Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bike Lane Backlash, NJ Bike-Ped Webinar in 2011

In the news today, a local author and blogger, JP Partland responds to an anti-bicycle editorial in the New York Times.

Pic: Police cars parked in bike lane in Hudson Heights this year (Benepe, (C)) 

He wrote, "A few cyclists running red lights are not a public menace. On the other hand, people driving 6,000-pound cars while talking on cellphones, speeding, running red lights, turning without signaling and so on are. Any meaningful crackdown on scofflaws should begin with getting car and truck drivers to obey traffic laws. "

But to add fire to the flames, that old curmudgeon, Norman Stiesel, (the one whom Mr. Benepe pointed out in his reporting two weeks ago on BBB, as someone who truly lacks vision,)  cosigned his name to a letter that once again, made flaming claims that the new bike lane on Prospect Park West has created a three time increase in collisions between drivers and cyclists--a claim that he shows no accompanying data for.

In addition he states that there are not the numbers of cyclists the DOT predicts using the lane; DOH Mr. Stiesel, it's 25 degrees outside! And did you forget the old adage, 'build it and they will come?' What's more, in his lack of knowledge about cycling and traffic calming, Stiesel claims that with less room for cars and more room for cyclists, there will be more accidents. But he fails to recognize that with more cyclists there will be fewer cars, and cyclists take up less space. Once again, Stiesel got it all wrong.

We'll have to weigh in here on the New York Times editorial. For one, it's clear the writer has no idea what it is like to ride in New York City. Perhaps because they are too scared to. No wonder, three, four and five ton vehicles traveling well beyond the speed limit, barreling down the avenues with no care or consequence should they hit and kill or maim you.

Once again, the New York Times misses the point entirely. There is no way to insure cyclist safety without creating safe bike lanes, and cyclists WILL go on the sidewalks if the streets are not safe for them.

They cite  Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's mini-research study--showing, "741 instances of pedestrians blocking bike lanes; more than 275 vehicles blocking bike lanes, including a school bus and pedicabs; 331 cyclists going the wrong way; 237 cyclists running red lights; and 42 cyclists riding on sidewalks."

But they fail to point out the hundreds of thousands of trucks, cars and other heavy vehicles running red lights, speeding, making turns in front of cyclists, cutting them  off, buzzing them, and sometimes purposely trying to hit them--an offense that is still very difficult to punish by law.

Pic: A real bike path in Bruges, Belgium. Photo, Katie Lambden, (c).  

Let's start with the heavy hitters, and go from there, shall we? I propose a law that makes it a crime to hit a cyclist:  Now it's just called an incident, in varying degrees, and criminal culpability is extremely difficult to obtain unless the driver is drunk--and tested for drunkenness on the spot, which rarely occurs unless there is a death.

Now wouldn't that be novel? Then we would see a lot fewer cyclists on the sidewalks, going the wrong way, or doing anything that they are doing to protect their bodies from death and dismemberment.

Pic: Exclusive bike lane in the Netherlands. 

Also in the introduction to the Opinion Pages of the NYT, the writer implies that Mayor Koch's bike lane plans failed. Noted Steve Faust in a reply to the paper that although Koch's plan to demarcate the lanes with barriers failed, the painted lanes themselves still exist and were never removed.  "Reports of bike lanes death were greatly exaggerated - to our propaganda loss," wrote Faust to ebikes, a private New York email exchange founded and run by Daniel Lieberman.

Faust's detailed explanation of what happened to the bike lanes during the Koch administration is worthy of note, since the mythology that they failed has superseded any mention that they survived.

Four Part Webinar Offered by Rutgers on Bike-Ped Planning

Also a four part Webinar series on community health and transportation planning was announced today by the Rutger's center in charge of helping transform New Jersey's complex cycling and pedestrian issues.

The series is sponsored by the American Public Health Association and will cover the many ways transportation systems impact public health, said a representative from the New Jersey Safe Routes to School Resource Center.

They will feature speakers from across the nation talking about state and local programs that consider health and equity in transportation planning, the health benefits of active transportation, health impact assessment tools, and innovative programs to prevent roadway deaths and injuries. 

And if you register for any session, your registration is good for the whole series. To register, visit this link.

For more information contact the New Jersey Safe Routes to School Resource Center at the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers University, 33 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, telephone: (732) 932-6812.

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