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Posts from the "Bicycling" Category

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DMV Cheating Cyclists With Unlawful Surcharges and License Points

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As NYPD’s latest bike ticket blitz — “Operation Safe Cycle” – rolls into its second week, here at my law firm we’ve been getting more than the usual number of phone calls and emails from cyclists with questions about summonses. Usually the big question in these discussions is whether to plead guilty, not how to plead guilty. But now it appears that if you pay your fine online for a moving violation while cycling, you’ll probably be paying an $88 surcharge that you shouldn’t be, and getting points on your license that don’t belong there.

The problem arises when cyclists make their plea and pay the fine online, as most who receive traffic tickets in New York City do. Even though traffic tickets issued to cyclists usually indicate on their face that the vehicle is a “bicycle,” the DMV’s online payment system appears to ignore this fact.

Yet the DMV’s own rules with respect to surcharges and license points make crystal clear that they do not apply to cyclists. The specific provisions of law that exempt cyclists from the $88 surcharge and from points are set forth in a letter we recently sent to the DMV demanding that it cease and desist from applying these unlawful penalties. We have yet to receive a response.

This is no simple computer glitch either. Judging from the pre-printed traffic forms supplied by the DMV, you’d think it’s trying deliberately to trick cyclists into overpaying their fines. The form states: “included in the total amount for each violation (except equipment) are mandatory surcharges in the amount of $88. Equipment violations include mandatory surcharges of $58.”

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Kidical Mass NYC and Summer Streets Bring Out the Tykes on Bikes

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This just about captures the mood on the ride from Borough Hall to Astor Place. (Note: Biking on the sidewalk is legal in NYC if you’re under 13.) All photos: Ben Fried

Mission accomplished for the first Kidical Mass NYC ride: The all-ages Saturday morning bike convoy from Brooklyn Borough Hall to Summer Streets was a ton of fun.

Moms, dads, and kids — about two dozen people all told — made the trip with an assortment of box bikes, child seats, trailers, and kiddie cycles. The self-propelled children were super impressive. No one had training wheels, and they all made it over the Brooklyn Bridge.

Here are some photos of the ride, plus some shots of Summer Streets, which seems to be drawing more families with kids every year. To plug into the next Kidical Mass NYC ride, follow them on Facebook.

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At Kidical Mass, everyone got their cues from ride organizers Ali Loxton and Doug Gordon.

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First leg: Cadman Plaza.

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Tourists all over the place on the Brooklyn Bridge? No problem.

Summer Streets itself has turned into a great family event and on-the-ground classroom for precocious cyclists. It is simply amazing to see kids as young as 4 pedaling down Park Avenue and Lafayette Street. And there are a ton of them…

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Why It Makes Sense to Add Biking and Walking Routes Along Active Rail Lines

Despite high train frequency, southeastern Pennsylvania's Schuylkill River Trail -- 60 miles long and about to double in length -- provides a stress-free biking and walking experience. All photos from ##http://www.railstotrails.org/ourWork/reports/railwithtrail/report.html##RTC##

Despite high train frequency, southeastern Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill River Trail — 60 miles long and about to double in length — provides a stress-free biking and walking experience. All photos from RTC

This post is part of a series featuring stories and research that will be presented at the Pro-Walk/Pro-Bike/Pro-Place conference September 8-11 in Pittsburgh.

You’ve heard of rail-trails — abandoned rail lines that have been turned into multi-use paths for biking and walking. There are more than 21,000 miles of rail-trails across the country, in urban, suburban, and rural areas.

But these trails don’t need to be built on the graves of defunct rail lines. A growing number of them, in fact, are constructed next to active rail lines. In 1996, there were slightly less than 300 miles of these trails. Today there are about 1,400 miles.

Railroads tend to be skittish about approving walking and biking routes because they fear liability if someone gets injured. Even so, 43 percent of rails-with-trails, as they’re known, are located wholly within railroad rights-of-way, while another 12 percent have some segments inside the right-of-way. So negotiating with railroads — from Class I freight railroads to urban light rail operators — is possible, if you know how to approach them.

At the Pro-Walk Pro-Bike conference in Pittsburgh next month, Kelly Pack of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy will be joined by Thomas Baxter of Pittsburgh’s Friends of the Riverfront and Jerry Walls, who chairs the board of the SEDA-COG joint rail authority in central Pennsylvania, to give tips on how to create new rails-with-trails.

While railroads are wary of opening up space near tracks to people walking and biking, there are ways to get through to them. And if advocates in your area aren’t convinced that walking and biking alongside a noisy railroad track is such a great idea, there are arguments to address their perspective, too. Here are eight great things about rails-with-trails.

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Jerrison Garcia, 25, Third Cyclist Killed Near Park Ave. Viaduct in Two Years

Cyclists on Park Avenue are sandwiched between the viaduct and parked cars while contending with moving vehicles and intersections with limited visibility. Image: Google Maps

Cyclists on Park Avenue are sandwiched between the viaduct and parked cars while contending with moving vehicles and intersections with limited visibility. Image: Google Maps

Update: Cab driver Nojeem Odunfa of the Bronx was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation, careless driving, and a right of way violation, according to NYPD. Odunfa was not immediately charged for killing Jerrison Garcia, and, if past patterns hold, he won’t be. Aggravated unlicensed operation carries nominal penalties and tends to be the default charge against sober unlicensed drivers who kill cyclists and pedestrians in NYC.

For the third time in two years, a driver has killed a cyclist at the same Park Avenue intersection, under the Metro-North viaduct in East Harlem. In addition to recent fatalities, data show that Park Avenue along the viaduct is a hotspot for cyclist injuries.

At around 5:15 this morning, a livery cab driver traveling southbound on Park turned left into Jerrison Garcia, who was also southbound, at E. 108th Street, according to DNAinfo.

Blood stains at the intersection marked the roughly 80 feet that police said Garcia was dragged until the livery cab came to a rest on 108th Street.

Garcia, 25, was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai Hospital. The 65-year-old driver, who reportedly works for Glory Car and Limo Service, was taken into police custody. NYPD told Gothamist “it was more than likely he would be charged with driving with a suspended license.”

Park Avenue is divided by the viaduct from E. 102nd Street northward. There is parking on northbound and southbound Park Avenue along this stretch, but there is no designated lane for cyclists, who must share one narrow through-lane with moving vehicles while negotiating intersections with limited visibility.

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Tomorrow: It’s Kidical Mass NYC!

Tomorrow brings the first official ride for Kidical Mass NYC, an opportunity for adult cyclists of varying skill levels to hit the streets with their little ones.

Galit Gordon is ready for the inaugural Kidical Mass NYC ride. Photo: Dmitry Gudkov via ##https://twitter.com/BrooklynSpoke/status/498895992528601088/photo/1##@BrooklynSpoke##

Galit Gordon is ready for Kidical Mass NYC. Photo: Dmitry Gudkov via @BrooklynSpoke

As the name implies, Kidical Mass brings together kids and parents for group rides. Many cities — including Washington, Philadelphia, and Portland —  have chapters. The local effort was inspired by the relatively recent proliferation of kid-carting cargo bikes in Brooklyn, says Doug Gordon, who founded the group with Alexandra Loxton and Hilda Cohen.

“It used to be that such bikes were rather uncommon in New York, but that’s not the case so much anymore,” says Gordon. “So we started talking about other families who ride with their kids or who have these kinds of bicycles and thought it would be fun to get a lot of them together.”

While the rides are intended to help young cyclists gain experience, Cohen says having strength in numbers is good for parents as well.

“We all three ride with our kids, and as they grow older, they are wanting to ride by themselves,” says Cohen. “We as parents are comfortable on our bikes, but there are many that are not, so we are trying to find a way to make parents more comfortable too.”

Participants in Saturday’s ride will meet up at Brooklyn Borough Hall at 8:45 a.m., then head over the Brooklyn Bridge for the last week of Summer Streets. A second ride is planned for September 20 in Gowanus and Red Hook. “We are all three based in Brooklyn,” says Cohen, “but to have these branch out into other boroughs would be ideal.”

The plan is to do one ride per month through fall, take a winter break, and pick things up next spring.

“Biking is probably the first situation for many kids where they are independent of their parents but able to keep up based on their own efforts,” Cohen says. “We feel that every kid should have this opportunity to experience this, regardless of where they live.”

“The main goal, no matter the location, is fun,” says Gordon. “Hopefully this will grow into something that, much like Critical Mass, becomes an event that any interested parent in the five boroughs can organize without much effort.”

There will be snacks tomorrow, along with stickers and “other goodies.” Check out the Kidical Mass NYC Facebook page, RSVP for the ride here, and if you plan to join, see Cohen’s short list of pointers after the jump.

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Trading Cars for Transit Passes “in the Middle of the Corn and Soybeans”

The Champaign-Urbana managed to boost walking, biking and transit rates. Photo: Wikipedia

The Champaign-Urbana region managed to boost walking, biking, and transit rates. Photo: Wikipedia

This post is part of a series featuring stories and research that will be presented at the Pro-Walk/Pro-Bike/Pro-Place conference September 8-11 in Pittsburgh.

If Champaign-Urbana can make it easier to leave your car at home, any place can. That’s what local planner Cynthia Hoyle tells people about the progress her region has made over the last few years.

With great intention and years of work, this region of about 200,000 has reversed the growth of driving and helped get more people biking and taking transit. Since 2000, Champaign-Urbana has seen a 15 percent increase in transit ridership and a 2 percent decrease in vehicle miles traveled. The percentage of the population biking to work is up, and the percentage driving alone is down. Champaign-Urbana tracks its progress toward these goals on a publicly available report card.

“What I tell people is that if you can do it out here in the middle of the corn and soybeans, you can do it too,” said Hoyle, a planner with Alta Planning + Design who helped lead the process. “Everyone thinks this kind of stuff just happened in places like Portland.”

Hoyle outlined a few key steps along the region’s path toward more sustainable transportation:

1. Coordinate between government agencies to create walkable development standards

Champaign-Urbana’s sustainable mobility push began with the adoption of a long-range plan in 2004. The plan was part of a collaborative effort by local municipalities, the regional planning agency, and the local transit authority.

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Irving Schachter Killed By Cyclist in Central Park Earlier This Month

A teenage cyclist killed a 75-year-old man jogging in Central Park earlier this month.

At around 4:52 p.m. on Sunday, August 3, Irving Schachter was jogging on the east park loop near 72nd Street when he was hit by a 17-year-old cyclist traveling in the direction of traffic, according to NYPD. Schachter was admitted to New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center with head trauma. He died on August 5.

According to a post from Schachter’s wife Hindy on the New York Cycle Club message board, the cyclist veered into the pedestrian lane on the loop. The crash is under investigation by NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad, and no charges or summonses have been issued yet.

This marks the first time a pedestrian has been killed by a cyclist in New York since 2009, when a wrong-way cyclist in Midtown struck Stuart Gruskin, who, like Schachter, died of head trauma.

Schachter was a long-time member of the NYCC who led rides and was an active cyclist and runner at age 75. He was training for the 2014 New York City Marathon when he was struck.

Hindy Schachter included these words of caution on the NYCC board:

…this short message also should remind folks of the cyclist’s dual nature. Many of us see cyclists as potential victims of cars. And we are. The city still needs to do much more to secure our safety on Manhattan’s streets.  To that end we should support the many Transportation Alternative campaigns.

But we are also potential predators. One careless move on a bike and we can take down a runner, a walker, a child skipping along.  As we want car drivers to be alert to our rights, so too we must act to protect the rights of other people.

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Will This Year’s “Operation Safe Cycle” Make Anyone Safer?

The Park Row bike lane by City Hall, full of illegally parked vehicles as usual. Photo: Keegan Stephan

Yesterday NYPD showed New York that police do actually enforce the speed limit on local streets. Check out the radar guns on Broadway. Today the department is showing the city that cyclists get tickets too.

NYPD’s “Operation Safe Cycle” is a two-week enforcement campaign targeting “hazardous violations that create a danger for pedestrians and cyclists.”

Usually, when the NYPD embarks on these bike ticket blitzes, you’ll see police focus on the most inane and harmless transgressions, like cycling through red lights at T-intersections with bike lanes, where motor vehicle traffic and bike traffic don’t conflict. Equipped with cheat sheets that included non-existent infractions, cops have been known to hand out tickets that don’t stand a chance in traffic court. It created the impression that traffic enforcement in New York is about the appearance of “evenhandedness” more than the prevention of violent injuries and deaths.

Will this time be any different? As always, devoting limited resources to bike enforcement is bound to yield really poor bang-for-the-buck compared to speed enforcement or failure-to-yield tickets. And the very act of marketing a special operation targeting cycling — as opposed to consistently enforcing laws that keep everyone safe on the streets — doesn’t inspire confidence.

At least NYPD’s communications seem to be improving. The “Operation Safe Cycle” notice says police will be focusing on motorists obstructing bike lanes as well as cyclists for “failure to stop at a red light, disobey a traffic signal or sign, riding the wrong direction against traffic, riding on the sidewalk, and failure to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.” That’s clearer than a cheat sheet with bogus bike infractions.

But there is simply a huge degree of discretion available to cops when it comes to bike enforcement. Blowing through a red light with lots of pedestrians in the crosswalk is illegal, and so is stopping to check for cross-traffic and pedestrians before proceeding safely through a red. It’s a lot easier to hand out tickets to safe riders who may not be following the letter of the law than to rule-breakers who are actually putting other people at risk.

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Where Cyclists Have the Power to Ride Straight Past Turning Motorists

Hey, so it turns out the all-powerful @BicycleLobby didn’t actually scale the Brooklyn Bridge and plant white American flags at the top. That was two all-powerful German artists.

But courtesy of Clarence Eckerson Jr., here’s some footage of raw bicyclist power in Copenhagen, where turning drivers defer to people on bikes at intersections. I guess this is what you would call “soft power.” So many people bike in Copenhagen that all these polite motorists are probably either cyclists themselves or know close friends and family who bike. Each person on a bike going by could be a neighbor, an aunt, or an old roommate.

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The Plan to Build Bicycle Highways Where Cleveland’s Streetcars Once Ran

A local group is proposing repurposing old streetcar rights of way into protected bike lanes. Image: Bialosky & Partners

A local group has proposed repurposing old streetcar rights of way as protected bike lanes. Image: Bialosky & Partners

Like many cities in America, Cleveland grew into its own as a streetcar city. In the early part of the last century, hundreds of miles of streetcars connected all corners of the city as well as its inner suburbs. The streets where tracks carried passengers — Lorain, Superior, Euclid — were the circulatory system of the city, around which neighborhood life was organized.

St. Clair Avenue in Cleveland was once bustling with activity, when it was a streetcar route. A group of Clevelandites wants to make it active again with bike infrastructure. Image: Google Maps

St. Clair Avenue in Cleveland bustled with activity when it was a streetcar route. A group of Clevelanders want to make it active again with bike infrastructure. Image: Google Maps

But around the middle of the 20th century, streetcars gave way to private cars — upending this way of life. Many Clevelanders got in their cars and abandoned historic urban neighborhoods at disastrous rates, moving to former farmlands where they could shop in big box stores. Streetcar tracks were mostly paved over and forgotten, leaving extra-wide streets behind. The retail spaces that lined those routes are now pocked with vacancies.

But some local residents see an opportunity to transform these historically significant corridors back into something vital and attractive. They call their plan the Midway — a proposal to transform former streetcar rights-of-way with landscaped, center-running bike lanes.

“It seems so obvious to me,” said Barb Clint, director of community health and advocacy at the YMCA of Greater Cleveland. Clint is also a board member at Bike Cleveland, the city’s bike advocacy group. (Disclosure: I’m also on the board of Bike Cleveland and have helped promote the Midway in Cleveland.)

Clint is a veteran of the Cleveland public sector and non-profit scene, and she knows the problems with the city’s streets well. ”We have these massive streets, with severely low volumes of traffic. They’re not comfortable to walk along, they’re not comfortable to bike along because people are driving so fast,” she said. ”We can’t preach at people and tell them they should be more physically active if we’re not providing them safe places to do so.”

Two years ago, Clint and another Bike Cleveland board member, John McGovern, came up with the first iteration of the Midway plan. The beauty of the streetcar routes is that they’re nicely dispersed throughout the city. And in almost all cases, the space is ripe for reuse: Cleveland’s streets lack the traffic congestion of larger, growing cities.

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