Sunday, November 20, 2011

Alleged Terrorist Pimental Arrested in Washington Heights, NY

An alleged terrorist bomber working as an independent agent was arrested in Washington Heights, NY yesterday afternoon before he could set off his first bombs, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced at a special news conference this evening.

Flanked by New York's Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Bloomberg announced the arrest of Jose Pimentel as a part of a long-running investigation of the alleged terrorist who had been working for the past two years to build bombs that he had been planning to test in mail boxes. Some of his potential full scale targets after the tests were to be concluded were said to be U.S. Postal Offices in New York, and a police station in Bayonne, NJ.
  
"The suspect was a so-called lone wolf, motivated by his own resentment of the presence of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as inspired by Al Qaeda propaganda," said Bloomberg.

"He was not part of a larger conspiracy emanating from abroad...[and] he represents exactly the kind of threat FBI Director Robert Mueller and his experts have warned about, as American military and intelligence agencies have eroded Al Qaeda's ability to launch large-scale attacks."

A special undercover police unit had been monitoring Pimental recently, and decided to move in and make the arrest before the alleged terrorist could plant his first bomb. This was to be the 13th attempted attack in New York since 9/11, said the Mayor.

The 27-year-old Pimental from the Dominican Repunblic was said to have been influenced by the death of Anwar al-Awlaki to join the Jihad, and had fashioned several pipe bombs from materials he had bought from various Home Depots to avoid detection.

Those bomb parts included elbow joints used in normal plumbing, but which are instructed as ingredients for bomb making in Inspire Magazine, an Al Qaeda publication, in particular the issue, "How to Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom," according to Commissioner Kelly.

Pimental had allegedly also bought nails to act as shrapnel and drilled holes into the devices to make them work. 

District Attorney Cyrus Vance said Pimental could face from 15 years to life if convicted of the charges of attempted terrorism. 

A picture of Pimental working on one of his alleged bomb devices was showcased at the press conference: a man with glasses bent over his work at a desk. How the photo was obtained was not disclosed. Although Pimental is a U.S. citizen, he was unemployed and was planning a trip to Yemen. He recently divorced from his wife.

Friday, October 21, 2011

NY Times Suddenly Discovers Age-Old Bike Route

An article in the NYT in 1897
The New York Times published a piece today about cyclists crossing the George Washington Bridge to ride to points north in New York and New Jersey.

The article pointed to the trip that has been taken by many millions of cyclists over the years, and has been said to be the most traveled bicycle route in the United States, almost as if they just started doing so yesterday.

It was another sign that the editors of the Times appear to recognize the growing importance of cycling in New York, yet still stubbornly resist hiring writers who know more than the average person about the sport.

The article sends broad hints that the Gray Old Lady is out of touch with the cycling community. This is surprising given the fact that they must have done a good job back in the day when Six Day racers were the norm at Madison Square Garden. The article left was published in the Times on Dec. 11, 1897--a time when cycling received its due.

The lack of real coverage affects the newspaper's credibility, which many cyclists have complained about privately on email exchanges over the past year, such as e-bikes, the mailing list started by Daniel Lieberman. Some have been so frustrated with either the lack of coverage, or stories that don't measure up to cyclists' standards they even started a private campaign to get a real cycling writer into the paper's revered halls.

The Times has skipped important events, like the first Gran Fondo, NY that took over the bottom level of the George Washington Bridge this past May, and had over 2,000 riders from around the world, including George Hincapie, professional cyclist for the BMC team. Of course BBB, this silly cycling based blog, covered that event, but so did that national and international paper called the Wall St. Journal. 

This summer when I was covering the Tour de France for Cyclists International, I ran into Greg Bishop, the new reporter who was covering the event for the Times while Juliet Macur was on maternity leave.
Riders coming across the bridge in this year's first Gran Fondo, NY held in May. (C) Benepe

Bishop's experience in cycling? He had covered the National Football League. I felt for the guy as he struggled not only with the concepts of the most important bicycle race in the world, but also with the torturous logistics of following the tour which some journalists have said is worse than actually being in the competition.

When I commented to another journalist that I thought it strange that the NY Times would hire a football specialist to cover the technical sport of cycling --a sport Bishop had admittedly never competed in (and nor for that matter has Juliet Macur,) he said, "Well, the Times is written to a general audience."

I am sure Bishop did fine, but come on NY Times: are you telling us that there aren't enough journalists out there who do know cycling that you could hire? I know a few I could call from my Rolodex just sitting at my computer.

Plus that old excuse that the Times is a generalist newspaper and writes to the audience that might try cycling, just doesn't hold. That's like saying they'll pick a writer for the Middle East conflicts that only has experience writing about fashion in New York. 

It is true that the NY Times is a "real" newspaper with trained journalists, and it could also be said that many writers for cycling have not had any formal training, and some indeed cannot even write properly. And I am not a great fan of the prevailing practice by cycling news outfits like Versus and VeloNews to employ ex-racers who know the sport but whose reporting skills are rudimentary and awkward.

Back to the article from today's paper: It starred Aaron Katin, a wonderful friend, a true-blood cyclist, and yes, a good example of someone who regularly rides across the George Washington Bridge from his home in Washington Heights. But there are others who exemplify the trip to the Nth degree, and for this article, the writer just skimmed the outer fringe of this massive group of addicted, two-wheeled sportsters.

We're not saying the writer was deficient, no, he did a great job. Nor even the editor. It's the big bosses at the Times who just don't seem to think that cycling deserves to be handled by people with real knowledge, nor do they want to provide the column space for in depth coverage.

Sadly, the Times' hit-or-miss approach to cycling is a real disservice to New York cyclists who continue to battle for safer conditions. Missing from this article was a hard look at just how difficult it is to get on and off the bridge, the many clubs that travel out of the city and why, the rides and where they are headed, and the personalities running the bike shops that service the bulk of the population (unfortunately not Manny's, though I am sure they appreciate the shout-out.)

Should we say we are happy they are giving space to cycling at all? Maybe. Their half-hearted job covering this diverse community has spawned an entire mini-market of online outfits that cater to the matters of the streets for two wheelers, like Benepe's Bike Blog, Streetsblog, BikeSnob, and Cyclists International, just to mention a handful. Even Gothamist and DNAInfo provide more cutting edge info for cyclists.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Update on Doug Daniele Memorial Ride

The course for the Doug Daniele Memorial Ride on Sept. 11 has been changed.

Due to twigs, rocks and other debris on River Road (Hudson River Drive,) the ride will now leave from Strictly Bicycles and proceed north along Hudson Terrace, then Route 9W up to the Alpine Police Station in Alpine, NJ (about 7 miles).

The ride will still meet at 8:30 am with a prompt departure at 9 am from the Strictly Bicycles parking lot on Hudson Terrace and Myrtle Avenue

The ride will proceed North along Hudson Terrace to Palisades Avenue (also known as Dyckman,) take a right on Route 9W, and proceed north.

When we reach Clinton, we will pick up riders from Tenafly, NJ who will be joining the group. Tenafly riders are expected to either wait for us on Clinton or more than 300 yards north of the Clinton/ 9W intersection on the shoulder.  Those riders will take the lead if they are in front.

We will continue north until we reach the right hand turn to Palisades Parkway Commission headquarters. 

We will turn right and proceed south down the hill about a half mile to the Palisades Parkway Commission headquarters.

There we will stop to give our remembrances of Doug. Anyone will be allowed to speak, and we will wait until the last person has had their say. 

Then the ride will proceed informally up to Piermont, NY and Nyack, NY. Riders are encouraged to continue north in Doug's spirit after remembrances are spoken.

Drivers and others can meet us at the parkway headquarters. There is a parking lot there (which is small). If there is not enough parking you can park further south of the HQ on the side of the road.

Please call 917 723 9017 for questions, or email jbenepe@msn.com

Thanks so much everyone, and looking forward to seeing you there.

RULES of the RIDE:

NO MORE THAN TWO ABREAST. Please, we don't want any accidents.

Ride in formation, two at a time.

Wait for the group after lights have split the group.

Please stay within the white line area of the shoulder. If you cannot do this with two abreast, please single up.

Please, please do not ride to the left over the white line in the shoulder unless you look behind first for approaching cars

Please ladies and gentlemen, no racing. We will wait for the slowest rider. You can race your heart out later.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Memorial Ride Planned For Daniele on Sept. 11

Doug Daniele in Nyack, NY courtesy of Nick Piscitelli
Cyclist Doug Daniele will be memorialized in a bicycle ride this weekend held in his honor.

Daniele was killed while riding his motorcycle on August 31 on Route 17 in Sloatsburg, NY when a motorist cut him off while trying to execute an illegal turn.

The ride will take place on Sept. 11, gathering at 8:30 am and leaving promptly at 9 am from Bruce Reynolds Boulevard and Hudson Terrace in Fort Lee, NJ, just south of the entrance to the George Washington Bridge.

Organizers attempted to plan the ride on anything other than 9/11, but when no other date became feasible, realized that Daniele himself would want to honor the date when so many Americans were killed in the World Trade Center towers disaster.

Happy riding days in 2009, Nick, Jen and Doug
The ride will proceed from the entrance of the Palisades Park roadway which is affectionately known as River Road but whose formal name is really Henry Hudson Drive, seven miles to the top of the Alpine Police Station hill. The ride will take a stop there for friends and fellow riders to to speak their remembrance about Daniele and 9/11.

The ride will end there, but riders are encouraged to continue as a less formal group to Piermont, NY and Nyack, NY.

Daniele was well known in New Jersey, partly because of his role as top salesman at D & C Honda in Tenafly, NJ, but also because he was a friendly guy who loved to ride his bikes whether they be road, mountain, or as he did earlier in life, BMX.

Daniele's mtn bike friends gathered on Sept. 1
Below is the full description of the Daniele Memorial 9/11 Ride

Date: Sunday, September 11 ·  8:30am -  1 pm
Meet: On sidewalk north of entrance to River Road, between Fort Lee and Edgewater NJ just south of George Washington Bridge (Bruce Reynolds Blvd. and Hudson Terrace, Fort lee, NJ)
 

Doug Daniele and two other stooges
YES it is an auspicious and revered day, just like Doug would have liked it, to ride on this day for those who fell in the World Trade Towers disaster.

For those who do not know, Doug was an avid cyclist, a dear friend, and resident of Paramus NJ. He was cut off by an automobile while riding his motorcycle last Wed., resulting in his death. (See stories at http://benepesbikeblog.blogspot.com/ <http://benepesbikeblog.blogspot.com/> )

The ride leaves the top of the hill at 9 am, proceeds down the hill, enters the Palisades Park and travels north along the river to the Alpine Police Station. We are asked by the Palisades Park Commission to please ride single file when cars are passing, which will likely only be necessary past the second boat basin (about 3 miles in).

Some riders will be coming up from Tenafly, NJ, or from Strictly Bicycles. We will wait for them to arrive (they are supposed to leave Tenafly at 8:30 am).

Ride will go all the way to Alpine, NJ, (about 7 miles) where we will stop briefly to read or speak spontaneously about our wonderful friend who was killed by an automobile on August 31, around 2:30 pm in Sloatsburg, NY. Poetry or simple reflections welcome.

THIS RIDE IS NOT A RACE. Please leave your racing brain at home. (thanks, I know how hard it is). You can race from Alpine to Nyack if you like.

Some of us will continue on to Piermont, NY and Nyack, NY, but we will not expect everyone to stay together. For those who would like to stay together, there will be a regrouping at both destinations.

Ride home is on your own or with your friends. Personally I would like to ride with everyone up to Nyack, it just won’t be formal because of the way the road becomes narrow at State Line.

Email jbenepe@msn.com with more questions or call 917 723 9017. Rain Date: October 2, 2011.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Doug Daniele, Father, Cyclist, Motorcyclist, Person, Mourned

Happier days in Paramus, NJ: Daniele and his sons and a friend
Motorist inexperience possible factor in fatal crash
Sept. 3, 2011
Doug Daniele, 48, of Bergen County, NJ was mourned yesterday and today by family, friends and acquaintances.

Daniele was killed in a tragic crash with a motorist on August 31 in Suffern, NY while riding his motorcycle. 

The loss of Daniele who touched so many lives brought tears to the eyes of many who attended his wake on Friday held in Oradell, NJ and a mass in his honor today at the Church of the Annunciation in Paramus, NJ.

Many never thought this day would come because Daniele was the bedrock of their lives, his friends recounted. He was passionate, loving, and seemed to make just about everyone feel like they were the most important person in the world.

So it may have been no surprise at today's services when even grown men who looked like they were as tough as line backers sobbed alongside women dressed in black dresses and pearls. No eye was dry, no head was unbent as the Reverend spoke about the greatness of Daniele, and how his full life was intended to be a long one. "This was not God's plan," he said of Daniele's passing.

Daniele's wife Carol Sandorse Daniele spoke in a quiet voice, her face beautiful but clearly wracked since her husband's passing. She wore a black suit that seemed to both accentuate her petite frame and evoke the fragility of life.

In a moment that could tear any heart to pieces, but also render it whole through its tenderness, Daniele's three sons Michael 13, Joseph 10, and Jesse 30 now bereft of their father, laid a ceremonial cloth on his casket.

Beverly Cancellieri, Daniele's sister, also spoke about her brother with emotion breaking her composure and her words.

Though Daniele's life was not only about cycling, many who came to respect him had ridden with him either on a road bike, a mountain bike, or on a motorcycle.

After the mass, Daniele's fellow mountain bike cyclists acknowledged that he had been their clear leader, organizing them through the North Jersey Mountain Bike Association where he was the founder.

Some members of the NJMBA gathered at a local diner after the mass to pass around photos of their times together, to talk about his humor, to recount special moments and places, and most of all to try and feel better about the gnawing empty feeling in their stomachs that appeared when Daniele's soul left the earth.

Motorist Inexperience Possible Factor in Daniele Crash

Meanwhile the details of Daniele's crash with the 17-year-old motorist were still pending the outcome of a police investigation.

A spokesperson for the Ramapo Police Dept. confirmed that since the motorist was underage her name would not be released.

Speaking for the New York Department of Motor Vehicles, spokesman Nicholas Cantiello confirmed that it is illegal to move from the right hand lane to perform a left hand turn.

Because of her age, the motorist was most likely to have been operating the 2008 Honda Civic with a driver's permit. Under state law, she would have to be accompanied by a legal guardian or parent in the car, in this case, her mother in order to drive.

But Cantiello said that U-turns in general are not legal on state highways such as  Route 17.

Stefan Koncz, a friend of Daniele who lives in the area of the incident and happened to pass by the scene of the incident that day said there was a break in the meridian that the driver was likely trying to reach when she turned to perform a U-turn.

Traffic in that portion of the roadway also begins to slow as it narrows and enters a 40 mile-per-hour speed zone, explained Koncz, so a properly performed U-turn may have been legal. But repeated calls to the Ramapo Accident Investigation team have not confirmed whether this driver will be summonsed for the turn.

The driver and her mother were overheard arguing loudly after the crash about how she was to have taken the turn, according to eye witnesses, each one allegedly with a different version of events.

Drivers involved in fatal incidents can be summonsed after the fact if the investigation finds that they broke the law, said Cantiello.

Though there is no word on whether the driver will be summonsed for her actions leading up to the crash, the motorist's age and inexperience may have played a part: Young drivers between the ages of 16 and 17 cause more crashes and fatalities than any other age group.

"Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for teens and the crash fatality rate is highest for 16 to 17 year olds within the first six months of getting their license," said NYS DMV Commissioner David J. Swarts in 2010. 

Young drivers represent only 12 percent of all drivers, yet they account for 20 percent of drivers involved in crashes, said a report completed by his office. And 16 and 17-year-olds are three times more likely to be involved in a crash than the rest of the driving population, it concluded.

The problem is not a new one, and on February 22, 2010, legislators instituted additional hurdles for teens looking to obtain their driver's license in New York by requiring 50 hours of driving time in a car with a guardian (up from 20), and allowing only one other passenger in the vehicle (rather than two.)

Though many believe that drunk driving among teens is the leading cause of crashes, driver error, speeding and being distracted are the biggest causes, said the DMV in a statement.

But even these new requirements beg the question, how can any of this help if the parent doesn't have common sense and allows an inexperienced driver to operate on a state highway? And how does the new law prevent young people from committing errors of judgment while driving just because their parent is present? In two words: it doesn't.

Whether a parent allows their child to drive on a state highway is up to them, said Cantiello, even if it makes no sense at all to have an inexperienced driver on a fast road with many traffic challenges.

And though parents must accompany their children under the supervised driving rules, if a child commits an error--such as causing a fatality, the crash becomes part of the child's driving record, not the parent's, said Cantiello.

Depending on the outcome of the accident investigation in Daniele's crash, the driver will likely have to attend a special hearing on the crash, where her conduct will be evaluated. As a result, she could face misdemeanor charges, or delays anywhere from a year to several years in obtaining a driver's license.

The driver could also be facing criminal charges if the investigation finds that she broke any laws such as texting while driving, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

On July 31, 2011 New York State Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's proposals for a national teen driver safety plan were approved by a key Senate committee.  The legislation would set national standards for states to implement Graduated Drivers License (GDL) programs that prepare teens to be safe, responsible drivers, said a spokesperson for Gillibrand's office.

Still, none of the laws in the U.S. compare to some European restrictions on teen drivers, where graduated driving rules keep teens off the roads until they have proven that they know how to drive.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Well Known Local Cyclist Doug Daniele in Fatal Crash

Daniele loved to use his I phone to take shots (2009)
Doug Daniele, 48.  November 3, 1962 to August 31, 2011
First Reported: August 31, 2011 (edited version, Sept. 3, 2011)

Local cyclist Doug Daniele was killed today while riding a motorcycle when a motorist made a sudden left turn in front of him, causing him to crash and flip over the car.   
Daniele, 48 was well known and beloved among many cyclists in the New Jersey region. He was traveling north on Route 17 in Suffern, NY on his 2011 Harley Davidson, when a 17-year-old female driver took a left turn from the far right lane, and Daniele traveled straight into her pathway.
The impact caused Daniele to flip over the top of the 2008 Honda Civic sometime between 2 and 2:30 pm near Sterling Mine Road in the Village of Sloatsburg, according to witnesses and police reports.

Another motorcyclist Paul Delmonico traveling with Daniele narrowly avoided the car, skidded to its right along the pavement, and suffered scrapes and other minor injuries.

Doug with his two sons and another friend riding a nice, long bike!
The motorist who is thought to have only had a learner's permit because of her age, had been attempting to complete a U-turn and misunderstood her mother's direction to "take a left now," instead of, "move into the left lane, then take a left," according to an eyewitness who saw the girl and her mother arguing after the crash. 

Daniele was taken to the Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern where he was declared dead on arrival.

An accident investigation squad was called to the scene and closed down the area for five hours, according to Officer Walker of the Ramapo Police Department.   No further details about Daniele's crash were available, said Walker, but an investigation of the causes of the crash is ongoing. The driver's name was not released because she is underage, said Ramapo police.

Word has traveled quickly up and down the stretches of Bergen County, New Jersey, and into Rockland County in New York State where Daniele used to ride his bicycle every Sunday and Wednesday, most often from his home in Paramus, NJ to Nyack, NY, a popular destination for cyclists.

Shock and disbelief followed by grief passed quickly from friend to friend.
Daniele in his backyard in 2009 modeling jerseys

A spontaneous gathering and outpouring of grief took place at Daniele's home this evening where his wife Carol Daniele, and two children Michael 13, and Joey, 10, spoke with friends. Jesse Obbsuth, Daniele's son from a previous marriage who is 30-years-old was also present at the Daniele home, as was Daniele's mother, other relatives and friends.

No one could believe that such a great man, as many of his friends referred to him today, could be gone. Daniele's reach extended not only among his numerous cycling buddies, but also among a large network of friends and acquaintances throughout Bergen County.

Daniele's Facebook page filled up quickly with notes of shock and sorrow from friends and acquaintances, childhood friends, cycling friends, motorcycling friends, and just people who loved to hang out with him.

BBB met Daniele for the first time some years ago. The first thing that anyone might tell you about the man was his eyes, which seemed to stare at you were of a bright golden green shade, and framed by abundant eyelashes.


Daniele also sported an impressive build, with massive shoulder muscles and a liberal sprinkling of tattoos. When he called, he often said,"So what's up?" in his characteristic gruff voice. If you ever felt unsafe on a bicycle because of aggressive drivers, you could ride with Daniele, and never have a worry because you knew he was fiercely protective of his friends.

But to Daniele, the bicycle was king. He told BBB that when he met his wife Carol the first thing he told her was, "I might as well tell you right up front, I ride my bicycle every weekend." But always the family man, Daniele was often seen pedaling with his whole clan up and down his street in Paramus, NJ.

Daniele was on his bicycle in the morning before he would later go out on his motorcycle with his new group of motorcycle pals: he bought his Harley five months ago, said Delmonico.  That afternoon he was to take the family to the skate park said his wife Carol.
Doug Daniele on 8/20/2011 with his new Harley

Many people knew Daniele from the Honda dealership in Tenafly, NJ where he had worked for many years and was a top salesman. "Buy your Honda from Doug," was a common refrain.

Daniele's other great passion after road biking was mountain biking, and any winter Sunday you could predict he was riding on one of the local mountains with his buddies.

One of Daniele's best friends since they grew up together in Fairview, NJ, Ted Demetrio, drove up from Philadelphia. "I guess I will be spending a lot of time in New Jersey over the next week or so," he said.

BBB will provide updates on the wake and funeral plans for Daniele, as well as more details on the incident.

Daniele was a great friend of BBB, and our hearts go out to his family. Words cannot convey how greatly he will be missed.






Friday, August 26, 2011

Cyclist Hurricane Preparedness in New York Region

Cyclist in a Storm, painting by Brian Rolfe. (Sold)
August 26, 2011
As cyclists we like to think we will be the last person standing in the middle of any disaster, the only persons able to escape through traffic jams.

But as Hurricane Irene approaches this Saturday, BBB would like to state the obvious: don't do it.

As depicted in the painting above, 'Cyclist in a Storm," by Brian Rolfe, it's nice to imagine ourselves out there in the battering winds, enjoying the effects of nature as the rain pours down on us, and we carry on, like the animals on two wheels that we are. (Cyclist in a Storm is no longer available for sale but you can see Rolfe's other works on Facebook and meet him privately in New York.)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a press conference this morning that he is prepared to shut down the subway system if the storm becomes too powerful and flooding is imminent.

Hurricane Irene's Center on August 24, Courtesy NASA
But should you find subways systems down, please don't travel outside on your bicycle.

Irene is headed our way later tonight and we are supposed to feel its full effect on Saturday night. Despite the dire forecasts, I have never seen the city hit with a catastrophic storm in my lifetime, and almost all major storms headed our way tend to peter out by the time they arrive on the shores of Battery Park City.

If in the event the city needlessly shuts down the MTA, and winds are not buffeting the buildings around you at 30 mph, then perhaps you could find yourself on empty streets enjoying a relatively safe bike ride.

In the meantime, we are reprinting here instructions from Info4Disasters.com. We think this list is a little but much, especially about the deep breathing instructions at the end, and the car centric reminders which we removed, but the basics are rudimentary. One thing they forgot to add: check all of these sites before the electricity goes out.

1. What you should do before the storm: The Mass Emergency Management Agency has released safety and preparatory measures to taken for Hurricane Irene - http://www.myfoxboston.com/dpp/weather/hurricane-safety-tips-20110824

Cyclist braving it in winds and rain--Netherlands
2. Is your location in the storm’s way? How severe is it likely to be? Find out with the National Weather Service’s Storm Risk Map - http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/ssurge/risk/index.shtml?gm

3. Find out when the hurricane is likely to hit your area and the storm wind potentials: http://info4disasters.org/natural-disasters/hurricanes/tropical-updates/

4. Search for Red Cross shelters by region: http://app.redcross.org/nss-app/

5. Evacuation routes for your state For evacuation routes by state, refer to http://www.ibiblio.org/rcip//evacuationroutes.html

For up to date information on evacuation routes, listen to the radio, the TV or call
the state police.
-Local state police contact details available here -
http://www.statetroopersdirectory.com/#Menu
-The National Weather Service provides two types of Radio All Hazards audio on the Internet - http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/streamaudio.htm

6. Hospital lists for Affected areas by state/district
http://www.theagapecenter.com/Hospitals/

7. What NOT to do in the event of an incoming hurricane
-Do not ignore warnings if evacuation is necessary.
-Do not forget to have medication supply, including diabetes supplies & sugar tablets.
-Do not leave things loose outside...bring them in or tie securely. Strong winds can turn these into “weapons”.
-Do not take a storm of this possible magnitude lightly NO MATTER WHAT!

(we skipped no. 8: it was about living by the ocean.)

9. Quick To Do’s to remember
-Medicines, diabetes supplies, other health necessities.  If you take multiple meds, carry an up-to-date list on your person.  Put in plastic bags to protect from water.
-Have a supply of batteries, radio, flashlights, sterno, water, dry goods/food.
-Keep cell phones and laptops charged
-Bring things in from outside.  If you can’t, then tie them down securely.
-If not boarding up, use masking tape across each window pane in an X to prevent possible shattering of glass.
-Use plastic bags that seal to protect medications, valuables & important
documents,
-Keep batteries in plastic bags also.
-Take your time & be prepared.  This will ease your mind.
-Try to stay calm.  Breathe deep and slow, in through nose, out through mouth  to bring blood pressure down if necessary.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Candlelight Vigil for Axelrod To be Held

A candlelight vigil will be held for Jeffrey Axelrod, the cyclist who was killed last Thursday when he was caught between a cement truck and an illegally parked car on Delancey Street.

The vigil will take place at 8 pm, tonight August 23, in Brooklyn.  A flier being passed around reads, "We will be gathering at Cobble Hill Towers in the large courtyard (at Baltic & Hicks) to light candles in Jeff's honor on Tues, August 23 at 8 p.m. All neighbors and friends are welcome -- please bring a candle," reported the The Village Voice Blog.

Axelrod, 52, was a resident of Cobble Hill for 20 years. Last Thursday Axelrod was seen taking a right turn off Chrystie St. to Delancey, having trouble when he approached the back of a cement truck, and falling under the wheels of the truck.

BBB came out swinging when we saw media reports blaming Axelrod for the accident because he ran a red light, according to one witness, Jose Martinez.  But whether he took the light or not had nothing to do with his accident, according to our analysis. Illegally parked cars however may have, as well as an obscured view of the space available.   Police were also unable to provide further details about the incident, especially given that Axelrod was an experienced rider.

Wrote one of his friends anonymously to BBB, "As a good friend of Jeff's and someone who talked bikes and rode bikes with him over the years your post explains a lot of questions I have been going over in my mind since this tragedy. Jeff was an experienced cyclist and not one that would take a lot of chances. All cyclists in this city have close calls every day, for something like this to happen is completely out of character with the experienced city cyclist."

According to the police report, two other witnesses were at the scene, but no information has been made public regarding what they saw.

BBB has been unable to locate Martinez who could provide more clues, such as whether he saw Axelrod's movements continuously, or as he made the turn, and later, when he had trouble with the truck.

The driver of the truck belonging to ESG Transport, was not charged in the incident.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Jeffrey Axelrod Fatality: Illegally Parked Car, Blocked Vision Define Crash


UPDATE, 8:15 pm August 20, 2011
The section where Axelrod was killed is for NO STANDING ANYTIME
Cyclist Jeffrey Axelrod, 52, of Brooklyn, NY was killed when he was crushed between the wheels of a cement truck on Thursday on Delancey Street. 

Several media reports have said that Axelrod went through the red light, and then concluded that he was killed by the truck when he had trouble with his chain ring--because he went through the red light.

Reports also focus on the one witness account, cyclist Martinez, that Axelrod was “wobbly” and fell between the truck’s wheels. According to media reports, like this one from L Magazine, the cyclist is attributed the blame.

Something just didn't seem right to us, so we went back to examine the facts. What we found--or what has been pointed out by the cycling brains of New York City, is quite different than what has been reported.

Left and right placed lights present blind spots especially for cyclists riding behind a truck
For one, the media says that a witness named Martinez said that both the cyclist and the truck turned right, but that the cyclist turned right after the light turned red. 

Really? How is that possible then that the cement truck and the cyclist were next to one another once they had turned?

Okay, let's assume the driver of the cement truck had come to a stop or was crawling along. Hard to believe, but possible. 

If he had, then why would Axelrod have fallen under his wheels? Why was there not enough space between the truck and the parked car?

Another writer to e-bikes answers that question: because the parked car was not supposed to be there.

This is a fact that no journalist has brought to light--nor has that matter the NYPD or the city's Department of Transportation. 

Writes Stephen Bauman: "One aspect of this accident has not been covered - the presence of illegally parked cars. The entire block was a no standing zone except for loading/unloading trucks, when the accident occurred. The media photos clearly show parked cars adjacent to and ahead of the cement truck." 
DOT's  list shows street all NO STANDING regs except trucks

Bauman, a retired electrical engineer who has twice ridden the Brest-Paris-Brest event (750 miles in 90 hours) and was one of the three founders of the Five Borough Bike Tour, brought to light the implications that illegally parked cars --that have not been towed--have for the safety of cyclists: "Parking regulations have a very low priority legally. They are not viewed as a "safety" issue. They do not generate points on a driver’s license. Illegally parked cars are most definitely a safety issue to cyclists, who must use the curb lanes," said Bauman. We haven't been able to check this by going to the scene, but the city's DOT does list the parking rules for every street, and we have been able to confirm that the cars were not supposed to be parked there. 


A spokesman for the NYPD said the initial accident report noted that the cars parked in Axelrod's way were "Legally parked."
The turn (see right) off Chrystie to Delancey--see how truck would block the light

Traffic lights are also a hazard for cyclists, especially in how they are placed in New York City, and may have accounted for the cyclist not seeing that the light had changed.

Light placement does not follow the national standards because so many of them must be placed here, said Bauman. Consequently, with New York City lights, there will be blind zones where for a period of time you will not be able to see the traffic signal. If you look closely at the intersection (our shots from Google Earth,) you can see both lights on Chrystie St. are on the sides of the intersection (far right and far left).. 

That blocked field of vision is worse for cyclists when they are approaching a changing light: "The slower you are the longer the time you will be in the blind zone, and for the cyclist, that is the amount of time for the light to turn red," said Bauman, who visited the site yesterday. "

But If a truck is in front of you it will block the red light the entire time, and you will never see it." 

Now let's go back to our earlier assumption: that the cement truck turned when the light was green but the cyclist didn't. We kind of doubt that. Based on the logistics of the crash, the double parked car, and the placement of the accident, we think the truck cut the cyclist off when he turned, and the cyclist had no where to go, --saw the parked car which would squeeze him --got "wobbly" because he had to stop, and couldn't, and then was squeezed between the truck and the illegally parked car.


There are other possibilities, but none of them match what has been reported: (a) the cyclist and the truck went through the red light together, the truck cutting the cyclist off, who then got squeezed, ((b) neither went through the red light but the truck cut the cyclist off and he was slammed in between the illegally parked car and the truck; (c) the truck went through a changing light, as did the cyclist and when the cyclist turned the corner, was squeezed by the narrowing space between the truck and the illegally parked car.

One thing we do know: if the truck was in front of Martinez--the one witness, who was also on a bike, it is unlikely he could see the traffic signal until after the truck had turned.

Another Victim, More Bull in Axelrod Fatality

Jeffrey Axelrod, 52, was killed by a cement truck on Delancey street on Thursday evening.

The event was covered by many of the Internet news gobblers who have seized on the "bicycle death" reporting angle like crocodiles in a crowded pool because they know how many hits they are going to get from concerned cyclists and hipsters. It's about the only time the Fixies from Williamsburg bother to read the news.

But the reporting is almost as bad as the news, and gives no justice to the person who has been killed, in this case Axelrod, who never had a chance to explain what happened when he was decimated by a massive cement truck.

I don't have time to review all the half-baked articles that are being circulated on the Internet, but I was surprised to find this kind of writing from the Gothamist which is normally a very well-respected media outlet with balanced reporting.

What I find really distressing about this article is that the writer allows all the false bull that the police and witnesses foist on them to be translated to paper.

The whole article sums up to the "fact" that he ran the red light, and that's why he is dead.

(this article has been altered based on new facts:)
First of all, the NYPD have not been able to confirm if the truck turned right from Chrystie Street to Delancey, the same route that the cyclist took. If he did, then the truck may have cut the cyclist off.
The one witness account by Jose Martinez that has been reported in the press does not state that Martinez was watching Axelrod the entire time, and there is a good likelihood that he wasn't. After Axelrod purportedly "went through the red light", what happened next that should make him fall behind and under the wheels of the truck? Would he have purposefully inserted himself between the truck and the parked car? 
And if the truck did not make the turn, and was simply traveling west on Delancey, did it give him enough room when it passed? A small refresher course on the rules of the road:

§ 1122-a. Overtaking a bicycle.
The operator of a vehicle overtaking, from behind, a bicycle proceeding on the same side of a roadway shall pass to the left of such bicycle at a safe distance until safely clear thereof.
Reporters covering the "dead cyclists" beat should know every line of the New York State traffic law, and challenge police reports. (See our follow up story about the NYPD's accident report on Axelrod and its errors and omissions.)
Their challenges should be translated to paper, so no more excuses are propagated like bad DNA through the universe of understanding the mechanics of why cyclists are dying on the streets of New York.
But the "ran the red light" crap is really the ultimate. 

BBB could even hear it in the voice of the spokesperson at the NYPD who added in their narrow responses that "the cyclist ran a red light," but could not answer any questions about the itinerary of the truck, nor the fact that the cars he was jammed by were parked illegally. Did they ticket those cars? OF COURSE NOT because in their report the cars were "legally parked."

"Running the red light" had nothing whatsoever to do with the cyclist's death, and only serves as a way to blame him when the truth is Axelrod was squeezed between the truck and the illegally parked car (see our follow up story)--- for some reason which is not known to us.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Summer Streets, Summer Fun

Cycling down Park Ave.: What a breeze on a
bike! (c) Benepe/ BBB
August 6, 2011
New York City

Summer Streets is back, and so is the pleasure of riding down through the caverns and past gorgeous architecture of New York's Park Ave. without the noise, toxic emissions and danger of motor vehicles.

Cyclists waited at intersections when
told to: Hmm, wonder why?
(C) Benepe/ BBB
Thanks to an initiative started by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the closing of Park Ave. from 72nd Street down to the Brooklyn Bridge for the sole use by cyclists, pedestrians and runners was held on Saturday August 6, and will be repeated next Saturday August 13, and the following, August 20.

It's the fourth year in a row, and clearly no longer an experiment, but some cyclists are wondering, like BBB herself, why not close it the whole weekend with permanent barriers? All summer, too. Drivers can just take buses and trains or bikes into the city.

Rounding the corner at the old Pan Am Building
(c) Benepe/ BBB
New York is so much nicer without cars, and even traveling at a cyclist's snail pace among children and tourists, traveling the whole distance to the Brooklyn Bridge takes less time than if you were riding in a taxi! In fact, your legs don't even notice it, you're having so much fun.

It's also one of the few times in the city that cyclists obey traffic laws, and the reasons are numerous.

First, they don't have to compete with motorists for room, and there is little fear of being hit by one, thus, advancing through an intersection to "get ahead" of dangerous motorists who squeeze cyclists to the curb, is not an issue.

Secondly, they can ride for many blocks without fear, and without having to stop every two seconds to dismount for a red light.

This Saturday's event was a real pleaser with even more activities along the route than last year. We saw (but did not stop at) a major food court on 25th St., on the other side of Madison Square Park. No bikes were allowed inside, but surprise! There was bike parking.

Tommy Tan came from Shanghai to volunteer as part
of the Orientals group, (c) Benepe/ BBB
STOP! in the name of love! on 23rd St.
(c) Benepe/ BBB
Around 50th Street there was a giant dance-in, which seemed to attract a lot of people.

I preferred the bicycle as did many others.

Children of all ages joined in the fun because at all of the major intersections where car traffic was allowed to pass from East to West and vice versa, there were volunteers holding "STOP" and "GO" signs.

Benepe wearing a Hotvelociti bike dress
and Charlie McCorkell,  owner of
Bicycle Habitat where you can buy one
(c) Benepe/ BBB
A major contingent from China had come for three weeks to staff the intersections. We caught up with 13-year-old Tommy Tan from Shanghai who came with a program called the Orientals.  We could not find any information on the organization, but it appeared they provided a very large number of the orange-shirted crossing guards.

One of the major benefits of riding summer streets is that you can get a bike rental or roller blade rental for free, a boost for anyone who doesn't know where they would find a bike for the event.

Waiting for the light at Houston St.: Many children
rode Summer Streets on Saturday, because it's the only
safe place for them to ride other than the
West Side Greenway (c) Benepe/ BBB
Also listed among the activities that make Summer Streets more of a party than a bike ride are sand sculpting workshops and story telling by StoryCorps at Foley Square (near City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge, at the bottom of the Summer Streets route,)  rock climbing thanks to REI on Spring Street, and guacamole-making demos by Chipotle, the big restaurant chain, on 52nd St.  

Fashionable helmets outside Bicycle Habitat
(c) Benepe/ BBB
Last year the city put up swimming pools, but despite the sweltering weather of about 90 degrees fahrenheit, we saw no pools this year.

Fashionable helmets were de rigueur with
this crowd, (c) Benepe/ BBB
Still it was evident that most people took the ride for its most basic pleasure, riding up and down Park Avenue when it is devoid of cars. We saw hundreds of New Yorkers decked out in their fashionable best, with the most variation in cycling helmets, especially among hip young women and men. 

The biggest fashion accessory however was no helmet at all, even though free helmets were being given out along the course. 

Or no helmet at all, which was often the case
 (c) Benepe/ BBB
That might come in handy, for example when at 12:50 p.m., ten minutes before the close of Summer Streets, when thousands of cyclists were still on the course, a volunteer crossing guard had abandoned their post on the east side of 59th Street, and a child went barreling towards the intersection before I screamed STOP! three times.

None of us were really aware that car traffic was about to pass because the now familiar orange-shirted guard was gone.

I mentioned this to a New York police officer standing at the next corner with his hands in his pockets, and he shrugged in a bored way and did absolutely nothing. 

Needless to say, a helmet would not help much in the case of a full car slam, especially for a small child on a small bicycle, whose height doesn't even reach the top grille of an SUV.

So word to the wise, watch the intersections yourself, and don't place all your trust in crossing guards, especially if you are traveling with children.

Serving up amazing dark coffee at La Colombe in Soho
(c) Benepe/ BBB
Speaking of helmets, we caught up with Russell Meddin and his son Alex who came in from Philadelphia to enjoy the ride and pass out cards about Bike Philly which is to take place on Sept. 11, 2011 (for some odd reason Transportation Alternatives would not help Meddin by putting his cards on their display.) We shared a flavorful cup of dark and fragrant coffee at La Colombe in Soho, and spoke to a woman who was visiting from Australia and reading the Wall St. Journal while just outside the doors was a world of bicycles.

She said bike share was not popular there because of a new mandatory helmet law that has been passed which had the negative effect of decreasing bike use. "What do we do, rent a helmet? That's gross," she said. "Or carry it around?" 

An Italian made coffee cup at
La Colombe (c) Benepe/ BBB
Meddin agreed, quoting a recent study published in the British Medical Journal that argued that bike share in Barcelona saved 12 lives due to reduction in pollution, an increase in physical activity, and the replacement of cars with bicycles for a number of Barcelonians through the Bicing bike share.

We also stopped by Charlie McCorkell's shop Bicycle Habitat, where employees were providing free tune ups for cyclists (tips appreciated!)

We visited their gorgeous Trek Concept Shop where you can price out a new Trek, which BBB is predisposed to, having used a Madone 5.9 women's specific design to win many triathlons before the bike was run over by a motorist.

These bikes are fast, fast, fast (like lightening), but you can also get a tool around Trek bike for as low as $300, and it will be light and flexible.

Rosie knows how to travel in style in her mom's
Dutch contraption, (mom does all the pedaling)
 (c) Benepe/ BBB
Yes, full disclosure, we are NOT subsidized or sponsored by Trek in any way, though Bicycle Habitat does carry Hotvelociti, those gorgeous bicycle jerseys for men and women, and bike dresses for women (or men as it may please you,) which are made by the same company that owns and publishes BBB.

In the photo above we are modeling one of this year's gorgeous bike dresses with matching shorts which you can find at the store. (Next week we will be wearing the Red Leopard backless bike-to-dinner-to-disco number which you can also find at Bicycle Habitat along with a big selection of men's cycling wear and bicycles.)

Morene Bangol outside Bicycle
Habitat and NYCC booth
(c) Benepe/ BBB
Outside of Charlie's shop we ran into Rosie and her mom on a fantastic little Dutch number--along with doggie too! What a way to go! Go Rosie, go Rosie, go Rossssiiiiieeeeee!
Charlie Collins bike-fixer extraordinaire outside
of the NYCC booth (c) Benepe/ BBB
And right next door, Ellen Jaffe president, and Charlie Collins, member of the New York Cycling Club had their booth next door to Bicycle Habitat's. Charlie was dutifully doing bike repairs too, and member Morene Bangol dropped by, fresh from a ride to Piermont in her purple jersey and matching sunglasses.

A great day had by all: We'll see you next Saturday when Summer Streets are open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Meet with Your Friendly Police Tonight

New York's Finest out in number on July 4, 2011
(c) Benepe
Once a year many police stations open their doors to the public on the first Tuesday of August, and New York City's are no exception.

Tonight, August 2, New York's finest will be holding community parties called "night outs against crime" that gives you dear citizen a chance to hobnob with your protectors, law enforcers, friends and potential irritants in person.

Though we checked the times in our hometown, the Upper West Side, there are fetes being held throughout the city. 

Below are the details for Manhattan's Upper West Side, courtesy of the office of New York Councilwoman Gale Brewer:

    • The 24th Precinct, which covers West 110th Street to West 86th Street between Central Park West and the Hudson River, will hold its National Night Out at the Happy Warrior Playground at West 98th Street and Amsterdam Avenue from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
    • The 20th Precinct, whose territory spans from West 59th Street to West 86th Street between Central Park West and the Hudson River, will celebrate at Verdi Square Park between Broadway and Amsterdam at West 73rd Street from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. 
    • The Midtown North Precinct, which covers the area south of West 59th Street celebrates National Night Out in Hell’s Kitchen Park, 10th Avenue between 47th Street and 48th Street from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. 
    • The Police Service Area (PSA) 6, which patrols the NYCHA developments in the 6th Council District, celebrates on West 127 Street between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. 212-694-7723/7724. 
While visiting with your local police, you can weigh in on their measures this year to curb bad cyclist behavior by issuing more tickets.

Police car parked in bike lane in upper
Manhattan earlier this year (c) Benep
Perhaps you can ask your local police how many tickets they are issuing to cyclists versus motorists, since they have never answered my numerous Freedom of Information Legal requests asking for same (it's been about 6 months since I asked for the same numbers that the NY Post, that wonderful Murdoch-owned newspaper was able to obtain the same day they asked for it: must have been part of their quid pro quo system.)

You might also ask them how they are working to improve cycling SAFETY in the city: just how exactly are they doing that? Since that is also a question they have failed to answer. And, also, why are they not ticketing people with illegal faster and heavier electric bikes?

Finally, you could ask them kindly to stop parking in the bike lanes, so that at least when we are trying to get around town in them, we don't have to go out into traffic to be hit by cars.

If that doesn't keep the conversation going, you could also try and quote from Ed Koch's letter to the editor in the NY Times in which he calls the undercover police bike sale sting shameful.

Not that we agree with the ex-Mayor of New York, but it does raise the issue of who here is the real criminal and why aren't we going after the bankers, lawyers, and real estate brokers who perpetrated a much greater crime on New Yorkers? Good question.

A Traffic Enforcement Agent doing the right
thing and ticketing motorists parked
in the bike lane earlier this year (c) Benepe
In all seriousness folks, this is a good opportunity to build bridges with your local NYPD. Maybe you think it does not matter, it does help for police to hear our side of the story when we are not on the other side of receiving a ticket and pissed off.

Also, it gives you an opportunity to speak to officers who are on bike patrol and commiserate about the lousy way cyclists are treated by motorists in the city: that will give them pause to reflect on their experiences, which they may share up the decision making ladder.

Benepe's Bike Blog attempted to find a central location where you could identify your local precinct's night out, but the central NYPD agency said this came under the Mayor's office, and the Mayor's office only has information on those Night Outs that Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be attending.

Those are in the five boroughs and are as follows:
·          5:15 PM , Speaks at 43rd Precinct National Night Out Against Crime, Metropolitan Oval, Union Port Road at Metropolitan Avenue, BRONX
·          6:00 PM, Speaks at 106th Precinct National Night Out Against Crime, Centerville Playground, Albert Road between 96th Street and Centerville Street, QUEENS
·          6:45 PM, Speaks at 88th Precinct National Night Out Against Crime, Fort Greene Park, DeKalb Avenue at Washington Park, BROOKLYN
·          7:30 PM, Speaks at 10th Precinct National Night Out Against Crime, Chelsea Waterside Park,  West 23rd Street at 11th Avenue, MANHATTAN
·          8:15 PM, Speaks at Staten Island Precincts National Night Out Against Crime, Midland Beach Promenade, Father Capadanno Boulevard at Iroquios Avenue,  STATEN ISLAND