Williamsburg Tickets Cyclists!

More cyclists than commercial truck drivers in North Brooklyn are receiving tickets, according to NYPD data. As Gwynn Hogan reports in DNA Info,  between January and the end of September, cyclists in Williamsburg were ticketed 1,160 times for violations like running red lights and riding the wrong way on a one-way street. This is compared to 463 tickets written to commercial trucks for violations like texting while driving or not wearing seatbelt. I think we are supposed to be appalled that law enforcement is harder on cyclists than commercial truck drivers, but I am glad that bikes are getting some attention. If cyclists want to break laws with impunity, they should pedal over to Manhattan. It seems to me that their luck is better there.

Please comment in the space below.

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The Cycling Wheels of Justice

Three years ago, on September 21, 2014 Jill Tarlov died of injuries she sustained when Jason W. Marshall cycled into her in Central Park on West Drive and 63rd Street. Since unlike most cyclists who hit pedestrians, he remained at the scene, we know Marshall’s name and that on the Strava website for athletes he had frequently boasted of breaking speed limits.

A police spokeswoman says that charges were never filed in the case. I must accept that means that Marshall acted in a totally lawful manner. Nonetheless, as a New Yorker who has been hit by one bike rider and grazed by a few others, I was dumbstruck when I read that an irresponsible cyclist in England who killed a mother of two has been sentenced to eighteen months in jail.  When has that ever happened here?

At the time, it seemed that the Tarlov tragedy would finally highlight the issue of pedestrian safety in a city where daily cycling grew 350 % between 1990 and 2015, before Citi Bike began a major expansion.

The public discussion never happened, although average New Yorkers grumble about it all the time. What do you think? Please click the reply box below.

What Goes Around Comes Back

On Thursday a contractor for the MTA made a boo boo and drilled into a subway tunnel at the 21st Street Station in Long Island City. Its giant drill bit scraped an occupied F-line subway car. The contractor, Griffin Dewatering New England, apparently did not follow instructions. Two years ago an MTA contractor blew life-threatening debris into East 72nd Street in Manhattan. In both incidents, people were scared witless, but no one was physically injured. However, over the past year passengers on another MTA operation, Metro-North Railroad, have died. The National Transportation Safety Board delivered a scathing condemnation of Metro-North and its regulator this Tuesday. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) called the Federal Railroad Administration “essentially a lawless agency, a rogue agency.” * This came after the NTSB investigated five accidents resulting in six fatalities, more than 100 injuries, and $28 million in damages in the past eleven months. The report found that Metro-North had sacrificed scheduled maintenance and safety to keep the trains running on time. Bad management and oversight of both Metro-North and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority at the highest levels is indicated and it adds to the irony of another story that appeared next to the NTSB story in print editions of the N.Y. Times: Jay Walder, chairman of the MTA from 2009 to October, 2011 is the new head of Alta Bicycle Share that operates the Citi Bike program. In July, 2011 the board of the MTA allowed Walder to break his six-year contract, which should have run until the end of 2015. Thus he was able to seize the opportunity to run the MTR Corporation that operates rail services in China. When Walder ran out on the MTA, instead of publicly chiding Walder for breaking his contract with the public, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former mayor Michael Bloomberg offered nothing but praise. The MTA board sent him off with a party. Only Gene Russianoff, head of the Straphangers Campaign, said that Walder’s unexpected departure would harm the MTA. “There’s always a learning curve for new management, and this learning curve will occur during the period when they’re funding their incredibly important rebuilding program,” he said. “I don’t think it’s so hot.” As it turns out, Walder’s scarper wasn’t a good career move. This year in Hong Kong, MTR announced it would not renew his contract in a decision that was “mutual.” So if the MTA and government officials had required Walder to live up to his commitments he would still be working for the people of the region. Whether Metro-North and the MTA would have performed better and spared lives and revenue with him at the helm can never be known. All that’s known is that that the man who once oversaw subway, busses and trains in the New York metropolitan region is now running a 1000-bike program he hopes to expand to all five boroughs. He will relocate Alta from Portland, Oregon to New York and will bring 6,000 more bikes to New York City. Cyclists have the kind of clout that riders of public transit riders. This time Walder needs to succeed big. Do you think he run Citi Bike longer than the few years he gave the MTA? Longer than the few he was with MTR? Will the de Blasio administration demand more from him than the MTA did? Do you expect him to do a good job? Are his skills transferable? Please comment below.

  • CORRECTION The original post 10/31/14 erroneously reported that Sen. Blumenthal’s quote referred to Metro-North. He was actually referring to the Federal Railroad Administration. Attribution is correct in the linked N.Y. Times story.

Are NYC Pedestrians Less Important Than Carriage Horses?

In New York City, biking safety is measured by pedestrian body count. Not too many individuals are killed by lawless bike-riders, therefore biking is safe.

Nonetheless, most people I know, even cyclists, report that they are terrorized by bike-riders on sidewalks and in crosswalks on a daily basis. It is poor sportsmanship to say that cyclists should obey traffic laws or that they are anything less than a public good. When I was hit by a delivery biker while I stood behind the pedestrian barricade at the Second Avenue subway construction site this summer, the useless safety guard was amazed that I could expect any assistance. That wasn’t her job description, apparently. She thought it was an explanation when she snapped, “I am here to help people.” Not to worry, I stopped limping the next day.

Well today Jill Tarlov, 58, was stopped completely. The Connecticut wife and mother of two died this morning after several days of brain death caused by cyclist Jason Marshall, 31, who struck her down near West 62nd Street in Central Park on Thursday. The N.Y. Times reported the incident as well as the passion of New Yorkers whose concern about lawless cyclists is habitually ignored. As of this posting, he has yet to be charged with a crime. The N.Y. Post reported that Marshall has boasted of speeding on this $4,000 bike on the website http://www.strava.com. As of this posting, he has not been charged with a crime.

Hopefully, since one specific horror can illuminate festering wrongs, Tarlov’s death will be as transformative as the knock-out punch thrown by former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice against his then-fiancee. Revealed on a security video tape, it brought into focus the chronic violence against women that the National Football League and our Super Bowl-loving nation has long ignored. Now even the football commissioner has been shamed into paying attention.

Clearly, the city’s two-week police crackdown last month on cyclist law-breakers did not work. We need serious law enforcement every day, including the law that forbids anyone over the age of 14 from riding on the sidewalks. In addition, we need statues that require all cyclists to be licensed or registered and to wear large, visible registration numbers on their backs. Above all, cyclists must affix working headlights to their bikes and turn them on, as cars must, when twilight begins. Cyclists wearing black clothes in the black of even early black night are invisible to hapless pedestrians who dare to leave their homes after sundown.

On Monday morning as Tarlow’s death was announced, a woman wearing a Central Parks Conservancy volunteer tunic was at the accident site urging cyclists to obey posted notices that forbad bike riding on park pathways and also to get them to stop speeding through red lights. She told me she didn’t mind if they slowly rode through red ones (I do, however). For the most part, cyclists seemed to know they had to watch themselves. The volunteer told me, “I have seen the man who killed her many times. He speeds all the time. I do this volunteer work because I am a cyclist and I want it to be done right.”

Even so, cyclists know laws are not really for them. Tarlov’s husband was probably planning her funeral when I took these photos of the spot where she was struck down:

Scofflaw

The green light at left means that this biker had a red and should not be in crosswalk. Police presence did not faze him.

 

Future Killer?

Breaking the law at the scene of a brain death

 

 

 

Could he kill your parent or child?

This man rode away when volunteer told him to dismount when on a pedestrian pathway. In this photo he returns to ignore park rules and rejoin a female companion who dismounted and waited for him.

Outside the park, this cyclist grimaced and dismounted after I took her photo. Maybe she heard about Tarlov.

Outside the park, this well-heeled cyclist grimaced and dismounted after I took her photo. She knew she was doing the wrong thing. If I did this while waiting for a bus, what could police accomplish?

It’s time to get serious. Mayor deBlasio believes he had to take a principled stand again carriage horses. Let him take a stand against cycling scofflaws who ruin the quality of life of people who are trying to walk down a sidewalk or cross a street. CBS News, which employs Jill Tarlow’s widower, has promised to report on the issue. For most of New York’s media, that would make a real change. Here is the statement from Anton Guitano, Chief Operating Officer, CBS Local Media, and Peter Dunn, President, CBS Television Stations: “We are heartsick over the passing of our dear friend and former 1010 WINS Radio colleague Jill Tarlov. As we mourn the loss of our friend and console Mike and his family, we are committed to doing what we can to bring greater public awareness of the perils of unsafe and distracted driving by motorists and cyclists that endangers pedestrians. Far too many people have been killed or seriously injured on our streets.” To this I would add: Terrorized too.

Funny the rider in the photo lower left doesn’t look under age 14 to me.  Please comment and click on  “Leave a reply” below.

 

 

Pedaling Within The Law

Cyclists in Manhattan are taking better care of themselves and possibly of pedestrians too, according to a recent study from Hunter College.

More bike riders are stopping at red lights. Fewer are riding against traffic. Citing articles saying that there have been only two dozen minor injuries involving Citi Bike riders and no fatalities, the report suggests that this is because Citi Bike share riders are more cautious and rule-compliant than other cyclists.

Here are some other findings:

• The number of female cyclists has increased by 9 percent in the last four and one-half years, possibly because of the bike-share program that began last May.

• Almost three-fourths of commercial cyclists now wear helmets, three times as many as in 2010. Nearly half of male “general” cyclists now wear helmets, up from 32.2 percent in 2009.

• Nearly sixty percent of commercial cyclists wear “upper body apparel” identifying the name of their business, as required by law, twice as many as in 2011.

Graduate and undergraduate students of professors Peter Tuckel and William Milczarski observed 4,316 bicyclists at 98 different locations in central and lower Manhattan. Comparison was made against a study the professors published in 2011.  Kudos to them and to Hunter College for developing data on something all New Yorkers have opinions about.

The report Bike Lane + Bike Share Program = Bike Safety predicts that safe cycling in New York City is likely to increase. It is true that the delivery guy who nearly cycled into me while I was walking down the sidewalk was wearing a helmet, so I am prepared to hope, if not yet to be convinced.

Biking with de Blasio – End the Cold War Against Pedestrians

The other evening a 40ish delivery man artfully rode his bicycle between another woman and myself who were walking on a Lexington Avenue sidewalk. The cyclist frightened us both but did not physically injure us. He was breaking the law that forbids anyone over the age of 14 from riding on the sidewalks, but no matter. The police were elsewhere — frisking doctors, lawyers, job-seekers and others who are guilty of having too much pigment in poorer neighborhoods. Even if the police department decided to make its presence visible in “safe” neighborhoods, police don’t enforce N.Y. ADC. LAW 19-176. Through the years on those rare occasions when I have seen uniformed policemen walking through Manhattan’s East Side, I have seen adult cyclists weave around them. The police have never broken stride.

Terrorizing pedestrians in New York City is not regarded as serious if the person doing the terrorizing is on a bicycle and does not seem to be an Arab. It doesn’t seem to matter much that cyclists cause serious injury to pedestrians. Each year more than 500 NYC residents are injured badly enough to be treated in area hospitals, according to data collected between 2007 and 2010.

The Stuart C. Gruskin Family Foundation is working on this, partly because Stuart C. Gruskin was slain in an incident involving a cyclist riding the wrong way up a Midtown street. (Could this indicate that cyclists disobeying laws are a threat to public safety?) The foundation works to promote safety for cyclists and pedestrians and as well. In fact all of us, whether we are walking, riding a bicycle or operating a motor vehicle are supposed to obey the law. The cyclists have defeated me: I now stop on red. When I have the right of way I for one feel safer in the path of an approaching truck than I do in the path of a bicycle. Opinions can differ, but I have learned that the trucker will at least try to stop.

So here’s how we get to Bill de Blasio, who happily is New York City’s incumbent Mayor and who has promised to look out for people who have felt ignored for the last dozen years or so. He has said that if elected he would expand bike lanes and the bike sharing CitiBike program, with a goal of raising the percentage of city trips taken by bike to 6 percent by 2020. Fine, but he has another shoe to drop before it is knocked off by a speeding cyclist.  In addition, Mayor de Blasio, working with the City Council, needs to insure that all cyclists are subject to laws that govern commercial cyclists and he needs to insist that those laws are enforced.  He also must see that even non-commercial cyclists are licensed.

Cyclists should be required to wear  “a jacket, vest, or other wearing apparel” with a number printed in large type by which they can be identified. This number needs to link to CitiBike or to city records. If Citibank marketers have to create jobs and hire New Yorkers to issue licenses at their blue racks, so be it. Most cyclists already wear helmets, so let them sport license numbers as well. Motor vehicle drivers and dog owners need to buy licenses – why shouldn’t cyclists? Why does a toy poodle need to wear identification and not a human racing through red lights and over sidewalks? Such identification would help to apprehend those who do not properly follow city laws and it might even remind cyclists that they have responsibilities to others as well as to themselves. They seem to believe they are saving the planet…how about sparing pedestrians as well?

Outgoing Bloomberg Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, known to some as Bicycle Woman, spent tax dollars on education programs for cyclists – although you would think everyone everywhere knows that a red stop light or sign means stop and that enforcement of laws might have been the way to go. The next Transportation Commissioner, or whoever is supposed to be in charge, needs to put energy into making the privileged class that is cyclists responsible citizens as well. There is more to being responsible than donning a helmet for one’s own protection. No mention of bike lanes was made in this post — they have been good for CitiBike and Citibank, but I don’t see how they have helped pedestrians who use fewer public resources than cyclists when they are allowed to walk in safety.