Friday, October 5, 2012

Where the bike lane ends?



As children, many of us enjoyed riding bikes. My first bike adventures took me from Princeton to Trenton, exploring the other side of my home town in Dallas, through vacant lots in Altanta.  I loved hanging out digging through the weeds, sticking up between the cracks in the sidewalk, knowing there was something wild beneath the streets of our city.


I also loved Shel Silverstein, who wondered "Where the Sidewalk Ends."




Where do we go when the bike lane ends?  That place is far less idealistic, full of treacherous intersections, cars turning left and right, over bikes and pedestrians alike.


In the last decade the city of New York has mapped out hundreds of miles of bike lanes.  The social and economic benefits of cycling are many. But riding through them sometimes feels like a minefield?  Many end out of nowhere.  Bike lanes are often obstructed with double-parked cars, contruction sites, pedestrians hailing cabs or texting, and even police officers parked in the bike lanes intead of ticketing those other obstructions for blocking bicycle traffic.

  The average cyclist finds people double parked in their cars, police, construction sites, or someone standing looking for a cab or texting.  


Yet, as cyclists, we all have to wonder what happens when the bike lane ends? 


Yet, when the city laid out its map of bike lanes, few of us imagined we would encounter a parked car more than 60 percent of the time, even on short rides.  Yet, this is what a recent study by Hunter revealed.  Confirming the experience by cyclists, the study noted:



We all love cycling. We also love our health. What happens when the two goals conflict?

What happens when the bike lane ends and we are left to contend with traffic?

What happens when cars fail to see us, turning over a cyclist at a traffic stop?

What happens when we are see a car, a police car parked in a bike lane?

What do you do when you face a brick wall, a car, or a construction site ending your safe ride?


On October 14th, my friends and I will dress like explorers,discoverers, sleuths, pirates, Dora the Explorer and bloodhounds as we try to find the safest ride to locations where the bike lanes end.  We'll be meeting at the Death Wall (the Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge) at 2:30.  There our ride will intersect with the Survive- a Ride as we explore what we do when our rides become dangerous? 


After all, it is tough out there!  In September the Mayor’s Management Report, a twice-yearly collection of city measures, revealed fatalities from July 2011 through June 2012 were up 23 percent from the previous year — to 291, from 236. It was the first increase since 2007, when there were 310 traffic fatalities, after years of consistent decline. 176 cyclists or pedestrians have died, while 115 driver and passengers have been killed in the 12 month period preceding July 1, 2012. In the 12 month period before that, only 158 pedestrians and bicyclists and 78 drivers and passengers were killed. Since January 1, 2012, the NYPD wrote 28 percent fewer tickets for speeding, the number one killer in traffic.

Cycling advocates citywide re are concerned about what these numbers mean.

"The NYPD selectively enforces the law, rarely ticketing any cars in bike lanes," notes Barbara Ross of Times Up!  

“Anyone who walks or bikes across a New York City street knows that motorists are getting away with reckless driving, day in, day out,” noted Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives.  The police, Mr. White said, are “not doing their job.”  

Who will be there for us when the bike lane ends?