Monday, July 08, 2013

Cycling as a "privileged mode" in the city
















This exchange is from the New York Times:

Invitation to a Dialogue: Cycling in the city
To the Editor:

The horrendous bicycle congestion in Amsterdam portends my worst fears for New York City if Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s crusade to promote cycling at any cost is not scaled back by his successor.

In addition to the ubiquitous tombstone-like parking stands for the new bike-sharing program, Citi Bike, more and more bikes are appearing on our sidewalks, clumsily chained in bunches to anything stationary, cluttering pedestrian areas and complicating emergency services, trash collection and sanitation.

The density and vertical nature of our city mean that hundreds of cyclists could live, and park, on a single block, leaving neighborhoods with all the charm of a junkyard.

Cycling should be neither deterred nor promoted, but certainly not singled out as a privileged mode of conveyance whose operators enjoy segregated lanes, free parking and exemption from the licensing,
insurance and safety precautions (like helmets) required for other two-wheeled vehicles such as motorcycles.

GARY TAUSTINE
New York, June 25, 2013

Kudos to Mr. Taustine for highlighting the clutter and chaos caused by Mayor Bloomberg’s bicycle obsession. But even worse than the mess around the sidewalks is the virtual anarchy on the avenues due to the bike lane redesign.

Try driving (for example) up Third Avenue, or down Ninth Avenue, on any given workday and you will find a Kafkaesque scene: a bike lane next to the curb, a parking lane in the middle of traffic, an ad hoc lane for double-parked delivery trucks, and a bus lane. That often leaves only one lane for through traffic. These avenues are now regularly backed up for blocks, exhaust belching from tailpipes, with pedestrians and delivery people dodging both bikes and oncoming traffic.

As an avid cyclist I applaud the goal of a healthier and cleaner New York City. But as someone who lives, works and drives in Manhattan, I can’t imagine a more absurd endeavor than trying to turn the city into a rural bike utopia.

STUART GOTTLIEB
New York, July 1, 2013

Bike clutter is not the problem---pedestrian safety is. I would gladly accept some bike clutter in exchange for fewer cars congesting the streets and polluting the air if cyclists didn’t make taxi drivers seem like paragons of road safety.

A few years ago an acquaintance was killed by a bicyclist riding the wrong way down a Manhattan street. It seems that every Manhattanite I know has had either a narrow escape or injury from a delivery, messenger or ordinary bicyclist.

I’ve never seen a police officer take action against a bicyclist endangering pedestrians, running red lights or going the wrong way on a one-way street. I have, however, often seen bicyclists race down bike lanes outside hospitals, playgrounds and senior citizen residences as if they were practicing for the Tour de France.

Most noncommercial bicyclists are prudent, but as with cars, the police need to guard the public from the aggressors not just behind the wheel, but above two wheels.

DAVID MACHLOWITZ
Westfield, N.J., July 1, 2013

As a teenager I spent a year living in The Hague, in the Netherlands. I rode a bicycle every day---to school, to see friends, to the park and to shop. It was a glorious year. But New York City is not the Netherlands.

The Dutch have built a
complete infrastructure for their bicycles. All cities, towns and highways have separate bicycle lanes, with curbs separating the bike from the auto traffic. And the downtowns have bicycle parking garages scattered here and there, where the bikes are stacked and hung in very small spaces, allowing for storage off the street or sidewalk.

Aside from the impossibility of building such an extensive network of new bicycle lanes, just coming to terms with the storage is, I believe, more than New York City can manage.

JAMES HADLEY
Providence, R.I., July 1, 2013

Let me get this straight: Gary Taustine, moved by The Times’s article about Amsterdam’s bicycle culture, is concerned that the loud, carbon-belching car and truck traffic that now clogs up the streets and neighborhoods and pollutes the air of New York might be replaced by quiet, environmentally friendly bicycles? The city should be so lucky.

Has Mr. Taustine ever been to Amsterdam, where the only sound on the streets at night is the whirring of bicycle freewheels and the conversations taking place between riders as they pedal the streets of one of the world’s most livable cities? Anyone who believes that cycling should not be promoted in our cities is seriously out of touch with the reality of urban, environmental and personal well-being.

STEVEN NADLER
Madison, Wis., July 1, 2013


The Writer Responds
As pleasant as Mr. Nadler makes Amsterdam sound, I think Mr. Hadley put it best: “New York City is not the Netherlands.” Our streets are too narrow to accommodate separate lanes for cyclists, and our sidewalks are already too cramped to store their bikes.

Right now, about 1 percent of New York’s population commutes via bicycle, and that alone has resulted in the nightmare so vividly described by Mr. Gottlieb. Imagine what would happen if that number climbed to 5 percent.

We’d all love to live in a city free from auto pollution, but as far as I can see, adding bicycle lanes has not reduced the number of cars; it has instead increased gridlock, leaving cars idling in traffic longer, spewing even more pollution.

As for the Citi Bike racks, I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. To my eye they are the most disturbing clash of blue and gray since Gettysburg. Besides, why should a privately owned, for-profit enterprise be allowed to occupy huge swaths of public streets and sidewalks, rather than rent space like other enterprises?

Let’s hope our next mayor brings this city back from the brink of total chaos to the mere bedlam of yore. We either stop this now, or watch in horror as the greatest city in the world jumps the shark...on a bicycle.

GARY TAUSTINE
New York, July 3, 2013
 

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14 Comments:

At 10:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But as someone who lives, works and drives in Manhattan, I can’t imagine a more absurd endeavor than trying to turn the city into a rural bike utopia."

This guy talks about the "1% of cyclists", which is really rich. The percentage of NYC residents who can afford to live in Manhattan and own a car in Manhattan is vanishingly small. He makes it sound like he represents the "working class" but probably makes northwards of $1M per year.

 
At 10:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

NYC streets more narrow than those of Amsterdam? My I suggest some world travel?

Unreal.

 
At 12:06 PM, Anonymous Gregski said...

Good to finally read some discussion that challenges the first principle of social engineers like Bloomberg and his ilk: That it is an appropriate role for the state to determine which lawful and time-honored means of surface transportation its citizens are to utilize.

Given that our homeland is not Cuba or North Korea I have always wondered when my fellow citizens decided it was a good idea to allow our governments to arrogate this power with barely a murmur of protest.

 
At 1:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That it is an appropriate role for the state to determine which lawful and time-honored means of surface transportation its citizens are to utilize.

How is Bloomberg undermining that? "Lawful and time-honored"? It was lawful and time-honored to ride a horse down 5th Avenue. Now you can't.

Stop with the rhetoric.

 
At 3:17 PM, Blogger Rkeezy said...

Cyclists are not interested in the reality of the impacts of their agenda - idling cars consuming more gasoline than ever before. More confrontations between commuters, more unsafe movements. More anger.

 
At 10:10 AM, Anonymous Gregski said...

Stop with the rhetoric yourself.

If horseback riding is outlawed then it can no longer be considered a lawful activity now, can it? New Yorkers sensibly enabled horses to use their streets freely when horses were the most popular means of transportation and utility. When motor vehicles relegated horses to minor recreational use New York transformed its laws to accomodate that. The government didn't coerce people off horses and it has no constitutional grounds for coercing people out of motor vehicles.

If San Francisco were truly a government of the people it would take note of the throngs of citizens waiting for overcrowded Muni vehicles and address that demand with expanded public transportation. But, hey, that would mean giving people what they want, demonstrated by peoples' actual choices, rather than what our commissars believe we need, demonstrated by "surveys" and faith-based cyclepath religion.

 
At 12:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If San Francisco were truly a government of the people it would take note of the throngs of citizens waiting for overcrowded Muni vehicles and address that demand with expanded public transportation.

If that's what you want, why are you not in support of measures that would increase revenue for MUNI by increasing the cost to own and operate a private vehicle? Because you don't actually care about MUNI, you use it as a red herring to rail on people who ride bicycles.

 
At 11:37 AM, Anonymous Gregski said...

I guess if my best argument were to make up statements that my opponent never wrote I would post anonymously too.

I wrote nothing about whether or not I support "measures" to enhance Muni revenue at the expense of motorists. Last I checked there's already a longstanding such "measure" in place: The gasoline-diesel excise tax.

You are the one advancing straw men here. Making unsubstantiated presuppositions to detract readers' attention from the fact that unmet demand for public transportation is REAL whereas unmet demand for bike lanes on Masonic is hypothetical. You'll see more people queued up for the N-Judah at Stanyan at any 10-minute interval than you'll see cyclists on Masonic for the entire hour of 8-9am. The Muni bus line on Masonic carries over 30,000 riders per day. It will be slowed during rush hours by the permanent lane restriction. And that will benefit HOW many cyclists per day?

If measures to assist Muni are valuable to YOU then you will quit defending this measure which cripples Muni.

 
At 9:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last I checked there's already a longstanding such "measure" in place: The gasoline-diesel excise tax.

Aside from the fact that nothing from that tax ends up in MUNI's coffers, you have a good point!

You are advancing the straw man that this is a zero sum game, that we cannot build bike lanes except at the expense of improving MUNI service. How pray tell does any work on bike lanes mess up the N-Judah?

You know what messes up the N-Judah? The several motorists per year who drive into the MUNI tunnel. The several motorists per day who double park on the N-Judah tracks in the Inner Sunset and at Cole/Carl. Please do tell us what exactly Ed Reiskin should be doing to improve the N-Judah that skipping the Masonic project would solve?

Because I can tell you this - if there are already people queued up at Stanyan for the N-Judah, every single person who rides a bike instead of the N-Judah is one more person who doesn't get bumped off the N-Judah. All the bike infrastructure in the wildest dreams of the dreaded SF Bike Coalition would not pay for 4 light rail vehicles, and it sure as hell won't pay for any signal modifications or another tunnel.

Take a look at Market Street someday and count the cyclists, then imagine adding them to the MUNI buses. Impossible.

 
At 6:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Gas tax" is wrong, dipshit

 
At 7:23 PM, Anonymous Gregski said...

Thank you for making my case for me by listing Muni problems, such as the N-Judah tunnel, that could be addressed with the 18 million dollars that have just been allocated to make a few score cyclists more "comfortable" on Masonic by removing two lanes that are currently used by Muni busses during peak hours.

Yes, it IS a zero-sum game. There is only so much space on Masonic and its sidewalks. Every inch dedicated to one mode of transit is an inch deducted from other modes.

Thank you also for your affirmation of your religious faith with the "every person who rides a bike instead of the N-Judah" comment. Ah, the miracle of the mode shift. Let us pray...

 
At 9:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Listing Muni problems, such as the N-Judah tunnel, that could be addressed with the 18 million dollars that have just been allocated to make a few score cyclists more "comfortable" on Masonic by removing two lanes that are currently used by Muni busses during peak hours.


You are correct. This problem could be addressed by SEVERE enforcement against drunk drivers who REPEATEDLY drive into the N Judah tunnel.

What kind of moron are you? The problem of cars driving into the N Judah tunnel has been addressed - IT IS A BIG FUCKING TUNNEL WITH MUNI TRACKS IN IT.

Somehow the problem with the tunnel is that we spend money to put in bike lanes and not the fact that shithead drivers drive into A FUCKING TUNNEL WITH MUNI TRACKS IN IT?

Oh please...

 
At 9:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, the miracle of the mode shift. Let us pray...

Amusing that you belittle mode shift to transit within a week of us testing just how bad things are when the entirety of BART's ridership has to shift modes off of BART....

 
At 11:13 AM, Blogger Mark Kaepplein said...

Motor vehicles need to have right of way priority over pedestrians and cyclists because it results in cleaner air. A pedestrian or cyclist having to wait their turn to go wastes no extra fuel or produces more greenhouse gas, while a motor vehicle having to yield for them does. Be green, wait your turn.

If Muni needs more funding, then they should look to new sources like bicycle registrations and licenses. Bike registration can help deter theft just as it does with motor vehicles. Everyone wins. Parking meters and cages with locking mechanisms for bikes are another revenue opportunity.

 

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