From work.

March 14, 2008

9th AveBiking home is a dream. I get to take the 9th Ave separated bike lane to the Bleecker Street lane which, while not physically separated, is curbside so you don’t have to worry about car doors. The care that went into this stretch is evident everywhere along it (see 9th ave slide show). Separate lights regulate cars wishing to make left turns through the bike lane; striping continues through intersections so that cross traffic anticipates bicycles; where cars might be tempted to infringe on the bike lane, like around curves, the bike lane is painted green. The lights even seem to be timed at the speed of a fast bicyclist – something like 20 mph. Apparently a small number of parking spaces on Bleecker had to be sacrificed to ensure this continuity (view slideshow), and boy is it worth it. All the way from 23rd and 9th to Bleecker and Bowery – 2 continuous miles – the biking is smooth and feels safe. Then there is a 0.8-mile period of no-good-options from Bowery and Bleecker to the Williamsburg Bridge, then a safe 1.5 miles over the Williamsburg Bridge, then a tolerable mile in slow traffic down Driggs and Lee.

While my ride features mostly really well designed bike lanes, there is a glaring flaw in the area around the Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge. Bleecker and BoweryIf you continue along the bike route, you will take a left on Bowery and go a half block out of your way north to E. 2nd Street, and take this to Allen Street, and then take that to Delancey, which is murder. The bike map suggests you take Houston to Suffolk, which seems stupid to me because Houston is a terrible street to bike on.

One solution might be to have a separated bike lane on Delancey from Allen to the current entrance to the bike lane, at Clinton. I like this idea because I think it asks too much of bicyclists to immediately find a side street as soon as they exit the bridge. Knowing you can head in the direction of the bridge and you’ll find the bike lane, as you would if there was a lane for a few blocks along Delancey, rather than expecting to find a dangerous maze where there is one entry point makes it a lot more user-friendly, especially for new bicyclists. Then Allen could be striped with a buffered lane. It currently has a lane, but it is needless narrow, fading, and as you can see in the picture, populated with buses more than bicycles. You’ll still have to go out of your way to take 2nd Street, but at least it will be for a better purpose.

Another option would be to create a separated bike lane on Christie Street along Sara D. Roosevelt Park from Houston to Canal St. This would be great for anyone who uses the Manhattan Bridge, and it would also be useful for Williamsburg Bridge Riders. Of course, then Williamburg Bridge riders would need a bike lane along Delancey all the more.

Improvements Coming to Williamsburg Bridge Entrance.

March 12, 2008

Today I spied this upcoming project on the NY DOT website. Estimated to be completed in late March or early May, it attempts to address the unfriendly conditions bicyclists traveling over the Williamsburg Bridge face upon arrival in Manhattan (PDF). If you are not familiar, the area around the entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge is a nightmare – the bridge lets bicyclists out on the middle of six lanes of aggressively moving vehicles on Delancey. Sidestreets are mostly one-way and routinely dead-end.

The solution to this is clearly to create a separated bike lane on Delancey for at least a few blocks to give bicyclists a chance to choose a north or south bound route that is comfortable and not too confusing. By creating a separated bike lane on Delancey, bicyclists could follow car directions to the Williamsburg Bridge, and wouldn’t have to consult the bike-map to figure out how to connect up with a safe bike route. It would be intuitive and minimize the need for bicyclists to go out of their way to ride in bike lanes.

But that apparently isn’t on the table. Instead, the DOT has decided to install bike lanes and route markings on Clinton Street north to Houston and south to East Broadway. Clinton St.The project involves converting a portion of Clinton below Delancey from one-way to two-way traffic. Depressingly, this section only gets class 3 route markings – no actual bike lane. The portion north of Delancey to Houston is nice enough; it is curb side and painted green, but it dead-ends at Houston, which is an unsafe and pointless place to end, notwithstanding its bike-route classification. Hopefully improvements on Houston are planned for the future.

So am I right in seeing this as a small, perhaps meaninglessly small, step in the right direction?

Bikes and trees

March 5, 2008

I think bikes and trees have a lot of the same interests – trees clean the air of ozone and particulates for bicyclists, and provide shade in the summer, and often smell nice – but all too often I see bicycles damaging trees by locking to them. This may seem like a minor complaint, but bicycles can really damage trees by scraping their protective bark away and creating a source for infection. If you look for it while walking around in New York, you can’t help but find a lot of trees whose growth has been affected by such injuries. Most of the time it doesn’t kill the tree (or maybe I just don’t see those examples because they are removed) but it makes them sort of scraggly.

I feel like bicyclists are generally tree-loving people and I can’t imagine that a bicyclists, knowing the risk they putting the tree in, would continue to lock their bikes to trees. That is, I think it is ignorance that is mainly to account for the occurrence. (A lack of racks is also often to blame.) With this in mind, I am starting an educational campaign to end the practice. My plan is to make cards warning of the risk to trees and to carry them around with me and stick them on offending bicycles when I see them. The card is below, and the text of the card is based on the Parks Department website.

I feel a little namby-pamby about this – telling people what they ought naught do – and I worry about bicyclists reacting in a “fuck you, I’ll do whatever I want” type of way. I remember all too well the time I tried to leave leave little notes around to remind my college roommates to clean up after themselves and how that educational campaign failed. So I am trying to make the text as non-offensive as possible.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

Thanks for riding a bike!

Please don’t lock your bike to trees.

Chains and locks can damage the protective bark and the cambium (inner skin) layer of a tree. The cambium layer transports sap, the lifeblood of trees, and is the most delicate part of a tree. Chains and locks can also leave a permanent scar on the trunk and leave an opening for parasites and fungus. Be tree-friendly and don’t lock your bike to one!

– from the NYC Parks Department website.

If there’s no parking close by, request a bike rack from the NYC DOT! Just call 311 or fill out the form online:

Thanks! The tree would thank you too, if it could talk.

So, do you think this strikes the right chord? I thought NY Parks had a nice statement on their website and I figure quoting them suggests that this is a real problem.

Sticker Contest!

March 1, 2008

I need a calling card, and this blog needs some publicity, so I going to get some stickers made and remedy the situation. But deciding on a sticker is harder than it sounds. I thought I had a great statement for a sticker,

I thought it was funny and would allow every person that put it on their bike to invest a little piece in the blog, but the more I look at it, the more it looks really morbid and not so funny.

So back to the drawing board I went. I tried to think of provocative statements that lots of bicyclist might agree with, such as:


or even, appealing to the Reaganites,

And that is a cause that is close to my heart, but the sticker comes out a tad too exclamatory or something. It also seems a little irrelevant. So I tried to get more inspirational and less pushy and that’s how I came up with this one:

Which seems true, but a little passive for a sticker.

Then I decided maybe I would get provocative and educational at the same time. Here’s a statement a lot of people could nod their heads to, that I hadn’t heard until recently (the statement is paraphrasing something the former mayor of Bogata said on a streetsblog video):

eight year old

After all this thinking, something basic is more and more appealing: bikelaneblog jpeg

So what do you think? Any of these seem ok, or do you have an idea for one?

Update: I have another entry:

Some less timely links.

February 29, 2008

As I pay more attention to bike-related issues, I keep hearing mysterious tales about a brief foray into separated bike lanes in New York in 1980s. At first I discounted the rumors – they just seemed inconceivable. But the other night I had the pleasure of talking with someone who actually lived in New York at the time and he confirmed the rumors were true. I decided to do some research.

The story goes like this: in 1980, following a visit to Beijing, then-Mayor Koch was inspired to direct the city to invest $300,000 ($846K in 2007 dollars) in bicycle projects on Broadway, 5th, 6th, and 7th. Unfortunately, due to a confluence of poor design, poor education, and chicken-and-egg issues, the lanes drew loads of criticism. Pedestrian-Bike conflict was actually perceived to increase because crowded pedestrians took over the bike lanes. Koch himself bemoaned that bicyclists didn’t use the lanes.

The assistant commissioner of the DOT at the time makes the argument that the problems could have been overcome with an education campaign and by giving people time to get used to the lanes. But criticism of Koch was overwhelming, and he decided to back down. The story of how Koch disarmed his opponents by admitting failure has become a case study in how admitting a mistake can be politically expedient. Just months after being installed, the separated bike lanes were removed. Koch went on to become such an enemy of bicyclists that he tried to ban bikes from mid-town.

So I can’t decide: is this just depressing story, or is there some uplifting moral to be taken about the importance of change being gradual and grassroots-based?

Read More:

Mobilizing the Region – On Ninth Ave., Ghosts of Bike Lanes Past?

New York Times Editorial. Rolling Thunder Written in 2006 by the DOT assistant commissioner at the time.

Charles Komanoff-led protest of shutting down of Queensboro Bridge bike lane in 1991. (Gothamist)

In the news…

February 27, 2008

I set up some RSSes, and now I am going to try a new feature on the blog, periodically linking to articles that might be of interest to bicyclist in New York. Streetsblog sort of has this covered, so I am not sure whether this is worthwhile. Nevertheless, it takes precious little work, and some readers may find it useful. So, for today:

Dates Set for Cross Erie Canal Bike Ride I am not a big riding-in-groups bicyclist, but I would like to explore upstate some time. The ride travels from Buffalo to Albany, two  cities which were once incredibly beautiful and where you can now buy houses for the equivalent of a year or two’s rent in New York.

Museum of the City of New York has a Lecture Thursday entitled, Spotlight on Design: Innovation in New York’s Streets, with people from The Design Trust for Public Places, the NYC DOT, and some other organization with which I am not familiar. I think it sounds fun. And it is free if you follow the instructions at the link.

Registration opens for the 5 Borough Bike Tour. This is your one chance to bike across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Need I say more?

Bike Messengers are threatened by competition with machines.  You know, like computers and stuff.

New Maps Page!

February 20, 2008

In an effort to lure readers to the site, and to take advantage of the problems Transportation Alternatives is having upgrading their website, I put up a new page listing area bike maps today. It’s not as complete as the old TA page, but the links work. Let me know if you have any suggestions for additions or anything to say about the accuracy or usefulness of the maps listed.



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