and that the parking status quo is maintained. Photos: NYC Council
Sadik-Khan kicked off the hearing with prepared testimony on the agency’s $732.9 million 2014 executive budget, including everything from public plazas and Select Bus Service upgrades to bridge repair and street lights.
But the bulk of council members’ questions revolved around bikes. The first came from an incredulous Vacca, who challenged Sadik-Khan’s statement that more than 70 percent of New Yorkers support bike-share. ”How do you know that?” he asked, before she pointed him to polling from Quinnipiac University.
After asking about the $9.4 million budgeted for bicycle network expansion — 80 percent of which is covered by federal funds — and questioning whether a safety plan for the Grand Concourse should include bike lanes (Sadik-Khan noted that the street already has them), Vacca came to the heart of his questioning: How can the city get more revenue from bike riders?
“I didn’t see any projections in your budget based on revenue from the commercial cycling program,” Vacca said, referencing a package of laws the City Council passed last year that create new mandates for delivery cyclists and their employers. But it’s not just food delivery cyclists that Vacca sees as a revenue source. “When will we see revenue into the city’s coffers from bike-share?” he asked.
“[The Office of Management and Budget] does not include funding for new programs,” Sadik-Khan said. “They need to have a year to understand what the budget impact is going to be.” She added that any bike-share profits will be split evenly between the city and system operator Alta.
Finance committee chair Domenic Recchia, meanwhile, said he’s concerned about reduced parking revenue as a result of Citi Bike stations being installed on the street. ”Less than one percent of parking spots were removed,” Sadik-Khan said, adding that not all on-street bike-share stations are in formerly metered spaces. ”The contract provides that the operator has to make up the lost revenue to the city.”
A bike corral was recently installed on 82nd Street in Jackson Heights. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.
Spring has sprung, and with it came a new on-street bike corral on 82nd Street in Jackson Heights, near Roosevelt Avenue. Clarence from Streetfilms sent over these great pictures. The corral, which replaces one car parking space, has seven racks (for 14 bikes) and two planters. It is maintained by the 82nd Street Partnership business improvement district and was supported by Queens Community Board 4 in a 32-2 vote in March.
Perhaps the most succinct summation comes from the minutes of CB 4′s full board meeting last month. The report from District Manager Christian Cassagnol noted that DOT and “the 82nd Street BID had installed the bike corral, which looked beautiful.”
The bike corral is maintained by the 82nd Street Partnership business improvement district. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.
The question of the Prospect Park West bike lane, posed by WNYC’s Andrea Bernstein at the Park Slope mayoral forum on Monday, may have been intended as red meat. But it’s also a serviceable litmus test.
If a candidate can’t get behind one of the city’s premiere cycling facilities, which grew from the grassroots and transformed a dangerous speedway into a humane neighborhood street, it’s a pretty good indication as to where that candidate stands on the issue of street safety in general.
So congratulations to Sal Albanese for setting himself apart from a pack of know-nothings and fence-sitters. From CapNY:
Sal Albanese, the former Brooklyn councilman who is probably the most pro-transit Democrat in the race, said he “absolutely” would have been installed the bike lane, and that there was “enough community input.”
An honorable mention to Bill de Blasio. Though he repeated the fiction that public input was lacking, said de Blasio: ”I think in practice it has worked. In the end, I think it has worked.”
Yesterday at about 3:30 p.m., a taxi driver struck a cyclist on Seventh Avenue in Chelsea between 16th and 17th Street. Police made two arrests at the scene, though at this time NYPD is not revealing what they were charged with.
Seventh Avenue near 16th Street in Chelsea, where NYPD arrested two people after a taxi driver struck a cyclist yesterday. Photo; Google Maps
“The front right wheel of cab had basically run over the back wheel of the bicycle,” said reader Sandy, who lives on the block and walked by the scene at about 4:00 p.m. She said the crash was in the right-most lane of Seventh Avenue, about two-thirds of the way between 17th Street and 16th Street.
FDNY says that EMS responded at 3:32 p.m. and left seven minutes later, although Sandy reports seeing an ambulance on the scene after 4:00. FDNY said that EMS did not transport anyone to a hospital.
NYPD reports that officers responded at 3:31 and made two arrests at the scene, though the Collision Investigation Squad was not involved. After 4:00, a police van arrived to assist the cruiser and officers already on the scene. According to Sandy, the handcuffed cab driver was standing by his vehicle in Seventh Avenue, which is the border between the 10th and 13th precincts. It’s not known who the other arrested individual was; Sandy said she did not see a cyclist on the scene.
We’ll update with more information as the story develops.
Last night, Robert Cohen, who is not an appointed board member but sits on the CB 6 committee, said that DOT’s presentation, with diagrams, maps, and photo simulations, wasn’t enough. He needed a walk-through with DOT to fully comprehend the proposal. Other committee members said that they had already done a walk-through, but Arcaro went ahead and asked DOT to do a site visit with committee members.
DOT had tweaked the proposal [PDF] since it first presented the plan last month. It now includes a traffic signal for southbound cyclists using the proposed two-way protected bike lane between 59th and 60th Streets. In addition, signal timings at the intersection of 59th Street and First Avenue have been changed so that pedestrians and cyclists will cross the intersection at different times than drivers turning from First Avenue to 59th Street on their way to the Queensboro Bridge.