Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Parade Rule Hearings: Sham or Democracy?

November 28, 2006--Public hearings held to discuss new parade rules being proposed by the city's police department were derided by some as a veiled attempt to put an end to the Friday critical mass events at the same time that attendance was hobbled by large security lines that turned cyclists away.

Bike riders gathered at 10 a.m. to travel from Union Square on 14th St., a location symbolic also as the starting point for most monthly critical mass rides, to the location of the public hearings being held at One Police Plaza. Some of the group of about 35 cyclists wore sheep hats, and as drivers passed they offered a thumb's up in support.

After waiting on long lines to get through x-ray machines, where many cyclists holding pumps, liquids and other bike accessories were turned away, advocates and lawyers long involved in defending the rights of cyclists and free speech advocates made prepared but impassioned speeches against the measure, many of using strong language in front of a packed audience of more than 100 people.

Despite polite treatment by police officers through security, as well as the more than 20 that lined the interior of the hearing room, those attending the event remarked that with its tight security and overwhelming police presence, One Police Plaza was not the appropriate venue for a public hearing.

Norman Siegel the lawyer who has been representing many cyclists after they were arrested for appearing in spontaneous bike rides said that the rules were about "getting critical mass," because it is clear that vehicles who ride in the same large groups, "don't need permission when they obey the laws."

He was referring to the new definition of a parade outlined in the proposal which says that if 30 people or more are marching or riding without a permit, and obeying traffic rules, they would be subject to arrest. The new rule also proposes that between 10 and 29 people without a permit who do not obey traffic rules would also be breaking the law.

Mr. Siegel then motioned to the panel made up of officials who were there to listen to the public comment, and called them "props in a presentation." Turning to the audience he said, "You are the hope."

A lawyer representing the New York Bar Association Peter T. Barbur, said New York law can only be enforced by the police department, not legislated and It is the job of the city council to define parades and the criteria for granting permits. He also said that if adopted, Chapter 19 of Title 38 of the Official Rules of New York, would "impose dramatic new restrictions on peaceful protests and other public gatherings," in addition to normal outings like funerals, weddings, baseball games, and school trips.

Spontaneous protests are "means of expression that are the cornerstone of our democratic system," he added.

Steve Stollman, a longtime activist who offers his space on Houston St. for many cyclists' gatherings especially after critical mass rides said, "This city is guilty of not enforcing laws against the most dangerous vehicle", and that they were "ignoring the potential to make this city a more attractive place."

Daniel Lieberman, the founder of ebikes, one of the most important and influential electronic exchanges in the city that allows cyclists to discuss issues in a private forum, referenced Franz Kafka well known for his book, "The Trial" about a character named Josef K., who awakens one morning and, for reasons unknown to him, is arrested and subjected to the rigours of the judicial process for an unspecified crime. "When is a ride a parade?" he asked, noting that the law was too broad and vague.

It was unclear at the end of the day whether the words of cyclists and rights advocates had any effect. As Mr. Siegel pointed out, members of the panel sat mutely through the proceedings, not asking for clarification from speakers.

Gale Brewer, councilwoman for District 6 of the upper west side said that cyclists and pedestrians, the two groups targeted by this proposed rule, alleviate traffic burdens and shouldn’t be hindered.

David Yassky, councilman, (33rd Bklyn. ) said the proposed rules were "no different than the loitering laws that time-and-again have been found unconstitutional," and called them "a mistake."

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said that the proposed law “opens the door to the arrest of law-abiding citizens,” and that "The NYPD already has the power it needs” to make arrests. She also noted that the permitting process is bureaucratic and unreliable, and needs to be moved to another agency.

Christine Quinn, City Council Speaker was notably absent from the hearings, though she has said publicly that the new proposal is an improvement over the last proposal put forward by the police department.

Other important and impassioned pleas were heard from Noah Budnick, deputy director of advocacy for Transportation Alternatives, the oldest, and most well-known bike advocate group in the city; Roger Wareham, activist and attorney for the December 12th Movement; Susan Stetzer, district manager, Community Board 3 in Manhattan; Rosie Mendez, councilwoman, Dist.2 Manh.; Ken Coughlin, longtime advocate and head of Carfree Central Park; Sargeant Noel Leader, co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care; Leticia James, councilwoman dist. 35, Bklyn; Dr. Alex Vitale, professor of Sociology of Crime and Deviance at Brooklyn College; and Mitchel Cohen, editor of Green Politix, Green Party USA newspaper.

This story was reported by Eugene Boronow, who was on the scene, and written by Jen Benepe

Monday, November 27, 2006

Hearing on New Parade Rules Today

November 27, 2006--Public hearings will be held on the controversial new parade rules being proposed by the city's police department that seeks to bar cyclists from partaking in the monthly critical mass rides.
The new rules aim to limit any group of 10 cyclists that do not follow traffic rules, or any group of 30 cyclists that do follow traffic rules, from engaging in a group activity. The police department has long maintained that they do not feel they would have control over the safety of New Yorkers should a critical mass event block city streets when an emergency situation--such as a 9/11 or other terrorist event--take place.
The hearings will take place at One Police Plaza, just a few blocks east of the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge on the Manhattan side. Neither Times Up!, Transportation Alternatives, nor Assembly for Rights NYC, the ad hoc group assembled to fight this measure, have told cyclists where they can park their parks, nor have they organized bike parking for the event. Directions to the event are also notably absent from these sites.
Cyclists have long maintained, and justifiably so, that cars and car traffic pose a far greater danger for blocking the proper response to an emergency than do cyclists, who can disburse on foot at a moment's notice.
Indeed, in a great emergency, experts have often commented that the city--and neighboring areas such as Long Island and New Jersey would become instant parking lots.
Top ranking police officers have also told Benepe's Bike Blog off the record that since arrests made during the Republican National Convention they have information that there are unknown "anarchists" who were not part of the original critical mass group, who are possibly terrorists and who do not have the best interests of the city in mind who have infiltrated the world of critical mass and the groups that support the event, including Times Up!
While it is impossible to verify whether terrorists have really infiltrated the cyclists' milieu, it is reasonable to assume that they could much more easily assume the shape of a normal citizen in a fleet of taxis or a group of trucks, and those motorists could also more easily set off traps, block roadways, or create chaos at a moment's notice, say cyclists.
The New York Bar Association came out against the newest proposal saying in their testimony submitted for today's hearing that the department's new definition of a parade that requires a permit is a serious and unwarranted infringement on associational freedom. The Bar's comments side with the proposal put out by Assembly for Rights NYC, that asks that the City Council approve parade permits, and not the police department.
The ad hoc group, whose member identities are not disclosed on their website, and who do not advertise a contact name or phone number, lack the very transparency that they hope to find in this public forum. They also note on their site that police already have the right to arrest cyclists under other laws.
But every series of arrests have been more or less successfully overturned in New York City courts with legal assistance.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn has commented publicly that this new police proposal is less draconian than the first proposal which was met by a great hue and cry from the cyclist community and civil rights groups.
However, she has not said publicly whether she thinks this new proposal is fair or appropriate. It could be that the police have been sharing their own private concerns about public safety--concerns that if aired publicly would have a greater chance of being weighed on the merits rather than on an emotional basis.
Another event involving New York police, the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Sean Bell in Queens yesterday, may vy for media attention today, depriving rights' activists and the issue, their day in the sun.

For more details:
According to a summary posted at http://www.assembleforrightsnyc.org/node/14, the new proposed rules are as follows:

A "parade [or procession]" is: 1) any [march, motorcade, caravan, promenade, foot or bicycle race, or similar event of any kind,] procession or race which consists of a group of ten or more pedestrians, vehicles, bicycles or other devices moved by human power, or ridden or herded animals proceeding together upon any public street or roadway for more than two city blocks in a manner that does not comply with all applicable traffic laws, rules and regulations; or 2) any procession or race which consists of a recongnizable group of 30 or more vehicles, bicycles or other devices moved by human power, or ridden or herded animals proceeding together upon any public street or roadway

This is an amendment to Section 1. Subdivision (a) of section 19-02 of Title 38 of the Official Compilation of the Rules of the City of New York.

Put more simply here is what the new rule are:

1) Groups of 10 or more bicyclists or pedestrians who plan to travel more than two city blocks without complying with traffic laws will require a permit or be subject to arrest.

2) Groups of 30 or more bicyclists or vehicles which obey traffic laws will also require a permit or be subject to arrest

Friday, November 10, 2006

Brooklyn Driver Charged in Fatal Hit and Run

Bertilde Gabriel, the driver. Photo, NY Post.

November 10, 2006--The driver in a hit and run accident in Brooklyn that killed a 5-year-old boy and critically injured his mother Wednesday was charged with criminal negligence yesterday.

The driver, Bertilde Gabriel, 52, killed Christopher Frombrum, 5 when she tried to escape another accident that occurred a few seconds previously. She swerved, drove onto the sidewalk, and mowed through the family of four killing Frombrum on the scene and injuring his mother Rachel Dorce, and her two other children, 6-year-old Aldeline and 8-year-old Joshua. The mother is in a coma, according to the NY Post.

Gabriel was charged in Brooklyn Criminal Court yesterday with first-degree assault, a felony, criminally negligent homicide and leaving the scene of an accident.

A recent post to ebikes asked if the fact that she is a woman may have been the reason for a tougher charge.

First of all, Brooklyn has the toughest response of the five boroughs to reckless driving. One of the reasons, they have traditionally had the most traffic fatalities, and their District Attorney, Charles Hynes is better than most on this particular issue. Their office carries out more extensive investigations of accidents, and they are more aggressive in pursuing criminal penalties, according to previous Assistant DA Maureen McCormick.

Secondly, Gabriel drove away from the first accident, crime one, and onto the the sidewalk, crime two. There, she hit four people, and killed one, then tried to drive away again, but was stopped by other drivers 2 blocks away! That's crime three.

News reports said she was tested for alcohol, so if she was completely in control of her senses, she drove away from both accidents with full recognition of what she had done. In other words, she was neither repentant nor upset that she just ran into four people. The impact of the accident was so great that Frombrum was knocked about 20 feet according to reports, and his mother was knocked out of her shoes, which lay on the sidewalk after the accident.

The level of criminality is established based on the amount of care you take when compared to another reasonable person in a similar situation. The law holds that the greater the disregard you show in an accident, the greater the penalties will be.

In fact, it looks like she is getting away with the lesser of these--"criminal negligence" versus "criminal intent".

Here are the levels defined by NYS penal code, 125.10:

Most criminal "vehicular manslaughter" charges require that a person perceived a risk and disregarded it intentionally in killing someone. That would be a very drunk person who blatantly disregards traffic law. Of these there can be manslaughter in the first degree (worst) or in the second degree (not as bad). These are determined subjectively by the judge but the conditions are often based on objective previous rulings (precedents).

In determining "criminal negligence", a driver needs to be found negligent, a class E felony, where they "failed to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk of death, constituting a gross deviation from standard that a reasonable person would observe in this situation."

Criminal recklessness, a lesser offense, is when a driver is found to be reckless.

You might be surprised to learn that the penalties for "criminal negligence" if found guilty, runs anywhere from probation to six years in jail, but most of the time, the judge softens the sentence.

Much of this is complicated by the informal rule of thumb called "rule of two" in which a judge looks to see that two laws were committed in a very gross way, such as running a red light, AND going 75 mph in a 30 mph zone.

Maureen McCormick who was the assistant DA for Brooklyn for many years said some judges don't even punish drivers who were caught going 100 mph and killed someone as a result: "They say in effect, 'boys will be boys'" she said. In other words, they look for two gross deviations from the law to establish any criminal culpablity. Then the standard of deviation from normal care is used in assessing the criminal penalty.

These topics are covered in detail in my article Deadly Streets, which covers the application of criminal law in NYC, (see sidebar) or you can go to www.nycyclenews.com, and go to the About Us page, and click on the title "Deadly Streets".

If anything, Gabriel did not show any care for her victims when she left the scene of the accident. Even if there was no criminal prosecution, that would show a complete disregard for the lives of her fellow human beings.

Monday, November 06, 2006

BBB does the NYC Marathon

November, 6 2006.
Yesterday, Benepe's Bike Blog, aka, Benepe herself roused at 4:30 am to prepare for the NYC Marathon.

Not as a runner, like our dear role model, Lance Armstrong who ran what he called “the most difficult” race of his life.

I was going as a cyclist accompaniment to the wheelchair and push cycle riders at the front of the marathon organized by Richard Rosenthal, previous president of the New York Cycle Club.

The point of our involvement was to prevent crashes of the wheelchair competitors with pedestrians and motorists who might stray onto their path.

My friend Doug Daniele came along, and after missing the bus on 39th St., we rode down to a second meeting point for cyclists to cross the Brooklyn Bridge together and ride to the start.
The ride was wonderful, affording us an opportunity to get acquainted with the neighborhoods in Brooklyn. I saw some familar faces, including Herb Dershowitz, a frequent ebikes writer, and Kurt Guftasson of the Century Road Club Association. Later we saw JP Partland who was riding around with an organizer bike group .

We learned later that Kris Lau who has been on his way to meet us, was struck by a hit and run driver, and sustained several injuries, including broken bones.

We rode to a spot where Mr. Rosenthal had gathered cyclists near the foot of the Brooklyn side of the Verazzano Bridge. After eating a lot of delicious pastries donated by Tom Cat bakeries (owned by cyclist Noel Comass), standing around in the cold, and learning what we were to do, Doug managed to worm his way into the winners’ accompaniment, helping take the hand cyclist winner (not id’d on the ING website) to the finish line.

Myself and Rachel Saks from Waltham, MA, went off with a woman wheelchair competitor number 207, April Coughlin, 27, who sported long braids, and was totally awesome, as they say in CaliforniY-A. Several times she managed to pass a male competitor.
The best part was cycling through all the different neighborhoods of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Musical bands of all types had set up along the route, and as we traveled through we were greeted with cheers and “you go number 207” addressed to April. It was such a wonderful way to travel through the boroughs, without any cars to impede our progress, and the good will of so many onlookers.

In Greenpoint, Brooklyn I called out "cześć" which means "hi" and "bye" to the Polish crowd and they all laughed and repeated what I said. In Williamsburg, I felt transported to another place and time, not just by the typical long coats and hats worn by Hasidim, but also by the old buildings that still stood, architectural reminders of the early 1900's. Many residents also appeaared to be functioning as if they were living in the last century, as they crossed in front of us like wondrous, dark-coated ghosts without looking.

Sadly, many of the windows of the buildings in one neighborhood were barricaded with protective bars, all the way up to the top fifth and sixth floors.

On the Pulaski Bridge, I stopped for a bathroom break at the bridge lookout, which was built like a small lighthouse. I had to climb down open grill steel stairs that seemed to go on forever into the pit of the tower, and echoed loudly, pong, pong, pong, with each step of my cleated shoes.

When I came back out I saw Steve Klein, who had jumped onto the course, and was accompanying one of the wheelchair competitors. “Whatsssup!” I called. I am always running into the ubiquitous Mr. Klein, whom I have never seen in public without one of his 28 bicycles.

Once back on the course, I rode alongside hand cyclist, Kevin Riley, 45, who seemed to be moving along at quite a pace, and was unaccompanied. Despite a minor mechanical problem on the Willis Point Bridge, I rode with him almost to the finish line.

Then Doug and I watched the marathon winners come past the finish line. The women looked spectacular in their striated, thinly muscled bodies. Both in the men’s and the women’s categories, those who broke away, female runner Jelena Prokopcuka, and male runner Marilson Gomes dos Santos, were the winners.

Lance looked worse for the wear when he came through, and later is reported to have said he should have trained more. We tried belatedly to catch up with him, but he was surrounded by a posse of admirers and news folk, and Doug who is built like an armored tank, replete with tattoos, was brusquely pushed back by one of Lance’s henchmen. Lance was then quickly whisked away in a black, dark windowed SUV, like the true celebrity he has become.

But I do remember that Nike, whose brand was loudly portrayed on Lance's t-shirt, very curtly turned down my requests for funding disabled cyclists in the 1996 paralympics competition. They said time they had "no interest" in cycling.

Our sympathies go out to Kris Lau, whose accident on the way to the meeting point was just one more indicator of how dangerous it is for cyclists in New York.

Benepes Bike Blog to be Sponsored By Trek Bicycles

Benepes Bike Blog is now being sponsored by Trek, and I rode their Madone SL5.9 women’s specific design (WSD) silver-blue bike through the marathon. After resolving a couple of minor fit issues, the bike rode like a absolute dream through potholed city streets, and responded like a sleek panther to sudden demands for speed.

Tiggy (my dog) is being sponsored with her blog Tiggy Travels, with a Burley carrier, which should be arriving this week!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Brad Will, Critical Mass Documentarian

November 2, 2006--New Yorkers and Critical Mass cyclists are mourning the death of reporter Brad Will who was shot in Oaxaca, Mexico on October 27.

The independent video documentarian, whose real name was William Bradley Roland was videotaping a fracas when he was shot by armed gunmen who were allegedly hired by Oaxaca Governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, to fire against demonstrators in the neighborhood of Santa Lucia del Camino, on the fringe of Oaxaca city. His dramatic, last minute videotaped account of his own death has been posted on the Internet by Salon Chingon. He was 36 years old.

Mr. Will was well known as a documentarian among cyclists who participated regularly in the Critical Mass events that took place at the end of every month in Manhattan.

Oaxaca is also a well known area in Mexico for mountain biking, and has a significant local community of mountain and road cyclists. Benepe's Bike Blog has long been reporting on the area as a draw for cyclists because of its great mountain trails, historic significance, and low cost training advantages. Celestino Bautizo Lazo, a student there, has been the subject of a fundraiser by BBB to purchase a mountain bike for him.

Four other people have been reported killed in the ongoing struggle between Oaxaquenos and the local government since last Friday, which started very early in 2006 when teachers and administrators of the Autonomous University Benito Juarez of Oaxaca, UABJO, went out on strike for better salaries. Since the beginning of the strike, the movement has been joined by several other groups including the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca, APPO, who have been demanding the resignation of Oaxaca governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz.

Mr. Will was a documentarian for Indymedia, a group that has been a strong supporter of the monthly Critical Mass events held by cyclists around the city. According to cyclist Jym Dyer, Indymedia was instrumental in providing videotaped evidence for cyclists who were arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention and accused of breaking the law.

Videotaped testimony provided by Indymedia helped release the cyclists who were shown on tape to be defending themselves against police actions instead of instigating violence, according to several who are familiar with the court case.

Several demonstrators protesting the death of Mr. Will outside of the Mexican Embassy in New York on October 29 were arrested by New York Police officers, and photographers and videographers from the press were pushed and shoved, and their cameras seized by members of the NYPD.

Photo by Mike Pidel

And during the October 27 Critical Mass held in Manhattan, police officers were documented videotaping and photographing cyclists from a black SUV.

President Vicente Fox of Mexico ordered federal troops into Oaxaca on Saturday to bring order to the small town which has long been a tourism hotspot for Americans and Europeans because of its ancient cobbled streets and historic sites.

Residents of Oaxaca who include previous Mexican cycling champion, Pedro Martinez, who owns a bicycle touring company there, have seen their incomes disappear as the city has become engulfed in the fight with the local government.

But no Oaxaqueno is likely to support governor Ortiz who has long been viewed as someone who stole the election, and who provides lucrative government contracts to his pals, while ordinary Oaxaquenos face increasing costs and stagnant salaries. Many cite his repaving of the historic town square, the Zocalo, with flat stones more reminiscent of a mall in California, which destroyed the town's historic character, as a symbolic and literal example of his failed governorship.

The parallels between the two towns of Manhattan in the United States, and Oaxaca in Mexico are not lost on observers. As members of the NYPD sought to prevent the press from documenting police action on October 30, governor Ortiz sent paid men to shut down the local newspaper, Las Noticias, in Oaxaca in late 2005: members of the paper have been working out of makeshift location several blocks away ever since. Governor Ortiz also reportedly shut off the electricity to the local radio station at UABJO that was providing ongoing information on the showdown with the government.

Friday, October 27, 2006

NJ Moves to Ban Unsafe Quick Releases

Proposed Law Would Require Safety Devices on Wheels
10/27/2006--(TRENTON) - A detailed description of legislation sponsored by Assembly members Paul D. Moriarty, David R. Mayer, and Joan M. Voss that would prohibit the sale in New Jersey of bicycles with “problem prone ‘quick-release’ front wheel assemblies” was released by the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee on October 19.

The legislation titled A-2686 would make it an unlawful to sell adult and children’s bicycles equipped with conventional “quick-release” wheels in the state, unless they were equipped with a secondary fail-safe device to prevent the accidental release of the wheel.

Responses from the cycling community were swift. “The New Jersey proposal is looking at the bike as a toy or plaything, not as transportation,” wrote Steve Faust on ebikes, an electronic exchange in New York. He noted that quick releases are critical for taking a bike apart when parking, so the front wheel won’t be stolen.

Mr. Faust also noted that many companies had already designed safety catches on the front of their forks, to prevent the wheel from coming off it the quick release is open or loose: “It has been standard practice to include these catches on pretty much all cheap and mid range bikes for well over a decade,” he added.

But according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, these requirements are only voluntary and still have not met formal approval by the subcommittee that focuses on bike issues. (See below for current, federally defined standards that are enforceable under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act.)

The topic was however a part of the overall meeting agenda by the CPSC bike subcommittee this past May, which was held in Toronto, Canada, and was attended by representatives from Trek Bikes, Fox Racing, Specialized, Huffy, Cannondale, Cervelo, and Sram, among others. But no agreement was reached at the meeting, leaving the industry open to self-policing and self-imposed standards.

Quick releases on the front end of children’s bikes, predominantly in the market’s low-end are to blame, said cyclists overhwhelmingly. Either the equipment is faulty, or the parents do not pay attention, having neglected the bike in the corner of a garage for months on end, and allowing children to use the bikes without first inspecting them.

Parental fault may well have been the reasoning of Superior Court Judge Michael Dufficy in a Marin County, California ruling in favor of Wal-Mart and Dynacraft BSC Inc. in a lawsuit last May where plaintiffs claimed that their children suffered disabling accidents when the front wheel of their bikes came off while riding.

The 12-person civil jury rejected claims that the Wal-Mart and Dynacraft. knowingly sold bicycles with a defective quick-release lever that caused the front wheel to fall off. Three of the children had brain injuries from their falls.

Mark Webb, the plaintiff’s lawyer, claimed that Judge Dufficy did not allow evidence at trial that Dynacraft had paid $1.4 million in civil fines in 2004 for not reporting defects in some of its bicycles to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, but then allowed Dynacraft to provide the jury with a letter by its lawyers that aimed to show they were in full compliance with the agency.

NYCycleNews checked CPSC records to reveal that Dynacraft recalled 500 of its mountain bikes in 1999 due to the quick release mechanism not functioning properly. The company has had several other bike part recalls according to the organization's records.

They are not the only company with such recalls: On Sept. 29, Full Speed Ahead, Inc. of Woodinville, Washington, recalled more than 1,300 bike quick releases. In a statement, CPSC said that “an internal part in the lever mechanism can break, reducing clamping effectiveness and rendering the unit inoperable, potentially causing a bicyclist to fall.” The quick release mechanism reportedly failed 12 times, "with no injuries," according to CPSC. The mechanisms had been sold integrally on Scatto Bicycles, but also separately as a kit for $49.95 during the time period of October 2003 to September 2004.

And in July of this year, Shimano Inc., of Osaka, Japan recalled models of its quick release mechanism used on high-end bikes, citing 19 silver colored models of which 8,500 were in the market and were defective because they could open, causing a cyclist to fall head first.

Consumers were advised by the CPSC that they should stop using the skewers “immediately” and return them to the stores where they were purchased. The quick release skewers had been distributed to bicycle specialty stores and dealers nationwide from November 2005 through March 2006 and had retailed for between $13 and $44.

Readers are urged to contact the following sponsors of the bill with their comments and questions:
Assemblyman Moriarty
(856) 232-6700

Assemblyman Mayer
(856) 227-5900

Assemblywoman Voss
(201) 346-6400

James Sverapa IV
(609) 292-7065

SHIMANO RECALL (July, 2006) Description and Models:
This recall involves quick releases supplied after November 1, 2005 with Shimano front hubs and front wheels on the following road racing and MTB bicycles. Model numbers included in the recall are: HB-5501, HB-5600, HB-6600, HB-7800, HB-HF-08, HB-M756, HB-M760, HB-M760, HB-M960, HB-M965, WH-7801, WH-7801C, WH-7801C50, WH-7801SL, WH-R600, WH-M965, DH-2N71, DH-3N71 and DH-3D71. Only quick releases with silver skewers and without a round sticker on the back of the quick release lever are involved in this recall. Remedy: Consumers should stop riding immediately and take the quick release device into their local bike dealer or retailer for a free inspection and repair.

Consumer Contact: For more information, contact Shimano American Corp. at (800) 353-4719 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. PT Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s Web site at bike.shimano.com

SCATTO RECALL (Sept. 29. 2006)
Full Speed Ahead (FSA) Scatto bicycle wheel quick releases. Description: The Full Speed Ahead Scatto quick release was sold as standard equipment for RD-400 and XC-300 bicycle wheelsets and also separately. The levers are laser etched “FSA” and the end pieces have a distinctive round shape. Sold at: Bike shops, catalogs, and Web sites sold the recalled quick releases nationwide from October 2003 through September 2004 for $49.95 per set.

Remedy: Free replacement. Consumers should stop using the quick releases and call Full Speed Ahead toll-free at (877) 743-3372 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT Monday through Friday, or write to Full Speed Ahead, Inc., 12810 NE 178th St #102, Woodinville, WA 98072.

Provisions pertaining to federal bike requirements as per the Consumer Product Safety Commission Code of Federal Recommendations, CFR in Title 16, Part 1512. Bicycles that fail these requirements are banned under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act.
Wheel Hub Requirements copied from CPSC summary paper:
http://www.cpsc.gov/businfo/regsumbicycles.pdf pg 4.

it appears that QR may NOT be required to have safety tabs, but they must have positive identification of open/closed.

What requirements must wheel hubs meet? All bicycles (other than sidewalk bicycles) must meet the following requirements:

(1) Each wheel must have a positive locking device
that fastens it to the frame. Use the
manufacturer’s recommended torque to tighten
threaded locking devices. The locking devices on
front wheels (except for quick-release devices)
must not loosen or come off when a tester tries to
take them off using a torque of 12.5 ft-lb applied
in the direction of removal. Once fastened to the
frame, the axle of the rear wheel must not move
when it receives a force of 400 lbf for 30 seconds
applied in the direction that removes the wheel.

(2) Quick-release devices with a lever must be
adjustable to allow the lever to be set for
tightness. Riders must be able to clearly see the
levers and determine whether the levers are
locked or unlocked. When it is locked, the
clamping action of the quick release device must
bite into the metal of frame or fork.

(3) Front wheel hubs that do not use a quick release
device must have a positive retention feature that
keeps the wheel on when the locking devices are
loosened. To test this, release or unscrew the
locking device, and apply a force of 25 lbf to the
hub in the same direction as the slots in the fork.
See §1512.18(j)(3) for this test.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Maine, State of Cyclist Intolerance

I can't believe what I read today, from Maine.

Drivers in this country are out of control, our DOT's are lacking in vision, and the leadership obviously needs to be replaced if motorists feel this way.

After a cyclist was killed (note, the cyclist was killed, not the car driver), these are some of the things that those sensible, God-fearing, quaint and quiet people of Maine wrote.

"Get them off the road," wrote one reader.

"Little did I know all the cyclists I see have no vehicle and are apparently jobless & homeless thus not contributing to state or local taxes," wrote another.

A third complained that cyclists are to blame for disobeying traffic laws--as if motorists did not routinely do so.

And what does this driver mean?: "As a driver, I keep in check that my vehicle out weighs a human being by a couple thousand pounds. Regardless if an accident I am in is caused by me or a walker/runner/bicyclist, that person is likely to suffer more damage getting hit by my car, than my car would suffer in such an accident."

Does that mean they want the person to suffer more than their car or the other way around? Let's hope it's the latter.

Now to put this in perspective, who is to blame for these perspectives, and this fighting on the road?

Our leaders are to blame for not allocating more dollars to creating safe bike lanes on the major roads, the Departments of Transportation, state and local, for not implementing safe ways for us to travel, and the car manufacturers who continue to build faster cars that only provide safety for the people inside a vehicle--and not for the safety of people outside.

Here is the article:
Drivers versus cyclists: Just exactly whose road is it anyway?
By Colleen Stone

Monday, October 16, 2006
Following a collision between a man on a bicycle and a truck in South Portland more than a week ago that killed the cyclist, people came out of the Internet woodwork to add their two cents on the story at MaineToday.com.
Only most of the comments weren't about the specific incident itself, but the larger topic of drivers versus cyclists in general.

Emphasis on versus.

A lot of drivers had clearly had enough of dealing with cyclists on the road whom they saw as reckless. Someone posting with the handle "s" thought cyclists were putting themselves and drivers in peril by flouting the rules of the road:

"Cyclists are supposed to follow the same rules of the road are they not? Why then, do most continue thru stop signs and weave in and out and around thru traffic rather than wait like the rest of us? This does cause problems and irritation and is dangerous."

The anecdotes about poor cycling etiquette and plain old recklessness went on and on: Cyclists riding across the entire expanse of a lane, proceeding through red lights, not using turn signals and cutting across traffic. While such behavior isn't necessarily the rule among cyclists, it's common enough that many have developed a hate/hate relationship with bikes on the road.

Ben was one person calling for stricter regulation of bikes as a solution to such infractions: "You have (to) take a class and have a license to do anything on a public way. Why don't you have to have a bike license? Also who pays for the roads that the bikes ride on? Isn't that why we have to register our vehicles to pay for roads to be maintained?"

More education Ð for cyclists and drivers alike Ð about the rules of the road concerning bikes and vehicles would be helpful. But as some of you were quick to point out, making licensing a condition of operating a motor vehicle doesn't weed out all of the horrific drivers on the road.

And as Rick pointed out, a lot of cyclists do pay for road maintenance, through vehicle fees and other taxes:

"Little did I know all the cyclists I see have no vehicle and are apparently jobless & homeless thus not contributing to state or local taxes."

Another visitor questioned why anyone would ride a bike in the dark anyway, saying cyclists difficult enough for drivers to spot during the day. To that, Jesse had this to say:

"Perhaps the cyclist had a job, but no car. That's what someone would be doing on the road at 6:00 in the morning. If you have trouble seeing cyclists in broad daylight, maybe YOU should be riding (or walking)."

Some drivers seem to forget that for some cyclists, bikes aren't just a means of getting in some exercise or recreation; they're also a mode of transportation. For some people, their only mode of transportation. Of course, that doesn't mean that cyclists shouldn't take all possible precautions to make sure they're visible to drivers. Some weren't so sure even taking those precautions would be enough to satisfy what they see as inconsiderate drivers.

To mock some drivers' apparent lack of consideration for bikers, one poster slipped into character and launched into a tirade against those pesky bikers:

"While I'm putting down the phone and finishing my donut, this bicyclist comes out of nowhere!! If I had waited just a couple of more seconds to turn off the "Men in Black 2" video, he would have run right into me, probably scratching my new paint job."

Of course, the satire was lost on some and a few indignant comments followed. So maybe there's hope yet.

LW pointed out that no matter who's at fault in an accident involving a car and a bike, drivers have one big advantage over cyclists: a steel cage.

"As a driver, I keep in check that my vehicle out weighs a human being by a couple thousand pounds. Regardless if an accident I am in is caused by me or a walker/runner/bicyclist, that person is likely to suffer more damage getting hit by my car, than my car would suffer in such an accident."

All the more reason for drivers and cyclists to exercise caution and courtesy.

Another user, Reason, wondered why people were discussing bikes and cars competing for road real estate at all. As in: Why are bikes on the road, anyway?

"Get them off the roads Ð the bikes, that is. Stand-alone paths that commuters and families can use safely. I'd love to see bike paths crisscross the city and extend beyond to neighboring towns Ð Freeport, Brunswick."

In an ideal world, a bike would never touch a road. But as we all know, the world is far from ideal. And when that's the case, such clashes as the ones we see between drivers and cyclists occur.

CU, remarking on the South Portland accident, urged people to stop blaming and start working toward solutions:

"I hope we can find a way to work together, without blame, to make sure no other drivers or emergency personnel have to see that ever again."

On that, I think everyone can agree.

KEEP UP with Colleen Stone's latest thoughts and musings on Maine and post
your comments in her regularly updated blog:

Reader comments

Biker 69 of Portland, ME
Oct 16, 2006 1:22 PM
I spend a lot of time riding the roads in Southern Maine. I have found that many drivers are oblivious to a cyclist's presence on the road and really do not have a clue as to the courtesy they should extend to a cyclist if they do happen to notice them, unless of course the driver rides a bike him/her self. And it is true that many cyclists bend the rules of the road when operating in traffic. I would agree with the idea that more training and instruction is needed in driver's ed courses in an effort to try and reduce accidents, and biker's need this type of training also. But it really comes down to courtesy on both sides of the issue. Bikers: follow the rules. Be noticed when riding but avoid taunting drivers with your presence. And don't forget that bicycles are to be equiped with lights (not reflectors) when operating after sun down. Drivers: give bikers some room to work and don't forget that the biker that you just passed is still moving with you when you make your right hand turn!
Erik West of Bath, ME
Oct 16, 2006 12:21 PM
I've taught bike safety education to youth and adults in Maine for seven years. I've taken adults out in traffic to learn how to ride safely and legaly. I also put about 20,000 miles a year on my car traveling the state, so I think I can see the driver and the cyclist point of view.

That said, I need to comment on one of her conclusions. She states that "In an ideal world, a bike would never touch a road." I think in an ideal world, bikes and cars would coexist. They would share the road. Car drivers would also be cyclists and would expect bikes. Cyclists would expect to follow the automobile laws and realize the inherent disadvantage to being on a bicycle in terms of being seen. And both groups realize the inherent advantage of being a cyclists and being in better physical shape as a result.

For years, bicycle educators like myself have tried to find a way to reach the cyclist that we see riding against traffic, in the dark, without lights, without a helmet, etc. But this demographic is very hard to reach as an educator. And they may well have been taught as a child, as I was, to ride their bike on the wrong side of the street.

However, if the American culture accepts bicycles as road users, like the law does, this behavior is less likely to happen. Today, when a person turns 16 and gets a licence to drive, many expect them to never ride a bike again. This is such a shortsighted assumption.

FInally, We dont need to create an ideal world for it to happen. We need only to look at european contries where cars and bikes coexist everyday. How do they do it? It is part of their culture.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Gubernatorial Candidate Spitzer and the Port Authority Respond to GWB Complaints

October 9, 2006
Last month, Benepe's Bike Blog wrote a letter to Kenneth Ringler, the Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey requesting a status update on the progress of the south cyclist and pedestrian path (letter reprinted below).

As many of you know, this more accessible side was closed all summer during peak riding season, a complete affront to the importance of cyclists in the region. The north side was opened in exchange, but numerous steps have led to accidents and severe inconvenience for cyclists. The fact that the bridge path is completely closed to cyclists from 12 midnight to 6 a.m. is also an abrogation of our civil right to equal access under federal transportation law.

We also sent a copy of the letter to New York gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer, whom we suspect will be likely to support bicycle progress in New York, as well as have control over how the PANYNJ handles cycling matters if he should win the election this fall.

Included in the letter was a suggestion that the port authority charge cyclists 50 cents and then provide on and off ramps directly to the Greenway in Manhattan, and to Hudson Terrace and River Road in New Jersey. We also asked for 24-hour access, the same that cars and trucks enjoy.
While Mr. Spitzer responded to not only the immediate need for the south pathway to be opened but also the larger issues confronting cyclists on bridge crossings at the GWB and other bridges (such as overnight closures,) the PANYNJ did not even respond to the issue, treating the suggestion as if it were never made.

And while Mr. Spitzer noted that he would look into the various issues, including the accessibility of bridges to cyclists, the port authority only said that unanticipated construction, such as additional areas of the south sidewalk needing repair, were to blame for the delay. They made no mention of how they might better handle the north side stairs which have ill fitting railways and handrails that do little to help cyclists up and down while wearing cleated shoes.

One thing is certain: contact names and numbers have been supplied: Mr. Robert Durando, General Manager of the GWB Bus Station at 201-346-4005; and Terri Benczik, Client Manager of Government and Community Affairs, at 212-435-4807, both at the PANYNJ.

Reprint of Original letter:

Sept. 12, 2006

Kenneth J. Ringler
Executive Director
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
225 Park Ave. South
New York, NY 10003

Dear Mr. Ringler:

The construction on the south side of the George Washington Bridge that has blocked the south path from pedestrian and cyclist use has proven to be an enormous inconvenience for cyclists this summer, peak bike riding season.

Several cyclists have fallen down the long, slippery steps on the north side, damaging their bodies and their bikes.

On weekends there are long wait times to go up and down the stairs to cross the bridge because of the number of cyclists crossing at one time (more than 1,500 per day crossing twice).

I have watched several cyclists turning away from the bridge because of the huge inconvenience caused by the up and down staircase, including a family of three, two adults and a baby, on bikes.

The bike railings are useless for most cyclists because they wear cleated shoes that slip on the open metal stairways, and therefore while holding the side rails with their hands, they must carry their bikes. While they hold the side rails, they must do so more than 2 feet away because of the placement of the yellow bike rails which are in the way, and completely useless to them.

In the meantime, we were told the south side would be open by September.

It is not open yet, and it is now the second year in a row where cyclists are not only inconvenienced but also endangered by the construction.

In a reply to one of my emails earlier this summer, someone on your media staff said that cyclists should be thankful for any passage at all because, after all, it is “free”.

I have done an informal poll among cyclists, and found that they would be happy to pay a toll of 50 cents —the car equivalent by weight and size—to have the same amenities as motorists: ramped entrances and exits, direct connections to bike routes and bike paths, such as the Westside greenway, and most importantly, 24-hour access.

The fact that after so many years we do not have on and off ramps directly connecting us to all important bike paths in New York and New Jersey, is incredible and prejudicial, favoring motorized traffic over human beings who are preserving the environment.

That the path is closed from midnight to 6 a.m. because cyclists and pedestrians pose more of a terrorist threat than do cars and trucks which can carry huge caches of explosives, is prejudicial and without merit. The bridge can also, at any point in time, be easily hit by a missile fired from either side of the river, along any of the walkways, parks or streets which are largely un-patrolled by the authorities.

Can we have a progress report on the status of the south side please?

Please indicate in your reply the person responsible at the Port Authority with whom I can address these short and long term issues.

I will also like to open a formal dialogue on behalf of cyclists to convert the pathways to ramps that lead seamlessly into bike paths, and the restitution of 24-hour access.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Best Regards,

Jen Benepe
President and Publisher
2157 Center Ave., Suite One
Fort Lee, NJ 07024

Cc: Gov. George E. Pataki
NY State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer

To be published later: copies of both letters.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Motorcycle Terrorists

Sept. 18, 2006
What belching, odoriferous road full of swarming locusts appeared last Sunday? You win, about 1,000 motorcyclists driving through lower New York State on one of their "fundraisers", terrorizing every single pedestrian, cyclist, and motorist in their path last Sunday, Sept. 17, that's what.
I thought motorists were the bad guys. And because motorcyclists are also on two wheels, and subject to many of the same dangers, I thought they might be more sympathetic to our plight: The double indemnity of close passing, speeding motorists. Drivers who turn in front of us, assuming we are made of steel.
Motorcyclists are also being killed in greater numbers than ever before, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. So maybe it was fair to assume that motorcyclists are on our side.
Not so fast my friend.
As the screaming, belching motorcyclists swarmed their way up Rte. 501 from Sparkill, NY onto Rte. 9W, about 20 cyclists heading south gathered at the intersection of Tallman Rd. and 9W to wait for them to pass. A long line of cars coming north, and south were also stopped to wait for the cavalcade of motorized steel blarting their way through the green countryside, decimating any semblance of peace on this otherwise tranquil Sunday morning. We tried to exchange words, but the noise was deafening.
As the police held traffic to allow them to bully through at 60 miles per hour (in a 40 mph zone), and unable to cross to the south side, after waiting about 15 minutes I headed south along the northbound shoulder, watching for cyclists that might be coming my way.
After the Palisades intersection I crossed over onto the southbound side by merging with some motorcycle riders who had slowed near the intersection.
My mistake.
It seemed to me, and to five other cyclists who climbed State Line Hill, that we were intentionally terrorized as motorcyclists driving on the right white line passed us with intense speed, pushing us over even farther, onto the grass and into the ditch.
The din was enormous, the smell of gas noxious and nauseating. The fear of being hit by one of these screeching machines was overwhelming. As they passed closer and closer, I waved my arm out to signal to them to give me more space.
But this simple action made these people come even closer, virtually within inches of my legs, while simultaneously accelerating.
I felt if I moved an inch to my left, I might be pierced by a speeding spear of steel.
Some of the riders were sitting back low with their legs sticking out on both sides, as if on a couch drinking beer and watching football: One man mocked us by making a cycling movement with his legs out of the stirrups. Policemen on massive motorcycles added to the cacophony and danger by speeding by with their sirens blazing, and making everyone move even farther over the white line and into the shoulder.

I thought, “Perhaps today I will die.”

I understood them: "Hey you road target, it's our day, our "ride". Now 'git you lowlife!”
Ten four, message received loud and clear.
I stopped with a group of cyclists at the top of State Line because the "people" on motorcycles were taking a turn at about 50 mph onto the Palisades Parkway, across our path of egress. Another line of cars snaked down the road from the south, waiting for the motorcyclists to turn onto the highway. I could only imagine what the wild animals on both sides of the road were doing--trembling and quivering, hidden in holes, from the deafening noise, smells, and violence of these people and their machines.
And imagine that the city of New York wants quiet, peaceful, environmentally careful, safe cyclists to get a permit when they ride in numbers greater than 10!
This ride of insane, dangerous, environmentally damaging road hogs shouldn't even be granted a permit!

Disclaimer: Anyone who did not partake in this heinous ride, nor in the behavior the riders exhibited, is not included in this expression of disgust will all things motorcyclist, and my most sincere apologies for lumping you in with those whose behavior is abominable

Monday, September 11, 2006

Nine Eleven

While the media wages one of its most powerful days of the year with a reminder of almost 3,000 people who died five years ago, it is perhaps time for somber reflection.

What no terrorist can see or feel is into our hearts. From these terrible events, the destruction of people at the two World Trade Centers, in the Pentagon, and on a plane in Pennsylvania, we can only feel utter sadness.

But our sorrow that cuts deep like broken glass and pervades this day with anguish for our fellow human beings when we imagine how they felt during the moments of terror, that sorrow is hard to convey to someone who does not know us.

How can we really know the pain, panic and suffering of those who were on board the flights that hit the trade towers? Or of those people who were trapped, burning on the upper floors? Or, the intense desperation of those caught in the stairways when the buildings collapsed all around them? And those people who desperately sought to regain control of a plane even as they knew it was going to crash and kill them all, what were they feeling?

It is hard to know.

This is a reminder to take stock in all that is meaningful to you and give homage; to think deeply and carefully of all those you care about and who care about you, and to give them an extra moment, another chance, or a free day when you can share in the miracle of life.

It is also the moment to think about readdressing your priorities and taking a vow that you will dedicate your life to bringing wisdom, health, happiness, joy and beauty to as many people in the world as possible. Or maybe even to a lucky few.

Now that's not too much to ask for, is it?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Benepe's Bike Blog Moves to New Location

Sept. 6, 2006. Virtual location that is. After spending more than six months, Benepe's Bike Blog has moved to a new location. Our new location is at http://benepesbikeblog.blogspot.com.

This new venue will allow BBB to be properly archived, and more importantly, will allow you to comment on the pieces. Clearly, this is the way to go these days.
All of the previous blogs have been added to this new format, and are "archived" below by name and date. Unfortunately, they were all added today, Sept. 6, so you'll have to check them out all in the month of September (virtually).
More changes will be coming to NY Cycle News as well, so keep posted.

How Cycling is Changing in China, August 30, 2006

August 30, 2006--A terrific article by writer Bill Donahue published on the Sierra Club website this month details the how modernization in China is crowding out cyclists.
Orignally from Oregon where he rides a $1,000 Trek, Donahue traveled to Shanghai to see for himself how the increase in car usage, and the closing of many roads to cyclists, was changing the ease with which cyclists can ride.
The importance of cycling in the Chinese economy since the Cultural Revolution began a rapid decline once the country declared itself politically open to capitalism in the late 1990's. Bicycles are still the primary form of transportation in China, with a population of 1.3 billion people, and 470 million bicycles, compares to the U.S. where we have a population of 298 million people and 100 million bikes--the number of bikes per person is .33 in the U.S. and .36 in China.
But these numbers mask the fact that the automobile is pushing out cyclists on major streets and thoroughfares. Rather than protest the draconian road closures, and bullying by motorists on the roads, the Chinese, long used to a system of upper and lower class distinctions, according to Mr. Donahue, take their shoving aside in stride.
Spending on roadways and highways is now unprecedented in China which at $40 billion a year should result in "the world's most extensive interstate-highway system" by 2008, said Donahue. He also notes that last year "China became the world's second-largest car market, selling nearly 6 million vehicles."
The cars are sold mostly to members of the newly rich capitalist class, who by all accounts prefer Mercedes and BMW's. That could be a good thing said Donahue, because those cars are cleaner and pollute less.
Also on his trip Donahue hires an interpretor named Gorden to go on the road with him--by Chinese bicycle--and Gorden turns out to be running a highly successful prostitution business with three cellphones he carries with him. He doesn't fire his pimp-interpretor, but notes that as part of the rising class, he already looks down on cyclists as poor and lower class, and distinguishes himself instead by riding the city's crammed public transportation system.
Dressed in a black velvet jacket, Gorden yearns for a BMW, Mercedes, but he also liked the Jaguar hood symbol. "Just a large cat--very cool. But I think I will buy something practical like a Honda Accord or an Elantra, or maybe a Toyota Crown or a Lexus," he said.

There is still time: only about eight cars were owned per 1,000 people in 2004, "which is approximately where the United States stood in 1920," said Donahue. Yet car ownership is increasing by 15 percent per year, faster than anywhere else in the world, he added.
Donahue also visited the big factory where the local Forever bicycles are manafactured where Forever CEO Gu Juexin explained that he no longer will be manufacturing bikes for the Chinese market, but for Wal-Mart in the U.S. But Donahue said, the Chinese government has created some bike routes, closed off tangential roads to cars, and improved mass transit. They also offer government incentives to purchase non-polluting electric bikes which are increasingly found on the roads there--often pushing aside human pedaled bikes.

Hindsight is 20/20 they say, and Americans know that too many cars results in too much traffic--and eventually standstill. The movement backwards to create more bike lanes is oppressively difficult, as we all know. Will China find the vision to make a halt halfway in their march towards modernization, or will they fall into the same trap we did?

Read Donahue's report here.

SELECTED STATISTICS On China and the U.S. (from Donahue's report):
China vs. / U.S.
Population 1.3 billion / 298 million
Projected population in 2025 1.4 billion / 350 million
Average annual income $1,500 / $44,000
Projected income in 2025 $10,488 / $82,000
Number of bikes 470 million / 100 million
Number of private passenger vehicles 13 million / 144 million
Annual percentage increase in number of private
passenger vehicles 15% / 3%
Barrels of oil consumed daily 6.5 million / 20 million
Percentage of world's energy
consumption 13% / 23%
Tons of carbon dioxide emitted in 2003 3.5 billion / 5.9 billion
Percentage of world's carbon
dioxide emissions 14% / 24%
Year that China is expected to surpass the United States
in carbon emissions: 2025

Oh When, Oh When will GWB be Accessible Again? Aug. 14, 2006

A Letter to the Port Authority About GWB
August 14, 2006--As many cyclists know, the New York New Jersey Port Authority closed the bike-accessible south side of the bridge just in time for the heavy summer season. As a result, cyclists have been struggling with more than six, count them, six sets of steps that they need to climb up and down to get across the bridge, often carrying their bikes.
Benepe's Bike Blog took it upon ourselves to send the Port Authority a letter on Friday, August 11 at 8:30 in the morning. So far, there has not been a peep of an answer from the communications office.
Below is a copy of the letter. We will be checking on them again later today to see why these questions are so difficult to answer:

Hi Jordan, Tony--

Can you tell me when the bridge path will be back to the south side?

It’s proven to be an enormous inconvenience for cyclists this summer during
peak riding season.

Several cyclists have fallen down the long, slippery steps in their cleated
shoes, damaging their bodies and their bikes.

On weekends there are long wait times to go up and down the stairs to cross
the bridge because of the number of cyclists (average 1500 per day on the

I have watched several cyclists turning away from the bridge because of the
huge inconvenience caused by the up and down staircase, including a family
of three, two adults and a baby, on bikes. The bike railings are useless for
most cyclists because they wear cleated shoes which slip on the open metal
stairways, and therefore in order to hold the railing with their hands, they
must carry their bikes. While they hold the railing, they must do so more
than 2 feet away because of the placement of the yellow bike rails which are
in the way, and completely useless to them.

It is an incredibly dangerous and inconvenient condition.

In the meantime, we haven’t noticed any visible progress on the south side,
including the purported planned widening of the pathway at the entrance to
New Jersey, which was your stated reason for closing the pathway all summer

Tony, despite your earlier note which indicated that the path is “free” and
cyclists should be thankful for it, I have done an informal poll, and found
that cyclists would be happy to pay for a toll of 50 cents —the car
equivalent by weight and size—to have the same amenities as cars—ramped
entrances and exits, and direct connections to bike routes and bike paths,
such as the Westside greenway, and most importantly, 24-hour access.

Can we have a progress report on the status of the south side please?

Can you please also indicate in your reply who is the person responsible in
the Port Authority with who I can address these short and long term issues?
I appreciate it.


Jen Benepe
President and Publisher

You Know You're Addicted to Cycling When, Aug. 7, 2006

August 7, 2006
I love this list, submitted by Ron Spechler of the North Jersey Bike Association. His original list was a tad sexist, so I've changed the orientation where necessary to reflect both sexes of addicts. It also is a bit suburbia-centric, but never mind, the intent is terrific. You'll laugh at yourself after you read this. Major suggestion--don't show this list to your boss or future employer.
You know you're addicted to cycling when:
--Your surgeon tells you need a heart valve replacement and you ask if you have a choice between presta and schrader;
--A measurement of 44-36-40 doesn't refer to the latest Playboy/ Playgirl centerfold, but that new gear ratio you were considering for your Cobra.
--A Power Bar starts tasting better than a Snickers.
--The bra your significant other finds in your glove compartment belongs to your Trek and not the cute waitress at Denny's.
--You wear your heart monitor to bed to make sure you stay within your target zone during any extracurricular activities.
--The funeral director tells you "NO!" you can't ride your Cannondale in the funeral procession, even if you keep your headlight on.
--You experience an unreasonable envy over someone who has bar end extenders longer than yours.
--You're too tired for hanky-panky on a Friday night but pump out a five-hour century on Saturday.
--Your wife/ husband tells you the only way she'll let you ride across the country is over her/ his dead body and you tell her/him, "If that's the case, you'll be my first speed bump!"
--You no longer require a hankie to blow your nose.
--You have stopped even trying to explain to your spouse why you need two bikes...you just go buy another one and figure it will
all work out in the divorce settlement.
--You buy your crutches instead of renting.
--You see nothing wrong with discussing the connection between hydration and urine color.
--You have more money invested in your bike clothes than in the rest of your combined wardrobe.
--Biker chic means black spandex, not leather, and a Marinoni, not a Harley.
--"Four cheeseburgers and four large French Fries" is for you.
--You see a fit, tanned, Lycra-clad young woman/ man ride by, and the first thing you check out is her/ his bicycle.
--You empathize with the roadkill.
--Despite all that winter fat you put on, you'll skim weight by buying titanium components.
--You use wax on your chain, but not on your car.
--Your bike has more miles on its computer then your car's odometer.
--You wear your bike shorts swimming.
--You buy a bikini with shorts for bottoms because of your mid-thigh tan line.
--Your bikes are worth more than your car.
--When you move to a new area the first thing you look for is a bike shop.
--You have more bike jerseys than dress shirts.
--You take your bike along when you shop for a car - just to make sure the bike will fit inside.
--You clean your bike(s) more often then your car.
--You're on the Board of Directors for a Bike Club.
--You mount a $600 cap, on a $1,000 pickup truck, so your $3,000 bike doesn't get wet.
---You can't seem to get to work by 8:30 AM, even for important meetings, but you don't have any problems at all meeting your buddies at 5:30 AM for a hammerfest.
--You can tell your spouse, with a straight face, that it's too hot to mow the lawn or do the laundry and then bike off for a century.
--You know your cadence, but you have no idea what your speed is.
--Your car sits outside your garage because your garage is full of bikes and cycling gear.
--You tailgate a semi-trailer to get the drafting effect.
--You hear someone had a crash and your first question is "How's the bike?"
--You smile at your evening date, and she/ he politely points out that you seem to have bugs in your teeth.
--You actually get these jokes and pass them on to other friends who are addicted to cycling.
--You think "I have to shave my legs before I pick her up tonight for dinner"
And I added:
--You think guys who don't shave their legs are ugly and not worth your time
--You include "rides a bike" in your online dating requirements
--You tell any future significant other never to expect you to be available on Saturday and Sunday mornings every weekend for the rest of your life before you even tell them your name, unless of course they go with you on the bike
--You draft behind a guy on a bicycle just so you can watch the muscles in his legs
--As a woman you also enjoy watching women's backsides while they ride so you can improve your form
--You tell people you are a cyclist before you tell them what you do for a living
--You go to sleep early on Friday and Saturday nights just so you can keep up with the fast guys
--You wear your heartrate monitor every time you ride so when you crash and end up in the hospital, they won't have to take your heart rate
--You spend more money on one pair of bike shoes than on shoes you wear to work, parties, and casual all combined
--You care more about how your legs look when you wear bike shorts than when you wear skirts
--You do sit ups just so your jersey doesn't crumple in front when you wear it
--You would rather go for a bike ride than do your nails, and will spend a whole week with broken nail polish and sightly nails than not ride
--You plan every single vacation with cycling in mind, and if your S.O. tells you you won't be able to ride, you cancel

If you have more to add, please email jbenepe@msn.com

Desperate Reporting on Central Park, July 31, 2006

Cardwell's Desperate Story-Telling on Central Park--Again
July 31, 2006--Diane Cardwell of the New York Times is on another witch-hunt to augment her city desk career. Her latest, a hunt and peck attempt to dissect pieces of email taken out of context constitute another desperate ploy to give her almost-buried stories subversive, national appeal.
The latest is a cut and paste article on her favorite conspiracy theory, that the current Bloomberg administration, including the Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, is hopelessly anti-anti-war and anti-free speech, and that the Parks Department’s refusal to honor large protest requests in Central Park is nothing but a thinly veiled excuse to squash the voices of Democracy.
But if Ms. Cardwell were really the reporter she tries to make herself appear to be, she would have done her homework. But she didn’t.
I should know that Mr. Benepe is not anti-anti-war. First of all he is my brother, so I know. Secondly I remember vividly that we were both engaged from the time we were just out of the womb in our family’s pacifist endeavors. A fact that the quick to point fingers Cardwell neglected to unearth is that both our parents were Quakers, and devoutly anti-war. Our natural born mother, (we have two stepmothers as well) Dr. Jagna Wojcicka-Sharff was Polish and lived during her formative years in Nazi work camps. Imagine a eight-year-old living out her only childhood being taken from her home, stuffed into Nazi train cars like a mule, and living under the sound of air raid sirens until she was about 12. So there is ample room in our family for anti-war sentiment.
This meant that I was barely one when I was hoisted onto the back of my placard waving mother and carted off to an anti-war protest in Washington D.C. At the age of five we were both enrolled in the Bread and Puppet Theater where we constructed enormous anti-war puppets that we lugged to D.C. to protest in the hot sun.
Cardwell’s use of portions of emails taken out of context from an entire conversation, is part and parcel of the art of fabrication. And we know that certain reporters from the NY Times have often engaged in the art of fabrication—why not Ms. Cardwell?
This story is being kept alive since 2004 with the hopes of rattling the bones of more liberal New Yorkers, the ones who read the Times, of which my brother and I are a part.
But the facts are always carefully concealed in Ms. Cardwell’s articles. It cost the city more than $18 million dollars and two years to fix the great lawn, and they have had engineers tell them that it would be destroyed with a certain number of people stomping on it. It was a dust bowl before that, thanks to all the previous abuse.
An orderly, small concert will yield different results as we all know: political protests make people upset, and that is their purpose. Also, the lawn has not been lent out to any parties over a certain number since it was redone in 1999, regardless of political orientation.
The last big march, United for Peace and Justice that hoped to make its way to the park was way over the engineer's people limit. No one in that group would be able to post an insurance bond big enough to cover the costs (nor the time) of redoing the lawn. Presumably a smaller concert would.
It’s amazing that the people who are most keen on using Central Park for their protests—very convenient, nice soft spots of grass to sit on, spots that won’t be grassy after they leave—by and large are not from New York, and will leave once they are done. Why should they care if the lawn is damaged and they can’t use it for the next two years? They won’t be here after all. Nor will they pay for it.
The other really good question is, what is wrong with Queens and Brooklyn, venues that have been offered with real generosity by the city who is under no obligation whatsoever to offer any park to the organizers (for a group which is composed of people, I need to remind you, who are mostly from out of town).
Is it perhaps because they are afraid they the TV trucks from CBS, NBC and ABC that are right around the corner to Central Park may not make it out in great numbers to the outer boroughs?
I thought the New York Sun put these points down well, as did this Great Lawn fact sheet.
Unfortunately, these facts never make it into Ms. Cardwell's reporting. But then, there wouldn’t be a story, would there?

Back to NYCycleNews.

Donations for Cyclist Still Short $295, July 12, 2006

July 12, 2006-- Cyclists, friends and family have opened their hearts to help Celestino Bautizo Lazo buy a bicycle so he can ride to school, begin racing, and start a mountain biking tour business in his native Oaxaca.
Here Celestino is with his family. He is second from left. They are standing in front of their handmade rugs, which the family weave for a living.

Benepe's Bike Blog thanks all of you for you incredible assistance to Celestino. Remember, the next time you want to train during the cold (brr!) winter months, you can head over to Celestino's house located in Teotitaln del Valle.

Celestino will also use the bike to take mountain bikers up to Benito Juarez, one of the most beautiful natural areas in the world.

Here is yours truly (JB) in the area two years ago. Yes, it was cold, dipping down to 40 degrees fahrenheit at night.

To donate online please go to first VIsa PayPal to donate $10 link, and second plain PayPal link to donate $5. They are both the same exact for the dollar amount. Thanks!!!

Media Ignores Key Points in Tunnel Threat, July 7, 2006

July 7, 2006--Reports in the last hour that Jordanian backed bombers planned to blow up New York's Holland Tunnel have been ignoring the important impact such an event would have on New York and the entire northeast. A report by the NY Daily News, and perhaps the terrorists themselves, have focused on the potential flooding of the Wall St. area had Al Qaeda sympathizers allegedly backed by the recently deceased Abu Musab al-Zarqawi been successful in their aims.
The danger of such an event is far greater than the flooding the terrorrists have planned for. Just the fear alone of a possible attack can have a paralyzing effect on transportation in the entire northeast. Imagine 20 percent of the tunnel users redirecting themselves instead to the George Washington Bridge to travel between New York and the rest of the east coast. Currently the bridge is at capacity, at times with traffic backed up on IS- 95/ 80 --stalling all interstate traffic for hours. Imagine if the number of people who chose to switch the way they have traveled either temporarily or permanently came to more than 20 percent of tunnel users. What we would have is a completely stalled interstate transportation system and the myriad problems that would bring.
Then imagine that terrorists are successful in carrying out their plot through one of their multifarious cells. That's 100 percent of the interstate traffic diverted to the GWB and the Tappan Zee Bridge. A physical impossibility, and far more significant perhaps than flooding parts of lower Manhattan.
The possibility that misdirected terrorists could destroy the tunnel and the bridge have always hung in the back of the minds of many commuters as they chug along every day on their trips back and forth to the city. The recent strengthening of the GWB cables with a bomb-strength protectant that would send the force of an explosion outward would only serve to preserve the bridge's structure in the event of a terrorist strike: the force would still bring the bridge down possibly 20 feet according to experts knowledgeable about the technology. In such an explosion, likely everyone on the bridge would perish. Bridge and tunnel users often complain that police inspections of trucks and cars entering either crossing are negligible.
But again, the effect on interstate movement would be so debilitating as to bring the entire northeast to a close standstill. Imagine, no food, supplies, trucks, and people able to cross from west to east without significant delays and costs. That would choke off New York City, Westchester, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Long Island, from points west and vice versa. It would create massive problems with connecting transportation such as the LaGuardia and Kennedy Airports. Commerce--which thrives not only on goods but also on people--would cease to be what it is.
What little this has to do with cycling may one day turn out to be a lot. Under those circumstances, would these narrow-minded bridge and tunnel authorities finally build convenient and easy to access bicycle facilities, so that trucks and buses have the opportunity to pass along these crowded routes? Would motorists finally take their bikes to cross?
This summer again, like last summer, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has chosen the prime months of June through September to close the south pedestrian walk along the George Washington Bridge. Understandably the walk needs to be closed for construction. But once again PANYNJ has done absolutely nothing to improve access on the north side where cyclists and peds have to climb up and down 6 sets of stairs carrying their bikes, often tripping and falling with their cleated shoes. Why hasn't the Port Authority used the nine months when the north walk was closed to add essential ramps to ease their transitions?
On a normal weekend day, more than 1500 cyclists cross the bridge in one direction. On Saturday July 1, cyclists said they had to wait at the bottom and top of the stairways in line in order to climb or descend because it is necessary to use the handrails so they would not fall while carrying their bikes. The closure is likely to add motorist traffic as cyclists, weary of the ridiculous trip, take their cars with their bikes in order to cross.
Tony Ciavolella, spokesperson noted that "the bridge is FREE to cyclists," suggesting that they should not complain since they don't pay a fee to cross. "That's ridiculous," said one cyclist when told of the spokesman's comments. "We ride across causing no pollution--they should thank us for crossing on bikes," she argued.
Currently motorists pay $6 to cross the bridge, as do the informal Spanish transit buses that can carry more than 30 people at a time, bringing the cost per person to about 20 cents.
That being the case, the Port Authority should accommodate cyclists in the same easy access way they do cars--with direct, street-level entry points, cross-over bridges to bike paths, and 24-hour access. And they can charge even more than the 20 cents--how about 25 cents using a coin-operated turnstile.
And start treating interstate transportation with the 21st century thinking it deserves.

(Photos: Courtesy of Palisades Interstate Parks Commission: Photo 2: The GWB under construction in 1931).

Critical Mass to End June On a Strident Note, June 30, 2006

June 30, 2006--Cyclists will take to the streets tonight in their usual free form group fashion, but the mood is expected to be anything but normal.
Two cyclists were killed recently in accidents involving trucks, most recently, Derek Lake, 23,, on Houston St. on Monday during a rainstorm. According to media and police reports, Derek slipped on a metal street cover, fell under a tractor trailer that was making a turn, and was crushed by its wheels.
In another unrelated accident, Dr. Carl Nacht was cycling along the Greenway last Thursday, and was hit by a police tow truck that was turning into the NYPD facility at 38th St. He was thrown headlong into an illegally parked car along the Greenway, according to police and on Sunday, June 25, died of head injuries. He was not wearing a helmet.
Cyclists reactions to the deaths have been a mix of sorrow and outrage, and those sentiments are sure to come out with some anguish in tonight's Critical Mass ride, the unorganized mass bike ride that usually starts from Union Square and 17th St., and makes its way uptown along Park Ave., before coming back downt to Lower Manhattan.
It is not known whether the NYPD will be present at Union Square waiting for the riders, and how strenous they will be in curtailing the group's movements.
Previous Critical Mass rides have ranged from little containment and policing, such as those prior to the Republican National Convention in 2004. Since the RNC however, New York police have taken a much harsher stance towards the event, ticketing and sometimes arresting large groups of people.
You can view coverage of the memorial which was held for Nacht and Lake on June 29, and shot by Mike Pidel. You can also read more about Lake's accident and Nacht's on Gothamist.com.

Second Viewing of Bike Film Raises Questions, June 27, 2006

“Contested Streets” Raises More Questions
June 27, 2006--Transportation Alternatives brought together the media, city advocates, and TA members to a viewing of the now completed film “Contested Streets” on Tuesday. But the absence of significant New York City officials at the showing demonstrated just how difficult it is for the advocacy group to retain alliances with a city administration that is often the target of their criticism.
The new and improved version compares innovative cycling and pedestrian plans incorporated in Copenhagen, Paris and London, with the dangerous streets of New York. Cyclists are still reeling from the devastating news of two more cyclist deaths in the past week, Dr. Carl Nacht, 56, along the Westside Greenway, and Derek Lake, 23, on Houston St., pointing to the ever more perilous environment here, even on the coveted and heavily used cycling-specific greenway.
Directed by Stefan Shaefer, and produced by Diane Crespo, the film was first shown earlier this year. Perhaps largely for that reason, the second viewing lacked the magnificent energy and momentum of the first. And although some city officials were present at the first viewing, Iris Weinshall, the city's transportation commissioner was notably absent on Tuesday.
Empty also was the seat being held in the first row, center, for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a reflection perhaps of the lack of political will in this city for change, but also perhaps of the difficult role of TA to be both a champion of change while also cajoling important players to come view this hopeful portrayal of what needs to be accomplished .
The film's impact for those who are willing to go see it, even viewed for a second time, is still great. It raises the faraway hope that one day, we too can ride carelessly to work with our ties flying behind us, our children strapped into front-cargo cabooses, whilst sporting flip-flops and skirts, our hair flying in the breeze. Interviews with New York City historians Mike Wallace and Kenneth Jackson about the need for more space for people—not cars---are so to the point and articulate they take your breath away.
While the film was elevating, inspiring and forward thinking, it also left the audience wanting more specific examples of what can and should be implemented. To be fair, to do so presumably would have taken more time and more work by the filmmaker and his producer, and getting the film out to the public was likely an imperative, as it should be: It is an excellent piece that should serve well as a calling card for change.
But achieving that change may prove difficult, primarily because TA has not been successful in gaining cooperation from the city departments responsible for traffic, possibly the inevitable result of being an advocacy organization whose goal is to create change.
But the blame cannot entirely fall on the process or even on the failings of Mayor Bloomberg and his subordinates. The alliances TA is willing to create could well make a difference, as well as their methodology. Past actions serve as a good example, such as TA’s “young turks” of 1966, who chose defiance—blocking traffic and laying their bikes down in front of cars to get Central Park closed to car traffic on the weekends-- over the present-day more passive use of marketing campaigns.
It brings to mind Al Gore’s very well executed film “Inconvenient Truth,” which is waging its political battle on the media front instead of at the polls.
And the importance of strategic alliances and deciding where effort and funding is best focused should perhaps be rethought in the cycling community: Although the audience and the film were peppered with important bicycling and pedestrian advocates, such as Tim Tompkins, head of the 42nd St. Business Improvement District, and Kathryn Wylde, head of Partnership for New York City, TA has curiously chosen to add previous first deputy commissioner of transportation Sam Schwartz to the film in the second version.
On the face of things, the choice is deft because of Schwartz's media association with the term "gridlock." But by his own admission Schwartz has been largely a car man since his government stint some 20 years ago. And perhaps irksome to the more media shy Commissioner Weinshall, Schwartz’s media blitz every time there is a traffic jam in New York City might feel like an affront to her job function and a repetitive irritant.
Lest we forget, Ms. Weinshall is not allowed to make many public statements should they be thrown back at her by New York’s merciless media troops. And she is also wife to NY State Senator Chuck Schumer who actually rides his bike to work, arriving in sweat pants, not tie and jacket, to some important political events.
An important side note, you can hardly take Al Gore seriously on emission controls when he is depicted in “Inconvenient Truth” in summertime suited up in grey wool, being chauffeured to his media jaunts in a luxuriously appointed, air-conditioned, black limousine. Which is precisely the point: you must be thoroughly consistent in all your choices.
Further, viewers can hardly come to any conclusion about the changes Weinshall wants or has made because we never hear from her. It might have been more politically expedient to quote her and show what efforts the city has made no matter how small and insignificant they may seem to cyclists.
Still, the film does depict previous New York Metropolitan Transit chief Robert R. Kiley who was in charge of transportation planning in London from 2000 to 2006, and comes off as very evolved, since he made changes to London's bike routes, and instituted congestion pricing there. The film practically breaks your heart that Kiley—or someone like him-- cannot be elevated from his status as London planner, to New York City DOT Commissioner.
With all the money spent on the film, its two showings, and the trip by Jan Gehl previously, all reputedly costing well over $100,000, it is a shame that someone did not think of sending flowers to or taking to lunch (both under $75) Ms. Weinshall, as well as kinder words opined in public about her department.
In many areas, TA is doing an excellent job balancing their need to create change and controversy with the need for political alliances. Their viral marketing plan, offering viewers a chance to set up a private DVD showing of “Contested Streets” with their friends and neighbors is a great idea, and it may work in spreading the word that change is necessary and doable in this great city of ours.
And one could argue that it is difficult to know just how hard it is to navigate the quagmire of New York City politics: It’s always easier to wag your tongue or your pen from the outside than to be a player deep in the swirl of underwater currents.
It is clear, nonetheless, that the driven energy and creativity of Paul Steely White and his resourceful staff, including Dani Simons who organized the film event, has done wonders for the organization, reenergizing its members, and hopefully will take New Yorkers one more big step towards the path of bike Nirvana.
Get the DVD, and show it to your friends—and we may well be there soon.
To obtain a DVD copy of the film contact Dani Simons at events@transalt.org.

More Police Activity in Central Park Reported, June 21, 2006

June 21, 2006--Police have been asking cyclists to stop at red lights in Central Park, reported cyclists this Wednesday, and have been handing our cards containing rules of the road.
The effort is being dubbed by police as an attempt to reduce the morning rush dangers of multiple users, cyclists, pedestrians and motorists in the heavily trafficked west drive from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. in the morning.
The police action took place primarily at 81st Street and the West Drive, where cyclists were being stopped and handed a card explaining traffic rules for cyclists. Pedestrians wanting to cross the roadway were also being held at their red light.
However, after that intersection, "cyclists were just blowing through all the red lights," reported Strictly Bicycles Team rider Adam Crane.
Police told Mr. Crane that their actions were being taken to stem the rise in accidents between pedestrians and cyclists. An 8-year-old girl was hit in a crosswalk in Central Park about 4 weeks ago, according to police. The cyclist was running a red light in an intersection, and the girl was blinded in one eye as a result of her injuries.
Also about one year ago, a homeless man was struck by a cyclist near the Boathouse, who was racing in a time trial in the early morning hours. He struck his head on the pavement and later died.
An 80-year-old cyclist, Dr. Sabert Basecu, a psychiatrist and post-doctoral professor at New York University, was also killed in May of this year when a runner verged into his path.
More on this storycoming up.
This story was reported on the scene by Adam Crane, with contributions from Richard Rosenthal.

Police Enforcement Stepped Up, June 13, 2006

Police Enforcement Against Cyclists Stepped Up
June 13, 2006--Reports of increased police ticketing of cyclists have recently surfaced in the city. One cyclist, Doug Aaronson received a $90 ticket for riding the wrong way on a one-way street. Cyclists are warned to obey traffic rules at all times, or risk similar penalties.
Enforcement was also up on River Road in Piermont, NY last weekend. Another cyclist, who requested anonymity, was not aware of the single file only rules that the towns of Piermont and Grandview have been enforcing along the narrow road that connects Piermont to Nyack, NY. More than 1,000 cyclists travel the road on weekend days, and police officers hide behind bushes waiting for them to come along riding two abreast.
The local law is announced with informal looking yellow signs that cyclists have said look hand made. Experts have argued that the local law is not consistent with NY state vehicle law that allows cyclists to ride two abreast unless road conditions or a passing car, require that they go single file. The local law has not yet been challenged but some other observers note that under certain circumstances, and with permission from the state, a local town can make an exception to state law.
Reports of cyclists being ticketed for not wearing helmets have also been circulated, particularly in the Rockland County and along River Road in New Jersey. Rockland County has a helmet law, and River Road is in Palisades Park, which is subject to the rules and regulations set up by the park's administration.