Monday, December 30, 2013

Thank you, Mayor Bloomberg and Janette Sadik-Khan!

For spending $650 million of your own money while making this city a better place. I've lived here 12 years. So it's hard for me to imagine this city without your rich cranky benevolence. And particular thanks for appointing Janette Sadik-Khan. We'll miss both of you, but her moreso! Muchas Gracias!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Cycling vs Cars

In New York (and most of America) all you have to say after your kill a bicyclist is, "I didn't see him (or her)!" That's it. You go home. No ticket. No crime. I guess you have to file a claim to get your car fixed. The Economist looks at hypotheticals in the Netherlands:
• Let's say a truck is making a turn onto a high-speed four-lane street in The Hague, and rides over a cyclist in the bicycle lane. The accident is witnessed by a very reliable observer whose testimony is likely to stand up in court—say, the prime minister of the country. Who is at fault, and will have to pay damages and/or face criminal penalties? Answer: the truck driver. • But what if the same accident occurs on a two-lane street with no designated bicycle lane, so the bicycle is riding out in traffic? And what if there are no witnesses or video evidence? Who is at fault then? Answer: the truck driver. • What if there was a separate traffic light for bicycles at this intersection, and the cyclist was clearly running a red light? Answer: still the truck driver. • Okay, so...what if the bicycle was coming the wrong way up a one-way street, arrived at the intersection at the same time as the truck, and despite the fact that the truck was on the right, the bicycle seized the right-of-way and dashed straight across the intersection? Answer: the truck driver would have to pay at least 50% of the cyclist's damages, unless he can prove there was no way he could have seen the cyclist. • Fine. What if a tornado is racing through the streets of some Dutch town, picks the truck up, and hurls it into the bicyclist, who is in the middle of running a red light while going the wrong way up a one-way street, no hands? Answer: the truck driver will probably not have to pay the cyclist's damages, unless the cyclist was 14 or younger, in which case the truck driver will have to make an extra effort to prove that there was nothing he could have done to avoid the accident. To sum up: in the Netherlands, if a motor vehicle hits a cyclist, the accident is always assumed to have been the driver's fault, not the cyclist's.
The logic? "The law treats pedestrians and cyclists as weaker participants in traffic." Needless to say, it's much safer to bike in the Netherlands. In conclusion:
This regulatory regime places an extra burden on drivers. That burden can be summed up as follows: before you turn, you have to check carefully in the mirror to see whether there's a cyclist there. That's it....So I guess it depends on how much one values human life, as against the inconvenience of having to look in the rearview mirror more often.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Another day, another child killed by an Escalade

The Bike Snob NYC does what NYPD doesn't: Investigates a car that killed a kid:
But, you know, it's the victim's fault because she wasn't holding mommy's hand:

The girl was not holding her mother’s hand as they crossed the street near 5th Avenue and 55th St. in Sunset Park around 3:15 p.m., sources said. The little girl drifted into traffic and was crushed by a white Cadillac Escalade, sources said. 
So, take a deep breath and say it with me now:

No criminality suspected!

Now, I may be suspicious by nature, but when I see a little girl dying in the street I actually do suspect criminality.  I know, call me crazy, right?  So I looked more closely at the picture.

First of all, the windows on that car are more tinted than Lindsay Lohan's sunglasses, which is illegal in New York City.  Fine, not a smoking gun, but it's a start.  Next, I looked up the license plate number, which is also legible in the photo.  The system only gives you information on parking tickets and red light camera violations, but I found that this particular vehicle had received three tickets for not having a valid inspection:

The most recent of which was issued this past Saturday:

I considered the possibility that maybe I'd looked up the wrong plate, but the system is pretty clear on the fact that these tickets were issued to a white Cadillac.

Okay.  Even though we're talking about a dead child for fuck's sake, let's give the owner the benefit of the doubt.  Let's say after last Saturday's ticket he went and got his car inspected, and so he was operating his car fully legally when he ran over the child.  (You know, apart from the windows.)

No.  Fuck that.  I'm pretty confident that tub of shit Escalade should not have been on the road.  And I don't want to let the driver off the hook here, but I also suspect that if they'd towed the shit tub after that third ticket it would now be sitting in the impound at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and not on top of a dead child.  If someone can't be bothered to get their potentially deadly $60,000 car inspected in two weeks then they shouldn't be allowed to have it.  At the very least, you'd think that a dead child would be more than enough to arouse suspicion of criminality, and that maybe someone would, you know, look into it.  I found this stuff in about 19 seconds while sitting around in my underpants drinking coffee.  What else was he doing wrong?  Are we not even going to investigate the possibility?

I'd love to see a mayor with the balls and/or vulva to admit that if you cracked down on all the assholes with expired inspections, no insurance, suspended licenses, out of state registration to save money when they actually live in New York, and so forth, you'd take a shitload of dangerous drivers off the road. Three tickets for no inspection? Tow that shit! "Oh, boo hoo, it's hard having a car in New York City." No shit, asshole. It should be hard, and if you can't hack it then don't drive. You're asking a lot of the city and its residents to accommodate your car. You should be creeping around town at 20mph with your valid paperwork on hand at all times, petrified at the idea of making contact with anything

Read the whole post. It's good. In that sad depressing kind of way.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013


My man Andrew Jimenez and the Bicycle Repairman Corp featured in the Queens Times Ledger. It is the best bike store in Astoria and perhaps all of Queens (I don't know, I haven't tried them all).

Driver Found at Fault in Crash that Killed Bicyclist

Of course you won't see that headline in NYC. It's from San Francisco. What's interesting is how it happened. The San Fran bike coalition asked businesses if they had video footage. They had. The cops hadn't asked. The video shows the driver was at fault. As a side note, this was after a cop blocked the bike lane to teach about bike safety (the police chief later apologized for this). Of course none of this brings back a life. But a little justice is better than none. Now where is the video of the crash the maimed that poor British tourist?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

REBNY: Support Development and Rent Increases in Astoria! (and Vote for Costa)

Can you believe there's a landlord PAC (political action committee)? Of course you can. REBNY, the Real Estate Board of New York, gives a lot of money to local and state politicians through "Jobs for New York." (You're not against "jobs" are you?!) The goal of REBNY: public altruism, of course. Well, and would it be so bad if all that pesky zoning disappeared? And rent regulation is kind of problem. I mean, landlords can't take more of your money. Public funding for developments? That's good, too. I mean why should property investors have to foot the entire bill to build things to make them money? It's all a little absurd. Until you consider how much Clout REBNY has. They spend a lot of money in races that don't have a lot of money. At a local level, who does REBNY support? The Vallone's of course. REBNY has spent $113,134 for Paul Vallone. It's such chump change for REBNY. This compares to the $91,466 that Paul has spend himself! That's right REBNY outspends the people they support. It's dirty as hell (and legal). Here in City Council District 22 (Astoria north of 34th Ave), REBNY supports Costa Constantinides. They've spend $106,000 on his behalf (Costa for Council has spent $121,000). That's why you keep getting glossy paper with his name on it. What does REBNY get for this? Well, maybe you should ask Costa. After all, he can't control who spends money on his behalf. And it's not like REBNY expects an quid pro quo. Of course not. Keep thinking that till rent stabilization is abolished.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Where's my comment?

I just went through the comment spam filter and found a lot of comments that were not spam. They've finally been published. And they go back quite some time. Sorry about that.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Blame Canada

This is rich. And I can't believe it's being reported with a straight face. The cab who tried to kill a bike and maimed a tourist blames the bike. The cab admits he didn't see the bike before the bike started banging on his cab. That's what Sherlock Holmes would call a "clue." See, when you're obliviously driving along in a car, as the cab driver says he was, "I didn’t see [cyclist Kenneth Olivo] — only when he banged on my car. He is not good." Dude, he was banging on your car because you didn't see him! Think it like a friendly tap of the horn. The horn you so liberally applied before loosing your temper and trying to kill the bicyclist and then severing a poor girl's leg in the process. Banging on a car says, "I'm here, and you're way to close to me, and you might kill me!" I've banged on cars. I imagine every urban biker has banged on a car at least once. Not be be an asshole or damage the car. See a bike bell doesn't cut it when a car is veering into you. My life is at stake, you prick! This is from the Bike Snob:
He says Tuesday's accident happened after he accelerated to get around a bicyclist who he says pounded on his car and yelled at him. Oh, really? I thought you accidentally stepped on the gas instead of the brake. Ah, whatever. We all know how it works: the driver gets to try on as many stories as he wants until he finds one that fits. When I was sideswiped from behind some years back, the driver explained to me with a shrug that "I thought I could get around you." Oopsie! You couldn't. Instead you sent me sprawling on a busy avenue in evening rush-hour traffic. However, what she told the police and the insurance company was that I hit her--because, you know, I make a habit of riding my bicycle into cars in reverse. As for the messenger pounding on the cab and hitting it, that shouldn't matter. I don't care if the messenger slapped the cabbie across the face with his dick. Whatever happened, the cabbie tried to assault the cyclist with his car, he missed, and he ripped off a woman's legs instead.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fucking Cars

This is the second time in the past year cars have killed or maimed somebody right where I've been known to stand or sit. Christ. One minute you're sitting there eating a hot dog and the next minute you have no foot. Why? Because of speeding fucking cars! As one comment says: Giuliani put cattle fences in this area to protect cars from pedestrians. He should have put in bollards to protect pedestrians from cars.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Three Cheers for the Community Board (not ours, of course)

Streetsblog reports that Manhattan CB6 approved Astoriabike's 2010 plan (# 2) for the Manhattan side of the Queensboro Bridge! Of course I have no idea if this blog was actually where the idea came from... but it might have been. I'm certainly happy to take credit. And I'm always happy to help.

This one-short-block bike path under the bridge will make a huge difference for biking. You can't ask bikes to obey traffic regulations if traffic regulations prevent you from doing what is quickest and most safe.

And for pedestrians going west they still need to open the Obstruction Gate.

I'm still a little baffled why it wasn't already done, since that lane under the bridge has never served a purpose for cars (because of the left turn lanes before it). But better late than never.

And it still would be nice -- for bikes and pedestrians we wouldn't have to cross -- if bikes could cut through the the public works parking/storage under the bridge.

Friday, June 14, 2013

New Vernon Bike Lane mixed bag

The west side of Vernon Blvd is great for biking because there are almost no cross streets. I call it the low road to Brooklyn (as opposed to the Blissville / Greenpoint Ave high road). So the idea of an actual dedicated bike path (as opposed to an in-traffic bike lane) is great.

But... and this is a pretty big but, the official route includes a new detour through the park. Which this means that the majority of bicyclists, the kind actually trying to get somewhere, aren't going to use that part of it. So now bikes will be in the road with parked cars, less space, and cars being driver too fast.

So we're gaining a better bike path for most of Vernon Blvd but losing a bike lane for some of it. If that's the tradeoff, I'm willing to take it. But let's be clear: a bike path detouring through a park with people who don't respect bike lanes and paint saying "ahead peds to yield" is not a functional bike path at all, not for anybody but a Sunday recreational rider.

At the very least they should include "sharrows" on the street where there is no bike lane.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Where Rapelje and Pleasure Intersect

I got thinking about Astoria history. A lot of it is hidden in plain sight. The more hipster inclined, myself included, get off on the old street names. SITE is changing its name to Lockwood. We can enjoy a beer at Suswick or Hell Gate, a meal at Pachanga Patterson, have Van Alst cater a whole damn party, or mail a letter at the Woosley Station Post Office. This, my dear, is Astoria history!

I've found the Oldest Manhole Cover in Astoria, with still bears the LIC logo. It's by Trade Fair on 30th Ave and 30th St.

Why, young child, way back in the days, before there was a New York City outside of Manhattan, there was Long Island City, an independent city which existed from 1870 to 1898. Astoria and everything south was part of it (Ravenswood, Dutch Kills, Blissville, Sunnyside, and Hunters Point).

In 1898, when Queens unified and joined NYC, Long Island City ceased to exist (to everybody but the Post Office, which is why you can -- and until recently technically should -- mail yourself love letters addressed to Long Island City, New York).

Who wouldn’t prefer to have a real street name instead of a number? You may have lived on Cabinet Street, Van Alst Ave, Kowenhoven, Luyster, Winslow Place, or even Pleasure Avenue. Nowadays people get lost at the corner of 31st Street and 30th Drive.

But these names disappeared when somebody saw a problem in one borough having, say, twelve Washington Streets and four Broadways. Yes, that might have been a problem. Too bad the solution was even worse.

I can't find a grand on-line listing of all the old street names. So here’s one. It’s not complete (and there may be a typo or two), but it covers most of the streets and avenues from the Queensburo Bridge to Ditmars, from Vernon Blvd to 50th Street.

This all comes courtesy of [too much time and] my handy 1919 Atlas of Long Island City’s Ward One. I assume (but do not know) that the name in parenthesis precede the 1870 incorporation of Astoria Village into Long Island City. Alas, all these names went out -- with some opposition -- in the 1920s when everything was replaced with "modern" system which changed address numbers and street names. Sigh.

If you want to know a specific street not listed, let me know.

Old and New Astoria Street Names (from West to East, mostly off 34th Avenue)
1919 name (earlier name)
2013 name
Vernon Ave
Vernon Blvd
Hamilton St
9th St
Hancock St
10th St
Boulevard (Warren St)
11th St
Sherman St
12th St
Marion St
13th St
Hopkins Ave (Jay St)
14th St
Van Alst Ave (Emerald St)
21st St
Suswick St
22nd St
Ely Ave (Spring St)
23rd St
William St
24th St.
Crescent St  (Prospect St)
Crescent St
Radde St
28th St
Academy St
29th St
1st Ave (Lockwood St)
30th St
2nd Ave (Debevoise Ave)
31st St
3rd Ave (Lathrop St)
32nd St
4th Ave (Rapelje Ave)
33rd St
5th Ave (Briell St)
34th St
6th Ave (Barthow St)
35th St
7th Ave (Blackwell St)
36th St
8th Ave (Pomeroy St)
37th St
9th Ave (Kowenhoven St)
38th St
Steinway Ave
Steinway St.
11th Ave (Albert St)
41st St
12th Ave (Winans St)
42nd St
13th Ave (Grace St)
43rd St
14th Ave (Stemler St)
44th St
15th Ave (Luyster St)
45th St
16th Ave (Titus St)
46th St
17th Ave (Oakley St)
47th St
18th Ave (Balowin St)
48th St
19th Ave (Cabinet St)
49th St
20th Ave (Wallace St)
50th St
21th Ave (Hobart St)
Hobart St

Old and New Astoria Avenue Names (from South to North, mostly off Crescent and 31st St.)
1919 name (earlier name)
2013 name
North Jane St
Queens Plaza North
Wilbur Ave
41st Ave
Payntar Ave
40th Ave
Beebe Ave
39th Ave
Freeman Ave
38th Ave
Webster Ave
37th Ave
Washington Ave
36th Ave
Pierce Ave
35th Ave
Graham Ave
34th Ave
Orange St
[No longer exists]
Sanford St
33rd Rd (by Vernon Blvd)
Day St
33rd Rd (by 21st St)
Ridge St
33rd Ave
Broadway Ave
Camelia St
31st Drive
Lincoln St
31st Rd
Patterson Ave (Jamaica)
31st Ave
Elm St
30th Drive
Temple Ave
30th Rd (west of Crescent)
Whitney Ave
30th Rd (east of Crescent)
Grand Ave
30th Ave
Taylor St
29th Ave
Clark St
28th Ave (west of Crescent)
Newtown Ave
Newtown Ave
Winslow Place
28th Rd
Lot 643 [no name listed]
27th Rd
Vanderventer Ave (Central St)
28th Ave (east of 31st St)
Astoria Ave (Flushing Ave)
Astoria Blvd
Hoyt Ave
Hoyt Ave
Wilson (Great Pond St)
25th Ave
Woolsey Ave
24th Ave
Pleasure Ave
23rd Rd
Potter Ave
23rd Ave