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Schlepping By Bicycle: The Next Big Thing in Women’s Bike Advocacy?

Dutch bike infrastructure is light years ahead of America's. But maybe it's their progressive policies on gender and family that have more to do with high rates of women biking. Photo: ##http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2012/01/campaign-for-sustainable-safety-not.html##A View from the Cycle Path##

Dutch bike infrastructure is light years ahead of America’s. But but how much does progressive social policy contribute to the country’s high rates of women biking? Photo: A View from the Cycle Path

Why don’t women bike as much as men? It’s a question that’s been getting a lot of press for the last three years or so since the explosion of Women Bike onto the national advocacy scene. Only about 24 percent of bikes on the street have women’s butts on them. What’s going on?

The conventional wisdom is that women are just more risk-averse. The need to get more women biking is often mentioned as one of many reasons for building safe, protected bike infrastructure for all ability levels. The Bike League’s Women on a Roll report named five C’s of women biking: comfort, convenience, consumer products, confidence, and community. But they forgot one: Chores.

An article in last Friday’s Guardian by UCLA academics Kelcie Ralph and Herbie Huff has been clanging around in my head since I read it. The reason women make up more than half of cyclists in the Netherlands and less than a quarter here isn’t simply due to skittishness about biking in traffic, Ralph and Huff argue. It’s about household inequality, plain and simple.

“In short, despite years of progress, American women’s lives are still disproportionately filled with driving children around, getting groceries, and doing other household chores,” they write — “housework that doesn’t lend itself easily to two-wheeled transportation.”

Transportation research in the United States focuses disproportionately on the “journey to work” because that’s the only trip we have Census data on. But the journey to work makes up only about 16 percent of all trips. According to a recent study by Ralph and her colleagues at UCLA and Rutgers, “travel for other, more domestic purposes — shopping (21 percent), family errands (22 percent), and school/church (10 percent) — collectively (53 percent) make up a much, much larger share of all personal travel.” And women make the lion’s share of those trips.

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Pulaski Bridge Bikeway Likely Delayed Until Next Year

The plan will add Image: DOT

The Pulaski Bridge project will give more space to pedestrians and cyclists while calming Brooklyn-bound traffic. Image: DOT

One of the most anticipated livable streets projects of 2014 probably won’t get built until next year.

NYC DOT’s plan to convert a traffic lane on the Pulaski Bridge to a two-way protected bike path, which would relieve crowding on the bridge’s narrow bike-ped path and calm traffic heading toward McGuinness Boulevard in Brooklyn, is still in the review phase, according to DOT. The office of Assembly Member Joe Lentol, who has championed the project, says it is not likely to be installed before the end of this year.

The design for the bikeway was revealed last fall, following many months of agitation by elected officials and advocates. At the time, construction was expected to wrap up in 2014. That now looks unlikely.

“The final bid from the contractor is under review by the Comptroller’s office. By the beginning of November, DOT will begin internal pre-construction meetings,” said Lentol spokesperson Edward Baker in an email. “By the time that process is done they will be headed toward winter and the holiday [construction] embargo. Does not look like work is going to begin this calendar year.”

DOT said a revised timetable will be announced after contractor gets the go-ahead from the city. “The procurement of the construction contract that includes the Pulaski Bridge bikeway modifications is underway,” said an agency spokesperson. “Upon registration and issuance of the Notice to Proceed to the contractor, a meeting will be scheduled with local stakeholders to update on the anticipated construction schedule.”

Baker said more details could emerge by the end of this month.

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Want Safer Connections to the East Side Greenway? Tell CB 6 on Monday

Condo owners in Murray Hill could derail a protected bike path connecting to the East River Greenway. Image: DOT

A short protected bikeway on 37th Street would connect on-street bike lanes to the East River Greenway. Residents of a Murray Hill condo are trying to block it because they want direct curb access right in front of their building. Image: DOT

On Monday, the Manhattan Community Board 6 transportation committee is set to reconsider a plan to install a two-way protected bike lane on a block of East 37th Street, connecting First Avenue with the East River Greenway. The plan has run up against stiff opposition from residents of an adjacent condominium tower who don’t want a bike lane on the same side of the street as their building.

The proposal is key to a larger set of changes [PDF] that would create safer, more intuitive bike connections between on-street bike lanes and the East River Greenway. In June, the committee signed off of those changes, 7-3 with one abstention [PDF]. When the plan came to the full board later that month, opposition from condo residents nearly derailed the entire project, until the board approved a resolution supporting a bike path on the other side of 37th Street. That resolution passed 34-4, with one abstention [PDF].

But putting a path on the south side of the street would be a more dangerous configuration. Drivers coming off the southbound FDR Drive and proceeding onto 37th Street often make wide right turns, potentially putting cyclists at risk. Another issue is that the tunnel beneath the FDR connecting to Glick Park and the greenway is on the north side of the intersection. If cyclists use the south side of 37th Street, they would then have to cross two legs of the busy intersection, in conflict with turning cars, instead of just one leg without that type of conflict.

DOT expressed these reservations about a south side alignment to the community board and encouraged it to support routing the bike path on the north side of the street. Given the dangers of a south side bike lane, the agency is coming back to CB 6 to make the case for its plan on the north side.

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Report: Pedestrian Injuries Caused by Cyclists Declining in NYC

Contrary to the would-be bikelash revivalists among the city press corps, a new study finds that injuries to pedestrians hit by cyclists are on the decline in NYC.

Released this week, the study was authored by Peter Tuckel and William Milczarski of Hunter College, along with NYU’s Richard Maisel. Reporting for CityLab, Sarah Goodyear writes that researchers examined hospital records in New York City and New York State between 2004 and 2011, in addition to California records from 2005 to 2011.

The study adds more recent information to figures Tuckel and Milczarski shared with Streetsblog in 2011, and reflects the same trends. As NYC added bike infrastructure and more cyclists took to the streets, the report says, the rate of injuries to pedestrians caused by cyclists dropped. Writes Goodyear:

In both New York City and New York State, which the researchers considered separately, the current decline began after several years of a steady upward trend. Between 2004 and 2008, the rate of cyclist-caused pedestrian injuries in New York State went from 3.29 per 100,000-person population to 5.45, then dropped to 3.78 by 2011. In New York City, the rate climbed from 4.26 in 2004 to 7.54 in 2008, but then fell again, to 6.06 by 2011.

As the paper states, the sheer number of cyclists in New York City soared during the years in question: The number of people biking into lower Manhattan, for instance, doubled between 2007 and 2011, according to the New York City Department of Transportation.

Overall, Goodyear writes, cyclists injured 7,904 pedestrians in New York State, NYC included, between 2004 and 2011. Ninety-two percent of victims were treated as outpatients.

For the sake of comparison, New York State motorists injured and killed approximately 22,000 pedestrians and cyclists in 2012 alone. City cyclists have killed three pedestrians since 2009, with two fatal crashes occurring in the last two months. Drivers killed 178 pedestrians and cyclists in NYC in 2013, according to NYPD.

The report attributes the drop in injuries to pedestrians becoming more accustomed to cyclists on the streets, safety education campaigns, and a higher number of kids being driven to school and fewer playing outside, though that stat is likely not as relevant in NYC.

“The other, more compelling explanation advanced by the researchers is that improvements in bike infrastructure have led to streets that are safer for all users,” writes Goodyear. “They cite NYC DOT reports that show, for instance, a decline of 58 percent in injuries to all users on Ninth Avenue, where a protected bike lane was part of a significant street redesign.” The city doubled the size of its bike network between 2007 and 2010.

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Will Montgomery County Botch the Streets in a Model Suburban Retrofit?

Old Georgetown Road in White Flint today. Photo: Dan Reed/flickr via ##http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/24343/how-a-road-in-white-flint-is-like-a-ski-area/##GGW##

Old Georgetown Road in White Flint today. Montgomery County doesn’t want to add safety improvements for biking and walking until people change their travel habits. Photo: Dan Reed/Flickr via GGW

Four years ago, White Flint, a neighborhood of North Bethesda, Maryland, most known for its shopping mall, caught the attention of urbanists around the nation with a proposal to reimagine car-oriented suburban streets as a walkable, mixed-use, transit-oriented neighborhood. Montgomery County adopted a plan for the town that would narrow its wide arterial roadways and make them safe and accommodating for transit riders, bicyclists, and pedestrians. It was hailed as a model for other suburbs around the nation looking to become less sprawling and more walkable.

But now, the county is quietly trying to undo much of the good work in the 2010 plan — namely, the street designs. The most recent design shared by the Montgomery County DOT showed a reversal of previous promises. Rather than bring Old Georgetown Road down from six car lanes to four, adding curbside bike lanes on each side as well as a bike/pedestrian path that fits into a larger trail loop, the new plan would actually make the road wider by adding turn lanes for motor vehicles. The bike lanes or shared-use path are scuttled as well.

Ramona Bell-Pearson, assistant chief administrative officer with the Montgomery County Executive, assured Streetsblog, “Everything that’s required in the master plan for Old Georgetown Road is what’s being designed.” But the plan specifies that that segment of the street will be four lanes wide and have bike lanes and a shared-use path. Bell-Pearson wouldn’t confirm that those elements will be in the final plan.

The county insists that the master plan is still under development and that the street design recently shared with stakeholders is far from final. Meanwhile, county and state officials say that the land use changes have to precede any overhaul of the streets. State Highway Administration studies say the wider configuration is still needed to avoid “Christmas-time traffic backup.”

Andy Scott, director of the Maryland DOT’s Office of Real Estate, grew up in nearby Rockville. He says a lot of White Flint still looks like it did in the eighties, when he was in high school, working at an Erol’s video store in a strip mall on Old Georgetown Road. To grab a bite across the street, he had to traverse “acres of asphalt parking lot and cross a busy highway.” He tried it on foot one time, and it was so unnatural he never did it again. The redevelopment will change all that.

Scott says the concern about Old Georgetown Road is just a “hiccup,” a miscommunication in what’s otherwise a visionary project. The streets will change, he says, but in a certain sequence. ”There’s a balance in building out the transportation infrastructure and the development that’s going to shift people to walking, biking, transit ridership — but it doesn’t happen overnight,” Scott said. “It was carefully phased both on the development side and the transportation infrastructure side.”

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Eyes on the Street: The Evolution of the Bergen Street Protected Bike Lane

Photo: Gary Eckstein

Photo: Gary Eckstein

What began as an ad hoc fix for a bike lane chronically clogged by cars has become permanent after DOT installed a block-long barrier on the Bergen Street bike lane in front of the 78th Precinct in Prospect Heights.

It started more than two years ago when Ian Dutton moved some leftover ConEd cones a few feet into Bergen Street to cordon off the bike lane for cyclists:

Photo: Ian Dutton

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An Open Invite for Diane Savino to See NYC Streets From a Bike Saddle

After State Senator Diane Savino’s remarks about yelling at bicyclists to “find a fucking bike lane” ricocheted around online NYC media yesterday, we’re hearing that some constituents and other New Yorkers have contacted her to see if she’s up for getting a bicycle rider’s perspective on city streets.

State Senator Diane Savino represents northern Staten Island and parts of southwest Brooklyn.

State Senator Diane Savino represents northern Staten Island and parts of southwest Brooklyn.

It’s pretty tough to find a bike lane when the bike network is as threadbare as Staten Island’s, and the few lanes that do exist are constantly obstructed by parked cars. And it’s probably been a very long time since Savino saw city streets from behind handlebars instead of a windshield. In this interview with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer that aired a few years ago, Savino suggested biking to Shea Stadium using basically the same route you would take in a car — a lot of highway service roads with no bike lanes.

Here’s an invitation to Savino from Brooklyn Spoke author Doug Gordon (lightly edited for the blog — here’s the original):

Dear Senator Savino,

As a father of two young children, I was very disturbed by your recent comments on Facebook in which you admitted to swearing at cyclists from your car and telling them to get in a bike lane.

I ride my children to school almost every day and then head to work. We bike to swim lessons, gymnastics, birthday parties, parks, and to the grocery store. With or without my children, I have been harassed many times by drivers who think New York City’s streets belong solely to them. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing – riding in a bike lane or legally exiting a bike lane to make a turn or avoid an obstruction such as a parked car – there is truly nothing I can do to stop an angry driver who simply doesn’t like bicycles from getting upset with me.

I ask you to kindly join me and my children, along with any other families who would like to come, on a short bike ride. It might be helpful for you to experience what it feels like to bike on New York City streets. Please respond with a date and time that’s convenient for you and I’ll gladly help work out the details.

Let’s see if something good can come out of all this. A few years ago, Savino’s boyfriend, State Senator Jeff Klein, had his own angry encounter with a cyclist go public, but more recently he’s been instrumental in moving important street safety legislation through Albany. Thanks in no small part to Klein, NYC now has a lower citywide speed limit and an automated speed enforcement program.

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Diane Savino: “Hey, Find a F—ing Bike Lane and Get in It”

When someone is seriously hurt in traffic, which happens several times a day in New York, it should prompt an effort to figure out exactly what happened and prevent it from happening again. For some reason, though, when a motorist does the injuring, it usually gets a collective shrug from police and the NYC press corps. Then, in the rare instance when a cyclist inflicts grave injuries, the response tends to bypass truth-seeking and detour rapidly into blanket generalizations about everyone who bikes.

After cyclist Jason Marshall struck and killed Jill Tarlov on the Central Park loop last week, the actions of one individual have justified, in certain quarters (like the New Yorker website), sweeping assumptions about “bicyclists’ self-righteousness.” In other corners of the internet, it’s an occasion to vent aggression at all cyclists.

A recent Facebook post from Mike McGuire, who judging by his LinkedIn profile and Twitter bio is deeply embedded in New York City politics, mistakenly accuses Eben Weiss (a.k.a. Bike Snob) and, by extension, “the bike community” of blaming the victim in the Central Park crash. If you read Weiss’s post, you’ll see that he was, in fact, assigning responsibility to the cyclist.

What makes McGuire’s post noteworthy is what happened next — an exchange with State Senator Diane Savino, who represents northern Staten Island and parts of southwest Brooklyn:

savino_bike_quotes

Streetsblog contacted Savino for an explanation of her statements on Facebook. Her office declined to comment.

We’re left with this back-and-forth as a record of how some members of New York’s political class talk about people who bike, when they’re among friends.

Update: Savino told the Daily News that her comment was made in jest. But she is serious about safety and Vision Zero, and that’s why something must be done about cyclists who are “moving sometimes at 40 miles an hour.” Be warned: She expects some type of action in Albany next session to legislate bike safety, but she doesn’t intend to introduce it herself.

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#MinimumGrid: Toronto Advocates Move Politicians Beyond Bike Platitudes

Bike advocates are putting these questions to Toronto mayoral candidates. Image: #MinimumGrid

pfb logo 100x22

Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Almost all urban politicians will tell you they think bikes are great. But only some actually do anything to make biking more popular.

In Toronto’s current mayoral and city council election, a new political campaign is focusing candidates on a transportation policy issue that actually matters: a proposed 200-kilometer (124-mile) citywide network of all-ages bikeways.

The campaign, led by advocacy group Cycle Toronto, was given its name by international walking-bicycling advocate Gil Peñalosa. It’s called “#MinimumGrid.” And it seems to be working: Last week, 80 percent of responding city council candidates, including more than half of the council’s incumbents, said they supported building such a system by 2018.

Speaking this month at the Pro-Walk Pro-Bike Pro-Place conference in Pittsburgh, Peñalosa (a Toronto resident) explained the concept: to move cities from symbolic investments in bike transportation to truly transformative ones.

“We focus on the nice-to-have,” Peñalosa said in his keynote address at the conference. “Signage, maps, parking, bike racks, shelters. Does anyone not bike because they don’t have maps?”

Those amenities “might make it nicer for the 1 or 2 percent” who currently bike regularly, he said. But “nice-to-haves” won’t deliver the broader public benefits that can come from actually making biking mainstream.

“What are the must-haves?” Peñalosa went on. “Two things. One is we have to lower the speed in the neighborhoods. And two, we need to create a network. A minimum grid.”
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Garodnick Endorses Complete Streets for Fifth and Sixth Avenues

The next time someone tries to tell you that complete street designs with pedestrian islands and protected bike lanes are controversial, point them to what’s happening on Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Avenues in Manhattan, where a united coalition of parents, business owners, elected officials, and community boards are begging DOT to design streets in the image of the already-remade First, Second, Eighth, and Ninth Avenues.

Think Fifth Avenue could be safer and better for bus riders, cyclists, and pedestrians? Dan Garodnick does. Photo: Canon/Flickr

Think Fifth Avenue could be safer and better for bus riders, cyclists, and pedestrians? Dan Garodnick does. Photo: Canon/Flickr

Advocates for a redesigned Fifth and Sixth Avenues are furthest along. Last week, they secured the endorsement of Council Member Dan Garodnick. ”Complete streets help to reduce the conflicts that exist every day between cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians in Midtown Manhattan,” Garodnick said in a statement. “The Department of Transportation should be looking to repeat their most successful strategies wherever they can, and Fifth and Sixth Avenues — with significant crashes annually — are ripe for review.”

The campaign has already received backing from Council Member Corey Johnson and Community Boards 2, 4, and 5. It’s also gathered the support of numerous business improvement districts and small businesses. Next month, Transportation Alternatives is hosting a “walk, bike, shop” event along Fifth and Sixth Avenues to thank local merchants for their support [PDF]. Next up: securing meetings with Council Members Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez, who cover the area’s final southernmost blocks.

That momentum has spilled westward, where an effort led by parents and staff at PS 41 to expand the West Village slow zone has grown into a complete streets campaign for Seventh Avenue. Last Thursday, CB 2′s full board followed the lead of its transportation committee by unanimously endorsing a resolution asking DOT to study a complete streets redesign for Seventh Avenue, Seventh Avenue South, and Varick Street. In passing what could be considered a model resolution for boards wanting safer arterial streets [PDF], CB 2 asked DOT to consider pedestrian islands, narrowed car lanes, protected bike lanes, bus lanes, bus bulbs, leading pedestrian intervals, and split-phase traffic signals.

Seventh Avenue is also likely to come up at the next meeting of CB 4′s transportation committee, which covers the avenue through Chelsea, scheduled for October 15.

“There’s so much support from the community boards, from the electeds, that DOT will really have the chance to be bold,” said Transportation Alternatives organizer Tom Devito. “It’s clearly a testament to a shift in the belief in what our streets are for.”