Bike/Ped Advocates Want Zero Tolerance on Street Safety

Mary Beth Kelly's husband was killed by a tow truck while bike riding.

Mary Beth Kelly and her husband were riding their bikes along the Hudson River greenway bike in 2006 when an NYPD tow truck turned into their path, striking her husband, Dr. Carl Henry Nacht, who died three days later of his injuries.

Five years later, Kelly remains appalled at how little progress New York City has made at preventing tragedies like hers. At a press conference at the corner of Essex and Delancey streets yesterday, Kelly joined leaders from Transportation Alternatives and The Drum Major Institute for Public Policy to demand the city’s government step up its efforts to prevent the deaths of cyclists and pedestrians, one of which occurs, on average, every 35 hours.

Good Morning!

More shoes bound for Delancey Street.

The heat wave intensifies today, with temperatures expected to flirt with three digits. There’s a slight chance of thunderstorms this afternoon. The forecast for tomorrow drops the mercury slightly, to the high 80s.

Free Bike Valet Service at East River Park Concerts

The City Parks Foundation is teaming up with Transportation Alternatives to offer FREE bike valet service for all the Summer Stage shows happening in the East River Park throughout the month of August. The program is part of an initiative to reclaim the water front in East River Park.

Cracking Down on Careless Drivers

It has been nearly a year-and-a-half since two preschool students in Chinatown were killed after an unoccupied van, left in reverse, jumped a sidewalk on East Broadway and plowed into a class returning from a trip to the Chatham Square Library. But for the family of those children – 4-year-old Hayley Ng and 3-year-old Diego Martinez – the emotions are still raw. That much was obvious yesterday during a news conference on the steps of City Hall.

East Side Streets Coalition at Bluestockings Tonight

The East Side Streets Coalition will be hosting (via Transportation Alternatives) a Lower East Side Workshop tonight at Bluestockings Bookstore (172 Allen Street) at 7pm. They write: Share your thoughts on what makes it difficult to walk or bike in your neighborhood, your vision for improvement and brainstorm solutions using the New York City Street Design Manual. This will inform the development of an East Side Action Plan to be launched in Fall 2010.

Family Remembers Hector Vera, Pedestrian Killed on Delancey Street

Hector Vera celebrated a niece’s birthday at a family party at El Nuevo Amanecer on the Lower East Side in 2005. Photo courtesy of Barbara Perez.

The following story is reported by journalist and Lower East Side resident Jennifer Strom:

To the many strangers passing through the intersection of Delancey and Essex streets on the morning of April 12, Hector Luis Vera was a spectacle of police lights and crowds, a rush-hour clog on a main commuter artery into the city, a body mostly covered by a sheet, drawing sidewalk gawkers.

Transportation Alternatives Holds East Side Workshops

Beginning this week, the bicycling and pedestrian advocacy organization, Transportation Alternatives, is stepping up its campaign for safer streets on the East Side. Under the mantle of its East Side Streets Coalition, TA will be holding a series of community workshops to gather feedback and create solutions in the neighborhoods stretching from Chinatown to East Harlem. In conjunction with the workshops, they’ve released new information and maps detailing the most dangerous intersections in the city.

Park(ing) Day Hits the Lower East Side

Picture 251 parking spaces around the city are being converted in to parks, plazas and dynamic destinations as part of Park(ing) Day NYC. The website claims "These small, temporary public spaces provide a breath of relief from
the auto-clogged reality of New York City, and aim to spark dialogue
about our valuable public space and how we choose to use it".

Events in the LES area include: The Time's Up/bikeblognyc space at 156 Rivington St./ between Clinton St. and Suffolk.  The Community Design Park at Allen and Delancey, sponsored by Hester Street Collaborative, the Peace Park at 250 Mott St. and the Sustainable Seeds Park – Community gardeners and LES children build acommunity garden in a parking space (11th Street between Avenues B and C)

The annual event is sponsored by Transportation Alternatives and the Open Planning Project in conjunction with schools, architectural firms and civic groups from four boroughs.  The event began in San Francisco in 2006 (although Transportation Alternatives took over a parking spot on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg before discovering "Park(ing) Day), and has since expanded to more than 100 cities in 20 countries.

New Bike Safety Web Site Debuts

If you really want to get Grand Street motorists going, ask them how they feel about bicyclists who don't obey the traffic rules. We found that out last month during the transportation "town hall" sponsored by Councilman Alan Gerson. Later Transportation Alternatives spokesman Wiley Norvell told us his organization is working hard to promote good bicycling behavior. To that end they have debuted a new web site, www.bikingrules.org. They lay out the rules of the road "from a cyclist's persoective." Among the rules spelled out online:

  • Bicycles ridden on sidewalks may be confiscated and riders may be subject to legal sanctions
  • It is against the law to park, stand or stop within or otherwise obstruct bike lanes.
  • Bicyclists are granted all of the rights and are subject to all of the duties of the driver of a motor vehicle.

New Bike Safety Web Site Debuts

If you really want to get Grand Street motorists going, ask them how they feel about bicyclists who don't obey the traffic rules. We found that out last month during the transportation "town hall" sponsored by Councilman Alan Gerson. Later Transportation Alternatives spokesman Wiley Norvell told us his organization is working hard to promote good bicycling behavior. To that end they have debuted a new web site, www.bikingrules.org. They lay out the rules of the road "from a cyclist's persoective." Among the rules spelled out online:

  • Bicycles ridden on sidewalks may be confiscated and riders may be subject to legal sanctions
  • It is against the law to park, stand or stop within or otherwise obstruct bike lanes.
  • Bicyclists are granted all of the rights and are subject to all of the duties of the driver of a motor vehicle.

Grand Street Bike Lanes: Bicycling Advocates Respond

As we have reported, Co-op Village residents voiced their strong displeasure with the Grand Street bike lanes during a town hall meeting Monday night. We contacted the bicycling advocacy organization, Transportation Alternatives, for a response.

Several residents argued that the bike lanes, combined with the center islands installed east of Essex, have created gridlock and dangerous conditions on Grand Street. They claimed that emergency vehicles can't get through, especially when cars and trucks are double parked. They said trucks making deliveries stop in the middle of the street, since double parking in the bike lanes can result in a $115 fine.

IMG_0394

Wiley Norvell of Transportation Alternatives said that since the new configuration on Grand Street is a first for New York City, there's a natural period of adjustment for motorists, as well as bicyclists and pedestrians. He believes that the center islands have made the street safer by helping to reduce vehicle speeds. Norvell said it's important to remember that double parking is illegal — and it would be wrong to blame the bicycle lanes for increased congestion.

Norvell said the city and the community boards agreed to evaluate the changes on Grand Street this spring. If double parking is a concern, he suggested, it would be specifically addressed.

We also discussed the behavior of bicyclists. Residents at the town hall complained that they frequently disobey traffic laws, ride the wrong direction in bike lanes and ride on sidewalks. Norvell said that, in the past, some bicyclists, considered themselves "dissidents of the transportation system," in part becase New York was so inhospitable to them. But as the city has become more bike friendly, he argued, behavior of bicyclists has improved.

Sidewalk

Norvell said his organization is committed to educating bicyclists about the rules of the road and about the "softer street code." On May 20th, Transportation Alternatives will launch a new education program and a companion web site www.bikingrules.org.

Road Rage: Transportation Town Hall

Last night we posted a brief report about City Councilman Alan Gerson's town hall meeting on transportation issues. You can always count on plenty of passion from the people who live on the Lower East Side – and they did not disappoint. Even before the audience got their chance to vent, Gerson made it clear to the city transportation official (Commissioner Luis Sanchez) in attendance that his constituents are, to put it mildly, unhappy with recent changes to streets in the neighborhood. 

Councilman John Liu, transportation committee chairman, made a cameo at the beginning of the meeting. He also acknowledged there is deep dissatisfaction not only with DOT decisions but also with the failure of the city to seek community feedback. Gerson pledged to follow up on every issue that was raised at this forum and the other town halls scheduled in lower Manhattan in the next few weeks.

Bike lanes

The Grand Street bike lanes and center islands installed last year were ridiculed by several residents of Co-op Village. Harold Jacob accused DOT Commissioner Margaret Forgione of lying when she told him the center median was installed because pedestrians had been killed by cars on Grand Street. Jacob said he believed the changes had, in fact, made the street more dangerous. Because there is less room to maneuver, Jacob claimed fire trucks and ambulances can't safely pass through. "You've actually put lives in danger," he told DOT officials.

IMG_0393.island

Another resident contended the islands, opposed by Community Board 3,  were "arrogantly conceived and arrogantly carried out." More than one speaker blamed Mayor Bloomberg, accusing him of "destroying Grand Street." Some people demanded that the medians be removed – others wanted the bike lanes eliminated. Several residents claimed bicyclists on Grand Street are out of control, ignoring traffic signals, riding the wrong direction in the bike lanes and riding on sidewalks. They suggested the city require cyclists to be licensed. A few speakers complained about the parking meters installed on Grand, arguing that local businesses were being hurt because customers can't pay to park.

Meter

Other issues that were raised:

  • Traffic signs on Rutgers Street near Cherry were criticized as dangerous and unnecessary. 
  • Parks Department vehicles backing up into the Columbus Park in Chinatown, endangering the lives of children. The commissioner and Councilman Gerson pledged to call the Parks Dept. about the problem.
  • A lack of parking in the neighborhood. Gerson said he would press city officials to open up mostly emty lots under the Williamsburg Bridge.
  • An extremely short "walk" signal on Delancey Street near the Williamsburg Bridge.
  • A chaotic situation in which private buses are clogging the streets in Chinatown, parking in front of residential buildings and causing gridlock.

Gerson said he was committed to balancing the needs of automobiles, bicyclists and pedestrians in the city. He said he hoped the presence of the DOT officials last night meant a new era of cooperation with the community was about to begin. Gerson said he would hold another town hall May 19.

We spoke with a representative from Transportation Alternatives, the cycling and pedestrian advocacy organization, this afternoon. That interview will be posted soon.