Tag Archives: bike lane

PPW

Not Quite Copenhagen

I picked up the most recent issue of New York magazine the other day while shopping at Whole Foods when the cover caught my eye.  I’m not one to sporadically buy magazines at the point of purchase for groceries but I couldnt help myself after seeing the words “Bikelash” plastered across the front.  I would think its pretty rare that a bike lane lands a five page story, plus the front cover of any urban magazine, especially one from NY.  The PPW bike lane did just that.

I would encourage anyone interested in the dispute over the PPW lane or just the growth of NYC biking in general to read the article.  Unfortunately it is a little bit one sided, especially at the beginning where the author (although a cyclist) focuses in on the views of anti-bike lane proponents.  It isn’t until the continuation of the article at the back of the magazine (pg. 91) that the good stuff is presented.  One of my favorite quotes, written about the 9th ave bike lane, which was originally met with fierce opposition until tempers slowly dies down was this; “there is something infinitely joyful in putting foot to pedal, something intoxicating about not being bound to the whims of a bus driver or subway conductor or thick tangles of crosstown traffic.  Whipping down the street, completely protected from the cars zooming by just a few feet away, may be the closest any New Yorker comes to flying” (Matthew Shaer). While not presenting anything factual to back up the need for bike lanes in NY, it is certainly an accurate testament to the feelings held by NY cyclists riding in a protected bike lane.  Now imagine a world where those lanes no longer exist.  Not such a pleasant dream when you’ve lost your wings.

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Nurds who bike. #bikenyc

Courtesy of Dmitry Gudkov

For those that don’t know, #bikenyc represents a quickly growing twitter group, tweeting and sharing everything bicycle related in New York City.  #bikenyc is a combination of petitioners, community builders, bicycle enthusiasts, commuters, bloggers, and if you hadn’t guessed by my title, tech nurds who ride bikes.

The first #bikenyc tech meetup was hosted at pivotal labs, current home of TechStars and organized by Noel Hidalgo (@noneck), Lara (@bicyclehabitat), and Michael Green (@bikeblognyc).  I happen to be interested in both the bicycling and tech communities in NYC.  Little did I know there were others like me.  The intersection of these two communities at #bikenyc is a great step towards using technology to make NYC a safer, more social place to ride.  Here are some of my thoughts regarding the future of the meetup and what I hope to see come out of it.  While I’m not a programmer, I hope to do my own part contributing through idea generation, business development, my network, etc.

  1. In order to build great products, programmers need great data.  The bike infrastructure in NYC can only be enhanced with the release of city data through open API’s.  Obviously, getting the Bloomberg administration to release this information will be a slow and painful process, but I think it should be made a number one priority.  We could hold our own version of Big Apps competition, inviting programmers to participate in a hackathon specifically for cycling infrastructure in New York.  The innovations that come out of these programs could help put pressure on the government.  Proof of use cases with the data will certainly increase the argument for open API’s.  Moreover, we need to recruit other groups that would also have a strong use for city information.  Joining forces with other transportation startups like Roadify will help apply pressure in critical mass.  From my own perspective, interning at NYC Seed, it would be tactiful to organize the large venture capitalists in NYC to apply pressure for open API’s as well.  They have a lot to gain, as many of their portfolio companies could benefit from the increased amount of data.  As Silicon Alley grows, east coast VC’s can wield a certain amount of power over local government.  It is their companies that are supplying jobs as they grow.  Our economy relies on startups for these very reasons: innovation and employment.
  2. There seemed to be somewhat of a division between the #bikenyc technologists and the #bikenyc community not-for-profit organizers. At its heart, the #bikenyc tech meetup should exist to facilitate communication between these two parties.  Those interested in enhancing the cycling community through initiatives like group rides, community board meetings, etc need to state clearly to programmers what their problems are and how they could be addressed by building online platforms and applications.  I believe the majority of #bikenyc tech meetups should be focused on bridging this divide.  We may try to model our meet-ups on the fashion 2.0 conferences. One or two questions could be proposed prior to the meetup to align everyone thinking about the same topics.  Although classifying whose an “expert” in this field may be difficult, we could invite entrepreneurs from other startups to come speak and offer their own input on how we can help them, and vice versa.
  3. Following the notion of proposing specific topics each meeting, we need to decide on a long term goal.  Whether that means increasing the number of bike lanes, getting more cyclists on the road, reducing the number of vehicles, saving bike lanes already built (PPW), or getting data from the city.  Establishing some long-term goals will help put everyone’s thoughts into perspective about what is and is not realistic to accomplish right now.

I expect a lot will come out of the #bikenyc tech meetup in the future.  There is certainly a ton of room for improvement when thinking about New York becoming a safe, friendly environment to bike.  The reasons for supporting these initiatives are simple.  Biking makes people healthy, social, and above all happy. If we can use the internet to progress this thinking, we will have done our part to make our community that much better.  Until then, ride on #bikenyc.

Oh, and shout out to my photographer/friend Dmitry Gudkov whose #bikenyc portraits you can find on his blog or by clicking the image above.  He has done a great job bringing the #bikenyc community together through his photography. And feel free to hit him up for your own picture as spring approaches!

Jakie Chan to defend Bikes?

The CitySpoke team will be stuck in class @NYU during Thursdays City Council Meeting @ 9:30.  Nonetheless I wanted to give you all some words of encouragement!  I was looking at some old Jackie Chan footage and came across a couple of classic scenes where he uses bicycles to fight his way through his enemies.  I know we’re all looking for a peaceful settlement to the long running feud between #bikenyc and the pedestrians and drivers that feel the roads are safer without us, but in the event that this all boils down to one grand finale of a battle.. I think we’re best to be prepared 🙂  So enjoy the videos below and take note of a few key moves that Jackie makes, they could be vital to our own success! ** Note: the roads in the first video are clearly not to scale compared to the ones in NY, but you get the point.

Good luck guys!  Keep the tweets up #bikenyc as I’m very sad that I will be missing out on this meeting.

Cranksgiving NYC

Get ready to give back, Cranksgiving is approaching Nov 20th 2Pm Tompkins Sq. Park.  NYC bicyclists and bike messengers are soon to embark on a super intense race through the city. Weaving through cars and running reds are just the intro course to this test of skills and street smarts.  And for what better purpose, than to find specific food items to be donated to charity.  Prizes will also be awarded.. I intend to win the most stylish rider award ($100 Gilt Group gift certificates).. Dont take it from me! Click the pic for more info.

See you all there.

 

Seniors Protest Bike Lane?

Check out this article and let us know what you think in the poll below!

http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/brooklyn/2010/10/19/2010-10-19_seniors_deride_bike_lane_angry_retirees_plan_protest_of_prospect_park_west_cycle.html

Anti-bike lane protest

I left my apartment on Friday to find a small, yet very concerned group of bicycle protestors standing on the sidewalk of 14th and 1st.  On the other side was an equally sized mass of bicyclists.  Since I was without my bike at the time, it was easy enough to blend into the two opposing groups.. I quickly learned that the protest was organized by a woman named Leslie Sicklick and the supporters of the protest all carried an anti-Bloomberg mentality.  The first man I spoke to complained to me about being hit by a bicyclist three times and having his dog run over by a bike once as well.  To this, I bluntly replied that its better than being run over by a bus. He wasnt amused, so I moved on.

There seem to be a number of issues at hand.

  1. Why is Bloomberg spending millions of dollars a year on bike lanes that only help the minority of bicycle riders in NYC?
  2. Why don’t bicycle riders use the bike lanes after they are built?
  3. Is it okay for bicyclists to break traffic laws?

The first issue is by far the most important, and the most difficult to answer.  The fact is bike riders are a minority in NY, but this doesnt mean we don’t deserve the same amount of respect and safety measures as cars or pedestrians.  Imagine if the city got rid of the crosswalk signals.  It would be utter chaos.  Just as pedestrians need some sort of precautionary mechanism to tell them when to walk or not, bicyclists need some protection from vehicles.  And being a minority should have no impact on the decisions to build these bike lanes.  We are all equal under the law.  This is no exception.

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This leads us to the next issue, why dont we use the bike lanes?  Put simply, they are still not safe.  Cab drivers still dont look out when they turn, residential cars think its fine to double park, and trucks are temporarily stationed to load and unload goods.  With all of this happening in the bike lane, its obviously much safer sometimes to ride in the car lane where we can be seen in between traffic.

The solution to this, as one lady on the scene told me, is Value Priced Parking.  We need to limit the parking of residential cars on any street.  The aim here is to have not more than 85% of spots taken at all times.  Prices would be adjusted accordingly so that only drivers who are willing to pay will park.  This will prevent idling traffic and help loading and unloading for commercial vehicles.

One final point.  It’s not really okay for bicycle riders to break traffic laws.  The problem is we are not the only ones breaking the laws. Cars run yellow/red lights and pedestrians cross when they are not supposed too.  There will have to be equal effort amongst all parties to keep the roads safe.  Until then we’ll just have to fend for ourselves.  Ride on!