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    I’ve been drafted by a random spandex-clad stranger. I asked him politely to get off my tail, he did nothing. Then I used my “cop voice” to command him off my tail, still nothing. Then I brake-checked him — at which point he finally responded. Yea…



    I don’t understand your pessimism about fatalities.

    Well, I’ve rode down 2nd Avenue from the 60s to Lower Manhattan at night. Does that explain it well enough? Contrasting the experiences of places like 2nd Ave in Midtown and Chrystie St with the messaging coming from the DOT (“protected bike lane!” “Bicycling’s #1 City!”) has left me with a somewhat negative opinion of their cycling policy.

    Add to that designs like the Bay Ridge plan from a few days ago that puts a straight bike lane to the right of a right turn lane with no independent signal and puts sharrows inches from parked cars, and you can see why I think that the disproportionate number of cycling fatalities in this city (statistically much more dangerous than walking) is totally predictable.



    Precisely. It’s mind-boggling that NYCDOT hasn’t even tried bike boulevards (neighborhood greenways). There are plenty of locations where this would be highly appropriate, providing convenient bike through streets, while also maintaining local car/truck access. I see this kind of approach working in both dense commercial districts (Midtown) as well as quiet residential streets.


    Jonathan R

    I don’t understand your pessimism about fatalities. Bike share cannot goose bicycle mode share because there aren’t enough hours in the day to ride the limited number of bikes in the system. People complain about the system reliability of bike share today and greatly increasing the number of bicycles in the system is only going to make it worse. There isn’t enough bicycle parking in midtown to support a giant increase in private bicycling. The city is trying through Vision Zero to reduce the lethality of motor vehicle traffic which in the best-case scenario will make bicycling safer but (because it doesn’t sharply reduce motor vehicle use) won’t make it any more popular (because people don’t like to ride bicycles around motor vehicles).



    If the NYPD is going to get serious about Vision Zero they need a “focus on the five”-style enforcement effort. This was a plan in San Francisco to focus police enforcement on the five most dangerous infractions. Obviously the specifics and sloganeering may vary.

    Then again, want to guess what happened in San Francisco? Only one station went along with it and the rest stuck to writing fish in a barrel citations for annoying but not especially dangerous offenses. They have their own 88th Precinct/Capt Benjamin Lee characters out there too. This won’t work without De Blasio/Bratton’s attention.



    I will take more mistakes like 1st and 2nd Avenue throughout the city any day of the week! Seriously though, it’s true that things slowed down around 2010 — but wasn’t that because up to that point JSK had steamrolled things through, and the bikelash started to catch up? In any case, if today’s commute is any indication, there are going to be plenty of numbers to back up improved infrastructure.

    I will admit to being mostly a fair-weather cycling commuter, but that is mostly because of the mixing with traffic, which I consider too dangerous when it’s icy or very wet … if there were more and better connected protected lanes I would be out there in most weather. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.



    I used to do that (in a car, on the highway), but now I just let them pass at the first opportunity (and usually get right back behind them at a safe following distance.) Pissing assholes off seems like a much worse idea with my kids in the car.



    They could start with polling. Let’s see how many people are interested in cycling in New York. If the polls showing ~65% support for more protected lanes are any indication, more than enough people are interested to justify pushing the CBs out of the way and really doing something about it.×540.jpg



    Can I have my vote back?

    Oh, wait, I didn’t vote for BdB because I “knew” this would happen.


    Doug G.

    I don’t think we should idealize everything JSK did, but the political reality she and her team were operating under was very different than today’s. Citi Bike proved that the bikelash was over, if it ever really existed. There’s no reason that Trottenberg’s DOT couldn’t improve upon many of the early designs that were implemented during the last administration.

    Perhaps the biggest contribution JSK made was changing the culture and showing that people will actually take to plazas and bike lanes. And now what? De Blasio and Trottenberg are acting like it’s still 2010.



    That’s true of all cycling in New York as of today. Citibike has really increased the presence of bikes on the streets of Manhattan especially. A large portion of bikes in the CBD are Citibikes, and a lot of that is new riders rather than people coming off private bikes.

    This isn’t to say that road design isn’t far more important, as its the thing that would allow more riding of private bikes and allow the Citibike expansion to meet its potential. Expanding Citibike to the Upper East Side as it exists today is going to get us our first program fatality.



    The progress under JSK was going from nothing to a very little something, and then turning around and patting themselves on the back. The huge reduction building out new bike facilities dates to 2010 as far as I know.

    There is also a fundamental design problem in New York. Most of the JSK infrastructure isn’t all its cracked up to be. 1st and 2nd Avenues are a great example: the lanes are on the wrong side (at least we’re banking the space for eventual contraflow or 2-way avenues), they’re too narrow for comfortable passing, and they leave you to “take the lane” in the highest traffic areas.

    If 1st and 2nd Aves are sharrows in midtown and 5th Ave is sharrows in Park Slope, what hope do we really have? These aren’t places for most people to ride, they’re for the 1.5%.


    Jonathan R

    Ten thousand bikes, ridden 10 times a day, comes out to 1/60th of the subway ridership on a busy day. I think you are overstating the case for bike share.


    Jonathan R

    Certainly you can define Vision Zero however you like, but it’s noteworthy that the words ‘bicycle’ or ‘bike’ don’t appear on the city’s Vision Zero homepage.

    There’s no mandate from the mayor for making better bicycle facilities as you suggest.



    #1 way to increase bike mode share in the city: increase area of citibike zone and increase density of stations within the existing zone. I have my own bike, but I think I ride a citibike at a 5:1 ratio with my own just because it is so damn convenient. Citibike is not a fringe activity like politicians think, it is one of the best things we have to ease transportation issues in this city.



    Its been obvious for some time that the cycling program needs a reboot. They’ve been doing nothing but door zone bike lanes and sharrows for a long time, and even most of their protected lanes are a very low quality. They should be 6.5′ wide to enable side by side riding and comfortable passing, and not beset with lines that encourage people to ride dead center blocking the whole lane.

    They also have no plans for bicycle boulevards at all of course, which is the basis of a cycling network in many cities including London (where they are called “quietways”). They seem to want to pretend that incredibly high traffic streets with sharrows are a comfortable place to share the road.


    Brian Van Nieuwenhoven

    I was going to CB meetings during the JSK tenure. DOT was not very “on it”. It’s a weakness that should be addressed.

    It’s obvious that Trottenberg and de Blasio are not as strong in this movement as JSK + Bloomberg were. But we can’t expect miracles from every politician to overcome agency stagnation. Every indication from Trottenberg or de Blasio is that Vision Zero is a direction they’re headed toward – but not on an ambitious timeline anymore. Maybe that would pick up if the borough and project managers needed a little less pressure to get over their own shortcomings (which isn’t entirely a matter of resistance or hesitance… I see a lot of flawed community interaction that caters too much to special interests & leaves too much room for NIMBY cranks to sabotage redesign proposals)



    Seattle might have a legal framework closer to NYC than Britain does.


    Doug G.

    That undermines your point then. If most of the same people who made such tremendous progress under JSK are still there under Trottenberg, then it’s clear that it’s the leadership, and not the bottom-up talent, that isn’t strong enough.


    Brian Van Nieuwenhoven


    We do agree there’s a surprising amount of inertia over there, and while I hope they reverse it, I don’t think they have much of a chance of making up for lost time.

    We also have to take into account that de Blasio is frequently in the position of needing someone to look after HIS back. Bloomberg inexplicably let real estate and police labor interests run amok during his tenure, but it provided him a little more cover to support his health initiatives and JSK. de Blasio is taking the principled stands that he said he would during his campaign (granted, only to about 50-70% of what he promised) and now has little political capital to expend as a result of it. He is in the papers every day for some new axe-grinding complaint from media-owning conservative grumps. de Blasio is also spending a lot of his political capital butting heads with Cuomo & Albany and is taking a lot of heat from the charter school lobby (as BDB is pro-union and Bloomberg was charter-friendly).

    I think the city is generally headed in the right direction but we are not seeing the kind of policy and executive progress that many hoped to see. There is just only so much that can be done when you have the whole city boorishly booing at you at every baseball game and police funeral.

    This by no means is a suggestion that we cease pressing the mayor to advance progress on Vision Zero. We have to keep the pressure up.



    Protecting buffered bicycle lanes with parking is low hanging fruit.

    This should be done citywide, yesterday.



    Seattle (population 652,000) is building 7.1 miles of protected bike lanes and 12.1 miles of bike boulevards in 2015, a pace that will continue for at least the next 5 years. And they’re all part of a funded, multi-year, community-driven bike plan to link the city together with a network of low-stress bike routes.

    NYC (population 8,491,000) is building 5.0 miles of protected bike lanes and 0.0 miles of bike boulevards in 2015. This pace is set to continue for the next 3 years. None are part of any larger plan.

    With its current strategy, NYC is right to dramatically lower expectations.



    Increasing urbanity in NYC is my number one voter issue, and that includes an increased bicycle mode share of course.



    I really agree with Doug on this point. Vision Zero can’t just be about reducing the speed limit and protecting pedestrians.
    Perhaps one way to goad the DOT into more ambition is to focus on what I call “Vision Zero Upgrades” for existing bike infrastructure. Painted lanes get repainted, add a painted buffer. Painted buffer lanes get plastic posts, or better yet, swapped with parking for more robust protection. Identify weak spots in major corridors, like on sections of 1st and Second Avenues, and fill in those gaps.
    And seriously, for projects where the CB has given the thumbs up (think Bay Ridge bike network, Amsterdam Ave. in Manhattan) let’s get a move on! Now is the time to move forward. Citibike sure should be an inspiration to roll out a new round of new lanes in the new service areas.



    Are any of the free bridges actually bottlenecks for cars? I’d think it’s the surface streets on either end.



    There’s a lot more turnover in leadership positions there than your comment allows for — no one around the current commissioner has any transportation agenda to speak of. There is also a huge difference between a commissioner who demands innovation and ambitious goals vs one who passively accepts advice from operating divisions


    Doug G.

    I disagree. If DOT upped its goal of 5 miles of protected bike lanes per year to 10 or 15 at least or even 20 to 25, they could make up for lost time. If it re-striped existing bike lanes in a timely fashion — Chrystie Street has been gone for a LOOONG time — we wouldn’t be taking two steps backwards for every one step forward. If they didn’t think wide parking lanes were the ticket to easing “communities” into accepting bike infrastructure…if they didn’t…if they didn’t…

    I think you can squarely blame Trottenberg and Mayor de Blasio for where we are now and this “recalibration.” She’s not proven herself to be very bold when it comes to street design and he doesn’t have her back in the way Bloomberg (and Howard Wolfson) did with JSK. They have squandered the progress of the last administration due to some sort of vague notion of avoiding “controversy” and not wanting to move too fast. That perhaps was understandable in 2014 as they focused on the 25 mph legislation and other big-ticket Vision Zero items, but this far into 2015, and with the imminent expansion of Citi Bike to neighborhoods without a lot of great infrastructure, there’s really no excuse. They’ve also squandered the cover Vision Zero could have given them to build out more bike infrastructure.

    So, yes, I think this is on the current administration. If the mayor took some other successful Bloomberg policy and didn’t keep it up or even regressed, there’s no question that everyone would blame de Blasio.


    Brian Van Nieuwenhoven

    Trottenberg is not the only person who works for DOT. It’s a team. Trottenberg is one of the stronger elements of that team. Existing staff/engineers, around from well before even JSK’s tenure, are the ones who need to step it up.

    It’s surprising how many people in the Complete Streets movement speak as if the DOT is fully turned over (and the entire organization turned upside down) for a new mayoral administration. The only employee who changes with the mayor is the commissioner. That is a critical fact in a complete understanding of DOT’s operations (and shortcomings)


    Brendan A. MacWade

    Ouch. For the record, I have a garage. I stay off the streets of Inwood.



    What’s the logic of “DOT must get bolder” / “don’t blame Trottenberg” ?



    Going from 1% to maybe 2% is quite the lofty goal. Aim for the cellar, you might hit the first floor!



    Next thing you know, press will be exempt from the right of way law, because they provide a service : rushing to catch a glimpse of kim Kardashian..


    Joe R.

    This is NYC. After 52 years of living here there’s very little I haven’t seen in regards to silly, adhoc, even dangerous bandaids the city will try instead of fixing problems the right way. While it might be unlikely the trash cans were put there to slow down cyclists, it wouldn’t surprise me if they were.

    I’m all for a variable speed limit here via electronic signs. Make it 20 or 25 mph at peak times, maybe 30 mph during daytime off-peak hours, and get rid of it altogether between maybe 11 PM and 5 AM. Encourage the speed demons to ride during those late night hours.


    Joe R.

    Of course I know that. I even have an interesting anecdote. I remember riding about 25 mph down a street, then a few minutes later going back the other way at a more leisurely pace due to a headwind. A woman sees me and says “I just saw you “flying” in the other direction a couple of minutes ago. You do know bicycles have to obey the speed limits, don’t you?” I told her I was well within the speed limit. I was only going 25 mph and the limit is 30 mph, which it was at the time. I asked her exactly how fast did she think I was going? I was nearly floored by her response of “50 to 60 mph”. Being that they’re small vehicles with a short wheelbase, bikes look like they’re going a lot faster than they really are. For that matter, they feel a lot faster. 22 mph on my Airborne feels like highway speed in most cars. Anyway, I thought you might find this story amusing.



    That’s hard to believe. The first thing you do if you want people to slow down is make you expectation clear through speed limits, caution signs, etc. Then you launch an education campaign about that. Witness how NYC DOT implemented the 25mph speed limit over the past year. You don’t just throw trash cans in the middle of the street, hoping people might get the message.

    [Note that most bikers who are able to exceed a 20 or 25mph speed limit either have speedometers, or they know how fast they’re going through other means. So no, posting a speed limit is NOT unreasonable.]



    I still think it’s unwise to insist the city build wide bike paths with no hint of congestion, which parallel notoriously narrow, clogged automobile bottlenecks. Bridge infrastructure is expensive, and it’s not unreasonable to expect people to slow down a bit on it. The Williamsburg Bridge bike path as it is still gets you across far faster than the auto lanes at rush hour.



    You know how the typical New Yorker thinks: A car going 25mph is CRAWLING while a bicycle going 15-20mph is a SPEED DEMON. The reactions to this story are all going to be based on that.



    they’re probably more educated regarding proper passing

    Of course they are. Their bike paths don’t have these stupid lines telling them to ride down the dead center, which prevents anyone else from passing.



    That is the realistic near term solution for the Williamsburg, but the broader solution is to design bike paths properly from here on out.

    Unfortunately, as the bike plans featured on this blog regularly demonstrate, that is not happening.


    Larry Littlefield

    Indeed, that would be “progressive” as the word has come to be defined in New York.

    Whereas that capitalist Bloomberg wanted to ration pricing by whoever was willing to pay for it (variable pricing on streets), we now have proposals to ration parking by political connections. Isn’t that “fairness?”


    Brian Van Nieuwenhoven

    I do think this is relevant news, but for perspective’s sake – they now must know they have no chance of hitting the 6% goal and have recalibrated their expectations. This is because we’re 16 months into the administration and the DOT’s implementation pace is moving at a crawling speed. Better progress, up through now, would have been a prerequisite for the 6% goal, and there’s no way they can make up for that. The recalibration likely includes the assumption that a slow pace of implementation is going to be the norm for a little while longer, too.

    So, the slow rollout of high-quality bike infrastructure DOES matter. I can’t entirely blame difficult CB members and I can’t entirely blame the mayor or Trottenberg, either. DOT has to get bolder in shortening implementation timelines and more nimble at working projects through the political process (including community approvals AND bidding/contracts). This is not just for bike lanes, but for ALL improvements and redesigns. SBS rollout has suffered from the exact same problem.


    Joe R.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the trash cans were the city’s lame attempt to slow down cyclists on the descent.



    Sigh. I think I’m going to unfollow Janette Sadik-Khan on twitter because she just reminds me repeatedly what we used to have. Trottenberg isn’t 100% terrible but she’s no visionary. Newsflash to politicians, I am rapidly becoming a single issue voter on this stuff and I’m sure I’m not the only one.



    I think the realistic suggestion in this post is to remove trash cans from the bike side of the bridge. Why do bikers need a trash can in the middle of the river?


    Joe R.

    For what it’s worth there are no official speed limits on the bike superhighways in the Netherlands but when on motor traffic roads there cyclists are subject to the same speed limits as motor vehicles. Really, the issue of speeds generally only comes up in places with steep descents like the bridges. I’ll say it’s more a problem of inadequate infrastructure. While it may not be possible to do this on the bridges, in general any bike routes with steep downgrades should take into account the speeds the fastest cyclists are likely to reach. In practice this means wider lanes, better yet two lanes, require passing in the left lane only, and physically separate both directions of bike traffic with a barrier. Maybe not practical on the bridges, but it should be done anywhere else there are steep downgrades. Properly engineering bike paths can accommodate a very wide speed range. I’ve seen videos of velomobiles on the bike superhighways in the Netherlands going 60, sometimes even 70 kph. Granted, they’re probably are more educated regarding proper passing, but the point is I see this mainly as an infrastructure/education problem, not as an excuse for more laws or more police action against cyclists.


    joe shabadoo

    IAmA former budget analyst at NYCT (MTA) Ask me anything about MTA budgets, funding, and fare hikes.
    maybe get some more traffic to your blog.


    Joe R.

    Here’s my recollection:

    52-12 gear, 26 inch wheels, and I measured my peak cadence at the time at around 180 RPM (based on speedometer readings spinning out in my lowest gear). Do the math and that gives 60.3 mph. My speedo said 61 mph. It was one of those old school Steward Warner dial speedometers so of course it could have been a few mph off. It may have been 57 or 59 or even 62. In any case it was the second fastest I’ve ever ridden. The fastest was an indicated 65 mph on a really steep 2 lane country road in NJ with a fierce tailwind. Coming back the other way was really, really unpleasant.

    Nowadays I have a calibrated bike computer which agrees with the distance on my GPS to within 0.01 or 0.02 mile after riding 20 miles. This means it should give speed readings accurate to a tenth of a mph at any speeds I’m likely to attain on a bike. Highest I’ve seen on it in the last few years was 59 kph (~37 mph). As I said, I don’t go all that fast any more compared to my youth. Thank the poor condition on NYC streets for this.


    Menachem Goldstein

    Why don’t we create a class system for parking where we are clear about which professions are more important than others and should be entitled to free parking?



    I’d check whatever you are using to measure your speed. 60 mph means spinning out with a 225 inch gear. Even a 70×11 chainwheel x sprocket combination will give you only 176 inches.



    We’re not in UK. We’re in NYS and NYC which have different rules. I dont see any evidence that the courts will change. Ignorance of the law i.e. not having a speedometer is not a justifiable dense for breaking the law. Fair or not that’s up for debate. But we have different laws.

    I agree in the ideal world bicycles would be left to self regulate. However as you point out enough don’t understand the necessity of adjusting speed for road conditions. As usual its a few bad apples running it for the rest of us.