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Thread: Biking in New York City

  1. #46
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Perhaps the Mayor should also seek to require PERMITS for tourists who travel in packs of 3 or more and for those who travel on the sidewalks with more than one baby stroller side-by-side ...

    Police Seek New Controls on Protesters and Bicyclists

    NY TIMES
    By AL BAKER
    July 19, 2006

    The Police Department wants to require parade permits for bicyclists traveling in groups of 20 or more, and any bicyclists or walkers who take to the streets in groups of two or more and disobey traffic laws for things like parades, races or protests, according to a public notice filed with the city.

    The department also wants to require a parade permit for groups of 35 or more protesters who restrict themselves to the sidewalk, officially clarifying a regulation that court rulings described as too vague, according to a police spokesman.

    Taken together, the three new rules — which the department will discuss at a public hearing on Aug. 23, at 6 p.m. at police headquarters — would redefine the type of protest and the number of protesters allowed to demonstrate in New York City without first applying for approval from the Police Department.

    Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the new rules, if adopted, would “threaten to substantially restrict protests.”

    Other critics of the department have questioned whether the police are authorized to make such changes without approval from the City Council, but Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, said the police commissioner had the authority under the City Charter to amend regulations concerning public safety.

    Mr. Browne said that after recent court rulings found the department’s parade regulations too vague, the department moved to clarify them with these amendments. As a practical matter, he said, the department always believed it had the authority to make arrests under the existing regulations and often did.

    “A permit effectively allows activities that would otherwise be illegal, such as disregarding traffic signals or blocking pedestrian traffic, to go forward with the police making accommodations such as the rerouting of pedestrian or vehicular traffic,” Mr. Browne said. “Nothing in the amendments changes the penalties.”

    In its notice, the department said the rules were necessary for public safety.

    “These amendments are intended to clarify the circumstances under which groups using city streets or sidewalks for purposes of assembly are required to obtain a permit,” the notice said.

    “By clarifying the type of activity that constitutes a parade and is thus required to obtain a permit,” the notice said, “these rules are designed to protect the health and safety of participants in group events on the public streets and sidewalks and members of the public who find themselves in the vicinity of these events.”

    Advocates for bicyclists and others said the two new rules for bicyclists appeared to stem from the department’s and the city’s continuing dispute with bicyclists over monthly Critical Mass rides around Manhattan. The rides are held on the last Friday evening of each month to advocate nonpolluting forms of transportation.

    In the case of requiring two or more bicyclists or walkers to get a permit, the department is simply trying to prevent participants in public protests like Critical Mass from blocking traffic. Under the changed rules, the police would control traffic, as they do in customary parades. On Feb. 14, a judge suggested that the city consider changing its rules for what constitutes a parade or procession, a lawyer for the group, Norman Siegel, said yesterday.

    That case is still pending, Mr. Siegel said.

    Mr. Siegel questioned whether the department had the authority to change the definitions of when a parade permit is needed.

    “My instinctive reaction is he cannot do this, it has to go to the City Council,” Mr. Siegel said, referring to Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly.

    Mr. Browne said the commissioner’s powers were clear. Notably, during the Republican National Convention in 2004, the police spontaneously allowed some protests to go ahead, on sidewalks or in the streets, even without march permits.

    Mr. Siegel said that even if the police had the authority to change the rules, “it’s antithetical to the principles and values of the right to protest that New York is associated with. This is simply unacceptable.”

    Some officials, including Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr., said the police seemed to be within guidelines in amending the rules, which he said were considered part of internal rules the department can change, rather than administrative codes written by lawmakers.

    In the court case, the city is claiming that bicyclists who ride together need a permit, while defendants say they encourage riders to ride together in small groups for safety, “until the city creates a safe bicycling infrastructure,” said Bill DiPaola, the director of Time’s Up, a nonprofit environmental group in the city.

    In a previous case, Judge William H. Pauley III of Federal District Court in Manhattan ruled that bicyclists did not need a permit to ride in groups, said Mr. DiPaola, whose group provides legal support for Critical Mass participants.


    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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    September 13, 2006


    City Hall Promises Major Increase in Bike Lanes on Streets

    By WILLIAM NEUMAN


    The Bloomberg administration plans to greatly increase the number of bicycle lanes after a city study showed that 225 cyclists died in accidents on city streets over the last 10 years, officials said yesterday.

    While some motorists may grumble that bike lanes take up road space and add to congestion, the study suggests that the lanes actually work. Most of the bike deaths involved crashes with cars, trucks or buses, but only one of those involved a cyclist who was in a marked bike lane.

    The city’s transportation commissioner, Iris Weinshall, said 200 additional miles of bike lanes were planned for the five boroughs over the next three years. The city now has about 220 miles of roadway designated for bikes, including paths set off from vehicle traffic by barriers, lanes painted on the street and routes indicated mainly by street signs.

    “The data demonstrates cyclists need more safe places to ride,” Ms. Weinshall said.

    The highest toll in the last 10 years was 40 in 1999 and the lowest 13 in 2001. Last year 24 cyclists were killed, according to the study, which compiled data from 1996 through 2005 and was conducted by several city agencies.

    Despite the city’s frenetic pace and heavy traffic, the study found that riding a bicycle in New York City did not appear to be significantly more deadly than in the country as a whole.

    Based on the city’s population, there were 2.8 bicycle deaths a year per million residents during the 10 years, slightly more than the 2.7-per-million rate nationwide.

    “Simply encouraging more people to ride bikes is going to improve the safety of cyclists,” said Noah Budnick, a deputy director of Transportation Alternatives, a cycling advocacy group. He called the study and the bike lane expansion “unprecedented.”

    “The more people bike, the more drivers become accustomed to looking for cyclists and to driving safely around them,” he said.

    Nonetheless, there was some disagreement over how extensive the city’s network of bike lanes really is — and will be after the expansion — because of how the city calculates the mileage. If both sides of a one-mile strip of a two-way street have bike lanes, for example, the city counts it as two miles of bike lanes. Mr. Budnick said the city’s claim of 220 miles might be more properly counted as less than half that. The same could be expected to apply, he said, to much of the proposed new mileage.

    The study revealed some intriguing trends. Men and boys accounted for 91 percent of the toll, or 199 fatalities. That was similar to data for the country as a whole, where male cyclists make up 89 percent of fatalities.

    Thomas R. Frieden, the health commissioner, said the predominance of men and boys among the fatalities might reflect “a little bit more risk-taking behavior from males.”

    Crashes with moving vehicles accounted for 207 of the deaths in the study. Among those, nearly a third involved trucks and buses, although they are only about 15 percent of the vehicles on city streets.

    The trend was the opposite for taxis. Cyclists accustomed to cursing at cabs as the drivers dart through Midtown traffic might be surprised to learn that taxis accounted for only two of the vehicle-bike deaths, or 1 percent, although cabs make up 2 percent of registered vehicles in the city.

    The study also reinforced the importance of wearing a bike helmet. It found that 74 percent of fatal accidents involved head injuries and that, in cases in which records on helmet use were kept, 97 percent of the riders who died were not wearing one.

    The study found that cyclists’ ignoring traffic controls like lights and stop signs was one of the most common factors contributing to fatal accidents. Drivers not paying attention was another common factor.

    The city plans to start an advertising campaign next spring to remind drivers and bike riders about safety.

    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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    September 8 - 14, 2006

    Pedalers and politicians get pumped about Houston Lanes

    By Albert Amateau
    Downtown Express


    Elected officials and bicycle advocates created a temporary bike lane on W. Houston St. last week, protecting it from auto traffic with their own bodies in a demonstration demanding permanent bike lanes on the six-lane thoroughfare currently under reconstruction.

    The Aug. 30 event, organized by a special Community Board 2 committee, took place between Mercer and Greene Sts., two blocks from where a bicyclist was killed on June 26 when a truck hit him. It was the third bicycle fatality on Houston St. in the previous 13 months.

    While the Houston St. reconstruction, which began more than a year ago, calls for bike lanes between F.D.R. Dr. and Forsyth St., there are no designated bike lanes planned for the western two-thirds of the street notorious for accidents fatal to pedestrians as well as cyclists. Even on the eastern third of the project, the specific bike lanes have not yet been laid out.

    Neighborhood advocates in Soho and Noho have long been frustrated in their demands for bike- and pedestrian-friendly features for the east-west artery whose reconstruction plans appear exclusively for the convenience of trucks and cars.

    Last week, elected officials turned up in person or sent representatives to join demands for two-way bike lanes protected by physical barriers from speeding auto traffic.

    “New York City needs to become a more bicycle-safe city and needs to begin it on Houston St.,” said City Councilmember Alan Gerson, who came to the event on his bike from his home a half-block north of W. Houston St.

    Gerson, who has proposed creating a Bicycle Commission as a new city agency, recalled biking in Soho as a youngster, “when it was like an abandoned village.” He said the city must accommodate bicycles and pedestrians, as well as the increased motor traffic that came with the neighborhood changes. In addition to bike lanes, Gerson urged the elimination of the special left-turn bays planned for Houston St., which he said would make the street more dangerous for both cyclists and pedestrians.

    Assemblymember Deborah Glick recalled the grassroots fight a generation ago that defeated Robert Moses’ proposal for a Lower Manhattan Expressway.

    “We have to make sure Houston St. is not a Lower Manhattan Expressway,” she said. Glick said bike lanes are needed on Houston St. and she too called for elimination of left-turn bays, “which are designed to speed [car] traffic crossing Houston St.”

    Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer invoked the memory of the three cyclists killed on the street and called on the city to given pedestrians and cyclists the right of way on Houston St.

    “It has become the highway of death,” Stringer said. “We don’t need another Queens Boulevard on Houston St.,” he added, referring to the notoriously dangerous Queens thoroughfare.

    State Senator Martin Connor said bike lanes on Houston St. were a good idea.

    “Let’s make Houston St. and the whole city safe for bicycles. It’s time to put people ahead of cars,” he said.

    Bike riders, including several from Brooklyn who cycle across Houston St. to work in Manhattan and others active in the weekly Critical Mass bicycle actions, joined the Aug. 30 rally. Cyclists dressed as clowns were among the dozen bike riders who made the ceremonial ride along the half-block human barrier bike lane, with a pedicab bringing up the rear.

    “I don’t bike on Houston St. anymore,” said Kate Mikuliak, an aide to Councilmember Rosie Mendez. “It’s too dangerous and I don’t like to pass those ghost bikes,” she added, referring to the white-painted bicycles that a group, Visual Resistance, has chained to curbside signposts at the sites of fatal accidents.

    Ghost bikes along Houston St. include one at LaGuardia Pl., where Derek Lake, 23, of Brooklyn, lost his life on June 26 this year when a truck hit him; another at E. Houston and Elizabeth St. where Andrew Morgan lost his life on June 22, 2005, when his bike was hit by a truck, and one at E. Houston St. and Avenue A where Brandie Bailey was killed on May 8, 2005, when a garbage truck struck her.

    Ian Dutton, a public member of Community Board 2 and prime mover of the board’s ad-hoc committee for Houston St. bike lanes, noted that the Department of City Planning’s 1997 Bicycle Master Plan developed with the Department of Transportation had designated Houston St. as a proposed bicycle route. This year, the New York City Cycling Map published by the City Planning and Transportation departments also has Houston St. marked as a bike route.

    Planned but not yet laid our on the eastern third of Houston are 5-foot-wide bike lanes with buffers at least 3 feet high. But the reconstruction plans omit any indication of bike lanes on the western end of the street.

    Phil Mouquinho, chairperson of the Community Board 2 Sidewalks Committee, called for Houston St. bike lanes and Elizabeth Gilmore, a C.B.2 Transportation Committee member, came to the rally from her home on 11th St. on her bike

    Transportation Alternatives, which advocates for public transit and bicycle riders, noted that Houston St. is a logical bike route, linking several mixed-use neighborhoods and connecting East River Park with the Hudson River bikeway and walkway.

    Charle Cafiero, a Noho Neighborhood Association member formerly on C.B. 2, recalled a long history of vain neighborhood pleas to make Houston St. safe for bicycles and pedestrians.

    “I think you need a club and some baseball bats to make the Department of Transportation recognize how dangerous Houston St. has been for 20 years. Maybe the elected officials will help,” he said.


    Last Wednesday, Soho and Noho residents and politicians lined part of W. Houston St., forming a symbolic safe bike lane, through which Councilmember Alan Gerson, left, led cyclists. From right: Borough President Scott Stringer, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, Soho activist Ian Dutton and Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance.

    news@downtownexpress.com

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    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    The Bicycle Saboteur

    Epidemic of carpet-tack attacks along the Hudson River paths.

    NEW YORK MAGAZINE
    By Rebecca Milzoff

    Someone’s been taking out the bikes in Riverside Park. The weapon: carpet tacks, sprinkled on the path with malicious, tire-bursting intent. Most reports of tack trouble come from the section of the greenway between 137th and 145th Streets, behind Riverbank State Park, but cyclists have reported tacks as far north as the George Washington Bridge at 181st. But it’s not clear that the attacks were limited to uptown — one victim told Ravin he didn’t notice his flat until he returned to Christopher Street from a ride up to Inwood.

    “I’ve been a bicycle advocate since 1987,” says the Five Borough Bicycle Club’s Ed Ravin, “and I’ve never heard of vandalism on this scale.” Jamie Favaro, a homeless-outreach worker, usually bikes from her house in Chinatown to the George Washington Bridge bus station to get to work in Washington Heights. “I had seen all these people with flats and was like, ‘I’m so glad I have these fancy tires,’ and then all of a sudden, around 181st, I got one myself,” she says with a sigh. “It was so weird. It wasn’t till I got home that I saw it was this giant metal tack. It really ripped the tire open.”

    The whodunit is the talk of the biking set. Riders “assume some biker just pissed someone off so they’re throwing tacks around the path,” says Hugh Ash of Metro Bicycles on 96th Street. He says that in the past week, he’s seen at least five or six tack victims per day. “The joke running around the bicycle community,” says Ravin, is that it’s the cop who organizes the police response to Critical Mass rides in the city. “It would be nice if they took those guys off Critical Mass duty and sent them down the greenway now and then,” he adds. However, Assistant Chief Michael Collins says the NYPD has received no complaints. “Cyclists haven’t thought of calling the police,” theorizes Ravin. “But this isn’t a littering problem, it’s sabotage.” City Parks rep Carli Smith says the department has received several reports of tacks in the past week and is monitoring the area. In the meantime, bike shops and cyclists alike are facing a quandary. “I hate it!” says Ozzie Perez, owner of Tread Bike Shop in Inwood. “Financially, it’s been great for us — we fixed more than 100 flats — but now people don’t want to go on the greenway uptown.”

    Ravin warns that “to stay off the bike path is to give this guy a victory.”

    Copyright © 2006, New York Magazine Holdings LLC

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    September 24, 2006
    Queasy Rider
    By STEVEN KURUTZ

    PAUL FORD, a soft-spoken, sturdily built 32-year-old who works as an editor at Harper’s Magazine, sometimes describes his commute between his apartment in Gowanus, Brooklyn, and his office on Broadway near Bond Street as feeling “like a video game, except you can get killed.”

    And in fact, watching Mr. Ford weave through the city’s traffic-clogged streets one recent morning, pedaling steadily atop his black and gray Fuji Sanibel cruiser, called to mind a two-wheeled, life-and-death version of the 80’s arcade game Frogger.

    At 7:40 a.m., wearing jeans and a black T-shirt, Mr. Ford set out from his apartment near the Gowanus Canal and was soon moving briskly down Third Avenue in Boerum Hill. Mr. Ford is a physical presence on the road, a big guy atop a seven-speed bike, a shiny black helmet covering his short brown hair. But the motorists whizzing by pay him little mind.

    Near Third Avenue and Douglass Street, he slowed and hugged the curb to avoid a delivery truck passing on his left. Pulling onto the street again, it was in the firm but cautious way a person might wade into a fast-moving river. Or, as Mr. Ford put it: “You’re fragile out here in traffic. Nothing bad comes from being paranoid.”

    Mr. Ford is among an estimated 120,000 regular cyclists in New York, 40,000 of whom commute to work by bike. And increasingly, these cyclists are waging an ever more ferocious turf war with the city.

    Like Mr. Ford, the majority of these commuters do daily battle on the city’s 6,000 miles of often jam-packed roadways. At the same time, a small number of cycling advocates lobby City Hall with almost religious fervor, seeking everything from more bike racks to legislation requiring office building owners to install storage space for bikes.

    The most public lobbying efforts are the Critical Mass rides in Manhattan, consciousness-raising events that take place on the last Friday of every month — the next one is Friday — and resemble nothing so much as 1960’s political rallies. Before the most recent ride, a bleached-blond hipster preacher named Reverend Billy recited the First Amendment through a bullhorn. Later, police officers issued 65 moving violations and made one arrest.

    Despite the obstacles, this may be an ideal moment for seeking a bike-friendlier New York. With issues like global warming and high gas prices at the forefront of public consciousness, many advocates say that after years of struggle, they finally have the political capital to make cycling a top priority in the city.

    “This is absolutely a moment of opportunity,” said Walter Hook, executive director of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, a New York-based organization that designs mass transit in developing countries. “The mayor stood up and took a bold stance and banned smoking. The next step is to stop the air pollution coming out of the tailpipe.”

    The Path Less Traveled

    Mr. Ford had left home early, hoping to beat the morning rush, but five minutes into his commute, cars were already lined up bumper to bumper at a red light on Third Avenue. Knifing through traffic, he hung a left onto Bergen Street in Boerum Hill, where he could enjoy a sliver of comfort in the form of a five-foot-wide bike lane, designated by two painted white lines. A few cyclists overtook him, pedaling furiously on expensive-looking machines.

    Mr. Ford began biking to work two months ago because he wanted to lose weight but didn’t feel like going to the gym. While his legs and lungs are stronger now, he by no means regards his ride as a test run for the Tour de France. “I’m just a chubby guy on a bike,” he joked as he made a right onto Smith Street and scooted across Atlantic Avenue.

    New York is arguably the most challenging city in the country in which to ride a bike. The streets are crowded, the pace is furious and danger lurks everywhere, from crater-size potholes to car doors that snap open. When Mr. Ford began biking to his office, he was filled with the sense that he was an irrelevancy to motorists, a moving abstraction. Even now, he feels dangerously exposed. “Everyone is your enemy,” he said. “You don’t want to get killed, and you don’t want to kill anyone.”

    Mr. Ford has yet to suffer any injuries on his daily commute, but he is fatalistic. “It’s only a matter of time until I have one of those near-death experiences that everyone who bikes in the city has had,” he said.

    According to the latest figures provided by the city, 109 cyclists were killed from 2000 through 2005. During the same period, there were 21,484 bicycle injuries recorded.

    This June, in a grim reminder of the perils of urban cycling, three riders were killed in a three-week period. A 23-year-old aspiring filmmaker was pinned beneath a tractor-trailer on Houston Street in Manhattan on a weekday morning. A 41-year-old woman was hit by a truck on Rockaway Parkway in Brooklyn in the evening. And a 56-year-old doctor collided with a Police Department tow truck while taking a midnight ride on the Hudson River Greenway in Manhattan.

    On June 29, in response to the deaths, about 75 cyclists staged a rally on the steps of City Hall. Standing in front of a “ghost bike” painted white to honor the fallen, Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, the advocacy group that organized the rally, described the city’s streets as “out of control.” A week later, Andrew Vesselinovitch, resigned as director of the Bicycle Program of the city’s Department of Transportation after five years in the job, saying he planned to return to school. In leaving his position, he criticized the Department of Transportation for not making New York safer for cyclists and for creating less than 20 miles of new bike lanes in the past two years.

    The numbers seemed all the more striking given the fact that Chicago, with a population of nearly three million, announced a plan this year to put every resident within a half-mile of a bike path. And Chicago’s program seems paltry in comparison with that of Davis, Calif., a city of 60,000 that Bicycling magazine said “has cycling in its veins.” Among Davis’s features are a $7.4 million bike tunnel and a network of bike paths so comprehensive and safe that the city has eliminated its public school buses.

    Shifting Gears

    As Mr. Ford pedaled along Jay Street, cut across a traffic tie-up at Tillary Street and squeezed precariously through a two-foot gap between a delivery truck and a concrete barrier to get onto the Manhattan Bridge, it was clear that orchestrating the flow of traffic is much more challenging in a city like New York than in a laid-back college town like Davis.

    By some measures, New York is doing reasonably well for a large city. In May, a bike lane was built along Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, and, more significant, in 2001 the Hudson River Greenway, an 11.5-mile stretch that runs from Inwood to Battery Park City, was completed. With as many as 10,000 cyclists on the busiest days, Transportation Alternatives says, it ranks as the nation’s busiest bike path.

    Two weeks ago, the Department of Transportation announced a plan to build 200 more miles of bike lanes over the next three years, at a cost of nearly $9 million. That would bring the city’s total to more than 600 miles.

    The Parks Department also has several projects under way toward its long-term goal of a greenway all along the waterfront in the five boroughs. Bike paths beside every mile of Manhattan waterfront may be completed as soon as the end of 2008, according to Carli Smith, a department spokeswoman.

    And this year, Bicycling magazine ranked New York the country’s third-best city for cycling among cities with population of more than one million, just behind San Diego and Chicago.

    “New York is by no means a laggard,” said Andy Clarke, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists, a lobbying group in Washington that issues an annual list of what it calls Bicycle Friendly Communities. “New York is better than Los Angeles, and certainly better than Houston or Dallas.”

    But many advocates say the city is making progress too slowly and is not fully committed to bicycling.

    “We did 100 miles of bike paths and lanes in the past five years,” said Mr. Vesselinovitch, the former director of the Bicycle Program. “I think we could have doubled it. At D.O.T., we would support bicycling as long as it didn’t interfere with anything else.”

    Iris Weinshall, the transportation commissioner, declined to respond specifically to Mr. Vesselinovitch’s comments. “I don’t want to look back,” she said. “I want to look forward.” She then said the city had made progress over the past five years; she cited the Manhattan Bridge bike lane, which was refurbished in 2001 and is used by an average of 840 riders a day.

    As Mr. Ford made his way across that lane the other day, isolated from traffic and free to finally experience what he described as “a closer sense of the city,” he was enjoying the one truly peaceful moment of his commute. Halfway through his ride, his pace slackened. The morning air was crisp. The view from the bridge, which took in the entire East Side of Manhattan, was breathtaking. The moment was tempered only by a quarter-mile uphill grade, which left him breathing hard.

    “With the subway,” Mr. Ford said, “you’re literally in a tunnel. When I bike, I see faces. I see storefronts. I’ll stop to visit someone. I’m engaged in the city.”

    Imagining Bike Heaven

    Up to this point, Mr. Ford’s ride had been a journey of extremes. He had passed through a leafy neighborhood of brownstones in Boerum Hill, plunged into the traffic-clogged heart of Downtown Brooklyn and been cosseted high above the East River. Now, with a light sheen of sweat on his face, he cruised off the bridge onto Canal Street into the pedestrian bustle of Chinatown.

    The one constant of Mr. Ford’s ride was the persistent feeling that he was carving out a space for himself as a biker on streets where in many cases no such space existed. Except for the Manhattan Bridge, he hadn’t been on a bike lane since Bergen Street. If he were the city’s bike czar, he would change this.

    “Cars are here to stay,” he said. “I don’t expect New York City to become bike utopia. But more share-the-road signs would be great, more bike lanes, more places to lock your bike.” All in all, “a little more room here and there.”

    The city’s plan to add 200 miles of bike lanes would undoubtedly create much more room for cyclists like Mr. Ford. The new lanes, from Claremont Village in the Bronx to Downtown Brooklyn, would be a sort of interstate highway system for bikes throughout the five boroughs. Responding to safety concerns, the city is also installing five miles of protected lanes, in which riders are shielded from car traffic by barriers like concrete curbs.

    But while cycling advocates have applauded the idea of protected lanes, their goals are far more ambitious.

    “We’d like to see bike facilities on all the major arterials in the five boroughs, like Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn and Houston Street,” said Mr. White, of Transportation Alternatives. “We’d also like to ban private vehicular traffic altogether on some streets.”

    Mr. Hook, of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, heartily endorses the idea. “If you did something radical,’’ he said, “like taking Broadway out of the street grid and making it a greenway, not only would you create a north-south bike facility, but you would create a soul to the city and entirely change the feel of the place.”

    When it was suggested that such a plan might produce havoc for Midtown drivers and stores relying on truck deliveries, Mr. Hook responded, “We could do what a hundred European cities do, which is allow trucks in during certain times of the day — say, between 8 and 10 a.m.”

    But even more modest solutions far from Midtown can pit cyclists against nearly everybody else. That is the situation on Houston Street, which has become a prime point of contention between bike advocates and the Department of Transportation. The cyclists want a bike lane installed along Houston; the department, at least so far, has not concluded that this is a good idea.

    In recent years, many cycling advocates have said that while the city officially supports biking, its decisions routinely favor drivers.

    “When the city decides whether or not to put a bike lane on Houston Street, they think, ‘Well, we’re going to lose traffic volume,’ ” Mr. White said. “That’s the tradeoff that isn’t going our way, time and again.”

    Ms. Weinshall, the transportation commissioner, would be the first to agree that the issue is complicated. “You have to parcel out the real estate to all of these different users,” she said. “Does it make sense to put a bike lane along Houston Street? Would we have to widen the sidewalks? These are things you consider. Bike riding is not made for everybody.”

    The Home Stretch

    Just a couple of minutes from the front door of his office, Mr. Ford was poised on Chrystie Street, considering a wide, loping left turn onto Houston Street that would deliver him into one of the busiest roadways in the city. “Two months ago I was terrified to make this turn,” he said as he merged with traffic and headed west on Houston toward Broadway. “But now it’s no big deal. You get used to it.”

    Still, not everyone is so intrepid. Even if the necessary infrastructure like widespread bike lanes were in place, there would remain the question of how many New Yorkers would commute by bike, given practical concerns like safety, weather and health issues.

    “I’ll bet not one person out of 20 would think to ride a bike to work,” said Kenneth T. Jackson, a professor of history at Columbia University who for years has led a bike ride around the city for his students. The ride takes place after midnight, the time Mr. Jackson most feels safe navigating around the city.

    There is another issue, even apart from safety, that has to do with how biking in the city is perceived. “We take pride in our use of mass transit and the fact that we walk,” Professor Jackson said, “but somehow cycling doesn’t complete the trinity. It doesn’t seem normal.”

    In addition, there is no consensus on whether an increase in cyclists would do much to help improve the city’s environment. City Councilman John Liu, of Flushing, Queens, chairman of the Council’s Transportation Committee, argues that subways and buses are the answer. “The use of cycles has a place,’’ Mr. Liu said. “But it doesn’t come anywhere near the capability of mass transit in making our city greener.”

    For Mr. Ford, however, biking to work offers him a satisfaction that riding the subway or a bus does not. “There’s something great about getting to work under my own mode of power,” he said.

    After making a right on Lafayette Street and a left on Bond, Mr. Ford was finally in the home stretch of his commute. He pulled up to the door of his office, dismounted and peeled off his helmet, sweaty but contented. “The hardest part of my day is already over,” he said. His four-mile commute had taken 32 minutes, about as long as it would have taken him on the R train.

    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    And the new ploy (although as a bike rider I think you gotta be nuts not to ride with a light / reflectors in this town) ...

    Police initiative targets bicycle headlights


    Downtown Express photos by Jefferson Siegel
    A man who claimed he was not part of the Critical Mass ride is
    issued a ticket for riding a bike without a headlight at
    18th St. and Park Ave. S.

    downtownexpress.com
    By Jefferson Siegel
    Volume 19 • Issue 21
    October 6 - 12, 2006

    Participating in last Friday’s Critical Mass wasn’t a bright idea if your bicycle didn’t have a headlight, as police collared anyone riding solely by the glow cast by streetlights.

    Several hundred cyclists, including several small children in child seats, gathered in Union Square in the dusk on Sept. 29 for the monthly ride.


    A woman is stopped and issued a ticket for riding without a headlight,
    while the food deliveryman on the bike behind her, with no headlight,
    was allowed to proceed without being issued a ticket.

    One person watching in amazement was rider Renata Falzoni. Falzoni, who produces and hosts an outdoor show for ESPN/Brazil, was filming the evening for a segment of her show. She has participated in Critical Mass rides in her hometown of Sao Paulo, although she says they are much smaller, usually with only 40 to 50 riders.

    “When you meet, making an effort for political rides of bikes, you get very few people in my town, unfortunately,” she lamented as she watched the sizeable crowd of bicyclists leave Union Square. “Everything is for cars” in Brazil, she added, “including respect.”

    The ride, which usually kicks off around 7 p.m., has started later the past few months as police have tried to stop the procession just outside the park’s boundaries. In July, several riders were stopped right outside the north plaza. On the August ride, their progress was stopped a block away at Fifth Ave.

    There was a palpable hesitancy last Friday night, and the ride didn’t start until just before 8 p.m. Several cyclists began pedaling south on Park Ave. S., only to be called back by other anxious riders and told of the crane collapse earlier on nearby Third Ave. and 13th St. The area had been closed to traffic and several cyclists voiced concern about proceeding into the area.

    Instead, the ride turned up Park Ave. S. One block north, at 18th St., about 20 cyclists at the front of the ride just beat a line of motor-scooter police, who rode across 18th St., blocking the rest of the ride. Orders were given to stop any cyclists riding without a headlight. Immediately, 10 cyclists were stopped. As officers wrote out tickets, several advised the riders that the ticket was equivalent to one issued to a car with a broken headlight or taillight. Cyclists were told if they added a headlight to their bikes within 24 hours, they could apply to have the ticket dismissed.

    Meanwhile, those at the back of the Mass saw the blockade and diverted to riding west on 17th St. A dozen were stopped at Broadway. Police sorted out the group, eventually telling those with headlights they could proceed while writing tickets to those without headlights.

    Parsons student Robin Hastings stood by her bike as she waited to be issued a ticket.

    “I got off the bike,” she recounted, “and started walking it onto the sidewalk to get out of traffic.” Nevertheless, Hastings was cited for riding without a headlight.

    As is often the case, the ride splintered into several smaller groups that took different routes. Many concluded the ride at an after-party at the McCarren Park Pool in Williamsburg.

    © 2006 Community Media, LLC

  7. #52
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    Sign of the times at Houston / 2nd Avenue (lots of motor vehicle <> cyclist incidents along that stretch) ...

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  8. #53
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    HOLY ROLLERS

    The city’s bicycle zealots.

    THE NEW YORKER
    by BEN MCGRATH
    Issue of 2006-11-13

    In the fall of 1971, two years after the Stonewall Rebellion, sixteen months after Kent State, and a couple of weeks after the prison riots at Attica, a few hundred bicyclists rode down Fifth Avenue and on to City Hall, demonstrating for the institution of dedicated bike lanes and bike racks. They called themselves Bike for a Better City. One rider held a sign that read, “The internal combustion engine is antiquated, obscene, and responsible for more deaths thru pollution and mayhem than even that great curse war.” A few taxi-drivers razzed the protesters, and at one point an infiltrator, concerned that there were greater causes in need of pursuing, joined the cyclists’ ranks, shouting, “People are being murdered and you protest bicycle lanes!”

    Since 2000, according to a certain moral calculus, more than a hundred and twenty New York City bicyclists have been murdered—struck dead by automobiles—and another twenty thousand have been injured, by enemy car doors and steel-fortified taxicab fenders. Three were killed in the course of three weeks in June of this year, including one, Dr. Carl Nacht, who was felled by a police tow truck while riding with his wife along the Hudson River Greenway—an officially sanctioned bike path. Since 2004, about six hundred cyclists have been arrested while participating in monthly political-protest rides known as Critical Mass, most notably during the Republican National Convention, when scores were ensnared in nets, and later imprisoned, and their bikes were confiscated as “evidence.”

    New York is by no means a bicycle haven, like Copenhagen or Amsterdam, or even San Francisco or Madison, Wisconsin, where cycling, despite hilly terrain, is three times as common as it is here. But a smaller proportion of New York residents own automobiles compared with any large city in the Western world, and the local bicycling movement now includes more than twenty groups, with names like Right of Way, FreeWheels, and Revolution Rickshaws, drawing inspiration from sources as varied as the French Situationist philosopher Guy Debord, the civil-rights leaders John Lewis and Hosea Williams, and the urban sociologist Jane Jacobs. Their aims are at once specific (mandating bike storage at office buildings) and all-encompassing: Revolution Rickshaws, for instance, seeks in effect to create an entire pedal-based economy, offering “eco-responsible execution in people-moving services,” “rapid urban cargo transport,” and “outdoor marketing promotions,” through the use of pedicabs, tricycle rigs capable of carrying a thousand pounds of freight, and towable billboards.

    Their nominal constituency, the hundred and twenty thousand New Yorkers who ride bicycles every day, comprises three distinct types—commuters (book editors, say, wearing cargo pants), exercisers (lawyers in spandex), and messengers (streetwise minorities without health care)—whose agendas overlap only loosely. And, as with any growing movement, success has brought about factionalization. Roughly speaking, the bikers range, in their political leanings, from Hugo Chávez to Ned Lamont, and in methodology from anarchist street theatre to wonkish position papers. “I think a lot of people realize that this issue is really central to a lot of the dilemmas facing, you know, humanity right now,” Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, said recently. “How are we going to deal with less oil? How are we going to make cities more sustainable, more livable?”

    Transportation Alternatives, or T.A., represents the movement’s big tent, with more than five thousand members, a staff of Ivy League graduates, and numerous allies in city government, whom the staff lobbies to enact bike-friendly legislation and other traffic-reducing measures, like express bus service and congestion pricing. White, who is thirty-six, and boyishly affable, was born into a Mormon family, and didn’t discover the pleasures of the bike—“mankind’s greatest invention”—until college, in Madison. When he left for graduate school, in Montana, his parents, who were by then living in Illinois, shipped his belongings via UPS, and he rode his Cannondale touring bike fifteen hundred miles. He now owns four bikes, including a beater that he leaves on the street, attached to a lamppost or a parking meter. He has let his driver’s license expire.

    “There’s this perception that we’re impeding the natural order of things,” White told me, over a beer at the bar beneath the T.A. office, on West Twenty-sixth Street. (His employees are forbidden from storing more than one bike at a time.) “It’s, like, ‘Get a car. Grow up. Men drive cars.’ You’re somehow a clown or a kid if you’re riding a bicycle.” The week before, the N.Y.P.D., in a move widely understood to target Critical Mass, had announced new “parade rules” requiring all groups of twenty or more bicyclists, or thirty-five or more pedestrians, to seek a permit before assembling. On cycling blogs, riders were trading stories of being stopped by plainclothes officers while crossing the Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges, and charged with improbable offenses (in one case, for riding thirty-three m.p.h.—a pace faster than Lance Armstrong’s). Steve Dunleavy, the longtime Post columnist, had just weighed in, siding with the cops and referring to cyclists as a cult of “pedal punks” and “kamikaze bike bullies.” (In return, the blog commenters referred to Post readers as “large-vehicle driving meatheads,” and asked people to consider “the auto-centric character of their Pocono real-estate section.”)

    In June, cycling advocates had lent their support to officials from the Department of Transportation who delivered a PowerPoint presentation to the largely black community board representing the neighborhoods of downtown Brooklyn, Fort Greene, and Clinton Hill, on the merits of adding five miles of bike lanes through the area. The presentation met with resistance — one man called bikers “thugs on two wheels” — and the board voted not to endorse the proposal. “They see cyclists as part of the gentrification wave,” White said, almost apologetically. He lives in Park Slope.

    “It’s the next big fight,” a biker who has been agitating to get cars permanently banned from the Central Park loop said recently. “I really think I’m doing God’s work.” He equated the current political moment with the nascent state of civil rights in the late nineteen-thirties. “Bicyclists are the niggers of New York,” he said.


    Critical Mass, according to its participants, is not a group but a recurring event. “An organized coincidence,” one regular rider told me. “No, a disorganized coincidence—a ‘happening,’ a temporary reorganization of public space.” (The coincidence is international: more than three hundred cities on six continents experience similar events.) Locally, there is no acknowledged leadership, and therefore no specified route, much to the chagrin of the police, who, from an operational standpoint, at least, would prefer chaperoning to chasing. Only the date (the last Friday of every month), the time (7 P.M.), and the starting point (Union Square) are known, and although these minimal guidelines must have originated with a person, they have become ingrained in the collective cycling consciousness, like natural law.

    Sometimes someone brings a trumpet and plays a fanfare, and the assembled riders, if inspired, will set off in one direction or another, spreading from the park and into the city grid, rendering each street they enter momentarily impervious to through traffic. But no one wants to go first, and the scene in the square can begin to seem like the main event, with people handing out flyers and pamphlets for associated causes (“The Essential Truth About 9-11,” “New York’s First and Only Solar-Powered Film Festival”).

    In the months just before the Republican Convention, the number of participants in Critical Mass swelled into the thousands, but fear of being arrested and a kind of weariness—Paul White now views the event as “a puerile cat-and-mouse game with the cops”—have since shrunk the bike brigades. On the last Friday in July, shortly after the new parade rules had been announced, a few hundred people converged at the north end of Union Square, riding all manner of bikes: recumbent, collapsible, tall, small. Police vans and squad cars ringed the perimeter. Norman Siegel, the former executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, was on hand, likening Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s new restrictions to the Administration’s restrictions on the rights of detainees at Gitmo—dual emblems, he felt, of extralegal executive power. “The bikers have basically thumbed their noses at the P.D.,” Siegel said. “They’re generally representative of New Yorkers—zany, a little rebellious, irreverent.” A woman wearing an American flag, and not much else, rode her bike slowly toward a cluster of officers, and then doubled back. Others passed out buttons that read, “Please Don’t Arrest Me—This is my permit.” On closer examination, they were recycled pins made by the antiwar group United for Peace and Justice, with customized paper labels glued over “No Blood for Oil.”

    Bill DiPaola, the founder of Time’s Up, an environmental organization that anchors the activist, theatrical wing of the cycling community, glanced around warily, sizing up the anti-insurgency forces. “We’re definitely seeing more cars with blacked-out windows,” he said. “We expect the usual hard-line unfriendliness.” He added, “When I say ‘we,’ I mean Time’s Up.” (DiPaola is one of four people named in a suit filed by the city to stop Time’s Up from promoting Critical Mass rides—arguing that they represent an official Critical Mass governing body.) Many protesters had armed themselves with recording equipment. “On this particular ride, there’s a lot of helmet cams,” DiPaola said. “I’d say there’s at least thirty-five video cameras here, probably close to sixty-five digital cameras, at least thirty legal observers, and ten lawyers.” He shrugged. “You know, there’s very few people riding their bikes here. Most of the people are here to document this time in history.”

    The only guy in the crowd wearing a necktie turned out to be a lawyer, named Gideon Oliver, who said that he’d defended more than a hundred bikers who had been arrested in the past year and a half. He doesn’t own a bike himself. “I’m terrified to ride in the city,” he said.

    A mustachioed police inspector named John Codiglia walked toward us. “Do you know if Jack Black is riding in this event?” he asked. “You see the gentleman with the gold mask over there?” He pointed to a short guy wearing a red-and-black cape, right out of “Nacho Libre.” “That’s Jack Black! I know it’s him.”

    After Codiglia walked away, Oliver said, “He’s the good cop.” He pointed at a dozen or so helmeted officers perched on mopeds, forming a straight line along the eastern edge of the park, facing in. “The guys on scooters are the bad cops. I know so many of them from court. That one over there, he accused somebody of riding his bike with a hundred other people, ‘perpendicular in the roadway,’ blocking traffic. And I asked him on the stand, ‘What’s “perpendicular” mean?’ He was, like, ‘You got me.’ ”

    I introduced myself to the masked man and asked his name. “NYMAAN,” he said, pointing to his cape, which was adorned with the words “New York Metro Anarchist Alliance.” He added, “I am an idea, not a person.” (His outfit advertised a Web site that features the heading “Notes from the global intifada.”) He rang the bell on his handlebar a couple of times, and began rolling his front tire back and forth. “You know what this means, right? I’m starting to get itchy.”

    A tall, middle-aged man with a striking blond mane approached on foot.

    “Hallelujah, the Devil!” he said, pointing at the caped biker. “I knew I’d meet the Devil eventually.”

    “No, I’m NYMAAN,” the biker said.

    The blond man was Bill Talen, a performance artist who goes by the name Reverend Billy and calls his congregation the Church of Stop Shopping. “One time, I was arrested at a Buy Nothing Day Parade,” he said, recalling a distant Friday evening. “We went in and exorcised a Starbucks cash register, and, sure enough, I got thrown in the holding tank at Fifty-fourth Street.

    And the cops that arrested me were really upset that they were missing this.” He opened his arms and turned, as though surveying his parish. “And I felt their erotic love of harassing the bicyclists. It was like they couldn’t date their favorite girl.”

    An associate of the Reverend’s, Michael O’Neill, the manager of the Church of Stop Shopping, soon joined the conversation. He, too, was on foot.

    “Community isn’t recognized unless it’s mediated through monetary transactions,” he said. “And the idea of a leaderless community, my God, they don’t even speak that language. I think this is all a pretext for pork-barrel N.Y.P.D. expenditures.”

    The sporadic jingling of bike bells gave way to a steady chime, which prompted the officers to start their engines, and the bicyclists began drifting out of the northwest corner of the park, along Seventeenth Street, followed by police scooters riding two by two. The deliberateness of the procession resembled a funeral cortege. “What this does, every month, every ride, every set of wheels on the road—we’re trying to change the values of the city,” O’Neill said.

    The first bust occurred a block away, at the corner of Seventeenth and Fifth Avenue, where a young bearded man from Red Hook ignored a red light. As one of the detaining officers wrote a ticket, a blond woman who appeared to be in her forties observed that the cop’s scooter was parked in the bike lane. (Video footage later provided incontrovertible evidence that the cops had ridden their scooters across the sidewalk.) The woman was riding a child’s bike, with a yellow license plate attached to the rear that read, “Bicycling: A Quiet Statement Against Oil Wars.”

    “You can go around it,” the cop said, sounding beleaguered. “You’ll fit.”

    A block and a half south, the woman noticed another bike-lane obstruction, this time a taxi. Policing cops was becoming her thing, and she accosted another officer: “You’re supposed to give him a ticket.”

    “What’s wrong? He’s just dropping off passengers.”

    “It’s illegal to be in the bike lane,” she said.

    “It’s illegal ?” he asked.

    Matthew Roth, another of the Time’s Up defendants, arrived at the scene, walking his bike along the curb. “Did you cite it?” he asked the woman. “It’s 4-08, subsection E. Tell him to get out his R.C.N.Y.”—Rules of the City of New York. “There’s very little enforcement of traffic laws, because people don’t know what they are,” Roth said as he continued south on foot, using his palm to steady the seat of his bike. His knuckles bore the telltale scars of a New York City cycling career.


    Tom Bernardin knows the traffic laws as well as anyone. In fact, he has often dreamed, while looking out his apartment window at midday, of sketching the intersection of Fourteenth Street and Seventh Avenue to document all the traffic violations he observes. “You know, like those line drawings from when you were a kid — ‘Circle everything that’s wrong with this picture,’ ” he says.

    He has never encountered a Critical Mass rally (“I actually time my activities to avoid people as much as possible”), but he occasionally engages in his own kind of protest theatre, marching into a nearby noodle shop on Sixth Avenue to deliver what he calls “performance pieces,” in which he complains loudly about civic transgressions.

    Several years ago, Bernardin, who works as a freelance tour guide, started an anti-noise group called FANNY (Friends Against Noisy New York), but lately he has concluded that the problem is intractable. “Noise is the bastard child of the environmental movement,” he says. His latest cause, which he announced in the winter, 2006, edition of the Greenwich Village Block Association News, is pedestrian safety, and by his reckoning the enemy is not S.U.V.s but Schwinns. “No doubt the most egregious assault on the lives of all New Yorkers in recent times is the relatively new phenomenon of sidewalk bicycling,” he wrote. “Remember the sidewalks before the Pooper Scooper law? ... Without the mayor, police commissioner, and media stepping up to the plate for this problem, perhaps, we all had better be prepared to continue to dodge these louts.”

    Bernardin’s rant prompted a follow-up in the spring edition, entitled “Back to Bikes,” with many more Village residents weighing in. Ostensibly, the piece was about the “problem” of bicycles, like Paul White’s beater, that remain locked (or “leashed”) to public street furniture for extended periods, cluttering the neighborhood. “Every time I round the corner on to Morton Street, the first thing I see is the bikes everywhere, rather than the tulips and daffodils,” one man complained.

    But others evidently perceived Manhattan bikes as akin to hybrid cars in Hollywood: conspicuous presumption. “They don’t care how what they do affects others and you’re not going to change their attitude,” one resident said of bikers. “They’re morally superior because they are not polluting the atmosphere.”

    The hierarchy of urban piety is ever delicate. Still another Villager, a biking enthusiast, railed against the unctuousness of the anti-bike pedestrians. “I’m tired of joggers using the bike path, getting in the way,” he said. “They tell us to get off our bikes and jog because it’s more environmentally sensitive. To them bikes are manufactured things. The metals that go into them are mined. And there’s the plastic, too . . . made from oil.”


    “The changes in the neighborhood are really disheartening,” Bernardin said late one recent Friday morning, when I met him in front of his building for a tour of local cycling offenses. I had come prepared for a long walk, but Bernardin, who has a white beard and was wearing an untucked polo shirt, jeans, sneakers, and shades, seemed to think that stepping the twenty or so yards to the corner of Fourteenth Street would more than suffice. “I’m really aware of my environment when I’m in public,” he said. “Between the front of the building and the curb”—he was suddenly distracted by the grating jangle of a passing motorcycle (“That’s illegal: straight pipes”)—“is a sacred space.”

    As Bernardin sees it, the Village has become an extended college campus for text-messaging, iPod-impaired young professionals who can’t be bothered to cook or say hello in the elevator and the “hellions” who deliver them their takeout. Both groups share a habit of defiant, reckless bicycling that invades the sidewalk, threatening the elderly and the infirm. “They’re very self-righteous, and they’re angry,” he said of bicyclists. “But you know what?” He jabbed his index finger toward the sidewalk three times in succession, and said, “This ain’t broken.” Then he thrust his arm out toward the street: “Fix that. ” He stomped and pointed once more at the sidewalk. “But don’t break this.”

    Bernardin used to ride a bike, while cataloguing bishop’s-crook lampposts (for the Friends of Cast-Iron Architecture) and freestanding clock faces. (He is the founder of Save America’s Clocks, an organization whose motto is “Non-working clocks betray the public trust and send out a message that nobody’s home.”) Then, about ten years ago, he was riding north on Sixth Avenue, “doing everything legal,” he says, when another biker came tearing around the corner, “illegally,” at Twenty-second Street and clipped him; he spilled, and barely missed having his head crushed by a passing car. The incident could be a Rorschach for civic activists. To a cycling advocate, what’s salient is the fact that Bernardin was nearly killed by an automobile.

    Bernardin, however, saw two agents obeying the traffic laws—himself and the car driver—and a third who, by flouting them, introduced the element of danger.

    “It sounds like a rattlesnake coming up behind you,” he said, as he scanned the intersection for bikes. “The chain: clickety-clack, clickety-clack. I find it so selfish. If you hook up a blood-pressure machine to me, you’ll see that it just spikes every time I hear that noise.” So far, however, he’d seen only potential victims: “See this person with a cane, that woman with a stroller?”

    At last, a violator of the college-grad variety buzzed past us, disrupting the sacred space. “Bang! This guy right here,” Bernardin said. “And here’s another—the chicken guy.” An Asian man on a rickety five-speed with a big basket in front had emerged from Dirty Bird, a restaurant on Fourteenth Street, and begun riding east along the sidewalk, swerving to avoid a few pedestrians who, judging from the upward, indecisive tilt of their heads, seemed to be tourists. The light turned red as the chicken guy reached the corner; he hadn’t worked up enough speed to hazard a Frogger-like crossing, so he stopped short, his front tire nearly brushing up against a pair of teen-age girls. Bernardin stepped forward. “Do you know this is illegal?” he asked.

    The man looked bewildered. The light changed, and he continued east in the crosswalk (which is also illegal), twice looking back over his shoulder at Bernardin, who had already moved on and begun reminiscing about his activist past. “I just have to be involved, doing stuff,” he said. “It makes me a happier person if I’m concerned and doing things.”

    But the noise was getting to him. A bike swerved, causing a truck to brake (screech), and Bernardin’s shoulders pinched, just as an accordion bus stopped to disgorge passengers (hiss—beep! beep! beep!), amid the usual chorus of horns and sirens. “And don’t even get me started on cell phones,” he said. “For me”—he turned his palms up and mimicked the scales of justice—“it’s bubonic plague, cell phones, bubonic plague, cell phones.” At that moment, a cyclist, heading south on Seventh Avenue, passed by with his right hand held to his ear. “Course, then you see the real jerks—bicycling and talking on cell phones,” Bernardin said. “Who’s getting satisfaction out of that conversation?”

    Pedestrians are sinners, too. On occasions when Bernardin has had to rent a car, he has noticed that the street “turns into a funnel,” owing not only to the jostling of the bikes, buses, and trucks but to all the impatient pedestrians “testing the waters,” as he put it. “Look at these jerks here,” he said, gesturing at the crosswalk, where pedestrians were edging out into street, waiting for the light to change. “I used to do that when I was a kid. I’m over that. I’ve learned to be a good pedestrian.”

    Across the street, the deliveryman from Dirty Bird was returning. He rode west, in the crosswalk, and then up onto the curb once more. Bernardin lit a cigarette as he contemplated confronting the restaurant’s management, but, after inhaling deeply, thought better of it. “I don’t need another enemy in the neighborhood,” he said. He tossed his cigarette butt in the street and said that he planned to take a nap—with earplugs in, and the air-conditioning turned up. It was noon, and he’d been awake since five, when the garbage trucks began their daily rounds.


    After a Critical Mass ride dissipates, the most committed riders often reassemble at 49 East Houston Street, where Time’s Up has its headquarters, to compile on-the-spot video replays and add to the dossier of police brutality. (In May, a cyclist suffered a broken collarbone after a collision with the door of a police car.) Peter Meitzler, who is the treasurer of the New York City Pedicab Owners’ Association, was among the twenty-seven people who received summonses during the July ride. “This is kind of like the empire’s last couple of gasps, coming after the bikers,” he said, while standing outside Time’s Up, waiting for Bill DiPaola to unlock the door. “A couple of more power failures and I think the complete paradigm’s going to change.”

    Inside, where tires hung overhead, as in a mechanic’s garage, DiPaola led me to the refrigerator, which was covered with Polaroids of suspected undercover cops who’d been known to hang around biking events, as well as yellowing Times clips from a multipart series on domestic spying. (The most recent, from December 22, 2005, cited video evidence of covert N.Y.P.D. infiltration at a street vigil for a deceased cyclist.) A young man interrupted: “Where’s the beer hidden?”

    DiPaola eyed him and hesitated. “Uh, in the bathroom,” he said. When the young man left, DiPaola turned to a Time’s Up volunteer, Liane Nikitovich (nom de guerre: Nikita), who had surrounded herself with cameras and was attending to all the arriving documentary footage. “Who is that guy?” he asked.

    “I invited him,” Nikita said. “He’s a videographer.”

    A large television was placed on the end of a long table, and video footage was fed through in a continuous loop. There was the woman wearing the American flag—it flew up behind her like a cape as she picked up speed, exposing her naked back. In the East Village, riders were chanting in cadence, “More bikes, less cars!” Back again at a busy midtown intersection: one group stopped at a red light, dismounted, and lifted their bikes above their heads like trophies.

    DiPaola was smiling, and seemed fully at ease for the first time all night. “You see the look on the cops’ faces when people on the sidewalks cheer us?” he said. “They hate it.”


    Studies have shown that the surest way to make biking safer is to make it more popular—to increase visibility and awareness among motorists. (“You’re like the Invisible Man out there,” a biker told me.) To make it popular, it must be seen as fun. But riding in heavy traffic, while obeying all lights and signs, is not fun.

    Paul White has been working on a cyclists’ code of ethics for the members of Transportation Alternatives to sign, and, although he’s sensitive to complaints about scofflaw cyclists, he’s been very careful about the wording.

    “It doesn’t say, ‘Stop at all red lights,’ ” he said. “Really, the heart of it is yielding to pedestrians. That’s a low-hanging fruit for us. They’re getting around under their own power, just like you.” He took a sip of beer. “Sure, they jaywalk. Sure, they’re oblivious sometimes. But, you know, give them a break.”

    Of course, some people’s fun is another person’s nightmare. The completion of the thirteen-mile greenway along the Hudson has inspired a great many people—five thousand, on a good day—to ride their bikes. According to Michael Smith, a veteran city cyclist, the new riders tend to wear spandex and helmets and go very fast, with a great sense of purpose, on expensive machines. Smith is a member of Right of Way, an organization “dedicated to the overthrow of car tyranny.” On its Web site, he wrote, “Back when we were all fighting the cars on the street, I felt a certain sense of solidarity.

    But now that we’ve got this dedicated — or sorta dedicated — space, I’m finding out that a lot of us are, well, assholes . . . just like that Guido in the S.U.V. who nearly killed you on Sixth Avenue last week.” Smith longed for a return of that “good, mutinous urban attitude” about cycling, where “we’d just laugh at the stoplights, and give the finger to the indignant, honking drivers. And we’d all feel like comrades or co-conspirators or something.” The “drivers on bikes,” as he called them, are really suburbanites in disguise. “Will they—please God!—move to ****ing Scarsdale as soon as their kids are born?”

    A few weeks ago, local bike-shop proprietors began noticing an uptick in flat tires, and it emerged that vandals, evidently sharing Smith’s feelings about the would-be suburban speedsters, had been placing carpet tacks, like I.E.D.s, along the greenway between 137th Street and the George Washington Bridge.

    Meanwhile, the Police Department, after withdrawing its initial parade restrictions in the face of public opposition, has announced a revised proposal that is not substantially different. (Transportation Alternatives sent out an e-mail bulletin to its members, contending that the department is “just playing with numbers.”) A hearing has been set for November 27th, and cyclists, under the auspices of the Assemble for Rights Coalition, are planning a group ride from Union Square to One Police Plaza.


    Not long ago, Tom Bernardin went to see his old friend Margot Gayle, to whom he paid tribute in “The Ellis Island Immigrant Cookbook,” which he self-published in 1991, and in whose honor he defends the sidewalk. Gayle, at ninety-eight, is the last of the original preservationists; she helped bail Jane Jacobs out of jail, and led the fight to save the Jefferson Market Courthouse from demolition, putting together a committee that included E. E. Cummings and Lewis Mumford. For many years, she lived on West Ninth Street. She would walk a mile a day, dodging bikers and skateboarders and rollerbladers. (“She’d shake her cane at them,” Bernardin told me.) Now mostly deaf and confined to a wheelchair, Gayle has made a few concessions to the gentrified, Bloombergian city: she lives in a high-rise apartment building on the Upper East Side and visits Starbucks every day.

    Bernardin arrived carrying a bouquet of flowers. The walls of the apartment were covered with plaques and tributes: “Intractable Foe of Vandals and Rapacious Developers,” “In Recognition of Successful Advocacy for Preservation,” a framed letter from Bill Clinton.

    “Do you still ride your bicycle?” she asked him.

    “No, I was hit,” he said. “I was on my bicycle, and another bicycle hit me and it knocked me down.”

    She reflected on her younger days, when she, too, was a rider. “They were very useful, and people enjoyed their bicycles very much,” she said. “But too many automobiles—it’s dangerous now.”

    Bernardin said that he thought the ramped indentations in the curb at corners were to blame. Gayle couldn’t make out what he was saying, so he wrote it on an index card: “I think curb cuts are the problem.”
    She looked alarmed. “You do? Why?”

    He made a wavy gesture with his hand, and said, “They go right up on the sidewalk.”

    “But of course I like them, being in a wheelchair.”

    “Well, that’s why they’re there,” he conceded. “That’s the good part of them.” (Sidewalk bicycling—the bane of the elderly and disabled—did not become epidemic until the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, in 1990.)

    Gayle complained some more about automobile traffic: “It spoils the air and endangers pedestrians and people with baby carriages.” They talked about Washington Square Park (“It’s all N.Y.U.—they just want it for themselves,” Bernardin said), and about the Yorkville clock, nearby, which Gayle had helped Bernardin restore. “I’m worried about that clock now,” she said.
    “They’re building a big building a block away—excavating.”

    Bernardin promised to check on it. As he was leaving, she handed him two postcards to mail on his way out. One read, “Save the Graving Dock,” and featured a picture of a dormant shipyard in Red Hook. The other called for preservation of the former Domino sugar refinery in Williamsburg.

    “She is the role model of all time,” Bernardin said in the elevator. “She never took a cab.”

    Copyright © CondéNet 2006

  9. #54

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    December 3, 2006

    Drunken Driver Kills Rider on Bicycle Path, Police Say

    By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE and KATE HAMMER

    A drunken driver mistakenly turned onto a Hudson River bike path in Manhattan and drove nearly a mile before killing a 22-year-old bicyclist Friday night, the police said yesterday.

    The driver, Eugenio Cidron of East Fourth Street, left a party at the Chelsea Piers sports complex and drove his silver BMW down the bike path, hitting the cyclist, Eric Ng, around 9:40 p.m., according to the police.

    Mr. Ng was hit near the intersection of West Street and Clarkson Street. The force of the impact mangled his bicycle and sent one of his sneakers into the air. He was pronounced dead at the scene.



    Mr. Cidron, 27, was arrested and charged with vehicular manslaughter, reckless endangerment and driving while intoxicated, the authorities said. When reached by phone, Mr. Cidron declined to comment.

    Mr. Ng was active in Time’s Up, a New York-based environmental group that promotes cycling as an alternative to driving. He was at least the second cyclist struck by a vehicle and killed this year on the path, a popular route for the city’s riders, and one that pedestrians and motor vehicles from several city departments also use.

    In June, Dr. Carl H. Nacht, a 56-year-old physician, died after being struck by a police tow truck as he rode on his bicycle along the path near West 38th Street.

    The path is intersected at many points by roadways that connect the West Side Highway to sites including the sports complex, a city waste transfer station and a police impound lot.

    Mr. Cidron traveled south along a cobblestone access road after leaving a Chelsea Piers parking facility and apparently meant to turn onto the West Side Highway, park workers said yesterday morning.

    But he cut his turn short and ended up on the bicycle path instead.
    To do so, he had to drive over or around a narrow, three-foot plastic pylon mounted south of where the bike path intersects the Chelsea Piers access road. The park workers repaired the pylon yesterday.

    It was the only physical barrier visible yesterday anywhere along the section of the path where Mr. Cidron had driven.

    Though Mr. Cidron’s wrong turn appeared to be accidental, some cyclists who frequent the path — one of the quickest routes for cyclists to travel in Manhattan — say they have been dismayed at what they described as a recent increase in vehicles traveling along it.

    “I have seen passenger cars, limousines, taxis and contractor’s vehicles including those of the Police, Sanitation and Parks Department,” said Philipp Rassmann, 38, a member of Time’s Up. He complained that the pylons placed along the path are often removed by workers and left on the side of the path.

    Mr. Rassmann also said that the area around Chelsea Piers was especially dangerous because of an array of crisscrossing car, bus and taxi lanes with few signs.

    Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, which advocates measures to make cycling safer, said that the bike path was one of the safest in the city, which sometimes “lulls people into a false sense of security.”

    Mr. Ng was an avid biker and often participated in group bike rides known as Critical Mass, his friends said. Until recently, he rode an old bike handed down from his father, but in August he purchased a brand-new bike, painted it silver and blue, and named it Adeline.

    Reached at home in East Brunswick, N.J., Mr. Ng’s father, Tony Ng, said he was “a great son” who had worked hard in school and found joy in his budding career as a teacher. He had recently graduated from the Department of Education’s teaching fellow program and had been substitute teaching at Automotive High School in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, while waiting for permanent placement, his friends said.

    “He loved the kids. He had a rapport with them,” Tony Ng said.

    The police said that Mr. Ng’s new bike had been equipped with reflectors, but that they could not tell if it had bike lights. Both are required by city law.
    Mr. Ng’s father said he had installed the reflectors on his son’s new bike personally, and had urged him to wear a helmet — optional for riders 14 and over — when riding. The police said that Mr. Ng was not wearing a helmet when he was hit.

    Mr. Ng graduated this year from New York University, where he majored in math, friends said. He lived with friends in Greenpoint.

    “He was just a real joyous, smart, sweet, good person,” said Ryan Nuckle, 25, a friend and fellow cyclist. “He was always smiling, and I was always happy to see him.”

    Cara Buckley contributed reporting.

    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

  10. #55
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    This is so sad ^^^ ...

    The insertion of narrow metal bollards along the bikeway where it is crossed by roadways would seem a no-brainer.

    Similarly, about two weeks ago I saw a clueless out-of-state driver drive pull right into Battery Park and continue driving along a pedestrian walkway until she had almost reached the point where the steps lead down to the waterfront promenade. Bollards at the sidewalk a few hundred yards back would have made such a drive impossible.

  11. #56

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    Immovable bollards might turn out to be a hazard to bikers. Kids use the bikeway.

    There are only a few places where this sort of mistake would be an issue, and could be handled with more explicit signs identifying the bikeway as off-limits to motor vehicles. Once I saw someone with out-of-state plates turn into it at 43rd St, but he quickly realized that it was too narrow for cars, and backed up.

    Anyone who got all the way to Clarkson St without realizing he was not on a city street was sufficiently impaired that it was likely he was going to cause an accident before he got home.

  12. #57
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    Good point.

    The problem here is not so much the roadway but drunkdriving.

    No matter how much you make the road safe, if someone decides to drink and drive, there's gonna be a disaster.

  13. #58

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    Editorial

    Bike path terror

    One would think bike paths are safer than city streets for bicycles. And one would hope a bike path that’s clearly separated from the street by a planted median with a low wall, such as the Hudson River bike path, would be even safer. But, tragically, just within the last five months, there have been two bicyclists killed on the Hudson River bike path.

    The path is certainly safer than the city’s streets, but the recent tragedies make it obvious it is not safe. We understand why cyclists get little sympathy in this city – many often violate traffic laws, scaring and injuring pedestrians. There is no excuse for this behavior, but if the city committed to building the kind of biking systems common in European cities, it would not be a boon to safety, it would also have environmental benefits by reducing the amount of death.

    The first bike path death, of Dr. Carl Nacht in June after being struck on the path at W. 36th St. by a tow truck from the Police Department tow pound, highlighted one problem with the path — that it’s not a bona fide greenway, since it’s intersected at numerous points by crossing car traffic.

    When Eric Ng, 22, died last Friday, however, in a collision with a driver speeding down the Hudson River bike path after drinking at an office party at Chelsea Piers, it cast a spotlight on another extremely dangerous condition: The fact that cars can — and do — drive onto the bike path. And, according to reports, cars are doing so more frequently.

    Construction of the Tribeca section of the Hudson River Park brings more vehicles across the path. And getting municipal uses to quickly leave the waterfront isn’t easy, as can be seen by the Sanitation garage on Gansevoort Peninsula. But now the waterfront is being reclaimed for parks and greenways and, for bikers at least, this dynamic is causing a dangerous conflict.

    Raising new fears is what happened to Ng. We’re glad to hear the Hudson River Park Trust is working with other agencies and Transportation Alternatives to find some immediate solutions so that cars don’t ever get on this bike path again.

    For certain, more markings and signage are needed. And perhaps some new barrier system is needed other than the bend-down yellow bollards located currently only at a few spots on the path. With more commercial uses planned for the waterfront at Pier 57 and possibly Pier 40 — bringing more drivers, attending more parties and functions where alcohol will be served — this serious situation must be addressed, quickly.

    A safe Lower Manhattan connection from the Hudson to the East River path has been talked about for too long with little action. The East path has it’s own share of problems and city planners should look carefully at the West Side problems as they design the new East River waterfront Downtown.

    It shouldn’t have taken deaths to prompt action, but it will be an even greater tragedy if inadequate solutions are proposed to prevent the next Eric Ng-type death.

    Downtown Express is published by
    Community Media LLC.
    145 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10013




    A redesign to the bikeway was just completed at Gansevoort Penninsula. Previously, sanitation trucks turned right off RT 9A at Bloomfield St (the brown stone wall in the background). It tied up the roadway, and made it difficult for the truck driver to see north on the bikeway.

    The turn was eliminated, the bikeway was curved to allow an exit ramp off RT 9A, and trucks are oriented perpendicular to the bikeway so the driver has a good view in each direction.

  14. #59
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ZippyTheChimp View Post
    Immovable bollards might turn out to be a hazard to bikers. Kids use the bikeway.
    I would rather my kid hit a bollard than a car Zip.

    You only have to space the bollards out at 6 feet or so, not like anything else. It is not designed to stop someone from breaking in or attacking, just to make it physically impossible to do it passively.

    There are only a few places where this sort of mistake would be an issue, and could be handled with more explicit signs identifying the bikeway as off-limits to motor vehicles. Once I saw someone with out-of-state plates turn into it at 43rd St, but he quickly realized that it was too narrow for cars, and backed up.
    I agree with that, but not completely. My wife is not a driver. I am trying to get her to practice to get her license, but she does not "see" 'Do Not Enter' signs and one way arrows. Signs in some of these locations, such as up by Chelsea, would also do little to stop incidents like Ng....

    Anyone who got all the way to Clarkson St without realizing he was not on a city street was sufficiently impaired that it was likely he was going to cause an accident before he got home.
    True, but I would have rather had him on a street and hitting another car than a cyclist. The car and passengers would have stood a better chance....


    Also, I am in agreement with all the people siting municipal workers and other vehicles using the paths and whatnot. These should be ELIMINATED!!! There is NO reason to have that damn parks pickup truck driving around the walkways. They are just too lackadaisical about it. And cops? For guys that will use their lights to go through a red light they do not feel like waiting for, you really need bollards to prevent some of them from using the path as they see fit.....


    And don't even get me started about the "bike lanes" across the city. I think they should be renamed "Hit a biker with your car door" lanes... :P

  15. #60

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ninjahedge View Post
    I would rather my kid hit a bollard than a car Zip.
    That's no answer.

    If the guy was drunk enough to enter the bikeway, he was drunk enough to just ignore the traffic light that controls the intersection with the bikeway, and broadside a cyclist.

    Drivers leaving the tow pound, while the light is red onto RT 9A, frequently cross the walkway and bikeway while waiting for the light.

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