Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Xmas by Bike

It wasn't just to prove a point that I rode to family celebrations in lower Manhattan yesterday, Christmas day.

If I had not, it would have been the third day in a row I had used motorized transport to get into lower Manhattan. And I was really bored with it.

It was a lovely day when I hatched my scheme to use Tiggy's old wagon to carry all the Xmas gifts, and attach it to the back of my bike for my 10 or so mile trip across the George Washington Bridge, and down the Greenway to Jane St. in the Village.

For one, the southern bike path to the bridge was open. This would not have been possible had it been ironically any of the summer months this year or last, when the southern path was closed. With my trailer, I would have been unable to climb or descend the stairs.

I made it easily past all of the narrow points on the bridge, and then through the streets on 177th, 178th and 179th Streets, over to the Greenway.

The ride down was gorgeous with the sun lighting the way, and little "traffic". There were few pedestrians and even fewer cyclists on the Greenway. I was posed as a cycling Santa in my red and white bike jersey, with FAO Schwartz bags piled in the back carryiing toys for my niece and nephew.

Other cyclists smiled: they understood that carrying all your 'schtuff' for the holiday in the back of your bike was a noble cause: One Less Car, and a few less pounds for me.

I had a strong light outfitted on the front of my bike in case it would be dark on the way back, but I am glad I came back when the light was still there. I got a chance to see the most beautiful winter scenery, with contrasting colors, geese grazing, and fisherman fishing.

As I got back to the GWB, the light had finally fallen: my only close call was trying to ride west against traffic along 177th St. because my wagon was too wide for the sidewalk: Two drivers saw my light, but chose to come too close too fast, it seemed on purpose to "teach me a lesson" that I should not be on the road. I saw their overly consumptive bodies as they passed, and wondered if they weren't a touch envious, as I proceeded, unscathed, to the bridge entrance.

They have no idea how much they missed. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all go to Xmas like this?

Friday, November 23, 2007

What some people did for Thanksgiving

Pictured: The Waywayanda Thanksgiving Ride, by Mike Ala (see story below)
One thing I love about cyclists, they use the peace and serenity of Thanksgiving to hit the road. Yesterday I made sure I got my 40 miles or so in with a habitual trip to Nyack. I turned around at River Road and one of the cross streets in Nyack because I wanted to stop in Piermont. But when I got to Bunberry's I found it was closed, with other cyclists turning up, and disappointment registering on their faces.
But the main Korean-owned small food store was open, and many people had stopped there. I engaged in conversation with several people there, in the wonderfully balmy, 60 degree weather. On the way back I cut through Tallman Park which was covered with beautiful yellow leaves. A dream of a day.
This is what was so great about riding on Thanksgiving: I have never seen so few cars on the road, not even on a Sunday. It made me feel safe and peaceful. This is what every day should be like, and this is what we should be working towards, all of us.
Photos by Mike Ala and gang

Here also is what a wonderfully crazy group of mountain bikers did on Thanksgiving. Check them out. Here is what Mike Ala wrote:
What a great day for a ride last weekend we had snow today the temps got up to 60.
The warmer temps made for a great turnout I would say about 40+ riders. As Usual the rides split into different skill levels so that everyone has fun. Found a new trail today as I have on previous rides (one of the things I like so much about this ride) It was a rocky ridgeline that was made a little more difficult by the rain that we had overnight.
Our route started out on the race course going backwards (riding past the dam) then going up a climb (on the GPS you will see that we went up a bit then turned around there was a little confusion over which route we were going to take) There was plenty of climbs and rocky sections, some technical crossings made up of rock bridges and logs. Some really fun descents and a few Oh S#@* ones that got my adrenaline up. Overall a great ride.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

GS Mengoni's Bunde Busted for Alleged Doping

I like Jared Bunde, the 31 year old GS Mengoni Team racer who recently got busted for taking a non-allowed substance, Clomiphene.

I met him at a party last week, and he seems like a nice guy.

Last night, GS Mengoni put out a public statement on their website declaring that Bunde was tested positive, and regardless of how he got the substance into his body, Mengoni has a zero tolerance policy and he is off the team. Bunde said he must have ingested the drug--which is known in cycling circles to mask testosterone and is a women's fertility drug--through other supplements that he thought were safe, according to other cyclists who have heard him tell his story.

But after Jared was suspended from racing for two years by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) after testing positive for the substance on July 28, 2007 at the International Cycling Classic in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, all the local northeast cycling world has been embroiled in a storm of controversy over it.

Jared's two-year ban began October 15, the day he accepted a provisional suspension, according to NY Velocity.

NY Velocity also reported that as a result of the suspension, Bunde has forfeited his wins since July 28, including his US National Track Championship 30-kilometer points race triumph August 28 at Trexlertown, Pennsylvania, and "his sixth-place overall finish and third-place points effort at the Vuelta a Nicaragua, which included a victory in stage five on September 8," said Andy Shen of NY Velocity.

But the boards at NY Velocity are raging with anger and controversy about the entire thing. For one, guys are pissed that they raced next to someone that they now think was doping. Others feel that because Bunde doped, now everyone will dope. One writer thinks that having a DWI is a worse offense, and yet no one seems up in arms about that.

And that is a good point, because so many more people are affected by drunk drivers than dopers, a point that one cyclist who preferred to not be id'd for this article accurately pointed out. Some 45,000 people a year are killed by cars, but you don't hear or read screaming outrage about that: maybe because it's become a fact of life.

Still, read what some people said about Bunde:
"Indeed, he may be a good person, but his positive test shows a certain level of disrespect for his competition, the sponsors, and the sport. I would have no problem riding him into the gutter during a race because of it," wrote U23.
Another anonymous poster wrote:
"He STOLE thousands of dollars of prize money and ROBBED others of the results they worked so hard and sacrificed so much for."
While it maybe be true that Bunde did use drugs that he shouldn't have, there is some question as to how many people are using drugs now--or at least use them for specific competitions who never get tested. All those people who lost to Bunde might also have been using drugs, but just didn't get tested because they didn't win.

Well, this is one moral dilemma we won't find a straight answer to in a day.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Various Headlines for the day

Well, I might as well tell you what other people are reporting about bicycles and cycling today.

Rain and a shortage of parts affect bike profits in the Netherlands
Accell Slumps After Bike Maker Cuts Profit Forecast
Bloomberg - USA
(Bloomberg) -- Accell Group NV, the largest Dutch bicycle maker, fell the most in more than six years in Amsterdam trading after cutting its profit ...

Groups Ask Lawmakers to Consider Bike Liability Lawsuits
WOI - West Des Moines,IA,USA
He died in 2004 while riding his bike on a Crawford County road during The Register's Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. The group, which met yesterday, ...

Now, why doesn't NYC, the greatest city in the world--have bike stands at stations? Why why why? It really boggles the mind.
New bike stands for stations
... to promoting cycling through the provision of infrastructure as well as initiatives like refresher/novice bicycle training for adults taking up cycling ...

I know this story is about prostitution crackdowns (1) and bike thefts (2). But what if you combined the two activities? If ONLY people used bikes for prostitution here, at least we would have some decent bike lanes. Like, all the way down 11th Avenue for example. And across 42nd St. And across 57th St. and Central Park South. Great idea!
Beijing police crack on prostitution gangs, bicycle theft
Xinhua - China
The Beijing police have cracked 329 bicycle theft gangs, nabbed 3686 suspects, smashed 774 hide-outs and confiscated 18825 bicycles so far this year, ...

650-mile bike race to conclude at the Rose Bowl
San Gabriel Valley Tribune - West Covina,CA,USA
Local bicycle shops and others will have the opportunity to participate." Bryon Bushatz, manager of the Incycle bike shop in Pasadena, said many of the ...

Man Killed Riding Bicycle Led Full Life
Signal - Santa Clarita,CA,USA
A life that ended at that intersection when a car struck him while he rode his bicycle. But the way he died is not the defining part of William "Bill" ...

This is the kind of story--and reporting--that leads people to think that "therefore, bikes should not be on the road."
Death smash driver was overtaking bike
Cambridge Evening News - Cambridge,England,UK
The inquest heard his bike was travelling in the opposite direction from 62-year-old Jane Elliot's car when he struck it as she overtook a cyclist in what a ...

Here's one for the NY crowd:
Bikes: DOT Still Doesn't Get It
Hartford Courant - United States
That's the story in Portland, Ore., where the city has added bike paths, retrofitted bridges and seen a huge jump in the number of bicycle commuters. ...

But will the kids be able to ride the bikes once they get them?
Want to win a bike this Christmas?
ic Wales - United Kingdom
Each poster should incorporate a simple safety slogan that encourages cyclists to light up their bikes at night.4. Closing date for entries is Friday, ...

Monday, November 19, 2007

In Memory of Sam Hindy

Sam Hindy, computer engineer, dies at 27: A memorial service will be held tomorrow, 6:30 p.m. at Picnic House in Prospect Park.

Jennifer Maloney writes in Newsday today: "Sam Hindy's passions took him on an unusual career path. In high school, his in-line skating stunts won him a sponsorship from Rollerblade. Passionate about theoretical physics, he explained string theory to his parents over dinner. After spending a year working at his father's brewery, he finally settled on a degree in computer engineering."

See the rest of the story at Newsday.

Sam died last week after cycling onto the motorist section of the Manhattan Bridge.

A discussion took place at a cyclist party held in Brooklyn last night. A representative of Transportation Alternatives was there: he refused to give an account of how Hindy died. It was not clear if he did not know the story, or just did not want to share it.

Whether it is the newspapers, or the city that tells us, it is important for the cycling community to know how Hindy died. A full accounting of how the accident occurred is owed to his family, and to others who cared about him, as well as to future users of the bridge who cross with a bicycle.

Stories abound: he used the roadway because the bike lane was closed. He couldn't find the bike lane. He became disoriented when cars tried to get him off the road, honking furiously behind him, turned backwards, hit the railing, flew over the top, and down to the next level where he was struck several times by oncoming traffic. Another story says he tried to turn back after being accosted by furious drivers, and was struck, and sent over the railing to his death below.

Whatever the event, whatever the conditions, we need to know how and why he died.

A memorial service will be held tomorrow, Tuesday November 20, at 6:30 p.m. at Picnic House in Prospect Park.

Monday, November 12, 2007

9W Struck Cyclist Okay, Seeking Witnesses

The cyclist who was struck by a motorist on 9W on Sunday and sent to the hospital with leg injuries has survived and is now seeking witnesses of the accident. (See stories one and two below and for full story)

According to the cyclist, who was traveling south on 9W, he made a motion to make a left turn and was completing the turn when he was struck.

An unidentified witness on the scene said the driver of the Toyota was trying to pass the cyclist when he struck him.

Indeed, the location of the vehicle in the roadway facing south was about three quarters of the way into the northbound lane, supporting the notion that the driver tried to pass the cyclist as he was turning left.

The cyclist said he was preparing to make the turn, looked behind him and saw sufficient space, and as he was making the turn, was struck.

He says he is in a lot of pain, but without permanent injuries.

If you have further information about this accident please contact jbenepe@msn.com

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Update on Fallen Cyclist

The unidentified cyclist who was struck today at 11:03 a.m. at the intersection of 9W and Tallman Park entrance, is 23 years old, and was taken to Nyack Hospital in Nyack, NY where he was treated for abrasions and an unspecified leg injury, according to Sgt. Chris Strattner of the Orange County police department.

According to the accident report, both the cyclist and the driver of the green Toyota were proceeding south along Rte. 9W, when the cyclist motioned to turn left to Tallman Park, and was struck by the traveling vehicle, and was "ejected" from his bicycle, hitting the windshield of the car, said Strattner.

Strattner said the accounts of the cyclist and of the motorist both reflected the same information, and that the cyclist was conscious when he recounted the details.

The vehicle's speed was not assessed by the police department using throw distance estimates because they are not required to do so unless there has been a serious physical injury or death, said Strattner. When pressed for what constitutes serious physical injury, Strattner said such a condition would likely constitute a "tremendous" injury for the average person.

The speed limit on this section of 9W is 45 mph, and the motorist was traveling at a slight incline.

No summonses were issued to either the driver or the cyclist, an indication that the cyclist was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident: helmets are mandatory for all bicyclists under Rockland County law, noted Strattner, who said he also is a cyclist.

No records are currently available for previous accidents at this location.

An employee answering the phone at Nyack Hospital refused to comment on the condition of the cyclist or whether he had been released.

Cyclist Hit by Car at Tallman, 9W Intersection

An unidentified cyclist was hit head on by a motorist at the turn from 9W to Tallman Park and Piermont at around 11 a.m. this morning.
The cyclist was traveling by himself, he told BBB.

At the scene of the accident, two police cars had blocked off the northbound traffic lane, while paramedics spoke to the cyclist who lay on the ground face down, not moving.

It was not clear whether the driver of the car, a green four-door sedan, had struck the cyclist as he was turning off the side road, or whether the driver had tried to execute a left hand turn into the Tallman road from the southbound lane as the cyclist was traveling northbound down 9W.

Picture of Tallman State Park near the Hudson River

However, the entire front window of the vehicle was shattered, and it was clear from the indentation on the glass that the cyclist's body had hit the glass, and then fallen to the pavement.
None of the officers on the scene could offer an explanation yet for the accident, and two paramedics tended to him by asking if he could feel his foot and other limbs as he lay unmoving.

A large stain of water, possibly either from an exploded water bottle, or from the cyclist's mouth, was evident on the pavement near where he lay, in the middle of the northbound lane.

Later it was reported that the injured man, dressed all in black, had been moved to a stretcher.
BBB asked the cyclist if he wanted friends or family to be contacted but he said he preferred to call them himself later.

The weather at the time was about 40 degrees, but visibility at this intersection was poor due to sharp sunlight angles and shadowed areas on the road.

This intersection as well as the intersection at 9W just south of stateline, are known for the large incidence of motorists turning left from the southbound lane, and are particularly treacherous according to cyclists. Cyclists are gaining speed from the decline of the road at both intersections, making any impact particularly deadly.

BBB has witnessed another head-on accident this year when a cyclist with the right of way traveling north was hit by a southbound motorist taking a left had turn onto Palisades Parkway south.

Cyclists report that despite the fact that they are traveling downhill at speeds of between 25 and 40 mph, many cars try to "beat" them to the turn, and take the turn in front of them.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

NY Bike Blog-o-Sphere: Bike Lock?

Well, some of our local NYC bloggers have been working overtime. Some of it is entertaining, some of it well, not as balanced as we would like.

Like the two important events recently covered by NY Velocity: One, the cycling-assists run by Richard Rosenthal, was covered nicely by photographer Marco (we assume Marco Quezada?) and pictured at NYVelocity.com. He also did a nice job taking photos of the runners (runners? there are runners in the NYC Marathon?)

NYVelocity also managed to take pics of all of their friends at Interbike, though they strangely missed one of the most exciting product booths in all of Las Vegas, Hotvelociti. Maybe they didn't have time? Though oddly they managed to find time to take pics of the platinum-dyed boob-job girls (hmm, wonder what they do for a living?)

Gawker recently covered the Alec Baldwin rant about the "dirty" Upper West Side. Sorry, but I have to agree with Baldwin--the streets are sometimes so dirty they are often ugly and depressing. The sidewalks are streaked with old food remains, dog pee, and pigeon s--t. Garbage cans are overflowing--where is our sense of pride?

The handsome Baldwin speaks out about dirty upper west side.

But even though entertainment abounds in the bike blog-o-sphere, in some areas I think we need some more work.

For example, regarding that whole relationship between Streetsblog, Transportation Alternatives, and Sam Schwartz--and now, the NYC Department of Transportation--some of it with good results, but some of it muddied by the lack of independence between the entities.

On November 6, WNYC's Brian Lehrer interviewed Mark Gorton's Street Renaissance campaign (funded by his millions from Lime share ware) and you guessed it, NYC Department of Transportation's chief, Janette Sadik-Kahn (more on this getting together of two sides later).

Gorton finally got the city to pay attention to the work of architect Jan Gehl in Copenhagen who Transportation Alternatives and Streets Rennaissance have been trumpeting for two years. We like it when Gehl comes to the city, and we're happy that Gorton's money brought him here. But if you read on, you will see how closely this triumvirate--with traffic engineer Sam Schwartz, has now worked to bring the city's mechanism into play.

I am sorry, but I have kept quiet about this too long: Streets Rennaissance's Streetsblog may be trying to become the de facto site for alternative transportation in New York, but their coverage is not balanced.

Not sure how Transportation Alternatives--or even NYC Department of Transportation feels about that, though we know from previous events that they work together. So much so it's getting to look a little like the latest fashion, with independent colors merging with one another (and that look is already out). In a Feb 7 article, the NY Observer reported that Gorton is TA's largest single donor. But even though everyone is getting into the act, big money wins!

On his site, Streetsblog funder Mark Gorton sticks himself into every video cast: see for yourself how his engineering degree has trained him as a journalist despite excellent work by producer Clarence Eckerson and his team, for example his piece on platinum bike city of Davis, CA.

Gorton's presentation talks to those who are already on their side. Why not interview NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, or NYC Council head Christine Quinn whose records on these issues are not the same or so straightforward?

Which leads me to the point, couldn't Gorton find someone fresh out of journalism school to do his interviewing and stick to what he does best, running a succesful software company? His GeoServer technology should be brought to the forefront of the cycling revolution in this country, which needs mapping of bike routes, not car routes.

In one of their latest missives, Streetsblog (no writers here, only the "filer" mentioned, which says what exactly, that writing is no longer a craft?) practically fawned over traffic engineer Sam Schwartz, who also in the past year has appeared innumerable times on their pages, at events, in their videos and in press releases.

Only one person who worked with Sam Schwartz during those official, long-ago, Schwartz-DOT days will speak off-off-off the record on his bike-likeability quotient.

Honestly, portraying the guy as a bike-knight in shining armor, is a bit over the top. Those 400 or so words a day all cover motorist traffic.

A lot of the city and state construction funding is going into bike lane construction and "pedestrianization" now, a big possible source of income for many traffic engineers including Sam Schwartz, PLLC.

It's more likely what we suffer from in the city now is BIKE LOCK rather than Gridlock, in terms of our impossible-to-navigate streets, a growing plutocracy of bicycle planners and players, and a narrowing of our information sources.

Why not rename the movement and give it some new owners who have really been working hard at this all along, like research curmudgeon Charles Komanoff, or previous Tristate Trans Campaign's Jon Orcutt (who was recently named to a post within the DOT admin)? Or get other people involved, those who use the streets the most, like bike messengers, commuters, and recreational cyclists?

And even if I totally agree with what Streestblog has to say--enthusiastically and wholeheartedly--I find myself hoping that they will find journalistic nirvana soon so they can be taken more seriously by the rest of the world.

Streetsblog editor Aaron Naparstek, whom I have tremendous respect for, should go start his own, self-financed blog.

Speaking about independence, we're on a hari-kiri roll and we can't gloss over this one. BBB spied Sadik-Kahn at Barry Benepe's award ceremony for the Jane Jacob's award (sadly the only event that BBB had time to go to in a long time). Transportation Alternatives Paul Steely White and a couple of other sparkling-eye puppies (male version of young eye candy), were almost stuck to Sadik-Kahn's side.

I can sort of understand that--Sadik Kahn is a brilliant transportation planner. Never mind that she is also a gorgeous streaked-blonde-redhead reeking of upper east side elegance, decked out in black designer clothing with a slim figure to match.

New DOT chief, Janette Sadik-Kahn
But Steely White might want to preserve some independence.

"Cyclists and pedestrians are still an oppressed class of our society, even in New York," said a cyclist who belongs to TA off the record. "The leader of transportation alternatives should represent this group and not as a friend of the establishment that maintains and perpetuates the oppression, no matter how friendly they are."

In other words, it is important to be diplomatic, but remember what side of the table you are on. "But I still like what Steely White is doing," said our source.

Benepe went up and introduced BBB to Sadik-Kahn, and got a chilly reception. But we know that's because BBB is still independent and on the other side of the table.

Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives.

Add one more member--Sadik-Kahn-- to the upper echelon of the pro-bicycle movement, now a plutocracy, a triumvirate no more.

Hopefully that's a good thing because it might mean finally--finally--New York City government, traffic engineers, advocates, "filers" and citizens are all seeing things the same way, with green-colored glasses.

Filed by: A staff member of BBB

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Man has Sex With Bike

This is hilarious. Here is a story that ran in Scotland. Now I know guys can get really horny, but this, this is totally understandable! Read this article published today by Telegraph.co.Uk, by Richard Alleyne:

A man has been placed on the sex offenders’ register after being caught trying to have sex with a bicycle.
Bryony Gordon: How do you have sex with a bicycle?
Robert Stewart was discovered in his room by two cleaners at the Aberley House Hostel in Ayr, south west Scotland, in October last year. ....
On Wednesday Mr Stewart admitted to sexual breach of the peace in Ayr Sheriff Court, where depute fiscal Gail Davidson described how he had been found by the hostel workers.
She said: "They knocked on the door several times and there was no reply.
"They used a master key to unlock the door and they then observed the accused wearing only a white T-shirt, naked from the waist down.


"The accused was holding the bike and moving his hips back and forth as if to simulate sex."
Both witnesses, who were extremely shocked, notified the hotel manager, who in turn alerted the police.
Mr Stewart was placed on the sex offenders’ register but his sentence was deferred until next month.
He is not the first man to be convicted of a sexual offence involving an inanimate object, however.
Karl Watkins, an electrician, was jailed for having sex with pavements in Redditch, Worcs, in 1993.

My only question is --why is this a crime?

We all love our bikes. In fact this ends one big mystery: I have always wondered why men can always remember the exact brand that another man is "riding".

Plus I can totally understand bike lust. Nice, new shiny frame, bright red would be my favorite. Or even a sparkling green or blue. Nice, soft, clean, white handlebar tape; brand new, smooth white seat. Maybe a few light particles embedded in the paint finish. Sounds a little like a woman with sparkling nail polish, soft clothing, and soft skin, no?

Hey some people get off on porno magazines. Others like porno movies. Some are peeping Toms.

So again....why is this a crime?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Help Reduce Traffic Congestion

The NY Times is looking for ways to reduce traffic congestion.

Well, that's such a good idea, I thought I would do the same. I figure this amazing bunch of bike and ecology savvy people with important degrees and the passion to go with their knowledge would not hold anything back if posting to a Bike Blog!!

Please post your suggestions for traffic de-congestion below: Please keep your words limited to 200--that's a lot!

If you want to post them to the times as well, be my guest!

(E-mail them to thecity@nytimes.com.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Battling Irrational Drivers--and Cops with the Law


It was with great pleasure last month that I was asked by Dave Trendler of Velopress to review Robert (Bob) Mionske's new book, "Bicycling and the Law: Your Rights as A Cyclist."

I did read the book, but did not review it in time for the Velopress deadline. Needless to say, a review will be out shortly on Benepe's Bike Blog.

But the story continues. I then experienced two very unhappy incidents, all in the space of four days, with two police officers while out on my normal ride.

Both events occurred in New Jersey, but never mind, most of my readers are in New York. So I asked Bob Mionske via email to evaluate the incidents, and tell me where I stood with the law.

Bob also publishes a column in VeloNews, so he agreed, and his response will be printed tomorrow in the magazine. (In fact you should read the VeloNews version because it's a little different than the detailed treatment below).

But I am also going to reprint his answers here, on BBB, the first incident today, and the second tomorrow.

The story continues: I met Bob at Interbike two weeks ago. He's a handsome dude with short-cropped blonde hair, a cycling face that's seen many miles and lots of sun, and a very fit physique.

Bob Mionske in front of the Hotvelociti booth (hot cycling jerseys) wearing one of the 2008 Spring men's jerseys, "Arrestado por el amor al ciclismo"--or "Arrested for the love of cycling"

Bob's answers to my questions were excellent: I now emerge from a stance of fear of police harassment to a stance of security--that I know the law better than they do.

The entries are long--but you can't expect easy answers to all your questions!

RE: Jen Benepe, Police Harassment Incident
September 18, 2007

Facts:

I am about to take a left hand turn on a two lane road which is fairly narrow. If I went all the way to the double yellow line, invariably someone from behind would come too close, plus I don't want to be hit from the other direction. I make a mistake and am one block (one block!) too soon, meaning, I have to go two blocks with my hand out instead of one before I turn. I jump almost out of my skin when I hear behind me a loudspeakered voice blasting, "If you are going to take a left hand turn get out of the middle of the road," and something like "Now move it!" barked at me by an ill-informed police officer from a local municipality.

Question:

If I had been a car, he would never have dared say such a thing, and moving back to the right would have endangered me unnecessarily. Plus I believe I had the legal right to be there. Again, what is the law in this case, and how should I address his behavior?

In both cases I would like to quote the law and send a letter to the commanding officer and have them address the lack of knowledge their officers seem to be operating with.

Conclusion:

Because the location of the incident is unclear, it is unclear whether local laws apply. However, under New York state law, Ms. Benepe was clearly operating within the law. If local laws differ from New York state law, Ms. Benepe would be required to comply with the local law. If she was in riding in compliance with both state and local law, the officer’s order probably does not amount to a lawful order, because he would not have been directing Ms. Benepe on how to make a turn—he would merely be ordering her to abandon her lawful right to the road.

Applicable Laws:

NY Vehicle & Traffic Law § 159. Words and Phrases—Vehicle. Every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except devices moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.

NY Vehicle & Traffic Law § 1231. Traffic laws apply to persons riding bicycles. Every person riding a bicycle…upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle…

NY Vehicle & Traffic Law § 1234. Riding on roadways, shoulders, bicycle or in-line skate lanes and bicycle or in-line skate paths. (a) Upon all roadways, any bicycle…shall be driven either on a usable bicycle…lane or, if a usable bicycle…lane has not been provided, near the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway or upon a usable right-hand shoulder in such a manner as to prevent undue interference with the flow of traffic except when preparing for a left turn or when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions that would make it unsafe to continue along near the right-hand curb or edge…

NY Vehicle & Traffic Law § 1160. Required position and method of turning at intersections. (b) Left turns on two way roadways. At any intersection where traffic is permitted to move in both directions on each roadway entering the intersection, an approach for a left turn shall be made in that portion of the right half of the roadway nearest the center line thereof and by passing to the right of such center line where it enters the intersection and after entering the intersection the left turn shall be made so as to leave the intersection to the right of the center line of the roadway being entered. Whenever practicable, the left turn shall be made in that portion of the intersection to the left of the center of the intersection.

NY Vehicle & Traffic Law § 1160. Required position and method of turning at intersections. (c). Left turns on other than two-way roadways. At any intersection where traffic is restricted to one direction on one or more of the roadways, the driver of a vehicle intending to turn left at any such intersection shall approach the intersection in the extreme left-hand lane of the roadway lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction of travel of such vehicle or, where travel on the shoulder or slope has been authorized, from the shoulder or slope, and after entering the intersection the left turn shall be made so as to leave the intersection, as nearly as practicable, in the left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in such direction upon the roadway being entered.

NY Vehicle & Traffic Law § 1600. Provisions of chapter uniform throughout state. The provisions of this chapter shall be applicable and uniform throughout this state and in all political subdivisions and municipalities therein and no local authority shall enact or enforce any local law, ordinance, order, rule, or regulation in conflict with the provisions of this chapter, unless expressly authorized herein. No local authority shall enact or duplicate any provision of this chapter as a local law, ordinance, order, rule or regulation, except that any local authority authorized to supersede any provision of this chapter may enact any such provision in a modified or amended form.

NY Vehicle & Traffic Law § 1640. Traffic regulation in all cities and villages. The legislative body of any city or village, with respect to highways (which term for the purposes of this section shall include private roads open to public motor vehicle traffic) in such city or village; subject to the limitations imposed by section sixteen hundred eighty-four may by local law, ordinance, order, rule, or regulation:
2. Prohibit or regulate the turning of vehicles or specified types of vehicles at intersections or other designated locations.

NY Vehicle & Traffic Law § 1684. State highways maintained by the state….nor shall any ordinance, rule or regulation affecting traffic or stopping, standing or parking on state highways maintained by the state be effective unless or until approval in writing has been obtained from the department of transportation, and the department of transportation may at any time rescind or modify such approval.

NY Vehicle & Traffic Law § 1101. Required obedience to traffic laws. It is unlawful, and unless otherwise declared in this title with respect to particular offenses, it is a traffic infraction for any person to do any act forbidden or to fail to perform any act required in this title.

NY Vehicle & Traffic Law § 1102. Obedience to police officers and flagpersons. No person shall fail or refuse to comply with any lawful order or direction of any police officer or flagperson or other person duly empowered to regulate traffic.

Analysis:

It is unclear from the facts which municipality this incident occurred in; therefore, it is unclear what local laws, if any, apply. However under New York state law, while bicycles are not vehicles, cyclists are accorded all of the rights and are subject to all of the duties applicable to the operators of vehicles, except where a bicycle-specific law is applicable, or alternatively, where a vehicle regulation is by its nature not applicable, cyclists are. NY Vehicle & Traffic Law § 1231. See also NY Vehicle & Traffic Law § 159. Assuming that no local law is applicable, under the facts particular to this incident, Ms. Benepe was subject to the requirements of Section 1234 of the New York Vehicle & Traffic Law, which regulates the portion of the roadway on which cyclists may ride. As per Section 1234, a cyclist must ride near the right-hand edge of the roadway, except, inter alia, when preparing to make a left-hand turn. In this incident, Ms. Benepe was preparing to make a left-hand turn; therefore, she was not required to ride near the right-hand edge of the roadway.

Once Ms. Benepe began preparing to make her left-hand turn, she became subject to Section 1160 of the New York Vehicle & Traffic Law, which regulates how turns are made. Under sub-section (b), Ms. Benepe was required by law to be positioned in the lane nearest to the center line of the roadway. This is, in fact, exactly where Ms. Benepe was riding when she was admonished by a law enforcement officer to “get out of the middle of the road.” In short, Ms. Benepe was preparing to make a left-hand turn in complete compliance with New York Vehicle & Traffic Law when the officer ordered her to “get out of the middle of the road.” It is unclear from the officer’s order from what road position he expected her to make her turn; it is equally unclear whether local law prohibits Ms. Benepe from making a left turn as required by New York state law, or whether the officer is merely misinformed on what the law requires of cyclists, or doesn’t care what the law is, and is enforcing his own version of the traffic laws.

One complicating factor in this incident is that Ms. Benepe made an error in her choice of which street she was turning at, and, as a result, she prepared to turn one block too soon before she realized her error. There is nothing in the New York Vehicle & Traffic Law that addresses such an error, nor is there any case law addressing such an error. However, it is probably safe to say, extrapolating from how the law is enforced against motor vehicles, that the operator of a vehicle who prepares to make a left turn, and then realizes that an error has been made, is not in violation of the law by choosing to continue to the next block before making the turn. Therefore, if motor vehicle operators are not required to make a left turn if they realize their error before beginning their turn, it is likely that cyclists, being accorded the same rights, are also not required to make a left turn upon realizing their error, but, like motor vehicle operators, are allowed to continue straight until reaching the next block. Note that if the cyclist has changed her mind about turning, the cyclist is required to resume riding near the right-hand edge of the road. If the intended turn is farther than the next block, the cyclist may also be required to resume riding near the right-hand edge of the road, depending on the particular circumstances at that time and place.

However, in this particular incident, Ms. Benepe prepared to turn, realized her error before making her turn, and continued on to the next block, signaling her intention to turn at the next block. Under these circumstances, Ms. Benepe was operating entirely within the law.

Furthermore, the officer did not take issue with her changing her mind about where to turn—the officer plainly said "If you are going to take a left hand turn get out of the middle of the road.” Clearly, that is not the law in New York state.

It is possible that the officer may have been directing Ms. Benepe to make her turn as a pedestrian would, using the crosswalks. New York state law does not prohibit cyclists from riding on sidewalks. However, it appears that local authorities are authorized to enact prohibitions against sidewalk riding. NY Vehicle & Traffic Law § 1600. It is unclear whether or not the municipality in question prohibits sidewalk. If sidewalk riding is permitted, then a cyclist would be permitted to ride across an intersection within the crosswalk. If sidewalk riding is prohibited, then a cyclist would still be permitted to use the crosswalk, but required to walk the bike across the intersection within the crosswalk.

It is also possible that local law prohibits cyclists from making left turns as required under New York law. NY Vehicle & Traffic Law § 1640. 2. If a law prohibiting left turns by cyclists has been enacted by this municipality, the officer’s order to “get out of the middle of the road” would be a lawful order enforcing the law, and Ms. Benepe would be required to comply with the local law, which likely would require her to use the crosswalks to make her turn.

On the other hand, if no local law prohibiting cyclists from making left turns has been enacted, the lawfulness of the officer’s order becomes questionable. All vehicle operators are required to obey the law (NY Vehicle & Traffic Law § 1101), and all vehicle operators are required to obey the lawful orders of law enforcement officers. NY Vehicle & Traffic Law § 1102. However, no order is lawful where it directs the operator of a vehicle to violate the law. See e.g., People v. Donovan, 279 N.Y.S.2d 404 (Ct. of Sp. Sess. West Co. 1967)(police officer’s order to intoxicated driver to “move on” was not lawful.). Thus, if the officer was directing Ms. Benepe to make a turn in a manner that is in violation of the law, the order is not lawful. However, if the officer was directing Ms. Benepe to make a left turn in compliance with local law, then the order was lawful. Less clear is whether the officer’s order would be lawful if the law permits Ms. Benepe to make a left turn either as a motorist would, or as a pedestrian would. If the order is lawful, then Ms. Benepe would be required to comply with the order. If the order is unlawful, Ms. Benepe would not be required to comply with it. In any event, the officer did not direct Ms. Benepe to make a turn as a pedestrian would. Therefore, assuming that local law does not require cyclists to make turns as pedestrians would, the officer’s order to “get out of the middle of the road” probably does not amount to a lawful order, because he wasn’t directing her to make her turn as a pedestrian would—he was merely ordering her to abandon her legal right to the road.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Twin Cities Braces for the RNC of 2008

You must read this article by Peter Smith in the Huffington Post where he describes what happened at the August 31 critical mass in Minneapolis, MN.

(Minnesota happens to be the state where the Benepe's progressed to, down from Canada, back a couple of generations, before Grandpa Bob Benepe hoofed it over to Queen Anne, Maryland and Grammercy Park, NYC.)

Smith does a terrific job scaring the hell out of us New Yorkers who saw it all happen in 2004 when we hosted "those people", who turned our city into a hell of over-reactive police and divisiveness--a state of affairs that under ordinary conditions were quite different.

Prior to the RNC coming to the city in 2004, Critical Mass in the city was a casual affair, with the Big Blues accompanying us on rides through the streets, and even good-naturedly holding up car traffic so we could ride through unencumbered. Then it was just part of the job, some sweet overtime that allowed them to get the wind in their hair on police scooters.

Then came the glare of those radical rightists with their disapproving inferences, and suddenly it was 'clamp down' time! Not only did they make war in Iraq, but they made war on our own darn streets!

We haven't been the same since, and it looks like Minneapolis is about to face a similar transformation. We progressed from massive arrests in September 2004, to a monthly face off between police and cyclists on the last day of every month, with bitter feelings in both directions, lawsuits, and the introduction of an ante-upping parade law by the NYPD, engendered by thinly disguised "terrorism" readiness.

Smith describes Minneapolis' Critical Mass group as a little past their prime with nothing but a Yahoo message board and some sidewalk stencil action. But the monthly ride went seriously wrong at one point, and 48 officers from 6 different law enforcement agencies descended on the group and pepper-sprayed and arrested 19 people, including 16-year-old Annie. She said the police told her to "get moving" which she did, but got arrested anyway, and watched as the police tried to find something to charge her with--by her own account, on Google. Not able to find anything they left a blank space next to Probable Cause.

In the end, her Probable Cause never got filled in, and her case could be dropped, but the incident "radicalized" her she said., and will probably skip school for the next "mass".

And judging by Annie's firm determination, I have a feeling her city is in for more of a fight than New York was.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What to do or say on this day

Today is forever etched in our memories. Of course, for those of us who were living on 9/11/2001. Just as with World War II survivors and possibly their children, collective memories fade with the generations as they pass away. I spoke with a young cyclist whose relatives were inked with numbers in German concentration camps. But he does not hold the vibrant hate and fear of Germans that no doubt his relatives might.

So this memory too will pass one day.

But for now, this is a good time to remember not just the people who died, or the people who loved them. These were all good people, no matter how complicated their lives, no matter their faults, or which paths they decided to take. Each person is born with goodness in their hearts, and a chance to live a beautiful life.

Personally--and this does come down to the subjective sooner or later--I do not believe in fate. I do believe in chance and luck, and sad events that we cannot prevent. Life is a very fragile thing that we will not have forever and that can disappear at any moment. It is important therefore to treat all people with love and kindness, and to forgive whatever weaknesses they might have. They will not be here forever.

But the fragility of life is one of the reasons why I write Benepesbikeblog--because when we as cyclists go out on the road, our risk factor is multiplied by 1,000. We become statistics, either of the past or the future, and our chances of living are entered in a probability table that is far different from that of the driver behind the wheel of the vehicle.

There is no doubt that the heinous crime of the Arab hijackers on 9/11 is one of the single most evil events that ever took place in the U.S., or anywhere.

But we must also stay strong and focused in recognition that in 2002, the year after 9/11, more than 42,000 people died in the U.S. in car crashes. This number has stayed more or less the same since 2000.

Says the site, Car-accidents.com, "About 115 people die every day in vehicle crashes in the United States -- one death every 13 minutes."

Unlike 9/11, these are preventable deaths for the large part, but their prevention is ignored day to day by federal and local departments of transportation who ignore the basics of traffic calming road design and ignore the need for bike lanes; lax lawmakers who do not create tougher accident (incident) laws and don't force their DOT's to create better bike infrastructure; port authorities who ignore our essential national right to cross bridges on foot or by bike; police who chase down drug dealers over errant car drivers; car companies who manufacture faster and faster cars and portray their cars in ads zooming down empty streets where people do not, and need not exist; and the irresponsible people who drive too fast and without care.

What's worse, studies have shown that motorists are more likely to be at fault in the death of a cyclist or pedestrian . The excellent site, BicycleUniverse.info tells it like it is (and they refer to some very respected studies by Charles Komanoff's organization, Right of Way):

Motorists usually at fault. Motorists are exclusively at-fault in 60% of car-bike collisions, vs. 17% for cyclists. (League of American Bicyclists). Drivers are at fault in almost 90% of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths in New York. In over 90% of pedestrian fatalities, the driver is male. (RightOfWay.org, 1999)

Most at-fault motorists who kill cyclists and pedestrians get off the hook. A study by the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition shows that three out of four at fault drivers were never even cited for hitting and killing pedestrians. 22% of fatal pedestrian crashes involved hit and run drivers, yet, none of the runaway motorists were found or charged. In New York, 70-92% of drivers were at-fault in killing pedestrians and cyclists, but 74% didn't even get a ticket. (RightOfWay.org, 1999) The story in Austin is similar.

This is a silent epidemic, that is allowed to continue on and on, without the nationwide commemoration for the lives suddenly snuffed out. These lives were as valuable, as significant, as beautiful, as all the lives of those who died on 9/11.

We must continue to help protect, and work towards securing a better future for ourselves in this all important area--that is neglected day by day in the media, by President George Bush--whose emphasis has been on generating more sources of oil to fuel ever-increasing car traffic, rather than more bike paths-- and by so many of us.

This is a day to recognize the need to redouble our efforts to make our nation a safer place to ride, a safer place to walk, and a safer place to live. Not with bomb searches, traffic stops, and taller walls to keep immigrants out--but with more bike lanes, greater penalties for hitting cyclists and pedestrians, more traffic enforcement, inter-traffic modalities such a bike-carrying buses, seamless bike networks across bridges and state lines, and a wholescale change of focus on what is important.

I would like to hear what you think. In the meantime, do something!!
Courtesy of Greenpeace, here is an easy way to do that. This tool allows you to write to your Congressperson and then automatically copy specific news outlets.

Monday, August 20, 2007

It Was All Because of the Cyclist

Or, the NY Daily News goes "Post"-al on Cyclists
August 20, 2007

Imagine my surprise when I read this article in the NY Daily News written by Denise Romano, and posted by Mike Pidel on ebikes, the electronic exchange for cyclists in New York.

Pidel is always sending along news stories about cyclists being hit and killed, maimed or injured, much to the dismay and morbid curiosity of others on the email exchange.

(We all stood up for him recently when someone asked him to "please stop" sending news items about dead cyclists. But for those of us who want change, documenting the accidents and how shoddily the evidence is presented on behalf of the (usually) dead cyclist is part of the gist for our foment. So we managed to out-shout the poor guy with proclamations about the importance of scientific inquiry and knowledge.)

Well this article just elucidates how well the NY Post and its perennial dislike for cyclists has somehow managed to rub off its lack of journalistic balance on the normally upright NY Daily News.

The first part of the article proceeds on an even keel, indicating that the number of cyclist accidents (not fatalities) in two boroughs have risen.

But it quickly diverges from there: The article does not cite whom those cyclists had accidents with, though we are led to assume from the one example given, in which it was clearly the cyclist's fault that they were struck because they did not look when they entered the intersection, that each and every cyclist in this statistic was hit by a motorist.

Though they might also have been hit by trucks, vans, motorcycles, scooters, racing fire trucks, racing cop cars, emergency vehicles,-- or even those illegal flashing light poseurs who say they are part of some one person "volunteer" fire emergency squad--as they go through red lights for their doctor appointments and happy-ending rub downs.

The article goes on to say that these type of accidents have risen by 188 percent in the 94th precinct which includes Greenpoint and Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Teresa Toro, transportation chairwoman of Brooklyn Community Board 1, whose district includes the 94th precinct apparently is concerned about the dangers to cyclists. The article goes on:

"Toro said that something needs to be done before more lives are lost.
'Please, people, look around and be more careful, she said, 'This worries me a lot.'"

The article also points out the number of cyclist injuries have increased in the 90th precinct as well:

"In the 90th Precinct, there was a 38% increase in bike injuries, with only 32 occurring from January to July of 2006 and 44 occurring during the same period this year. Also in the 90th Precinct, the number of injuries that happened during all accidents decreased, but the number of injuries in bike accidents remained steady."

Now I apologize ahead of time for criticizing a fellow journalist, because they are in the main, my friends, and I can't be sure if the lack of clarity is Romano's fault, or the fault of her editor for leaving important facts on the cutting room floor.

What Romano's simple article missed was the fact that cars have gotten safer--but only for the people inside the car. That's why as a general rule, and it is pretty well known among traffic safety experts, fewer people are being hurt inside cars. But outside cars they are just as vulnerable.

Nowhere in the article does Romano say who decides whom was at fault at the scene of the accident. Was it the dead cyclist? Well, I guess he sure isn't going to say he was at fault. My bet is on the driver of the car that killed him!

It would help if we, as readers, could discern from the information given, how those reports are filled out, and how accurate they tend to be and be our own judge as to whether this sudden increase in cyclist injuries is related to cyclist behavior--or the behavior of motorists. Or maybe even to the possible prejudice or error of the form-filler-outer. We don't even know to begin with which agency or person is responsible for that determination. Is it the accident investigation squad? The ambulance driver? Or the police officer questioning the driver while the cyclist is being loaded into an ambulance?

Romano concludes that because 17 out of 29 of the accidents occurred where the cyclist was at fault, that means cyclists need to be more careful.

Let's be generous and give the authorities the benefit of a doubt and assume (big leap of faith here) that 58 percent of the accidents occurred because the cyclist did not look both ways. What about the other 42 percent? Shouldn't the motorists in those accidents be more careful? Does the fact that two additional cyclists over 15 were determined to be "at fault", does that mean that the remaining 12 motorists--42 percent-- who were determined to be at fault, that they shouldn't be more careful?

Now let's say two of those mentioned "at fault" were dead cyclists (we know at least one was). Okay then, you could hardly go by what the driver said. That makes it now 15 out of 29, closer to 5o percent of all drivers don't need to be more careful--but cyclists do!

It reminds me of no-fault insurance, which pays for accidents even if one party is at fault. But then we're talking about car-to-car accidents, where both occupants are shielded by iron and steel. Why should motorists be excused and cyclists not?

Come to think of it, shouldn't a motorist exercise more caution around cyclists, the same way they should around pedestrians (right of way), or children? Shouldn't the preponderance of evidence be weighted according to the size of the vehicle and the amount of damage it can inflict, thereby increasing the burden of responsibility on the vehicle (car or truck driver) that can cause more damage to the other more vulnerable party (cyclist)?

Let's put it another way: if you are driving an 18-wheeler truck at 80 mph on the highway and you see a Mini Cooper in front of you, do you give them more space? Or do you push the big fat nose of your 18-wheeler right up that Cooper's little butt and hope for the best?

What would you say if I said that 58 percent of all Mini Cooper---18-wheeler accidents were the fault of the Cooper drivers?

Well gosh darn it, those darn Cooper drivers, they are so out of control, and we know what they're like, all wild, irresponsible, architect, artist, freak types who don't look both ways when they enter the intersections.

That must be it!






Thursday, July 26, 2007

San Diego Vendor Sued By Specialized Bikes



VS.


A San Diego vendor took the unusual step today of informing the U.S. bike community that they were being sued by Specialized Bicycles. An accounting of their ordeal was sent in the weekly electronic email Bicycle Newswire which is delivered to approximately 12,000 vendors and suppliers.

The vendor, Bicycle Warehouse provided a semi-detailed account of being jerked around by Specialized over the terms of their arrangement--of opening a large store that they had collaborated on, only to be told later they could not sell Specialized bikes there because it was too close to another vendor, about 7.8 miles away, according to their account.

They also said after trying to accommodate Specialized by opening another store--and then being refused product, Specialized sent them notice that they were being sued.

The account, signed by the owners of Bicycle Warehouse, Mike and Debbe Simmons, does not go into any detail about the fact that the vendor offers their products online, which could well conflict with the terms of their agreement with the bike company. Clearly stated on their site next to a photo of a Specialized bike is the message, "This item may be purchased online and shipped to any U.S. address."

What's more, when I Googled "Specialized Bikes", the Bicycle Warehouse appeared at the very top of the search results--above Specialized Bicycles' corporate website. In the business of Internet, coming up at the top of search results is the only way to sell more product online.

I sent an email to Debbe Simmons asking her about these aspects of their agreement and expect to hear back from her.

But the public, electronically distributed message appears to violate a well-established notion that if you discuss a lawsuit publicly--or even with one other person, it can land you in even greater water than you're already in.

It also raises the more important issue about bike sales over the Internet. Bicycle Warehouse clearly sells Specialized products over the Internet. And with just about everyone having the capability--and the business requirement-- to create a website, have vendor-supplier agreements kept up with the times and included the eventuality--or possibility that the vendor will be violating its territorial provisions by selling product online?

And if they do sell on the Internet--which invariably they will--under what conditions can they?

I emailed a local vendor, Glenn Davgin, part owner of Piermont Bicycles, a popular bike shop in the well-trafficked area of the New York City to Nyack, NY, bike run to ask him whether he was allowed to sell bikes on the Internet.

"We are not allowed to sell new bikes on the web, it is in the dealer agreements," he answered.

He also said that the clause is there to protect him, because as a smaller bike shop, "I would never be able to compete to the big mail order houses on price alone if mail order was opened up on new bikes."

Sounds reasonable.

But this also raises the issue whether within the context of their geographical territory system, suppliers could designate either mail order houses or other Internet stores to carry their product.

And of the vendors who are supposed to be sticking to a set area, how would other vendors, and indeed the supplier, know that they were selling product outside their area?

It seems like an impossible conundrum that is bound to change the nature of how suppliers write their contracts, how bike stores market their products, and how people purchase their bikes. Clearly, many shoppers could look locally for a bike, and then can go online to find the cheapest advertised price.

These pressures could lead to the decline of the local bike shop if they don't have a good Internet presence with an attractive online store, user friendly access, easy shipping, product guarantees and return options, and local and international reach.

Still it makes no sense whatsoever NOT to enable stores to sell product online. It could greatly increase their sales and their reach, and would also allow them to tailor their message through the Internet without a concomitant increase in costs for bricks and mortar build.

As of press time, no comment back from Specialized or from Bicycle Warehouse.

More on this later.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Very Funny For Once

It's not often that you get to see something funny regarding cyclists. Afterall, we're always fending off bad car drivers, police, and other fun spoilers.

Here is a video posted on U-Tube (now domain of the rich and famous) that despite its unfortunate topic is bound to make you laugh! The music, and words, obviously written to work with the video are very well crafted, and deserving of a Grammy Award!

Supposedly this is shot with "security" video, but I doubt it, since the camera angles change, and at one point there is rain water on the camera lens. Which leads me to ask, what kind of moral compass were they following when they did not get up and run after the guy?

Thanks to Jim Dyer of e-bikes for alerting us to this video.

Enjoy

JB

Monday, June 11, 2007

Mayor Responds to De-Congestion Critique

Here is a copy of the mayor's office response to an email in which I asked them to pay more attention to cyclists and cycling infrastructure as part of their anti-congestion plan. (I directed them to my website posting.)

"Dear Ms. Benepe:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and concerns about bicycling in New York City. Our Administration is dedicated to improving conditions and expanding opportunities for bicyclists. That is why last month, as part of our PlaNYC initiative, we announced our commitment to dramatically accelerating the implementation of the city's 1,800-mile bike-lane master plan to ensure that the entire system is in place before 2030. PlaNYC also calls for the installation of 1,200 on-street bicycle racks throughout the five boroughs by 2009 as part of our continuing CITYRACKS program.

Our Administration is fully committed to the New York's ongoing Bicycle Network Development Project, which aims to increase ridership throughout the five boroughs. Since the Project's inception, the city has developed 400 miles of bicycle lanes, routes, and car-free greenways, and we plan to add another 200 miles of new vehicle-free bike paths, on-street striped lanes, and signed routes over the next three years.

As a result of our efforts, we have seen a 75 percent increase in bicyclists from 2000 to 2006. Please know that we are committed to building on that progress by making it even easier, safer, and more enjoyable to bike in a greener, greater New York.


Sincerely,

Michael R. Bloomberg

Mayor"

Reax?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Congestion Pricing Misses Mark


It was big news on Friday when Gov. Eliot Spitzer said he would ensure passage of the controversial congestion pricing plan for New York City.

The plan is part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's blueprint for reducing traffic and improving air quality in the city--a measure that is well overdue. The plan was also endorsed by U.S. transportation secretary, Mary E. Peters who appeared with Gov. Spitzer to announce that New York could be one of nine cities that wins a $1.1 billion aid package to fight traffic.

If passed by the state legislature, the plan would charge drivers $8 to travel below 86th St. between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Commercial trucks would be charged $21. Drivers operating solely in the commercial zone would be charged $4--for example a private car that lives and works in the area.

Most New Yorkers who live in Manhattan will endorse the package because the majority of them--well over 60 percent by last count, do not even own a car, let alone drive one in the city.

But those New Yorkers who live outside of the borough--mostly Brooklynites, and Queens dwellers, often drive to Manhattan. What's worse, many of them use Manhattan as a conduit to another destination when they drive, according to a pivotal study conducted by Partnership for New York City who released their findings in December 2006.

The organization also identified that the city loses $13 billion a year due to traffic congestion. This is what else they found:

--3.6 million people travel into Manhattan south of 60th Street each weekday, a third of them in cars, trucks or taxis.

--Delays endured by commuters, workers and other travelers annually cost some $5 billion to $6.5 billion in lost time and productivity and up to $2 billion in wasted fuel and other vehicle operating costs.

--Traffic delays add to logistical, inventory and personnel costs that annually amount to an estimated $1.9 billion in additional costs of doing business and $4.6 billion in unrealized business revenue each year


But there is also a serious loss of quality of life factor involved in overuse of motor vehicles. Pollution, noise, disease--lung cancer, emphysema, and other pulmonary problems, as well as death from traffic accidents with pedestrians and cyclists.

So, Benepe'sBike Blog certainly does endorse the plan, and hopes that the shortsightedness of both the residents in the outer boroughs, as well as the state legislature, which is expected to be against the plan, do not derail this initiative.

However, we also firmly believe that the congestion plan falls about 80 percent short of a real solution to traffic problems. New York still lacks the most fundamental, basic infrastructure that will encourage and allow cyclist traffic to substitute for a portion of motorized transit.

Although Bloomberg is a significant improvement over previous mayors in terms of installing cycling infrastructure--he reignited plans for the Greenway, one of the only safe cyclist paths in the city that had previously been delayed and even died under Giuliani, and he also engineered increased Central Park car closures--his efforts still fall far short from the ideal (crackdowns on the Critical Mass monthly ride notwithstanding).

It is still incredibly difficult to pass safely from the various bridges leading to Manhattan by bike. Transfers from the bridges are labyrinthine, poorly marked, and a sad example of engineering compared to the luxury overpasses and roadways that have been made for motorists.

Worse, the biggest resource cyclists have at their disposal, the upper portion of the Greenway, is not lit at night, making it unusable for safe commuting even within Manhattan.

Riding in the city is a game of cat and mouse, where riders are in constant fear of being hit. Perceived and actual danger from motorists is the single most important reason that people cited for why they will not ride in the city, according to a study by the NYC Department of Transportation.

The second most important reason for not riding is lack of parking facilities.

Perhaps the city is aware that these problems need correcting. But they need to work faster and harder to help New Yorkers get on their bikes.

That means more safe bike lanes, better enforcement of the lanes: I counted over 70 cars in the bike lane from Central Park 110th St. entrance to 157th St. last month--with two police cars passing, and doing absolutely nothing; better enforcement of traffic outlaw drivers --not cyclists who are too easy a target; and the conversion of major avenues to ped-and-cyclist-only traffic, a move that would put us on par with significant European cities like Paris, London, Amsterdam and Copenhagen.

Public bike parking facilities with locks and protection should be installed everywhere--in the same spaces now reserved for parking cars.

So Mayor Bloomberg, and Governor Spitzer: if you really want to have a decongested city, you need to work on making cycling safer, easier and more convenient.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Court Upholds City Parade Rules

April 18, 2007--In a blow to New York cycling groups, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York late yesterday denied a request by a bicycle club and several individual cyclists to “preliminarily enjoin” the New York City Police Department from requiring bicycle groups of 50 or more to obtain parade permits before riding together on the public streets, according to a statement released late today by the city's legal counsel.

A federal lawsuit was initiated by the Five Borough Bike Club, a recreational cycling club, and six individuals who wish to ride in the monthly Critical Mass challenging the consititionality of the NYPD's new parade rules which the department instituted in February limiting the number of cyclists able to ride together without a permit to less than 50.

The cyclists asked the New York Court to prohibit enforcement of the requirement while the lawsuit is pending. That request – a preliminary injunction – was denied yesterday.

Cyclists from the 5BBC frequently ride together in groups greater than 20, and as the spring and summer approach, the groups will be traveling in greater numbers with more frequency through the city to bridges and roads that lead them out of the city, predominantly on the weekends.

Judge Lewis A. Kaplan wrote that the Court was “not persuaded that plaintiffs are likely to prevail on their constitutional arguments” that the parade permit requirement violates their rights to travel, to freely associate, and to express themselves. Judge Kaplan recognized cyclists' concerns, that in certain circumstances the restrictions could limit the “plaintiffs' ability to bicycle through the streets of New York City with unfettered freedom.”

But the Court stressed that “the Constitution requires a balance to be struck between [the] plaintiffs' interests in riding when, and where, they want, and the City's interest in ensuring that all people and vehicles use its streets effectively and safely without overburdening scarce law enforcement resources."

One of the city's senior counsels, Sheryl Neufeld, who also worked on the case, said: “While it is important to allow bicycle processions to occur, the City also has a strong interest in promoting public safety. The new requirements seek to find the correct balance between these two needs.”

Copies of the Court’s 53-page opinion are available upon request by contacting the Law Department’s Media Office at media@law.nyc.gov or (212) 788-0400.

So far no comment from the 5BBC. To be updated later tonight.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Florida Cyclist Gets Charged with Homicide

April 16, 2007
A cyclist involved in an accident--that set off a chain of events, leading to the death of a motorist, was charged with homicide in Florida last week.

"Ronald Dale, 18, of Waycross has been charged with second-degree vehicular homicide and failure to obey a stop sign resulting in the 6:14 p.m. collision that killed 33-year-old Sarah Elaine Cribb Poss, said Waycross police Chief Tony Tanner," reported Jacksonville.com.

Amazingly, this rarely happens when a cyclist is killed by a motorist. In fact, most motorists who hit cyclists directly, are not even charged and the death of the cyclist is considered an "accident."

Dale's big mistake is that he went through a stop sign, causing the motorist to swerve and hit a tractor-trailer. But we can't even count the number of times motorists have been speeding, took right hand turns or broke countless other traffic laws and killed, hit, and maimed cyclists without receiving so much as a ticket.

What makes the lack of consistent application of the law--on behalf of cyclists--ten times more injurious, is that we don't even have a rightful space on the road. Can we forget about the jeers we get from motorists who expect to use the whole road, and after teaching us a lesson by buzzing us, lean out the window and tell us, "Idiot, get off the f--ing road"?

Or is it simply the ingrained institutional and governmental neglect implicit in the lack of funding, and the lack of implementation of bike routes, bikeways, and other road investments for cyclists that turns us into meek sheep unable to stand up for ourselves? Compared to most countries in Europe, our roads are thousands of years behind in providing safe passage to cyclists.

It is incumbent on you, dear reader, to start making a change today. If you do believe that consistent application of the law should be implemented today, without any further delay, you must drop what you are doing, and write to your state legislators.

You can start by emailing Governor Eliot Spitzer. You'll need to tell Gov. Spitzer that if cyclists are expected to obey traffic laws, then they should be afforded the same rights--and space on the road--as motorists. And that means now, not ten years from now, or 20 or 30 or 50.

That means lanes for us on every single road in New York State, and full prosecution of drivers who kill and are at fault, that is, broke traffic laws, like going through a stop sign--for manslaughter. You should also ask that all such accidents be deemed "incidents" and that drivers be detained and incarcerated--when a cyclist or pedestrian is killed or has life-threatening damage from the accident.

I'd give you Governor Corzine's email address, but at this point, after having an accident caused by a motorist--who by the way was found, but not charged for swerving onto the road--is in the hospital and likely no one will answer your mail.

Please, do your part, and email the governor. If we don't start now, it will never get done.