There was a media happening this morning at the corner of St. Marks Place & 2nd Avenue. Channel 2, Channel 5 and NY1 crowded onto the sidewalk to hear Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer reveal results of an “unprecedented survey of bike lane safety.”
To compile the survey (“Respect the Lane, Clear the Path”), Stringer’s office collected data at 11 locations throughout the city over a three day period (October 5-7). Four of those locations were downtown: Grand Street & Bowery, St. Marks & 2nd Avenue, 14th Street and 2nd Avenue & Centre & Chambers.
Among the abuses observed: pedestrians blocking bike lanes (741 occurrences), cars blocking bike lanes (275 occurrences), unmarked police cars in apparent non-emergency situations cutting through bike lanes, bike riders going the wrong way in bike lanes. At St. Marks & 2nd, 173 violations were observed; 253 at Grand & Bowery.
From the news release distributed this morning:
The verdict was clear: while bike lanes bring a tremendous benefit to New York City, misuse by all parties—motorists, pedestrians and cyclists—undermines their success. “I strongly support bike lanes, because they enrich the environment, quality of life and health of New York City residents,” said the Borough President. “But we must respect the rules and regulations surrounding them. Unfortunately, chaos reigns in bike lanes across the city, making them an unpredictable and unprotected method of transportation.
Along with the survey, Stringer has several recommendations. Among them, increased enforcement (over the three day period, observers only noted two tickets being issued). Also: enhanced street signage, a publicity campaign, reserved parking for deliveries along major commercial routes, increased use of “bike boxes” near intersections and dedicated bike patrol officers.
Attending today’s news conference: State Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, representatives of Transportation Alternatives and Community Board 2 member Ian Dutton.
The new bike lanes along 1st and 2nd Avenues have, of course, been a huge topic of conversation in the neighborhood. Community Board 3 and City Councilmember Rosie Mendez’s office have received numerous complaints from residents about the configuration of the lanes and about their implementation.
Recently, when I met Lower East Side City Council member Margaret Chin and told her how much I love the new bike lanes and hope she would support keeping them, she told me she would consider it. But personally, she said, she wasn’t too happy with bikers. She has nearly been run down twice by bike riders.
The guys racing around yelling at pedestrians are not helping us. That tiny lady you run over could be our City Council member. Who will help decide whether we get to keep our beautiful protected bike lanes.
Bike lanes strike me as yet more regulation and social control. Yes, they encourage rookie bicyclist to venture into New York, and that’s great. But the bike lanes push the bicyclist onto the shoulder, so that every two interstections cars enter sideline into the bike lane to turn. That’s actually not safe and even more unsafe now that the cars are turning from a center lane over the parked cars between the bike lane and the moving auto traffic. It used to be easy to get off the shoulder into traffic to avoid turning cars, but now that’s impossible.
The result is a slowing of bicycle traffic, augmented by the presence of pedestrians and other bicyclists who are now all syphoned into one lane.
There was a time when difinitive of the New Yorker spirit was the organic character — call it anarchy, if you want — of traffic. Pedestrians walked into traffic and bicyclists rode in traffic. The narrowing of cars makes it more difficult to bicycle in traffic now, since all the central lanes are now effectively shoulders.
I will be interested to see how much this slowing of traffic reduces accidents. I hope it will, because something really should offer a return for the sacrifice of being forced to accept yet more social control. It’s not so much an issue of loss of freedom — it’s a loss of character. It’s a sign of the loss of the meaning of being a New Yorker, and a gain for social obedience and, as I see it, hand-in-hand with gentrification and suburbanization of New York.
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