Monday, March 30, 2009

Fund Transit or Else...

The danger of subway cuts and fare hikes looms. Keeping the transit system in decent shape affects more than your commute to work. It’s a public safety issue. The proposed MTA “doomsday” service cuts puts the past 15 years of public-safety gains in jeopardy.
Read the whole story here.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Killing pedestrians should be a crime

Kind of a no-brainer. But usually, the driver isn't even charged! Part of the problem is that it's not exactly clear what crime is committed when a car jumps the curb and mows down innocent people.

Here's the answer: make driving on the sidewalk an arrestable offense. It's not something you have to arrest a driver for. But when you come on the scene and somebody is dead, it gives police something to charge the driver with.

Our Bridge

The Queensboro. 100 years old.

Beautiful photo in the Times by James Barron:

Friday, March 27, 2009

Van Kills Pregnant Woman on Sidewalk

From the story in the Times
There were two men in the front seat, a driver and passenger, and the passenger was leaning out the window and yelling at and harassing the women, Mr. Contreras said, citing his coworker’s account. All of a sudden, he said, the van shot up suddenly onto the curb.
The van appeared to have gone onto the sidewalk at a 45-degree angle and to have knocked over a Muni-Meter (a kind of parking meter that controls multiple spaces), a black metal signpost and a metal yellow bollard, one of two put in front of the Muni-Meter to prevent it from being knocked over.
Mr. Contreras’s footage showed the injured women lying on the ground. He said of the woman who died, “She was almost cut in half. I feel sick.”

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Great Blight of Dullness

I had to bike up to 187 Street in the Bronx yesterday. In the giant jigsaw puzzle of this city, I got to fill in a few more pieces in my mental map!

Every time I head north, which isn't too often, I'm often amazed by, what are they called... Hills! In New York!

Ride the City Route Planner set me up nicely. There were painted bike lanes much of the way. Then I had to head to Hells Kitchen.

Coming back into Manhattan, I got to ride (for the first time) on the green line that is the Harlem River Greenway. It's on the upper east side (lowercase upper and "east" should be in quotes) of Manhattan.

(photo credit)

Lot of glass up there, I couldn't help but notice, and not too many bikes. Still, the bike path made for a fast ride...


What a boring ride. Yeah, I know there's river next to me and water is always nice. But really, I didn't move to the city to be sandwiched between a loud ugly freeway and a not-so-pleasant body of water.

I felt like I had died on gone to my very own urban hell. Sure it's nice having a deserted path to ride down, but it's next to a friggin freeway!

You can call it a park and make it green on the map, but what part of "next to a freeway" don't you understand? It's ugly and not particularly pleasant. And perhaps the greatest crime for city life: it's monotonous. A Great Blight of Dullness.

And I think the worst place to live in the city may be the Rangel Homes (Ralph, not Charles. But Ralph is Charles's brother... what a coincidence). These projects are pinched in a weird triangle of low ground between two freeways and the Polo Grounds Towers to the south. How do you get out? Where do you buy anything? And how do you carry groceries home?

I missed the city: the people, the stores, the sights, distractions (though not the traffic).

Green line be damned. Next time I'm taking an Avenue.

Monday, March 23, 2009

TA phone-a-thon: Save Transit

TA is having a very real phone-a-thon on Wednesday on the south side of Union Square from 8am to 12pm. There will be plenty of phones and district maps so people can stop by, see the cuts, and see who their State Senator/Assemblyperson is. Then you call them up and yell at them (or something like that).

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stop the Pistillis

What do I have against the Pistillis? They build ugly buildings in my neighborhood!

Here's a little about their shitty conversion on Astoria Park. My neighbor, a super, told me a while back that there was already mold in the place.

And their latest sure-to-be shit job, on Newtown Ave, will not only be ugly. But it also blocks the sun from hitting my home in the winter. Damn you, Pistilli!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Coming to a Bridge Near You

Apparently there's going to be uber-modern house tugged up the East River tomorrow! I love shit like that. If you're near the water, keep an eye out for it. No doubt there will be great views from Socrates Sculpture Garden, Roosevelt Island, and the Queensboro and Triborough Bridges. Nothing like a house on boat going through Hell Gate.

I can't say when this will happen, but my guess would be around noon because "Venturi himself will check on the house’s progress on Friday morning from a site near Manhattan’s South Street Seaport."

Here's the article. Here's the house:

Car on Bike Path

I was crossing the Queensboro bridge tonight at around 12:30, heading home toward Astoria when I heard a motor behind me. No, it wasn't a moped. It was a car. And no, it wasn't an unmarked police car. It was a car, going to Queens. I'm glad it didn't kill me.

No doubt, as I was biking safely and legally and courteously on a bike path, the driver now thinks much more highly of me in particular and bicyclists in general. For that, we can all give a hearty cheer.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Idaho Stop

I rarely think Idaho as on the cutting edge of, well, anything. But they have it right when it comes to bikes and stop signs. Since 1982.

It allows bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield and not always come to a complete stop.

The Idaho Stop. Let's do it here. And add red lights to it, while we're at it.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Why you should jaywalk

I couldn't have said it better myself. Cristopher DeWolf tells it like it is. Jaywalk all you want. Just look for bikes first.

My way? The wrong way!

It's easy to say bikes shouldn't bike the wrong way down one-way streets, but what's the guy going short distances supposed to do?

You want your egg rolls hot and crunchy, right? Well the guy delivering on the bike has to get to your place. Let's say he's at 57 and 10th and you're just two blocks away at 55th St. That's just 0.1 miles, if you're going the wrong way. If you walk you can't make other deliveries and your egg rolls get steamed and mushy.

To bike legally you need to go over to 9th or 11th Ave, the 0.1 mile distance increases to 0.44 miles. It's not just going to happen.

My own dilemma? Thanks to one-way streets, I can't bike from my house to the stores on 30th Ave without biking the wrong way down a one-way street or biking on the sidewalk. So that's what I do. If I didn't, a short 1.5 block trip triples in length (and is more dangerous, to boot). I could walk, but I want my bike to carry things back. And if I have my bike, damn tooting I'm going to ride it.

Bike need to be able to go both ways. Since it's what bikes do anyway, why not make it both safe and legal?

I'm not a role model

I slept on Sullivan's piece and today read some of the anti-bike comments following his article. Admittedly Sullivan is better than most because he rides a bike and because his rules are really generally quite reasonable. But the comments point out a basic problem with the "bikes-should-follow-the-rules" position.

These are some of my rules:

Be nice to pedestrians when pedestrians have the right of way. Duh.

Go slowly through crowds of people.

Don't stop in the middle of the crosswalk when the crosswalk says walk.

If riding on the sidewalk with pedestrians, don't go faster than fast walking speed and don't pass people unless there's more than enough room to do so.

That's all common courtesy and common sense and it really shouldn't be to too much to ask of bicyclists. Granted, too many bikes don't have common sense and, well, shame on them. (Too many cars don't either, but that's really neither here nor there.) Old people (young people, too) shouldn't have to fear being knocked over every time they see a bike.

But the fallacy of the "bikes-should-behave-better" concept is that it assumes that if bikes followed the law, people would like bikes better. It doesn't work that way. If bikes followed all the traffic laws, a lot more bikes would get hurt and a lot fewer people would bike. Even if bikes followed the rules, people would still hate bikes. They hate our freedom. People blame bikes even when bikes are in the right. It's just human nature.

Besides, I don't want to live in a society where everybody follows all the rules. That's fascism.

No, I never try and hit pedestrians. Hell, I never have hit a pedestrian. But I'll be damned if you think I'm going to be pleasant to you when you endangers me by walking in front of me when I have the green light. If I have the right of way, I will zoom by you not caring if I startle you. Startling you isn't my goal, mind you. But I do have the light and do have to get to work.

Just because I have the light and I'm in the right doesn't mean you'll say, "Gee, my fault. I guess I should have looked before crossing against the light." No. You'll blame me for getting so close to you. Well, sorry (not really). Hate me if you want. What can I do? I get to go when the light is green. Besides, I didn't hit you.

When you're walking in a bike path and I say, "this is a bike lane." Are you going to apologize? No. You're more likely to swear at me. Fine. All I did was tell you it's a bike lane. See, I'm right, but you still don't like me.

Here's the dirty truth: bikes will never be loved . Deal with it; handle the truth. Bikes will always be blamed, right or wrong. I don't like that. But it's the truth.

Getting things done and creating a safer environment for bicyclists is not about being liked. It's about politics. Politics is not about being liked. Car drivers aren't going to voluntarily turn over lanes of traffic to bikes just because we're nice. Change happens when people with power demand it. I don't need to be loved. I just want to ride my bike and live to bike another day.

People don't need to like bikes to have the city be more bike friendly. Is the city getting more bike friendly because bikes are suddenly nicer? No. The city is getting friendly because of Janette Sadik-Khan (I love you, Janette!).

I think too many bicyclists have some strange desire to be loved: "Look! I'm doing good! I'm the solution! One less car! Love me! Be like me!" Most people don't want fewer cars. To drivers, one less car isn't a good thing, it's a threat! "One more friggin' parking space for you," on the other hand, may have some positive P.R. value.

Deal with it, bicyclists: unless you move to Amsterdam or Copenhagen, you are just a sweaty freak. The majority of New Yorkers do not consider you a progressive role model. You may feel cool when you ride your bike. But except to other bicyclists, you're not. To most, you're a novelty, a kid, a poor person, a delivery man, or (best case scenario) a lovable eccentric in a helmet.

I'm sure that when I die--and I hope it to be a long time from now and not from being hit by a car--New York, just like every other city in the world, will be car dominated. And as long as it is, "same road same rules" is bullshit.

If a car driver hates me for crossing against a red light? Fuck 'em. I don't give a damn. I'm not a role model. I'm a bicyclist.

Biking in NYC

A very thought provoking piece in the New York Times by Robert Sullivan.

I like his four rules (not that I always follow them):

NO. 1: How about we stop at major intersections? Especially where there are school crossing guards, or disabled people crossing, or a lot of people during the morning or evening rush. (I have the law with me on this one.) At minor intersections, on far-from-traffic intersections, let’s at least stop and go.

NO. 2: How about we ride with traffic as opposed to the wrong way on a one-way street? I know the idea of being told which way to go drives many bikers bonkers. That stuff is for cars, they say. I consider one-way streets anathema — they make for faster car traffic and more difficult crossings. But whenever I see something bad happen to a biker, it’s when the biker is riding the wrong way on a one-way street.

There will be caveats. Perhaps your wife is about to go into labor and you take her to the hospital on your bike; then, yes, sure, go the wrong way in the one-way bike lane. We can handle caveats. We are bikers.

NO. 3: How about we stay off the sidewalks? Why are bikers so incensed when the police hand out tickets for this? I’m only guessing, but each sidewalk biker must believe that he or she, out of all New York bikers, is the exception, the one careful biker, which is a very car way of thinking.

NO. 4: How about we signal? Again, I hear the laughter, but the bike gods gave us hands to ring bells and to signal turns. Think of the possible complications: Many of the bikers behind you are wearing headphones, and the family in the minivan has a Disney DVD playing so loudly that it’s rattling your 30-pound Kryptonite chain. Let them know what you are thinking so that you can go on breathing as well as thinking.
But I'm not a big fan of rules (and sometimes you have to bike the wrong-way down a one-way street. What I really don't understand is why anybody bikes the wrong way down two-way streets). Still, I figure every biker who does more stupid shit than me makes my ride just a little safer.

How about this one rule that covers all of Sullivan's four rules; applies to cars, pedestrians, and bikes; and still leaves you lots of room to not follow the law: don't be a dick.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Bad Bike Lane Design

I kind of resolved to write fewer bitching and complaining posts a while back. I mean, it's just too easy to whine about what's wrong. It's hard to make things better.

Haven't written too much since then, I can't help but notice.

Yesterday I had $46 burning a whole in my pocket for a ticket and two beers. So I was the Armory Art show. It's at 55th and 12th Ave on the Hudson. Walking out of the show to my bike, I found myself standing in the middle of the bike path. Unware.

Luckily no bike was coming. But jeeze, I thought, if *I* don't know I'm in the middle of a major bike path, how is a dumb tourist supposed to know? They're not. And that's the problem.

As a pedestrian, there's nothing actually telling you you're standing in and/or blocking the major bike path in New York City. Forgive them, they know not what they do.

The pavement reflects the pedestrian crosswalk. There's nothing to tell people they're wondering across a major bike lane with beautiful light machines barreling on them down at 20 miles an hour. There's nothing to indicate they're on anything but a dedicated sidewalk.

For bikes, there's a sign saying "yield to peds." But really... why? Why not tell people to look both ways before crossing a bike lane. Especially when they're often just approaching a don't walk sign? Why should bikes yield to peds on the major bike path in New York City?

Here's the thing, bikes have momentum. Like it or not, bikes aren't going to want to stop, especially in the middle of a bike lane. Not telling peds about the bikes is dangerous. Not telling people they're standing in the middle of a bike lane is just ignant.

Here's the answer, change the pavement to reflect the bike lane. Tell pedestrians to look both ways for bikes. Legally, fine, let pedestrians keep the right of way (otherwise I hate to think of bikes not even making an effort to wing an old lady or something). But a bike lane is like a street. People need to know they're crossing a street so they can look both ways.