Here are a few opinion pieces from both sides of the bike lane.
Ben Shepard is an author, teacher and volunteer for the environmental action group Time’s Up. He recently wrote an op-ed in the Brooklyn Paper about the recent ticket blitz and safer streets in NYC.
January 14, 2011 / Perspective Focus on making streets safer for all
By Benjamin Shepard
for The Brooklyn Paper
Timeâ€™s Up! Environmental Group has been advocating for safer streets for over two decades. We support efforts to make public spaces safer for all: pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. However, the crackdown targeting cycling announced by the NYPD will divert resources needed to address the real danger in our streets â€” speeding cars and red light-running motorists who kill people.
Over 200 pedestrians and cyclists killed by motor vehicles in New York City every year. Our concern is that this â€œticketing blitzâ€ which singles out cyclists will simply discourage bicycle usage.
The police do not have an encouraging track record. Hundreds of cyclists have filed civil complaints and successfully sued the NYPD over unlawful enforcement since 2004, including a lawsuit settled just a few months ago costing taxpayers nearly $1 million. Scores of police officers are issuing summonses without being properly trained on traffic laws pertaining to cyclists. Will Commissioner Kelly create yet another waste of taxpayer dollars with a new flood of cyclists fighting false tickets in traffic court?
During the recent snowpocolypse here in NYC, there was much hype from local residents that despite slow efforts by street plows, somehow the bike lanes got special treatment. These seem to be false claims and are responded to by another Time’s Up volunteer Barbara Ross:
Critics canâ€™t roll back the progress on bike lanes
By Barbara Ross
The Villager, January 5th. After being cooped up inside, watching the snow that blanketed the city melt from my apartment window, I grabbed the trusty bicycle I use daily for transport, eager to hit the streets again. I headed toward the First Ave. protected bike lane that Iâ€™ve become accustomed to using on all my uptown errands, only to find it still piled up with snow and unusable.
Being forced to ride with the fast-moving vehicle traffic heightened my appreciation for all the new bike lanes and other effective safety measures the Department of Transportation has put into place over the past three-and-a-half years. Although there is a small but loud anti-bike lane chorus, our City Council must resist the temptation to cater to the car-centric past and instead support healthier, lower-cost mobility with permanent protected bike lanes that help people of all ages ride safely in New York City.
Ok, so where is the other side you ask? Those for a citywide crackdown on cyclists and removal of recent bike infrastructure? Here is a NY Times Op-Ed from two recent NYC officials former Deputy Mayor Norman Steisel and former transportation commissioner, Iris Weinshall:
Your editorial about the problems caused by law-evading bicyclists mentions data released by the New York City Department of Transportation that purport to show that the 50 miles of bike lanes it is adding each year â€œcalmâ€ traffic and cut down on fatalities.
But as the rest of your editorial suggests, the connection between encouraging biking â€” which we also strongly support â€” and making our streets safer and more pleasant for all users is far from established. The D.O.T. data produce more puzzlement than enlightenment.
When new bike lanes force the same volume of cars and trucks into fewer and narrower traffic lanes, the potential for accidents between cars, trucks and pedestrians goes up rather than down. At Prospect Park West in Brooklyn, for instance, where a two-way bike lane was put in last summer, our eyewitness reports show collisions of one sort or another to be on pace to be triple the former annual rates.
Furthermore, the D.O.T. dataâ€™s lack of credibility is reinforced by our own videotapes. These show that the Prospect Park West bike lanes are used by half the number of riders the D.O.T. says, and that cyclists are not riding to commute as originally contemplated but are recreational users who could be better served by enhancing the existing lane 100 yards away in Prospect Park.
Finally, your point about the difficulty of giving tickets to cyclists who break the law is well taken. Educating bikers is a nice idea. But requiring them to be licensed like other potentially life-threatening high-speed vehicles is the only thing that will make enforcement any easier in the long run.
Brooklyn, Dec. 17, 2010
The writers are members of Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes. Ms. Hainline is its president. Mr. Steisel is a former deputy mayor and sanitation commissioner of New York City, and Ms. Weinshall is a former transportation commissioner.
Hey there bike community. We need your help and we need to be heard.
Brooklyn Community Board 6, in the district of the contested Prospect Park Bike Lane will be the place for the DOT to present the findings of their survey about the lane and it’s impact on the neighborhood.
Bike lanes seem to be the big litmus test whether the new infrastructure is working and how cycling is perceived.
Thursday is the meeting on transportation.
Jan 20 Transportation
Presentation by representatives for the Department of Transportation on their findings and recommendations regarding the Prospect Park West bicycle lanes and traffic calming project installed in Summer 2010.
Old First Reformed Church
729 Carroll Street
(Corner of 7th Avenue)
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Remember those bicycle shows put on by Montauk ride tour master Glen Goldstein? They used to be in the Lexington Armory in Manhattan and were a great gathering of bicycle makers, retailers and bike culture scene makers? We definitely have to give Glen a big tip of the hat for attempting to put on such an event and to the guys at the Bike Jumble for carrying on the torch.
Now it looks like a new show is coming to town one day before May, Bike Month.
Here is some press about the event: New York, NY January 13, 2011- New York Press, Manhattan Mediaâ€™s lifestyle publication for the cityâ€™s creative class, and Transportation Alternatives, announce the first New York City bicycle show in five years. The New Amsterdam Bicycle Show: Benefiting Transportation Alternatives promises to dazzle attendees as much as The New York International Auto Show, which will end the same weekend that the bicycle show begins. This pivotal event will take place April 30, 2011, at Chelseaâ€™s new cultural venue Center 548 from 10 am to 7 pm and will kick off Bike Month NYC 2011.
Tickets are now available online at (www.newambikeshow.com) and cost $15 for general admission in advance and $20 day of the event. The show will benefit Transportation Alternatives, the advocacy group dedicated to reclaiming the cityâ€™s streets from automobiles. TA representatives will be on hand to provide valet bicycle parking to guests as well as safe and useful bicycling tips for new New York City cyclists.
â€œOur readers are curious about the challenges they face when embracing a cycling lifestyle in the city,â€ said Jerry Portwood, New York Press editor-in-chief. â€œWe want them to be educated and have a good time discovering the opportunities out there.â€
This large bicycle show will feature more than 33,000 square feet of unique bikes and accessories over three huge floors and is geared to promote â€œthe alternative transportation lifestyleâ€ to the ever-growing number of New York City cyclists. Transportation Alternatives recently estimated 201,000 New Yorkers were riding each day in 2010.
“This show heralds New York City as America’s leading bicycle metropolis. It’ll have something special for
everyone, especially those just getting into biking,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives.
Author of The Bicycle Diaries, musician and bicycle advocate David Byrne added: â€œTA has been in the forefront of helping rebalance our priorities as far as urban transportation goes. For too many decades we all just rolled over and gave the automobile whatever it, the oil companies, and the carmakers wanted. Now we know betterâ€”cars are a wonderful invention, but there are greener ways to get around this city. Having a good life in our cities is possible, and these folks are helping bring us closer to that goal.â€
As New York City embraces the cycling lifestyle by altering the landscape with hundreds of miles of bike lanes across the boroughs, this new consumer-based bicycle show will feature the many nuances of bike cultureâ€”from bikes for commuting, racing, transporting and pleasure ridesâ€”as well as those people who are conscious of the environment. The New Amsterdam Show will focus on the future of cycling and the burgeoning New York City bicycle industry, which includes bicycle makers such as Mike Flanigan of A.N.T. and Bowery Lanes Bicycles. Also participating are New Yorkâ€™s specialty shops like Adeline, Adeline, Bicycle Habitat and Brooklynâ€™s Rolling Orange, as well as many national and international bike brands, designers, bike tours companies and lifestyle accessories.
The New Amsterdam Bicycle Show takes its cue from Amsterdam, Holland’s capital and the friendliest biking city on the globe. The event will also feature information on many bike-centered events related to Bike Month NYC 2011â€”from organized rides by BIKE NEW YORK to film screenings and fashion shows in and around town.
We invite all bike makers and lifestyle products related to bicycling on a global level to become involved. To find out more about tickets for this event, how to become a sponsor or how to become an exhibitor at The New Amsterdam Bicycle Show, please visit newambikeshow.com
Here are the latest developments in the NYPD’s crackdown on cyclists.
On my way into work today I read a fairly horrifying tweet…
Can this be? $270.00? Right in my neighborhood?
Recently, in the dead of winter, when bicycles are prevailing even with un-plowed streets and cars being abandon during the snowpocolypse, the NYPD has decided to sort through their list of priorities and issue a “fatwa” against illegal cycling.
The NY POST reported on this on the 7th of January, a news organization that has always been a champion of cyclists hate speak such as this article from Steve Cuozzo whining about how the city plowed bike lanes while certain car roadways weren’t touched. He also called us: “Mayor Bloomberg’s favorite class of commuters: maniacs and deliverymen on two wheels.” Seems fair and balanced.
Well even though the tourists love our less car centric initiatives and cycling has increased, the bikers reward seems to come with a price. According to the POST, the NYPD’s Manhattan crackdown is being extended to parts of Brooklyn, which have seen the largest increase in bicycle traffic.
The Post went onto say in this article, according to police in Williamsburg, that this is “prolonged enforcement– not a crackdown with quotas.”
Of course don’t forget the NYPD statement that came out issued in Manhattan was just 24 hours after the city had lost a major case against Critical Mass and had to pay out over $900,000. Sour grapes or a focused effort to respond to numerous complaints by NYC citizens? You decide.
Meanwhile, Gothamist reports, according to the NYPD “bicycle riders will be ticketed for often-overlooked “vehicular offenses, such as failing to obey traffic signals and signs, breaking the speed limit, tailgating, and even failure to signal before turning.” Not exactly sure how a cyclist can break the speed limit…what is the speed limit for bicycles and tailgating?
I am for enforcement of cyclists breaking the law for such things as riding on the sidewalk and going the wrong way down a one-way, but this may be a case of careful what you wish for, like asking the Hells Angels to do security at your rock concert. (Altamont)
I did get to speak out on this a bit in an interview with 1010WINZ, John Montone which can be found here.
Along with fellow bloggers Brooklyncyclist.com and brooklynbybike.com we gave a few sound bites expressing our opinions about such things as expecting bikers to stop at every red light seems a bit of a stretch, like asking people not to jaywalk.
Judging from reports coming in, it seems as if this NYPD crackdown is less concerned with the safety of the streets and more about continuing a long standing pattern of intimidation.
Streetsblog.org reported today of one such incident where a cyclists was ticketed for making a right turn on red into an auto-free Central park for his afternoon ride.
This has stirred up much debate, dividing people into two camps: those defending the changes the city has made to create space for bikers and those venting just how much they can’t stand those on two wheels.
I especially appreciate the comments left here including this one from Angel Fernandez, who discovered my blog through the 1010WINZ story:
This is simply an attempt by Bloomberg to raise more money for the city. We know the city is strapped and that precinct captains are pushing quotas for parking tickets and moving violations.
Make no mistake, if we donâ€™t respond by increasing pressure on drivers, we will suffer setbacks on the significant progress made. Its ironic this admin has really promoted bike use, only to then regulate and fine.
Drivers obstruct bike lanes, pedestrians limit the speed of travel on new designs that place bike lanes between parked cars and sidewalks.
Riding among cars and being allowed to cross on red lights is not only part of our bike culture, itâ€™s â€œAmericanâ€. I just returned from Mexico, and I can tell you the culture there is much slower because they are afraid of cars.
Whatâ€™s exceptional about New York is we are not afraid of traffic. If we give up ground, we will only make ourselves vulnerable to more and more rules â€“ defeating the purpose.”
All of this seems to emphasize a huge disconnect between Mayor Bloomberg’s DOT which has been paving the way for people to ride bikes and the NYPD who wants to “crackdown” on the ridership.
I personally believe the priority of traffic enforcement should be ordered upon the vehicles which can cause the most damage…like a 15 passenger van critically injuring a toddler in a hit and run.
Executive director of Time’s Up, Bill DiPaola, recently wrote an article for the New York Times East Village Blog.
With the massive influx of tourists to NYC is also coming a more green conscious mindset and outsiders are becoming the newest public space advocates. Out of towners are not only coming for the sights but the green infrastructure, the bike lanes, greenways and less car centric direction the city has taken.
Bill Dipaola explains:
First Person: A Cue From Tourists On Public Space
By BILL DI PAOLA, East Village
The city announced on Tuesday that a record 47.8 million tourists visited New York City in 2010 and in a lot of ways that is good news. There are a plenty of things that bring visitors to New York: a fascinating history, excellent museums, and beautiful public places like Central Park and Prospect Park.
As the city noted, tourists have helped bolster the declining local economy. During his announcement at the conservatory of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that tourists contributed $31 billion last year. They have also played another positive role that has gone largely unnoticed. Tourists, in some ways, have become the newest public space activists. New York City has always been a tough town when it comes to expanding on green infrastructure, like car-free pedestrian malls and bicycle lanes. But this car-centric city is now changing. Tourists have always loved strolling in New Yorkâ€™s gorgeous parks and gardens and now they are also enjoying other amenities like bike lanes, open walkways in Times Square and the greenways that edge the cityâ€™s rivers. Visitors love the new green infrastructure and use it heavily â€“ thus creating the demand for more.
You’d think anyone daring to ride a bike in this weather would be rewarded. Tell that to the NYPD. With fewer of us on many of the un-plowed roadways and bike lanes here in the city, the police have decided to “crackdown” on unlawful biking behavior.
Here is the latest from the Brooklyn Paper.
Bikelash! Cops to crack down on two-wheelers
By Thomas Tracy
January 5th, 2011
Call it a bikelash!
The NYPD has been ordered to begin a borough-wide crackdown that will hit renegade riders for often-overlooked â€œvehicular offensesâ€ like failing to obey traffic signals and signs, breaking the speed limit, tailgating, and even failure to signal before turning.
Several police sources said on Tuesday that the strict enforcement of safety and vehicle traffic laws â€” which apply the same to cars as they do to cycles â€” will begin in a matter of weeks, and that bicyclists caught breaking those rules will be issued a moving violation.
Two-wheelers were stunned to hear that they had risen on the list of police priorities.
Read the whole article here.
Along with a few other fellow bloggers, I may be on CBS’s 1010 WINS tomorrow sounding off about this potential crackdown. We’re meeting John Montone tomorrow right on Jay Street so we can show off all the cars parked in the bike lane and the rampant illegal u-turns.