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Posts from the Bicycling Category

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Happy Bike Month! Cyclists Must Dismount on Greenway, No One Knows Why

Update: The Parks Department sent us this statement Thursday evening: “Ensuring the safety of all during the holiday weekend, in preparation of increased pedestrian traffic during Fleet Week, NYC Parks has posted signs requesting cyclists dismount and walk their bikes on the west side greenway between 56-46th streets.”

Update: The Hudson River Park Trust sent us this statement Friday: “The Hudson River Park Bikeway is open, but users may be asked to dismount due to Fleet Week crowds. We ask that riders please adhere to the posted signs, and we appreciate their patience as we work to ensure safety along the Bikeway. “

Parks Department officers are ordering cyclists to dismount on the Hudson River Greenway in Midtown and ticketing people who don’t comply.

Streetsblog reader Joanna Oltman Smith tweeted photos of what look like uniformed Park Enforcement Patrol officers issuing a ticket to a cyclist near 45th Street, and another blocking the greenway with a “dismount bike” stop sign. She says the dismount zone is in effect between 46th and 49th Street, interrupting the biggest transportation artery for bikes in the city, if not the nation.

We contacted the Parks Department and the Hudson River Park Trust about the dismount zone. No one who answered the phone could say why cyclists are being asked to dismount, but it seems probable that whatever is happening is related to Fleet Week. The Parks Department press office and the Hudson River Park Trust have both said they’re looking into it.

Making people walk their bikes is not a rational response to past incidents. In 2011 a motorist killed Steve Jorgenson, a Marine in town for Fleet Week, as he and his shipmates exited a cab on the West Side Highway at W. 49th Street.

The greenway is controlled by city and state agencies, and the state has jurisdiction below 59th Street. Whatever the intent behind the dismount zone may be, it’s emblematic of greenway managers’ longstanding failure to recognize this route as a vital bike transportation corridor.

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Sidewalk Biking Enforcement and NYC’s New Criminal Justice Reforms

The City Council just passed a package of bills — collectively known as the Criminal Justice Reform Act — encouraging police officers to issue civil instead of criminal summonses for “quality-of-life” offenses like possessing an open container of alcohol or littering. Sidewalk biking wasn’t one of the offenses included in the bills, but a reform NYPD made to its enforcement of sidewalk cycling appears to have served as a proof of concept for the rest of the package.

Spearheaded by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the legislation aims to reduce NYPD’s issuance of criminal summonses that have disproportionately penalized communities of color for minor offenses. By issuing civil instead of criminal summons for transgressions like public urination, possession of an open container of alcohol, littering, excessive noise, and violating park rules with civil penalties instead of criminal summonses, the intent is to reduce the severe impact of enforcement.

While council members had initially hoped to eliminate criminal penalties for these offenses altogether, the version of Intro 1057-A passed today requires NYPD to develop guidelines dictating when to apply civil or criminal summonses for each offense. The bill states that the City Council has “concluded that criminal enforcement of these offenses should be used only in limited circumstances.”

A major impetus for the reforms is the disproportionate impact that enforcement of those five offenses has carried in communities of color. Sidewalk biking has historically been enforced in much the same wayA 2014 study showed that from 2008 to 2011, 12 of the 15 NYC neighborhoods where police issued the most sidewalk biking summonses were majority black or Latino.

“There’s been inequitable enforcement of cycling on the sidewalk,” said attorney and bike law expert Steve Vaccaro. “They haven’t been going after senior citizens on the Upper West Side the same as they go after young black men in East New York.”

Subdivision “b” of Section 19-176 of the city’s administrative code levies a maximum civil penalty of $100 for biking on the sidewalk. But subdivision “c” spells out a misdemeanor variation when someone bikes on the sidewalk in a “manner that endangers any other person or property” — and that carries a maximum penalty of 20 days in jail.

Read more…

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DOT Plans to Beef Up the Bike Network Around Union Square

DOT will make the protected lane on Union Square East two-way this summer. Image: DOT

DOT will make the protected bike lane on Union Square East two-way this summer. Image: DOT

The Manhattan bike network breaks down around Union Square, where southbound and northbound bike lanes currently dump riders into the chaotic confluence of 14th Street, Park Avenue, and Broadway. DOT presented a plan to fix some but not all of those gaps last night [PDF], garnering a unanimous vote in favor from Manhattan Community Board 5.

The major change will be the extension of the northbound protected bike lane on Fourth Avenue from 12th Street past the irregular intersection at 14th Street, and along the east and north sides of Union Square. This entails widening the current one-way bike lane alongside the park to eight feet and making it two-way. Biking south past 14th Street from Union Square East, however, would remain treacherous.

In addition, a new painted crosstown lane would extend from Union Square to Sixth Avenue, and another pair of painted lanes would extend east from the park on 15th and 16th streets. The 16th Street lane, however, will stop at Stuyvesant Park without a direct connection to the Second Avenue bike lane.

DOT's plan would also bring new bike lanes to East 15th, East 16th, and West 17th Streets. Image: DOT

The expanded bike lanes are in orange, brown, and purple. Map: DOT

Last night, Transportation Alternatives volunteer Janet Liff suggested that DOT expand the project to include a protected lane on Fifth Avenue, which could help with southbound bike trips. The bike lane on Fifth is currently unprotected and frequently blocked by service trucks and double-parked cars. Liff shared photos of the motor vehicles that obstruct the bike lane throughout the day. “Fifth Avenue from 23rd to 14th Street is actually kind of nasty,” she said.

DOT Bicycle and Greenway Program Director Ted Wright said that while a protected lane on Fifth excites him, he sees it as a separate project. “That’s a big project. It involves, perhaps, concrete,” he said.

Later on, Wright said that for the moment DOT doesn’t have the staff resources to take on a Fifth Avenue project. “We’re getting a lot of push on these things right now, and I would love to see this happen,” he said. “This year, we’re so over-booked on projects — that’s the hesitancy.”

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It Shouldn’t Take This Much Effort to Count Bike Trips in NYC [Updated]

Update: We added a short Q&A with Chancey to the end of this post.

In case you missed it, at 6:30 a.m. yesterday Bahij Chancey set up a table on the DUMBO side of the Manhattan Bridge to count cyclists. By the time he wrapped up at 8 p.m., 5,589 people had biked past.

Chancey was also collecting signatures from people who’d like DOT to install a bike counter — also known as a totem — on East River crossings, starting with the Manhattan Bridge.

“A lot of criticism from community boards focuses on the idea that cycling is a seasonal mode of transportation,” Chancey told AMNY. “The counter is a great way to incentivize cycling — for people to see the numbers of rides and compare it to car traffic — and to establish it as a viable, quick, cheap commuting option that people use all year around.”

More broadly, Chancey wants DOT to make bike count data more accessible to the public. DOT releases trip data in occasional reports, but does not publish it on the city’s open data portal.

“With the information available to all to dissect on the totem, I’d be interested in looking into how weather impacts the number of riders, or maybe compare the number of rides taken on different days of the week,” Chancey said.

An online petition calls for improvements to the plaza under the bridge, like better lighting and signage, in addition to the counter. Chancey plans to send signatures to Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, DOT Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Keith Bray, and City Council Member Steve Levin. You can add your name here.

We asked Chancey about yesterday’s event and the campaign to get better bike data from DOT. Here’s what he had to say.

Read more…

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New Yorkers Tell Streetfilms Why They’re Biking More Than Ever

By every metric, today New Yorkers are biking more than ever. So to mark Bike to Work Day, Clarence Eckerson went over to the Transportation Alternatives commuter station by the Queensboro Bridge to ask people if they’re biking now more than five years ago, and why. Here’s what they told him.

There’s a lot of great insight here, but tops on the list for me is how new bike infrastructure has helped people beset by crowding and delays on the 7 train. A fully built-out network of low-stress bikeways could be such a valuable complement to a transit system that is bursting at the seams.

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Bike to Work Day Open Thread

Happy Bike to Work Day, NYC. Here’s part of one light cycle at the Sands Street entry to the Manhattan Bridge bike path, footage courtesy of Doug Gordon. Imagine the traffic jam if all these people were in cars.

Clarence was out with his camera this morning at some of TransAlt’s commuter stations (thank you, early-rising TA volunteers and staff!), asking people whether they bike more now than five years ago — and if so, why. Incredibly, he says he can crank out a Streetfilm by noonish. Until then, this thread is yours to answer the “five years ago” question and share your BTWD observations.

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If You Were Thinking of Sitting Out Tonight’s Clinton Ave Bikeway Meeting…

…you may want to reconsider.

DOT will present a plan for a two-way protected bike lane on Clinton Avenue between Flushing Avenue and Gates Avenue, which would create shorter pedestrian crossings and serve as a useful spur in the bike network for people heading to/from the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway. The southbound traffic lane would be removed to create space for the bikeway.

There are currently no north-south protected bike lanes in this part of town. If you want a safer, less stressful connection between North Brooklyn and Fort Greene/Clinton Hill/Prospect Heights/Crown Heights, or between the Manhattan Bridge and the neighborhoods east of Clinton Avenue, this is an important meeting to attend. It starts at 6:00 — here’s where to go.

Opponents have been busy circulating flyers like this one around the neighborhood, in an attempt to incite terror at the thought that one quarter of one street will be dedicated space for cycling:

clintonNIMBYflyer

So there you have it — reserving three quarters of Clinton Avenue for the movement and storage of motor vehicles is simply not enough. Clinton Hill is saturated with bike lanes already and has absolutely no car lanes to spare. Biking in general traffic where you can get doored and thrown under the wheels of a passing truck is great — parents with kids do it gladly!

Keep in mind that curb-to-curb, Clinton Avenue is the same width as Kent Avenue in North Williamsburg, which basically has the same design that DOT is proposing here. Pickups, deliveries, emergency access, large apartment buildings — all function fine on Kent Avenue. People on Kent Avenue — including kids — also have the freedom to get around like this.

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To Improve Walking and Biking Across the Harlem River, DOT’s Thinking Big

Some Harlem River Bridge -- including the Madison Avenue Bridge depicted in this image -- may be in line for two-way protected bike infrastructure. Image: DOT

The Madison Avenue Bridge is one of several Harlem River crossings where DOT is considering a protected bikeway. Image: DOT

There are 16 bridges linking Manhattan and the Bronx, but if you walk or bike between the boroughs, safe, convenient routes are still scarce. That could change if DOT follows through on ideas the agency released this spring to improve walking and biking access over the Harlem River bridges [PDF].

Currently, 13 of the 16 bridges along the river have pedestrian access and just five (including the Randall’s Island Connector) have bike paths. The streets and ramps feeding into the bridges are mainly designed for motor vehicle movement and poorly equipped to keep pedestrians and cyclists safe.

Most nearby residents don’t own cars, and the conditions make it especially difficult for them to make short trips between the boroughs. “I know it could be more efficient for people to get to and from the Bronx, as opposed to waiting for the bus,” said Transportation Alternatives’ Sandra Hawkins. “Some of [the bridges] are not easily navigable for walking or cycling.”

After Bronx and Uptown residents called for safer access between the boroughs, DOT launched a series of workshops last summer to gather ideas for its “Harlem River Bridges Access Plan,” which will guide walking and biking improvements on the bridges and the neighborhood streets they connect.

DOT’s final plan is set to be released in the fall, but in March, the agency shared some of the improvements it is considering based on what people have said so far. The projects cover both short-term fixes that can be implemented quickly at low cost, and more time- and resource-intensive capital projects.

Read more…

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Check Out This Wonderfully Normal CBS 2 Queens Blvd Bike Lane Story

There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about this CBS 2 feature on the plan to extend the bike lanes on Queens Boulevard. And that’s what makes it noteworthy.

With shots of the street where lanes now exist, reporter Sonia Rincon begins the piece like so: “The DOT is reshaping the landscape of one of the most dangerous roads in the city.” No quick-cut shots intended to invoke mass panic, no Marcia Kramer-style indignation over the prospect of sharing street space with people who aren’t in cars. Just a simple statement of fact.

Rincon spoke with City Council Member Danny Dromm, who explains how adding space for bikes helps slow motorists down, making the street safer.

And get this: Rincon talked with people who ride bikes on Queens Boulevard as part of their day to day lives — people who are grateful that Mayor de Blasio instructed DOT to proceed with phase two of the bike lane project despite Community Board 4 failing to support it.

“Right now I’m going to work, while biking,” said Melody Santos, who indicated she did not ride to work before DOT installed the existing 1.3-mile bike lane segment on Queens Boulevard in Woodside.

Rincon does devote airtime to random quotes from a couple of people who don’t care for cyclists, and to Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who repeats her specious argument that the project should be brought before the Queens Borough Board. Otherwise, Katz claims, making Queens Boulevard safer for people who walk and bike will “cause great difficulties.”

But Rincon closes with Dromm, who notes that the responsibility for engineering safer streets lies with DOT. Anchor Maurice DuBois even wraps the segment by citing Queens Boulevard crash data.

About what you would expect, right? But compared to the fact-free sensationalist screeching New Yorkers were subjected to during the bikelash era, it’s practically a revelation.

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Melinda Katz Tries to Kill Queens Blvd Bike Lane in the Name of “Community”

Tuesday night’s meeting on the redesign of Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst was one of the uglier exercises in petty community board obstructionism in recent memory.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz thinks parking mandates are more important than Photo: MelindaKatz/Twitter

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. Photo: MelindaKatz/Twitter

Queens Community Board 4 District Manager Christian Cassagnol said the safety of cyclists should be “an afterthought.”

The board, as is its custom, didn’t allow members of the public to speak about the project until after they voted.

The vote was a hastily-called show of hands, orchestrated by board chair Lou Walker, to “accept the safety plan for Queens Boulevard except the bike lane.” Good luck making sense of that resolution — the safety plan and the bike lane are inseparable.

Who thinks life-or-death decisions about street design should be entrusted to this process? Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.

After Mayor de Blasio instructed DOT to proceed with the Queens Boulevard project in full, Katz released this statement. It’s a classic attempt to kill a street safety project by hiding behind the word “community”:

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