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Treyger’s Texting-and-Biking Bill — a Big Distraction From Vision Zero

City Council Member Mark Treyger insists his bill to penalize cyclists for texting is well-intentioned, but there is no evidence to suggest that the behavior targeted by his proposal is a source of significant danger. Instead of focusing on the real deadly threats on NYC streets, Treyger has triggered a news cycle devoted to a minor transgression that doesn’t register in any serious accounting of traffic deaths and injuries.

Mark Treyger. Photo: NYC Council

Mark Treyger. Photo: NYC Council

Treyger plans to introduce legislation Thursday that would mandate a fine or a safety course for the first time someone is ticketed for texting while riding, with higher fines for subsequent violations. The bill, which Treyger says was inspired by an incident he witnessed outside his office, reportedly has the backing of Ydanis Rodriguez, chair of the council transportation committee, and Mayor de Blasio has indicated he may support it.

As dumb as it may be to text and bike, Treyger hasn’t pointed to data on how many cyclists injure themselves and others while doing it. If such a data set exists, the city hasn’t made it public. But that didn’t stop the press from tossing out unrelated stats as if they were somehow indicative of a major problem.

The Times cited a report on statewide pedestrian injuries caused by cyclists that includes no data on texting, while DNAinfo noted that 118 pedestrians have been killed in NYC so far in 2014, though all but two of those victims were struck by operators of motor vehicles. Both stories cite the two pedestrians killed by cyclists in Central Park this year, though neither of those crashes reportedly involved texting.

“If you’re riding a bicycle and texting, you’re obviously not paying attention to where you’re going, and you could injure yourself or someone else,” Treyger told the Daily News. “If it’s reckless for drivers to do it — which it is — it’s just as irresponsible for cyclists.”

Treyger’s attempt to establish equivalence between texting-and-driving and texting-and-biking is in no way supported by what we know about traffic crashes. Nearly 13,000 crashes in NYC last year were attributed at least in part to driver distraction. Nationally, more than 3,000 people are killed each year in crashes that involve distracted driving, and about 400,000 are injured. Distracted biking, irresponsible as it may be, shouldn’t be mentioned as a comparable threat to public safety.

The City Council and Mayor de Blasio adopted a package of laws aimed at behavior that is hurting and killing people, but there is no indication that NYPD is putting those tools to use with any consistency. That’s a real problem. Passing laws based on speculation and anecdotes isn’t the way to make streets safer.

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Julissa Ferreras Joins Corona Residents in Planning for a Safer 111th Street

111th Street is a barrier to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Local residents, advocates, and Council Member Julissa Ferreras want to change that. Image: Google Maps

111th Street is a barrier to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Local residents, advocates, and Council Member Julissa Ferreras want to change that. Image: Google Maps

Residents and community groups in Corona are working to tame traffic on an extra-wide street that separates their neighborhood from the largest park in Queens. They’re backed by a council member who, in addition to putting aside funds for the project, is asking the city to bring bike lanes and traffic calming to the rest of her district.

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is surrounded almost entirely by highways, making access from surrounding neighborhoods difficult. One section of the park, home to the New York Hall of Science, crosses the Grand Central Parkway and extends to 111th Street. Corona residents must cross the street to get to the park. Even though it’s not an arterial road, 111th is designed like one, with up to three lanes in each direction and a center median.

“It’s a legacy of the planning for the World’s Fair,” said Jose Serrano, a community organizer at the Queens Museum, which is located within the park. ”It’s a legacy of a fair that was meant to be a regional destination, and not necessarily about planning for connectivity between the park and the local community.”

Earlier this year, the Queens Museum began working with Immigrant Movement International, Make the Road New York, and Transportation Alternatives to hear what local residents have to say about street safety. In July, the groups hosted a Vision Zero workshop to gather feedback.

“What stood out overwhelmingly was that neighbors wanted to see big-time change on 111th Street, both for pedestrians and for cyclists,” said Celia Castellan of Transportation Alternatives. “It connects everyone to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.”

“We have a beautiful park here in Queens,” said Cristina Camacho, a member of Make the Road. “The people who live along 111th Street, they were having a lot of concerns about their children.”

In September, the groups organized a daffodil planting on the 111th Street median. At the event, they asked for more feedback on how residents thought the street should be designed. There were lots of ideas, from more stop lights and crosswalks to a protected bike lane. Some residents suggested converting the northbound lanes to a bike and pedestrian zone that could also have space for vendors, Serrano said.

Their ideas could become a reality. In fiscal year 2014, Council Member Julissa Ferreras allocated $2.7 million in discretionary capital funds to a redesign of 111th Street. On Thursday, she is meeting with DOT to get an update on how the money could be spent.

Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Greenway Link That Burns Up Kips Bay Condo Owners

The 37th Street connector to the East Side Greenway is in, and condo residents are not happy. Photo: Stephen Miller

The 37th Street connector is in, providing a two-way bike link between First Avenue and the East Side Greenway. Photo: Stephen Miller

DOT has striped and painted an important greenway connection on one block of East 37th Street, which received the support of Manhattan Community Board 6 last month. DOT began installing the bike lane this week, and the agency says the full project will be complete by the end of next week.

This short but crucial greenway connection is the object of a lawsuit filed by the board of the Horizon condominiums. Streetsblog has obtained a copy of the complaint [PDF], which features this syntactically tortured passage, referring to a CB 6 transportation committee meeting last month: “DOT’s representative was off putting to questions raised by the Horizon. In addition, bike lobbyists were ostracized and attacked being called stupid and selfish and taunting them for ‘not getting what they wanted’… The meeting was extremely divisive for no good reason.”

CB 6 went on to overwhelmingly support the plan after DOT modified it to accommodate concerns raised by the condo owners. But the condo board insists that a bike lane on their side of the street creates risks for “children, elderly and disabled residents.” Children going to school buses and seniors going to get taxis will have to cross the bike lane, placing everyone in danger, the suit alleges. The horror!

The condo owners are asking the court to stop the bike lane installation, which is almost complete. A court date is scheduled for next week.

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Kips Bay Condo Owners Don’t Want Bike Lane By Their Door, So They’re Suing

Apparently, having this bike lane in front of their building instead of parked cars is too much for condo residents at The Horizon. Image: DOT [PDF]

Lawsuits against bike lanes and bike-share stations have all gone down in flames in New York City courts, but that’s not stopping Kips Bay condo owners from suing NYC DOT over a short, very useful connection linking the East Side Greenway and the First Avenue bike lane.

The bike lane has the backing of local City Council Member Dan Garodnick, and Manhattan Community Board 6 recently voted in favor of it. Even though the plan was modified in response to condo owners’ demands, they are taking it to court. (They are not, however, getting pro bono assistance from Gibson Dunn and Jim Walden.)

The two-way bike lane would run next to the Horizon condominium tower on 37th Street between First Avenue and the East River Greenway. It was first proposed by DOT in May and received support from Manhattan Community Board 6 last month.

Horizon condo owners came out against the bike lane at previous community board meetings in the spring and fall, calling for it to be placed on the south side of the street, where it would be next to — this is important — a different apartment building.

DOT studied that option but concluded it would be more dangerous for people on bikes, who would be exposed to additional conflicts with turning traffic at intersections. Instead, the agency proposed a modified version of the north-side lane that preserves loading zones near the condo entrance. People going to the building’s entrance would exit a vehicle in the drop-off zone and cross the bike lane before getting to the sidewalk.

Condo owners did not come out to the meeting last month when CB 6 overwhelmingly passed a resolution in support of the modified plan. At that meeting, a Garodnick staffer said the council member backed the plan. According to draft meeting minutes [PDF], the board voted 35-3, with three abstentions, in support of the bike lane.

“It seems that people were generally pleased with all the work that went into it,” CB 6 district manager Dan Miner said after the meeting. “It was not a heavily disputed matter.”

Read more…

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Highlights From Today’s City Council Transportation Infrastructure Hearing

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Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, center, with NYC DOT deputy commissioners Bob Collyer, left, and Joseph Jarrin, right.

Today, the City Council transportation and economic development committees held a marathon joint hearing on New York’s transportation investment needs. Top staff from the MTA and NYC DOT, including Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, fielded questions from council members for the better part of the day.

Here are some highlights:

  • Council members Jimmy Van Bramer and Julissa Ferreras both asked for more bike lanes in their Queens districts. “We are striving to build out the bike infrastructure in all five boroughs,” Trottenberg said, ”and we have a couple of really big projects planned in Queens.”
  • Van Bramer also pushed for more details on when the delayed Pulaski Bridge protected bike lane would open. Deputy Commissioner Bob Collyer said the project’s contractor received final sign-off from DOT two weeks ago and will release a construction timeline soon. Collyer expected the bikeway to be complete sometime this spring.
  • Bus Rapid Transit also came up during today’s hearing. Responding to a question from Council Member Donovan Richards, a vocal proponent of BRT on Woodhaven Boulevard, Trottenberg said the city is speaking with U.S. DOT about securing funds for street redesigns that feature full-fledged BRT.
  • Not all council members were as enthusiastic about BRT. I. Daneek Miller questioned the wisdom of Select Bus Service between Flushing and Jamaica, which led Trottenberg to say the project is “not written in stone.”
  • Trottenberg said the mayor’s housing plan demands coordination between new housing and transportation infrastructure, and that BRT on the North Shore of Staten Island should be accompanied by zoning changes near stations to maximize ridership.

Read more…

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As Citi Bike Expands, So Should NYC’s Protected Bike Lanes

When Citi Bike launched last year, ridership numbers quickly surpassed levels seen in other cities. New York’s system had a number of advantages — more stations, more bikes, more places to go, and more potential customers, for starters. But there’s another reason so many people felt comfortable hopping on the blue bikes: For years before bike-share’s launch, the city had been installing miles of protected bike lanes on several key north-south avenues in the Citi Bike service area.

At Tuesday’s Citi Bike announcement, DOT chief Polly Trottenberg said the presence of protected bike lanes would factor into station siting as the system expands, but she didn’t commit to adding more protected lanes in tandem with bike-share growth. Photo: Stephen Miller

As Citi Bike expands beyond the city’s core, the protected bike lane network should grow along with it. The logic of the pairing is so clear to New Yorkers, noted former DOT policy director Jon Orcutt in a Streetsblog post this summer, that when the city sought to add protected lanes for Midtown avenues after bike-share was already in the works, the proposals “sailed through their respective community boards.” Will the de Blasio administration also make the connection between bike-share and building out safe bicycling infrastructure?

At Tuesday’s Citi Bike press conference, I asked Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg if DOT would grow the protected bike lane network as bike-share expands to more neighborhoods. “One of the big steps with Citi Bike in terms of safety and ease of use has been connecting wherever possible with protected bike lanes,” she said. “As we site stations, that is going to be one of the criteria.”

It wasn’t exactly a commitment to expand the protected bike lane network in tandem with Citi Bike.

Earlier this week, Mayor de Blasio didn’t bring up protected lanes when I asked what his administration is doing to improve bike safety in light of the fact that bicyclist deaths have doubled in 2014 compared to the same time last year. De Blasio cited enforcement against dangerous driving before adding that NYPD has issued more tickets to “bicyclists who have acted inappropriately” and that the city would employ “equal opportunity” enforcement against bike riders.

The administration has gone on the record saying the protected bike lane network will expand at about the same rate as it has since 2007. At a press conference celebrating New York’s “best biking city” ranking last month, Trottenberg said DOT has committed to adding five miles of protected bike lanes every year.

So far, however, the de Blasio administration has yet to put its stamp on the bike network.

Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: The 78th Precinct Gets Its Bike Corral

Photo: N. Wayne Bailey

Photo: N. Wayne Bailey

After a request from 78th Precinct commanding officer Captain Frank DiGiacomo, DOT has installed a four-rack bike corral in front of the precinct house on Bergen Street in Prospect Heights. N. Wayne Bailey, chair of the precinct’s community council, snapped photos of the new bike parking yesterday.

The 78th Precinct has established a reputation for supporting livable streets, from making a guerrilla protected bike lane permanent to targeting drivers who fail to yield and hosting monthly traffic safety meetings.

Despite the precinct’s groundbreaking moves, there is still lots of room for improvement. As the photo shows, the 7-8 engages in a behavior that’s all too common at precinct houses across the city: using sidewalks for parking. The precinct did clear its cars from two blocks but continues the practice along both Bergen Street and Sixth Avenue.

Getting officers to obey parking rules? Now that would be revolutionary.

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Don’t Believe the Headlines: Bike Boom Has Been Fantastic for Bike Safety

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The Governors Highway Safety Association released a report Monday that, the organization claimed, showed that the ongoing surge in American biking has increased bike fatalities.

Transportation reporters around the country swung into action.

“Fatal bicycle crashes on the rise, new study shows,” said the Des Moines Register headline.

“Cycling is increasing and that may be reflected by an increase in fatal crashes,” wrote NJ.com.

“Bike riding, particularly among urban commuters, is up, and the trend has led to a 16 percent increase in cyclist fatalities nationwide,” reported the Washington Post.

Bike fatalities are a serious problem that needs to be tackled. The United States has dramatically higher rates of injury and death on bikes than other rich countries, and it would be appropriate for GHSA, an umbrella organization of state departments of transportation, to issue an urgent call to action to make biking safer. So it’s especially troubling that the main thrust of this report is complete baloney.

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Quorum or No, Astoria’s CB 1 Votes Against Three Livable Streets Projects

Astoria’s Community Board 1 rejected three livable streets projects Tuesday night, despite questions about whether the board even had enough members in attendance to take votes on the proposals.

Queens CB 1 would rather have one parking space for cars than eight spots for bikes. Image: DOT [PDF]

Queens CB 1 would rather have one parking space for cars than eight spots for bikes. Image: DOT [PDF]

The three projects — a short bus lane on Astoria Boulevard, concrete barriers to protect cyclists on Vernon Boulevard, and a bike corral in front of a restaurant — fell victim to what appears to be leadership biased against projects that improve conditions for bus riders and cyclists.

“It was just a big disappointment for us. I just don’t understand this mentality that cars and their owners are the only rightful users of street space,” said Jean Cawley, whose husband, Dominic Stiller, was seeking the board’s support for a bike corral to take the place of a car parking spot in front of his restaurant, Dutch Kills Centraal [PDF]. “They seem to me to vote down anything having to do with bicycle safety and infrastructure.”

“I was shocked at the negativity that many on the board displayed toward bikes,” said Macartney Morris, an Astoria resident who attended the meeting. “It seemed crazy that people would get upset about one parking spot.”

When Cawley spoke in favor of the bike corral on Tuesday night, CB 1 chair Vinicio Donato asked her questions about cyclists riding against traffic and running red lights. One board member compared Donato’s line of questioning to asking a liquor license applicant about alcoholism. “I don’t know why that had anything to do with me and the bike corral,” Cawley said. ”They’re supposed to have some decorum but they don’t. I think it’s an abuse of process and an abuse of power.”

There were petitions both in support of the corral and against it, but Cawley and other meeting attendees said the board threw out supportive signatures from people who did not live within CB 1, including those from residents of nearby neighborhoods like Woodside or Jackson Heights.

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Talking Headways Podcast: Dear Bike People

podcast icon logoDo people of color and low-income people ride bikes? Not as much as they could, given all the great benefits biking offers, particularly to people without a lot of disposable cash. But yes, non-white and non-rich people ride bikes — in high numbers compared to the general population, by some measures.

Even though they’re biking the streets, people of color and those with low incomes are largely missing from the bicycle advocacy world. The League of American Bicyclists, along with many other advocacy organizations around the country, are out to change that. We covered the League’s report on equity in the bicycling movement last week — but there was still lots more to talk about.

So Jeff and I called up Adonia Lugo, who manages the equity initiative at the League. We talked about what local advocacy groups can do if they want to reach out to new constituencies, whether infrastructure design really needs a multicultural perspective, and how the movement can start “seeing” bicyclists that don’t fit the prevailing stereotype.

We know you have strong feelings about these issues. Tell us all about ‘em in the comments  – after you listen.

And find us on  iTunesStitcher, and the RSS feed.