Thursday, March 10, 2016

Janette Sadik-Khan: If the Bike Wars are over how come there are so many ‪#‎copsinbikelanes?

Janette Sadik-Khan contends that the bike wars are over and cyclists have won. We applaud the  miles of bike lanes and pedestrian plazas laid out during her term as Commissioner of the Department of Transportation. But the second part of the job, the education, enforcement and implementation has yet to be addressed. There are just too many #‎copsinbikelanes.
This is the experience for most cyclists.  Cars parked in their bike lanes forcing them back out into traffic.

We are two years into Vision Zero and more than 250 people are killed a year in traffic crashes.
That's far too many.

Bottom Right of Way Allison Lao memorial.
Top Families for Safer Streets

The city vision zero plan calls for increased enforcement of traffic laws.  Yet, the police, those entrusted with carrying out with implementing the laws, continue to thwart the spirit of this initiative.   Every time a policeman ignores a car parked in a bike lane, they make a choice and display their contempt for a vision of sustainable urbanism.  And sadly, JSK failed to support efforts to educate drivers or police about bike lanes. These are not texting lanes, these are spaces where cyclists are supposed to flow, instead of zigging away from double parked cars, into traffic or between turning cars.

Downtown Brooklyn, for example, is a mess.  Ride down Jay Street and you’ll find two rows of cars parked and double parked on either side of the street, impeding ambulances, cyclists, and pedestrians moving through the streets. In 2015, the police in Brooklyn went as far as to paint parking numbers over the bike lanes for their own parking spaces on Schermerhorn  Street. 

Tickets Public Space Party posted for cars in bike lanes on Schermerhorn  Street

And the problem does not just end in Brooklyn. 

Ride over the Queensborough Bridge and try to ride south and you can just about die.

Ride along the bike lane from Delancey to Houston Streets and you see if filled with double parked cars.

Ride on the bike lane along Second Avenue by the Midtown Tunnel.  And you find yourself competing with cars turning through it, making the lane obsolete.

Bike lanes are not self-regulating spaces.  They need assistance from the city and those charged with enforcing these spaces.

If New York is to be a model of sustainable urbanism, then it needs to set the lead in enforcement, making bike lanes viable models of public space, unimpinged by private cars blocking them. To do so, police must become more part of the communities they serve, not outsiders. More police on bikes would help. More community policing in which police help solve problems instead of criminalizing the use of public space.  Put down your guns police and join the police you are called to serve.

For the bike wars to be over, those in cars must learn to share the road with pedestrians, cyclists, those in skate boards, and those elders crossing slowly.

Sadly, today’s duel between Robert Moses’ vision of suburban urbanism and Jane Jacobs’ eyes on the streets see those in cars driving as if they own the roads.  In the battle between suburban   vs sustainable urbanism, cyclists are making progress.  But fossil fuel using, climate change inducing car culture looms large.  And the police encourage this. For the bike war to be won, Moses’ vision of cities as facilitators of efficient movement of automobiles must be dispelled with once and for all.

When he saw my post Janette Sadik-Khan’s contention that cyclists had won the bike wars, my  friend Keegan Stephan posted the police “Mission Accomplished” post of Bush during the Iraq War.

My friend Matthew Arnold chimed in: "Gotta love JSK's "You lose, loser haters" swagger here." And I agree.  I have always supported her.

As my friend Jessica Rechtschaffer followed, “JSK is a hero but the war against cars is far from over.”
Finally my friend Jym Dyer aptly noted: "Proper enforcement would be good, especially some that assists NYC's carfree majority rather than the other way around, but it shouldn't be the focus.

Real Vision Zero, the kind that's been a success in Sweden, doesn't use enforcement at all, it's mostly infrastructure and some education. In the U.S. we have watered the concept down and shoehorned it into "the three Es" -- environment (infrastructure), education, and enforcement. This list is supposedly in order of importance, but so far we're doing it backwards.

So we get the NYPD beating octogenarians at a jaywalking sting and calling it Vision Zero. We get another pretense for police to harass drivers of color, and Vision Zero gets blamed.

JSK's focus on infrastructure is a good one. If we keep going in that direction, it will obviate much of the role of enforcement, and all the wrong priorities that the NYPD and others bring with that role."

Back in 2000, my group reclaim the streets put up signs around New York declaring: “Reclaim the Streets for a World without Cars!”  Maybe its time to pull those signs out again. For the bike wars to be won, people need to leave their cars behind. It was part of a larger international movement that has changed cities around the world.  We changed cities, without changing the hearts or
 minds of enough drivers. 

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