Houston St. dilemma

Whats the story with Houston St? Its a mess, cyclists have died on it and it claims to be one of the most dangerous roads in NYC for cyclists and pedestrians. There has been a lot of city council and local community activity to get the Department of Transportation to make infrastructure for cyclists (bike lanes) on H street as part of what seems to be endless construction in this major thoroughfare

The DOT has said they are NOT going to put bike lanes on Houston Street, and that from an engineering point of view it is IMPOSSIBLE.

There is now a plan to put bike lanes one block North on Bleeker and one block South on Prince. Some feel that any bike lanes are a good thing but this doesn’t address the unsafe issues of Houston St. and how the city continually refuses to take action against problematic traffic situations…especially when the construction is all ready underway.

Tonight there is a city council meeting of community board 2.

Time’s Up! encourages cyclists and pedestrians to attend the CB2 meeting Tuesday, and demand safe passage across the entire breadth of Southern Manhattan via Houston Street. A protected bikeway on Houston Street is both technically feasible and urgently needed. The exclusion of such facilities will only result in more unnecessary deaths.

Meeting Details:
CB2 Transportation Committee meeting
Tuesday, April 10, at 6:30pm
LGBT Community Services Center, 208 W. 13th St. between 7th Ave. and Greenwich Ave. (ask at the front desk for the room assignment).

More info from the Time’s Up website, which has been working hard on this issue.

You have the right to travel safely on Houston Street!—This is a big issue for us and many others; Speak Up!

The city’s Department of Transportation bureaucrats now say that moving bike lanes to narrow, congested side streets will somehow address the safety problems on Houston Street. Such a plan prioritizes Houston Street for cars and trucks rather than non-polluting cyclists and pedestrians, and is clearly not in the best interests of a city afflicted with staggeringly high rates of asthma and concerned about the effects of climate change and resource depletion. If you thought Houston Street was bad already, get ready for something far worse! Time’s Up! supports any expansion of the city’s bicycle network, but the community will not settle for lesser routes at the expense of long-overdue Houston Street facilities.

Despite the fact that Houston Street has been a proposed/designated bike route since 1997, nothing has been done to prevent ongoing injuries and deaths to cyclists. In 2005-2006 3 cyclists were killed on this street, and from 2002 to 2004 82 cyclists were struck. At a press conference in August, 2006, CB 2 Transportation Committee members, community groups and elected officials took a step in the right direction demanding safe bike lanes be worked into the DOT plan for Houston Street. That was a great start.

Unfortunately, measures to protect cyclists on Houston have now been suddenly deemed unfeasible. Abandoning the call for protection on this ‘boulevard of death,’ the new DOT plan calls for ‘alternative routes’ on narrow unprotected bike lanes, mainly on Bleecker and Prince Streets that zigzag through narrow, congested streets and do not provide continuous transit. As much as this may be the goal, the new plan does little to advance safety.

The reality is that cyclists will continue to travel on Houston Street even if it remains life-threatening for them and pedestrians. Houston Street already is known as one of the most dangerous streets in NYC. Nevertheless, it remains a preferred route for cyclists because in contrast to most other cross-town streets, it is wide, sunny, direct, and completely traverses a very wide section of Manhattan from river to river. It is also the most efficient route to a wide range of destinations, bridges and avenues on the east and west sides of Southern Manhattan, and in many cases the only viable route from one place to another.

Given the facts, it seems obvious that a protected bike lane should be the highest priority for NYC potentially providing a safe, non-polluting way to travel to shopping entertainment, and work in the East and West Villages, SoHo, the Lower East Side and East River Bridges as well as East and West side Greenways. Abruptly reneging on the 10-year promise for safe bike lanes on a newly paved 8 lane Houston Streets is quite literally, a life-or-death decision.

It is clear that this is not a question of technical feasibility, but rather a question of political priorities. Some of the D.O.T. engineers who would be involved in this project are commuter cyclists themselves, but these engineers have sadly been directed by their D.O.T. supervisors to propose mediocre “alternatives” on account of unproved claims regarding the technical feasibility of a Houston Street bikeway. We know that a safe, protected bikeway can be implemented on Houston Street and we know that D.O.T. engineers have the know-how and imagination to provide the community with what it really needs.

The Facts:

Bleecker Street is a favored route for double decker tour buses and charter buses while Prince Street is congested daily with street vendors, automobiles and pedestrians, all of which would impede bicycle through-traffic.

A major construction project for water-main replacement is currently underway along Houston Street and a redesign of the roadway, medians and sidewalks is slated to follow. This is best chance in decades the community is going to get to demand proper cyclist and pedestrian safety measures. So far, D.O.T. bureaucrats have been ignoring community pleas on this issue for years, but it’s time to take a stand.

A bikeway can integrated with a system of traffic calming measures to create a safer, cleaner and more attractive Houston Street for pedestrians, businesses and residents. A median bikeway would allow for flexible travel both east and west, and a combination of electronic sensors and dynamic automobile turning restrictions could tame this Robert Moses playground that has historically been such a people-unfriendly thoroughfare.
The lanes on Prince and Bleecker wouldn’t be physically-protected from automobiles, allowing police patrol cars, delivery trucks, and private cars to illegally park in the way of cyclists.

News links: The villager article from 2005.
streetsblog coverage of 2006 rally for bike lanes on Houston St.
The villager coverage of the rally.
Streetsblog shows the DOT reasons for Prince and Bleeker bikelanes

Friday the 13th…3 options

April 13th, Three options

The metalrace alleycat. Starts at McGorlick Park, in Greenpoint. Shotgun a Sparks to get a manifest…mmmm good.

There is also Skidface under the BQE

and Brooklyn Critical Mass.

Lots of bike events to choose from.

Villager Article on March Critical Mass

Jefferson Siegel reports on last month’s critical mass in the latest villager newspaper. Here is a more detailed report at what went on at this pivotal critical mass ride.

villager article

Critical Mass videos-good enough for NPR crowd

Brian Lehrer, you know the voice. He informs you with indepth opinions and local guests speaking about NY issues on wnyc everyday. He has a blog where you can see Brian and listen to more opinions about the issues effecting New Yorkers everyday. On his Blog Brian has internet video picks of the week where he combines a lot of websurfing into one program, on the blog.

Number 1 this week? Critical Mass…love the attention!

Pictures from Slaughtertrauma–Richmond VA

Cutthroats know how to Kick Ass on bikes…here is some photos from Flickr about last weekends mutant bike fest in Richmond Virgina.
Picture links:
Chummy berry
Turner Gensum

Don’t you wish you went? I do.

Video’s 2 and 3 from Chris Ryan

Chris Ryan completed 2 more videos in continuation of last month’s Critical Mass…
Part 2

Part 3

Chris Ryan made a video

This is Chris Ryan’s video of critical mass, 3/30/07. It is Part one of his MNN television program…Team Spider Television, which will air on Wednesday. (I think)

NYTimes reports on last nights Critical Mass–NYC

Three Arrested in Critical Mass Bike Ride

Published: March 31, 2007
Three people were arrested and almost 50 people given summonses last night in the first Critical Mass bicycle ride since the city adopted new controversial rules that limit the size of un-permitted rides, the police said.

Of the three people arrested, one was charged for disorderly conduct, one was charged with obstructing government administration and charges against a third person charge had yet to be determined last night, the police said.

Arrests from past monthly Critical Mass rides have numbered in the dozens.

The New York Police Department adopted the rules earlier this year that require parade permits for bicyclists and others who take to the streets in groups of 50 or more for processions, races and protests.

Meanwhile in LONDON…

At the start of last night’s ride Des Kay, who originally took the Met police to court, reported on the progress of their appeal. He said it is not looking good as the police are using a high powered lawyer. The police want the ride to be treated as a regular public protest with a fixed route and organisers. Of course, cyclists are not going to stand for this and Des asked for discussions on possible strategies in the event of the appeal succeeding. The result of the appeal could be soon or take several weeks more.

Police are still warning riders with sound systems not to play them within the SOCPA zone and are asking for their names and addresses but take no action when this request is refused. They also video the sound system people.

Victory for cyclists, they ride, they get split up, they ride, the get tackled, they ride…they ride!

Ok, I am in Boston on a job and I just checked in with NYC to see how their critical mass ride went. Its’ been a dramatic week of tensions and tonight was the first NYC critical mass with new police rules in full effect. To review…The cops hate bikes and the dirty anarchists that ride them, even though critical mass is made up all kinds of people…most who shower on a regular basis. But what smelled tonight was a bogus tactic of the police to change the definition of what a parade is to help define a monthy event that has been happening around the planet since 1992. After 2 years of battling the cycling community, the NYPD thought they found their magic formula, but alas, they suck and came at it with the same ol tactics. Tonight the cycling community invited all of the major press to union square to hear about what is really going on with this stale attack of our rights of free assembly, and you know what…a lot of the press showed up, with their big expensive video cameras and they heard from city council member Rosie Menedez of Manhattan’s district two, Norman Siegel, famous civil rights attorney who reported on how the big bad city of NYC lost to 4 people named in an ridiculous lawsuit trying to claim that these 4 are single handedly responsible for a bike ride that has no leaders. The city dropped the lawsuit this week and the 5 borough bike club is suing the City for the parade definitions which also effect clean smelling spandex clad taxpaying biker riders who think the city is also full of shit. This club of cyclists also spoke at the rally in Union Square, before tonights ride and showed solidarity with those people with common sense. Power to the People. Also the pedicabs spoke and drew even more connections to the need for alternative transportation not to be harassed by our civil servants (NYPD) who are supposed to protect and serve, not arrest and ticket.

So about 100 riders left the rally at Union Square which had another 100 or so supporters who came to listen to the speakers and not ride.

Right at the start the cops began to single people out and write summons to people who did not have a bell or a light or some other law on the books that is enforced about as frequent as someone driving on a cell phone.

The press swarmed in since it was right at the North end of Union Square and Park Ave. South and all the press was there to video tape the ride and put it on the 11:00 news.

The cops backed off a bit and made one arrest, just to save face and make the cyclists look confrontational.

The ride headed up Park Ave South and was getting swarmed by scooter cops and a few 15 pass vans. Still the mode was to stop people for not having warning devises and lights and soon helmets now that the city council also approved a helmet law for employees of a company using workers on bikes.

This split up the ride and two groups formed…of about 50…or was it 49, the legal limit of cyclists to be riding together. The number 50 has been proved by Aramaic scholars to be the 2nd series of numbers besides the triple 6 to symbolize the apocalypse…thus casting all of NYC into eternal darkness for at least a week.

a group meet up at Colombus circle, including Rosie Menedez of distric who stayed in a pedi-cab the whole ride to witness the abuse.

Much more happened…but I don’t want to give a way the whole story.

The good news is…there was little domestic spying (cops video taping us, infiltrating, and general cointelpro), Major press showed up for the start of the ride, a city council member stayed with the whole ride in a pedicab, and despite all the drama…100 brave people came out to ride, be free and feel alive in a world run by insane morons.

Come to Critical Mass Early…for a press conference

Please come to Union Square North tonight around 6:45pm for a press conference of Critical Mass, even if you don’t want to ride…come and support.

Here is an article in AMNY

Critical Mass to be tested under new NYPD rules
By Justin Rocket Silverman, amNewYork Staff Writer

March 29, 2007
Participants in Friday’s Critical Mass bicycle ride are bracing for mass arrests if police enforce new regulations requiring a permit for rides of more than 50 cyclists.

The monthly gatherings routinely draw hundreds of riders, and Friday’s will be the first under the new rules.

“I’m afraid we are going to see a return to the police actions of 2004 and 2005,” said Marilyn Horan, who has been participating in Critical Mass rides for a decade. “Police could once again block off streets at both ends, corral and arrest cyclists.”

The NYPD instituted the controversial regulations last month without City Council oversight. They define any group of 50 or more cyclists, pedestrians or other vehicles as a “parade” that must apply for a permit.

Critical Mass participants say the rules are designed to crack down on their event. They also say the group has no central organization, and thus no responsible person to apply for the permit.

Councilwoman Rosie Mendez (D-Manhattan) said she would ride along in a pedicab tonight, both as an observer and to protest the rules.

“To criminalize the behavior of individuals assembling in groups over 50 is arbitrary and unconstitutional,” she said.

NYPD chief spokesman Paul Browne defended the new regulations.

“Persons who break the law, whether individually or in groups, remain subject to summons or arrest. A parade permit gives groups the ability to engage in conduct that would otherwise be illegal, whether it’s groups on foot marching up Fifth Avenue on St Patrick’s Day or cyclists running lights togther,” he said.

In a related matter, The Five Borough Bicycle Club sued the NYPD in federal court this week to block the regulations. The bike club says the new rules could effectively shut down its city tours and other organized group rides.

“We’ve been doing these rides for decades and they are perfectly safe, but now we need a permit for them to be legal,” said Ed DeFreitas, president of the bike club. “Our insurance only protects us if we don’t break the law.”

DeFreitas said applying for a parade permit was complicated and time consuming, and that police officers themselves seemed unaware of the regulations. A federal judge heard arguments in the bicycle club’s suit Thursday, and was expected to grant or deny an injunction in the next week.

This brings up the very definition of Critical Mass which often gets overlooked. I have tried to sum it up in a brief dialog of fictictious characters…based on real people…sort of…Here is a brief scene from Act One of my new play…To Critical Mass or Not to Critical Mass.

Anarchist Cyclist Hellbent on Anarchistic Cycling: “Hey, why don’t we just apply for a permit and make the city have to block traffic for us the last Friday of every month?”

Law abidding “Good Cyclist” Hellbent on Good Cycling: “But who is we? Who is going to apply for a permit? Are you going to go to the Police department and say, Hey I am organizing a critical mass bike ride and I need a permit to go from point A to point B.

Anarchist Cyclist Hellbent on Anarchistic Cycling: “Gee whiz, I never thought of that…Critical mass has no leadership…its just a phenomenum that has spread across the planet in over 300 cities around the world.”

Law abidding “Good Cyclist” Hellbent on Good Cycling: “That’s right. You see this is just the city trying to divide us and stop something which the do not have control over…Besides, even if you do apply for a permit the NYPD just stalls and waits and before you know it your event date has already passed. On top of that they come up with all kinds of excuses like, we don’t like that route…how bout you go from Union Square North to Union Square South? Isn’t that enough of a bike ride for you? Its all a big joke. I miss Smolka, I wish he didn’t retire, I wanted to watch him beat up legal observers, photographers and bad cyclists like you, with out spilling an ounce of his coffee.”

End of Act One.