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Seeking a cycle solution: Creating safe streets for all, beyond blaming the city and drivers



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During a summer home from college in 1999, I worked as a bike messenger in Midtown Manhattan. Back then, there were few of the trappings that New York cyclists enjoy today. Bike lanes were few and far between. Citi Bikes, protected lanes and greenways were fiction, and bicycle advocacy as a concept was basically non-existent.

There were 40 bicycle deaths in New York that year, a record, at least for that era. Towards the end of that summer, one of my coworkers got into an accident and bit off his tongue. A week later, another messenger reported back from visiting him in the hospital. “He’s doing better,” he said. “He can speak now.” Another messenger friend told me about a courier who had his ears ripped off from getting sandwiched between two buses.

Today, by comparison, New York is living in a golden age of bicycling. Thanks to infrastructure changes begun under Mayor Bloomberg, New Yorkers can enjoy riding on dedicated, separated bike lanes with physical barriers protecting them from cars, on many of Manhattan’s avenues. Citi Bikes are ubiquitous throughout much of the city, and standard bike lanes have been added to streets all over the five boroughs.

New Yorkers have embraced two-wheeled transit with an undeniable fervor. Average daily bike trips in the city have spiked more than 150% since 2006, from about 180,000 to about 460,000 today. This is a good thing, and considering how bicycle usage has surged, that bicycle deaths hit a record low last year at just 10 is even more remarkable. That should be a proud accomplishment for the city, the Vision Zero policy, and all New Yorkers.

However, the bicycle community is in crisis mode today. After 19 deaths so far this year (as of Aug. 15), it’s easy to understand why. Bicyclists remain at the mercy of cars and trucks on many New York streets, and more can be done to reduce both bicycle deaths, and overall traffic deaths, which include pedestrians, vehicle drivers and passengers, and motorcyclists as well as bicyclists. Total traffic deaths in New York City also hit a record low last year at 200.
While bicycle advocates are right to demand a more bike-friendly streetscape in many parts of the city, as well as more of the public awareness campaigns that have been a part of Vision Zero and greater enforcement of things like drivers’ running red lights, they have been absent in one key element of their movement.

That is that cyclists, by and large, have avoided taking responsibility for their own behavior on city streets, and prefer to see themselves as victims rather than willing participants in the elegant chaos that defines getting around in a tightly packed city of 8.5 million people. Cyclists can also be a big part of the problem, acting as a menace to both each other and pedestrians. On July 31, for instance, a cyclist hit a pedestrian, Michael Collopy, in Chelsea. He later died in Bellevue Hospital. The cyclist who hit him fled the scene and remains unidentified. Despite the tragedy and criminality of that event, it sparked little of the outrage or protests from the bike community that have popped up following bicycle fatalities this year. In a statement, Marco Conner, co-deputy director of Transportation Alternatives, a leading bicycle advocacy group, acknowledged that the incident was a tragedy and said that cyclists should always yield to pedestrians, but then shifted the blame for overall traffic deaths from bikes to motor vehicles, which may be true but seems to be missing the point — that pedestrians are often fearful and at the mercy of lawbreaking cyclists.

In an interview last month, on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show,” Conner made an even more bizarre statement, saying, “The behavior of cyclists, car drivers, truck drivers, pedestrians, in terms of not abiding by certain laws is about the same, but the responsibility you have wielding a multi ton car or truck is very different from walking, or from riding a bike.”
I’m not sure what city Conner lives in, but it doesn’t seem to be the same one I’m in. I regularly see bicyclists, whether it’s everyday commuters or delivery people, riding the wrong way down the street or riding on the sidewalk, both of which creates a menace for pedestrians and drivers. When is the last time you saw a car driving down the sidewalk?

Plenty of challenges still remain in making New York more bike-friendly, including bike lanes being routinely blocked by double-parked cars and trucks, but bike advocates would be wise to own up to their own role in the city’s transit ecosystem and take a more holistic approach that includes themselves as part of the solution, rather than simply demonizing cars and City Hall.

Here are five ways the bike community can help ensure that New York is as bike friendly and as safe for bicyclists as possible.
1. Follow the rules

This may be common sense, but as they say, common sense isn’t always so common. Plenty of cyclists don’t respect the traffic laws — I’ll cop to having been one of them — especially when it comes to running red lights, riding the wrong way down one way streets, or riding on the sidewalk.

I get it. Part of the joy of riding is the freedom of it, and red lights are a bummer when you just want to cruise. But creating a more bike-friendly and bike-forward city requires buy-in from all New Yorkers, including those who would never dream of getting around on two wheels. The sidewalk is meant to be a safe space for pedestrians, and many of them, including the elderly, the disabled, and those pushing a wheelchair or a stroller, can’t easily avoid a cyclist coming directly at them on a narrow piece of pavement. Act accordingly.
Cyclists need to show those citizens the same respect that they’re asking for. Don’t be a scofflaw. Follow the rules.

2. Share the road

Cars, bikes and pedestrians are natural antagonists out on the road. Like a transportation version of rock, paper, scissors, they all have their own pros and cons, and they don’t mix well together. Cyclists fear getting mowed over by a car or truck. Pedestrians don’t want to get hit by an errant bicycle flying through a red light or a car, and drivers, of course, are wary of hitting anyone or causing an accident.
Pedestrians and bicyclists are especially vulnerable to the faster, heavier equipment out there. I get it. But everyone has responsibilities.

Cyclists can make everyone’s lives and commutes easier by making predictable moves out on the road. Ride in the bike lane if one’s available. Use hand signals to let drivers know when you’re turning, and don’t weave in and out of traffic just to get somewhere a little faster or because it’s thrilling to do so. If you want to avoid a collision, start by doing the basics to lower the risk of one.

There will always be some tension between cars, bikes and pedestrians out on New York streets as each constituency has a different set of interests and space on the roads is scarce. There’s a natural give-and-take, but simply being courteous can make sharing the road easier and more pleasant for everyone.
The challenges of balancing these different modes of transportation is being tested in a new way now that cars are effectively banned on 14th St. (with exceptions for pick-ups and drop-offs). It’s a worthy experiment that will help inform the future of NYC transit and street design, but it’s already become a contentious issue with New Yorkers lined up on both sides of the debate.

3. Get the proper equipment

It’s a nightmare riding around New York at night these days. Some cyclists use no lights or reflective gear whatsoever, putting them in danger of a collision with a car or another bike and putting pedestrians at risk as well. Other cyclists choose to strap high-wattage flood lights to the fronts of their bikes, momentarily blinding riders coming the other way.
There’s a middle ground here. Let’s mandate and standardize bike lights for all riders. Advocacy groups like Transportation Alternatives and the city can work together on a standard so riders can be as safe as possible at night, and keep each other out of harm’s way.

At the same time, nothing lowers the chances of an accident being fatal or serious more than wearing a helmet. Mandate helmets for all riders. Citi Bikes can add lockboxes to bikes so helmets can be stored inside of them when the bikes are not in use. This is what Revel, the shared moped company that just launched in Brooklyn and Queens, is doing.

Similarly, the city should consider a bike registration for all bikes and cyclists to help give it valuable data on bicycling and to deter bike thefts.
4. Embrace e-bikes

Mayor de Blasio’s distaste for battery-powered bicycles has been a misstep, and Hizzoner would be wise to reverse course.

E-bikes are a fast-evolving technology that have the power to make cycling much more accessible than it currently is with pedal bikes. Not only can New Yorkers who may not be in good enough physical shape to ride a pedal bike around the city benefit from e-bikes, but they’re also a way to eliminate, or at least mitigate, every summer cyclist’s scourge — showing up at work or at the bar looking like a sweat rag thanks to 90-degree temps and oppressive humidity.
The city has tools it could use to encourage the adoption of e-bikes, and by doing so help hasten the transition away from cars to bikes by offering tax credits to purchase them, similar to what the federal government does with electrical vehicles. It could also build out a network of charging stations so e-bike riders can be assured they won’t be stranded.

In order achieve the sea change in New York transit they envision, bike advocates to build a critical mass of cyclists. Embracing e-bikes is the best way to do so.

5. Make peace with drivers
One common thread in bike advocacy in cities across the country is hatred of cars. Chants of “ban cars” are found everywhere online and off, and cycling advocates seem to view transit as a zero-sum game. The fewer cars there are the more bikes, they seem to believe, and the less space there is for cars, the more there is for bikes. That’s not really true though, and it’s a terrible strategy for achieving their desired state of a bike nirvana.

Cyclists need to accept that millions of New Yorkers rely on cars, private or hired, every day. These include, but aren’t limited to, the elderly, disabled, sick and injured, pregnant women, and families with babies or small children. Plenty of hardworking New Yorkers need their own vehicle to get to or do their jobs, and everyday New Yorkers also count on cars when they’re in a rush to get somewhere, going somewhere inaccessible by public transit, or hauling something too big to carry on a bike or the subway. Even the most ardent cyclist isn’t about to jump on their fixie to get to JFK with a rollerboard bag on their back. That just ain’t happening.

Similarly, trucks are here to stay too. You know all those stores lined up and down New York streets that sell stuff. They need trucks to bring them their merchandise. That’s just the way it works. If you can think of a better way to do it, then go ahead and share it because you’re probably sitting on a billion-dollar idea. E-commerce and the explosive growth of Amazon has only increased demand for truck delivery.
New York has come a long way over the last generation to make the city welcoming to bikes and cycling, but there is still much work to be done. Bike advocates can help themselves by committing to the above guidelines, and accepting their role in making New York streets as safe as possible and available to all forms of transportation as well as the people who depend on them.

By including themselves as part of the solution rather than simply pointing the finger at drivers and the city itself, cyclists and their advocates can help New York become the biking utopia that so many of us want it to be.


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Oboe player dies in fall at concert hall before performance




Oboe player dies in fall at concert hall before performance

A Miami symphony oboe player died after she tumbled down a flight of stairs minutes before a season-opening concert performance, the band said.

Greater Miami Symphonic Band member Janice Thomson, 62, hit her head Sunday when she fell on the tile floor of the lobby of the Maurice Gusman Concert Hall in Coral Gables, according to the symphony’s Facebook page.

One concertgoer said she was in the lobby purchasing a ticket when she heard a “bone-crunching splat,” the Miami Herald reported.

“We turned around and everyone was screaming and she was on the floor bleeding,” Grace Harrington told the newspaper. “Everyone was running to get her. They were screaming for a doctor.”

Thompson was rushed with internal bleeding to Jackson South Medical Center, where she succumbed Monday to her injuries, the Miami Herald reported.

The Greater Miami Symphonic Band said Monday that it will dedicate their Dec. 10 concert to Thomson.

“As has been our tradition, we will have an unoccupied seat in the oboe section with a single rose on it,” the band wrote on Facebook.


By James Smith

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Venice Floods Because of Highest Tide in 50 Year




Venice devastated by second highest tide in history

VENICE, Italy (Reuters) – Venice’s mayor called the city a disaster zone on Wednesday after the second highest tide ever recorded swept through it overnight, flooding its historic basilica and leaving many squares and alleyways deep under water.
A local man from Pellestrina, one of the many islands in the Venetian lagoon, died when he was struck by lightning while using an electric water pump, the fire brigade said.

City officials said the tide peaked at 187 cm (6ft 2ins) at 10.50 p.m. (2150 GMT) on Tuesday, just short of the record 194 cm set in 1966.Night-time footage showed a torrent of water whipped up by high winds raging through the city centre while Luca Zaia, governor of the Veneto region, described a scene of “apocalyptic devastation”.

Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said the situation was dramatic. “We ask the government to help us. The cost will be high. This is the result of climate change,” he said on Twitter.

He said he would declare a disaster zone and ask the government to call a state of emergency, which would allow funds to be freed to address the damage.

Saint Mark’s Square was submerged by more than one metre of water, while the adjacent Saint Mark’s Basilica was flooded for the sixth time in 1,200 years – but the fourth in the last 20.

A flood barrier was designed in 1984 to protect Venice from the kind of high tides that hit the city on Tuesday, but the multi-billion euro project, known as Mose, has been plagued by corruption scandals and is still not operative.

Brugnaro said the basilica had suffered “grave damage”, but no details were available on the state of its mainly Byzantine interior, famous for its rich mosaics.

Its administrator said the basilica had aged 20 years in a single day when it was flooded last year.
Some tourists appeared to enjoy the drama, with one man filmed swimming across Saint Mark’s Square wearing only shorts on Tuesday evening.

“Venice is on its knees.. the art, the basilica, the shops and the homes, a disaster.. The city is bracing itself for the next high tide,” Zaia said on TV.

The luxury Hotel Gritti, a landmark of Venice which looks onto the Lagoon, was also flooded.

On Wednesday morning the tide level fell to 145 cm but was expected to rise back to 160 cm during the day.

Local authorities and the government’s civil protection unit will hold a news conference at 1100 GMT.

The overnight surge triggered several fires, including one at the International Gallery of Modern Art Ca’ Pesaro, with hundreds of calls to the fire brigade.

Video on social media showed deep water flowing like a river along one of Venice’s main thoroughfares. Other footage showed large waves hammering boats moored alongside the Doge’s Palace and surging over the stone sidewalks.

“A high tide of 187 cm is going to leave an indelible wound,” Brugnaro said.

Much of Italy has been pummelled by torrential rains in recent days, with widespread flooding, especially in the southern heel and toe of the country.

In Matera, this year’s European Capital of Culture, rain water cascaded through the streets and inundated the city’s famous cave-dwelling district.

Further bad weather is forecast for the coming days.

Reporting by Riccardo Bastianello; Writing by Crispian Balmer, Giulia Segreti and Gavin Jones; editing by Grant McCool and John Stonestreet

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Disney Plus streaming package debuts Tuesday with Marvel, Star Wars and more





The new service is $7 a month, commercial free

NEW YORK — Disney will sprinkle its pixie dust on the streaming arena Tuesday, as its Disney Plus service debuts with an arsenal of marquee franchises including Marvel and Star Wars, original series with a built-in fan base and a cheap price to boot.

The $7-a-month commercial-free service is poised to set the standard for other services like WarnerMedia’s HBO Max and NBCUniversal’s Peacock to follow, as major media companies behind hit TV shows and movies seek to siphon the subscription revenue now going to Netflix and other streaming giants.

Disney’s properties speak to its strengths. Besides classic characters such as Snow White and Pinocchio, Disney has Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic — big names that most people would recognize. Disney Plus will also have all 30 past seasons of “The Simpsons.” Original shows include “The Mandalorian,” set in the Star Wars universe, and one on the Marvel character Loki.

“I really love both the Star Wars and Marvel franchises and I grew up watching classic Disney shows and movies so I do think there will be enough content for me,” she said.

Marlina Yates, who works in marketing in Kansas City, said she signed up because of her husband’s enthusiasm about the Star Wars series “The Mandalorian” and her daughter’s “love affair with princesses and everything Disney.”

Disney Plus’s $7 a month price is about half of the $13 Netflix charges for its most popular plan, and there are discounts for paying for a full year up front. Disney is also offering a $13 package bundling Disney Plus with two other services it owns, Hulu and ESPN Plus. That’s $5 cheaper than signing up for each one individually.

Everything won’t be available to stream right away, though, as Disney needs to wait for existing deals with rival services to expire. Recent movies missing at launch include the animated Pixar movie “Coco” and the live-action “Beauty and the Beast.” Others like “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” haven’t been released for streaming yet. Disney expects 620 movies and 10,000 TV episodes by 2024, up from 500 movies and 7,500 episodes on Tuesday.

Disney has said that it is losing about $150 million in licensing revenue in the most recent fiscal year from terminating deals with Netflix and other services. But Disney is betting that what it makes through subscriptions will more than make up for that — at least eventually.

Disney is boosting its subscription base initially with heavy promos, much as Apple TV Plus has done and HBO Max and Peacock plan to do. Members of Disney’s free D23 fan club were eligible to buy three years of Disney Plus service up front for the price of two years. Customers of some Verizon wireless and home-internet plans can get a year free.

The hope is that subscribers will stick around once they see what the service offers.

Long-term success is by no means guaranteed. With a slew of services launching, subscription fees can add up quickly. Consumers might be reluctant to drop an existing service such as Netflix or Amazon Prime to pay for something untested.

“I can’t keep up with so many services. It gets expensive,” said William Pearson, a Drexel University student who describes himself as a “massive” Marvel fan but already pays for Netflix, HBO and the DC Comics streaming service.

But compared with other newcomers, experts believe Disney will have no problem gaining — and keeping — the 60 million to 90 million worldwide subscribers it is targeting for 2024. It took Netflix twice as long to get to 90 million.

“Disney Plus has a gigantic array of content and a library that’s unmatched, so it feels like an easy addition for consumers to get a gigantic library at that low price,” said Tim Hanlon, CEO of Vertere Group.

Bernie McTernan, internet and media analyst at Rosenblatt Securities, said Apple’s venture into streaming, Apple TV Plus, has to build brand recognition for its new shows, while viewers may have difficulties seeing what HBO Max offers beyond the standard HBO subscription.

Source Denver Post

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