Aug 20, 2010
The recent series by CBS News "Bike Bedlam," highlighting bad cyclist behavior in New York has raised the ire of cyclists, including BBB.
"We're unfairly under attack," cyclists seem to be saying, on blogs, email exchanges like ebikes, and club message boards, like the 5BBC.
But a visit to Soho and the Lower East Side yesterday by BBB showed that cyclists' critics--and CBS-- may have a point. Now BBB has to eat crow.
Pic: Sam Hindy's Ghost Bike --smashed by a car? (C) Aug 2010 Benepe.
What's worse, the city isn't helping matters. Here's what we saw while trying to drive (yes, drive a car) from the West Side Highway across to Chinatown. It was a little experiment.
While on our right were plentiful bike lanes, cars have now been restricted to single straight and turning lanes, making the already unbearable driving experience claustrobic and horrific. Traffic is horrible, and cyclists are plentiful. Normally that should be a good thing. It's what we wanted, right??
But are cyclists using the designated bike lanes? Not on your life, brothers and sisters.
In one example, in what can only be described as an arrogant (or is it ignorant) bicycle stance, no helmet (YES! NO freaking helmet, there we said it, we don't care what the cyclist community thinks, no helmet on a bike or motorcycle is just stupid), a cyclist riding right in front of the car as BBB attempts to make a right hand turn (coming from behind the car) then winding along in front of us in the single lane allotted to our use--while the bicycle lane lay fallow and unused to the right.
Not only were we then required to wait for the cycling jerk to take the turn in front of us that we had already waited to take, but now we had to drive 5 mph behind them as they zig-zagged back and forth in front of us, then darted unexpectedly to the left, and took a left hand turn in the wrong direction up the next avenue--not without first turning and looking at us straight in the face with a look that said, "See, I can do this, because I JUST CAN."
She wasn't the only one. There were cyclists coming in all directions wrong way, right way, most of them blowing through lights, few were riding properly. Right hand turns on red lights, straight throughs on red lights, left hand turns on red lights to go in the wrong direction. This was the smorgasbord of the "revenge of the a-hole cyclists."
The city's Department of Transportation ad (reproduced right) takes aim at cyclists and drivers, saying that if they look where they are going, they can avoid crashes. But that's hard to do when cyclists don't give a shoot.
Paul Dorn, author of the Bike to Work Guide: What You Need to Know to Save Gas, Go Green, Get Fit (Adams Media, 2009), said in one of his blog posts from California that riding in the wrong direction is "evil." There is no doubt that it is that, and more--let's start with one fundamental one, dangerous for all involved.
When we finally parked the car I was so relieved I had gotten across the 10 or so blocks without hitting one of these idiots. But a vision of a highly insular New York, sectioned off into little pockets of do's and don'ts with all the don'ts reserved only for car drivers started to form from bubble thought to reality in front of me.
Taxi driver Andrzej Mszanecki said lately: "I do not enjoy driving in New York anymore, there are too many sectioned off areas, and it has made driving a taxi very hard."
BBB has been wishing for this for a long time, hoping that one day New York would become a cycling paradise, where you could ride safely and to almost any destination. Even though we still find riding in the city very dangerous, we were ecstatic when the city built real bike lanes going down Ninth Avenue from 23rd St. We were overjoyed to see the traffic medians taken up with new sitting sections, and controlled turn lanes for cars on 32nd and 23rd Sts.
Cyclists, clean up your freaking act. You disgust us.
The Arrogant Cyclist is Also.....Guess What? Irresponsible!
Pic: Kafkafi points to a bike that has been abandoned for 1.5 years and is beyond repair.
And if that weren't enough, let's move on to the whole derelict bike issue.
In this pic three bikes are left abandoned on a city bike rack--along with a workman's piece of equipment, all of them for over 1.5 years. They will not be removed under the new DOS rules because it's a city rack. (c) Benepe, 2010
Irit Kafkafi has been spearheading a movement to get derelict bikes off her block. It's not a negative act on her part, but the second half of her strategy to get more bike parking on the Lower East Side.
As founder of the movement Rack and Roll, she has been trying to get the city to install more bike racks on the Lower East Side.
BBB didn't believe how much a problem it really was until we accepted her invitation last night to see the number of derelict bikes attached to everything that stands still on the street, including tree guards, fences, streetposts, store gratings, you name it, it had a bike on it.
And 50 percent of the bikes she had shown us, one after another, had been there for more than a year and a half, with pieces hanging off, wheels gone, gears gone, seats torn off, frames twisted and dented into impossible shapes, and almost all of them--with unbroken kryptonite locks.
Perhaps people who live in the area, like Kafkafi, or the local community board (do they do anything anymore?) can give the DOS an idea of how long the bike has been abandoned.
Garbage collects in the basket of an abandoned bike on 2nd Ave. (c) Benepe 2010
The idea that a cyclist would leave their destroyed bike there for someone else to clean up goes against the whole idea of what a cyclist is supposed to represent, a moral citizen who is furthering the greening of New York. HAH! Greening of New York!
These cyclists who abandoned their bikes for whatever reason have only contributed to the JUNK of New York, leaving behind impedimental carcasses of metal that they expect their "mother" to clean up, whomever that is.
One more reason to disassociate myself from this particular cycling tribe.
Adding to the possible reasons for so many derelict bikes is the lack of secure and safe parking in the city. If a bike is parked, gets vandalized, and cannot be ridden, it's possible the owner abandoned the bike because it was no longer useful. But despite all the news about new bike parking laws being passed by the city, requiring residential buildings of a certain size, as well as commercial buildings to add secure bike parking, there are no provisions for smaller and older buildings like those on the Lower East Side.
The seat on this bike is dangling off--the bike has been there for over a year--untouched.
The law states that new buildings must dedicate 3 percent of their space to bike parking. In a recession those buildings haven't been built. Smaller existing residential buildings do not have to comply, and only larger commercial buildings have to comply--but they have ample time to do so.
More than 200 bike racks have been added to the Lower East Side since the Bike Rack program started according to the Department of Transportation and Kafkafi. But most of those spaces have been hijacked by irresponsible bike owners, leaving no space for real bike riders, the ones who actually use their bikes and need to park somewhere.
Kafkafi proposes that cyclists sign an agreement or receive training at the point of purchase that states they promise they will not abandon their bike in a public place, and if it needs to be disposed, to dispose of it properly either by donating parts to Recycle a Bicycle, or by recycling it through the city's recycling program.
Unfortunately, that type of program will not work for junk bikes that are bought for temporary use by students attending New York University, as it is suspected many of these derelict bike riders were--the owners having since left town after their schooling is over.
In such a case, New York University should instruct their out of town students that leaving a bike on the streets for someone else to remove is not only illegal, but morally reprehensible.