Friday, September 16, 2016

Safe Streets ride, September 15, 2016

On September 15, I rode to midtown Manhattan to gather for a mass bike ride. It is to protest the dangerous street conditions in New York. There have been more cyclists killed in the 2016 calendar year than there were in the 2015 calendar year, and this year is only nine months old. This is in the context of our mayor's program called Vision Zero where we are supposed to be working towards zero deaths by vehicle collisions. We are getting farther, not closer.

I joined 1,000 of my closest friends, and most of us wore yellow. Many of us wore yellow flowers. My friend had the biggest yellow flowers of all and needed a trailer to carry them.

We gathered and started at 5th Ave and 59th St. There were many police motorcycle escorts there, and I didn't see them after the ride took off. Generally speaking, I think the police of New York absolutely shine when covering events that bring large crowds. It's what they do best. I can't say they did well or badly, as I just didn't see them.

The ride completely occupied all lanes of the very wide avenue. As we passed through intersections, we made lots of noise with our bells and horns. Some carried large banners with statistics such as how many people died in the streets in recent years. There was someone from the ride at each intersection, standing in front of the vehicles waiting to cross the avenue. There was a lot of honking from the motor vehicles. They were made to wait a long time. How long does it take a thousand cyclists pass a given point when there are three traffic lanes for them? I don't know.

Pedestrians also had difficulty crossing the avenue, and some of them expressed anger over that.

We ended at Washington Square Park, and there was a rally with a speaker with a megaphone. But it wasn't loud enough to hear. Bad planning, in my view. It was more of a kilophone or maybe even just a hectophone.

From there, I went home which is close to the park.

I'm glad we made our issue known to some. We are sending a thousand yellow postcards to the mayor telling him we want action. A lot of people want more protected bike lanes, and I think they're OK in some places, and I think they do more harm than good at some times and places. I'd like more enforcement of existing laws. I'd like a law like they have in the Netherlands where the motor vehicle is presumed to be guilty if there is a collision. This causes them to drive extremely cautiously. If a pedestrian or cyclist stupidly cuts off a motor vehicle driver when he (the pedestrian or cyclist) doesn't have right of way, the motor driver still does whatever he can to avoid the collision, because he may be found at fault. Currently, as things are here, if you get hit and injured or killed, law enforcement looks at it as something that just happens that we just have to accept. I'd like that to change.

But was this a good way to bring about change? We cyclist don't like the way some people drive, but it's also true that some motorists and pedestrians don't like the way cyclists drive. Wouldn't it have been better if we had let cross traffic move at the normal times? I'm fine with slowing down the avenue and making the other vehicles wait behind us, but I think getting people angry isn't a good way to get them to support the cause.

My wife met me here, and here is a picture of us.

"Dooring" a cyclist

Car drivers/riders, please check behind you before you open a car door. You could seriously hurt a cyclist.

Bicycle drivers, please don't move through the door zone. Even though the car user is violating a law when they open a door in front of you, it's a risk you do not need to take, for your safety or to comply with laws. The law does not compel a cyclist to stay so far right as to be in the door zone, and it's not a good idea in any case.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Increasing the presence of bikes on the streets

Recently, in a Facebook discussion about getting people to ride for transportation in general and about replacing free public parking spaces with Citi Bike racks specifically, someone wrote to me, saying:

The problem is that many cyclists do not obey any rules at all. Like going with traffic, not against it. Or staying on the road, sidewalks are for pedestrians.

That's not the problem, but it is a problem. I try to be a role model, and I ride in traffic in the way I think everyone should. I don't startle anyone, and I don't impede anyone. I try to predict how everyone else is going to behave, and I try to ride predictably so anyone concerned knows what I'm doing and what I'm about to do. Even with the bad cyclists -- and there are too many of them --, it seems to me that as more people get onto bikes each year, it is not becoming more unsafe for pedestrians or motorists or subway riders. A lot of the new riders are the type of people with less nerve than the previous waves. They are starting to ride because they previously would not have felt safe in traffic. A lot of these new riders stop at red lights. I stand and wait next to them on 8th Ave.

I should tell you that I have been a bike advocate for a long time. I have ridden in many places, and I currently ride 2,000 miles a year. I know what works and what doesn't, and I know what will work. I have taught people how to ride in traffic so that they and people nearby are safe and comfortable. It's a practical way to get places, and it's a reasonable decision to make to ride a bike in NYC and many other places. I don't know about Fairlawn, as I haven't been there in a while. I did some bike and education in Maplewood when I lived there.