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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
New York, July 3, 2013
Labels: Anti-Car, Cycling, Cycling and Safety, Traffic in SF