Friday, May 30, 2008

Bike Path

Here is a great video about biking in NYC (full disclosure, I know most of the people in the film and some who made it).


Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Big Sort

So I started reading this book about a week ago. While I didn't really buy the hypothesis at first (now I am about half way done) it seems to be onto something interesting. Americans are not geographically divided politically, but rather based around religion, lifestyle, and education, which now dictates politics. While I am not sure I buy all the arguments, the data that demonstrates voting patterns in presidential elections of the past 30 year is extremely revealing.
America may be more diverse than ever coast to coast, but the places where we live are becoming increasingly crowded with people who live, think, and vote as we do. This social transformation didn't happen by accident. We've built a country where we can all choose the neighborhood -- and religion and news show -- most compatible with our lifestyle and beliefs. And we are living with the consequences of this way-of-life segregation. Our country has become so polarized, so ideologically inbred, that people don't know and can't understand those who live just a few miles away. The reason for this situation, and the dire implications for our country, is the subject of this groundbreaking work.

In 2004, the journalist Bill Bishop, armed with original and startling demographic data, made national news in a series of articles showing how Americans have been sorting themselves over the past three decades into alarmingly homogeneous communities -- not by region or by red state or blue state, but by city and even neighborhood. In The Big Sort, Bishop deepens his analysis in a brilliantly reported book that makes its case from the ground up, starting with stories about how we live today and then drawing on history, economics, and our changing political landscape to create one of the most compelling big-picture accounts of America in recent memory.
Here is a long interview at smart city and a shorter interview with the author on the Brian Lehrer show:


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

NYC in the news again

The Washington Post has a much nicer profile of NYC bike commuters than the LA Times did a few weeks ago. This article gives a good overview, but also compares NYC to other cities.
In Washington, SmartBike DC, a self-service public bike rental program, will begin offering about 120 shared bicycles early next month. For a $40 annual fee, customers can check out bikes from racks and then return them to any of the company's other racks.

In Chicago, Mayor Richard M. Daley wants 5 percent of all short trips to be made by bicycle. He has fostered a vast network of bike lanes, created a station with valet parking, showers and indoor racks, and has established penalties of as much as $500 for motorists who endanger cyclists.

In Portland, Ore., bikes are so ubiquitous and cycling culture so strong that "you can't run for office in this town without being able to talk about what you intend to do for bikes," said Roger Geller, the city's bicycle coordinator.

City officials, hoping to make commutes like his less treacherous, have created a seven-block experiment of a bike lane on Ninth Avenue. Here, concrete dividers and a row of parked cars shield a bike lane from the street and its traffic. Low mini-traffic lights show when cyclists have the right of way. Bike commuters, messengers and delivery people peel down perfectly smooth paths.

Protected bike lanes, while we have one that covers six blocks, seem to be the new golden standard here. But why put them in areas that are not needed? Let's put some separated lanes along 6th Avenue from 14 Street to Central Park. That is the kind of improvement that I believe cyclists would like and use. Instead, DOT keeps doing half measures, that while helpful, do not create or change the current cycling environment.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The End of Suburbia

So I finally got around to seeing the documentary The End of Suburbia this weekend. I was surprised how it got to the issue of peak oil and land use. Basically it argues that these two things have created a pattern of living that Americans can not sustain.
Since World War II North Americans have invested much of their newfound wealth in suburbia. It has promised a sense of space, affordability, family life and upward mobility. As the population of suburban sprawl has exploded in the past 50 years, so too has the suburban way of life become embedded in the American consciousness.

But as we enter the 21st century, serious questions are beginning to emerge about the sustainability of this way of life. With brutal honesty and a touch of irony, The End of Suburbia explores the American Way of Life and its prospects as the planet approaches a critical era, as global demand for fossil fuels begins to outstrip supply. World Oil Peak and the inevitable decline of fossil fuels are upon us now, some scientists and policy makers argue in this documentary.

While many people always point to suburbia as a problem of our current land use patterns, this film takes the next step and talks about how we are going to be able to live, or not, in the future. It paints a bleak future since North America has taken no steps to reverse our dependence on cheap oil. Here is a preview of the film and an article discussing some possible solutions.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Fear of biking

I just turned in a draft of my report this last Friday. While I did come to a few different conclusions, the main one was that the city needs to invest in a bike network (infrastructure) that will be deemed safe by new riders. Honestly, we don't need to convince current riders (we already know the dangers and continue to ride), but we do need for newer riders to hop on the bike and not fear for their life. If it is a positive experience, these riders will hopefully continue to ride more often.

Over at they are currently having this discussion about the fear of biking. As with most discussions about the issue the opinions and views vary. Read the comments section and here is the article that started the conversation.

UPDATE: Here is the reporters response
Just to clarify, I am gearing up to commute to work by bike. I haven't done it yet. I'm still figuring out my route, how to fix a flat, etc. Once I give it a decent shot -- six weeks? two months? how long is long enough to judge? you tell me -- I will write another column.

I bet if she gives it a real shot, she might just like it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Bike parking (function over form)

So I have been thinking about bike parking a bit too much lately. While I realize a city like NYC just needs more of it, the question arises as to what are the best racks to have. While NYC currently has a design competition, do we need nice looking racks or funtional racks. This recent story demonstrated that in parts of England a more functional rack is prefered (picure above).

Then recently NYC has been installing shelters for some bike racks around the city.

While not the prettiest thing, and taking up (arguably) a large amount of sidewalk space, are these making that much of a difference in regards to theft? If we really need more racks, then why are we taking up space for this shelter. In all honesty, these shelters should be designated for bus stops only. While covered bike parking is great, I am not so sure this is the best way to do it and that these shelters are the answer to our bike parking problems.

Instead we should pursue more bike parking like the bump out in Williamsburg.

We can also make it even easier and copy the Portland model by putting it on street.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Add another to the list

Well, are we really all that surprised. Portland just elected their DOT commish as their new mayor. As I have been reporting lately, cities seem to be happy with a mayor who rides and understands the built environment from a non-auto perspective . Here is an overview of him from
He has traveled to the best bicycling cities in the world (like Amsterdam) and has used them as inspiration to create more balance in our transportation system.

Part of creating that balance has been a commitment to seeing bicycles not just as a mode choice we should try to accommodate when it’s cheap and easy — or politically palatable. But rather, seeing bicycles as an integral part of the city, seamlessly woven into the fabric of our daily lives.
Here is his campaign video over at Streets blog and his website.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bikes (everywhere)

May is Bike Month and last Friday was bike to work day. Here are some good videos that wrap up all the events and media coverage about gas prices.  Some of the media segments would make you think that everyone has sold their cars and are now on two wheels.  At least we can hope:

Street Films (SF, PDX, Austin, NYC - it was raining all day in NYC, how appropriate)
Chicago (hey, I know that biker)
Go Chris (I don't know him)
DC news segment (reporters can be dorks)
MPLS (why are the ads before bike segments always for cars?)

Monday, May 19, 2008

SI Ridership is up

Found this article over at Streets Blog. Having done a good amount of work this past year in SI's north shore this is great news. If ridership continues to rise maybe, just maybe, SI will get some of the improvements that are long overdue.
Rising fuel prices, improvements to the 14-mile line, a $5 toll on Verrazano Bridge for borough residents, and traffic congestion have all led to a nearly 20% increase in riders over the last two years -- the largest gain in the MTA system, according to Staten Island Rail (SIR) chief John Gaul

While the 20% increase is the largest in the system over the last two years, the number of riders is small. In February 2008, the most recent statistics available, an average of 16,000 weekday riders a day took the railway, up from 14,000 in February 2007. Subway weekday ridership, meanwhile, has increased about 4% over the last year.

Vanderbilt Avenue is getting bike lanes

Vanderbilt Avenue is a logical connection from the GAP to the Dean and Bergen Street bike lanes (which then connect to Carlton Ave). My daily commute takes me down Vanderbilt but I do not use Dean or Bergen. Instead, I stay on Vanderbilt and either turn on Fulton or Flushing. With this new design the bike lane ends suddenly and there is no warning that cyclists will be merging with traffic. While extending the lane farther does not make for a perfect bike network, it would in the real word, create a better environment for cyclists.

If this would be done DOT would have to deal with the right turn only lane from Vanderbilt onto Atlantic (a headache they choose to avoid). It can be done and I feel that they should have looked at Vanderbilt all the way to Flushing as this would be a logical connector since Vanderbilt is a two way street (as opposed to Carlton which is one-way). At the very least signage should be installed indicating the end of the bike lane and share the road marking should also be done the last two blocks with no bike lane. While I think these improvements will be great for the local residents and pedestrians, once again this might be another missed opportunity.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Minneapolis mayor on the move as well

While this has been done in many forms before, in Minneapolis they had three people (the mayor, a transit reporter, and Ramsey County commissioner) battle it out with different modes of transportation: car, public transit (bus and light rail), and bike. To my surprise the mayor was the one on the bike, and he actually won! Here is a long but good video covering the mayor's journey (note another mayor who rides). I see a pattern starting.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Simply Awesome

Check this video out.

Interviews are underway

I started interviews last week. So far they have not been what I thought they would be but have still been very informative. These interviews will make up the second half of my report by doing commuter profiles and analyzing the routes that people take. Through this process I hope to uncover some of the issues that cyclists have with commuting on NYC streets. I am going to turn in a preliminary report next week, but will continue to work with the data over the summer for a more in depth analysis of the survey data.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Here is the ?

Greenversations has asked the question: why do/don't you bike to work? Many telling answers for sure. I see safety and distance as the two main reasons.

Boston's (mayor) on the move

This a good article from the Boston Globe that talks about what has changed in the mayor's life that now he is making cycling a priority in the city: he started riding.
City Hall has not always helped. After Bicycling Magazine ranked Boston one of the worst cities for cycling in 1999, Menino appointed a Bicycle Advisory Committee, only to disband the panel and lay off its coordinator four years later.

Things began to change last summer when Menino bought a silver Trek road bike and started riding around his Hyde Park neighborhood for exercise at 5 a.m. Two months later, he appointed Nicole Freedman, a former Olympic cyclist, as Boston's first bike czar and declared, "It's time for this issue to come to the forefront."

"He very quickly began to understand what bicyclists in Boston have been talking about all these years, when they have been complaining that conditions are not very good here," Watson said.

Just like Mayor Daley in Chicago, it is always nice to see that after a mayor in a city actually starts to ride a bike, they realize just how poor the infrastructure and layout for cycling really is. Maybe for NYC we just need to get Bloomberg out of the subway car and onto a bike.  Isn't that what the 9th Avenue bike lane is for anyway?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Seniors are Chicago

Having worked with the senior population in NYC for the past 6 years I can say that this new trend of seniors relocating back into cities is great. This article over at Next American City discusses how Chicago is actively seeking out seniors. It has been discussed in many circles (and any city that has lost population) just how great it would be to bring these individuals back into our cities.

A transformation is definitely happening but the young have nothing to fear. Seniors are a little more hip these days than in generations past - at least to pop-culture standards. The kids you saw at Woodstock, knee deep in mud and quality marijuana, are now in their sixties. They vote for Clinton, which maybe isn’t as “rock star” as Obama, but at least it’s not as Everly Brothers as John McCain (to be fair to the Arizona senator, his daughter confirms he listens to Lauryn Hill). They’re more connected and less secluded than the generation who moved south to “get away from it all.” What’s the worst that could happen? A sound curfew? Chicago is one of those cities that actually goes to sleep - at 10pm, you won’t find anything open.

I can only see this as a plus as it will provide more diversity in cities. Unlike NYC, many seniors are trapped in rent-regulated apartments and can't afford to leave their apartments and still afford to live in NYC. This is a pretty scary scenario for someone who has lived in the same area for the last 30 years. In my experience seniors keep the city planners in check, they are not afraid to speak out, and yes, they do actually vote.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ask away

City Room from the NYT is giving cyclist the opportunity to ask the NCY DOT bike coordinator questions. Here a few of my favorites so far:

There’s a spot open on my bicycle built for two. Will you join me?
— Posted by BikerGrl2008

Why not pass out free, City-approved small baseball bats, so that bike riders could simply smash & dent all those cars that carelessly stop in the bike lanes, and endanger the biker’s safety? I’m sure after a few instances of having their windows broken or taillights smashed, they would see an economic benefit in simply obeying the law.
— Posted by T.R. Hall

I used to ride my bike but stopped because it’s just too unsafe. NYC drivers are so aggressive and careless - particularly taxi drivers. I nearly got killed. And NYC cops seem to have bigger problems to address than worrying about reckless driving, otherwise they’d have to stop pretty much every cab driver in the city.
The lack of lock-up racks for bikes and unfriendliness of NYC buses toward people with bikes is another issue. It’s a great idea to de-congest the streets but NYC is very far away from a practical, useful implementation of bike transportation.
— Posted by Greg F

Take this chance to get your $.02 in, no matter how positive or negative it may be.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Wollman Rink in Prospect Park to get redesigned

The renderings and description look pretty good.  I really liked how they have revisioned the use of the space for year round and the building as well.

I like how they have created a new view by using the building roof as a view corridor

This is looking back from the lake. Now we just need to do something about the GAP.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Bike City

It was only a matter of time before someone thought of this idea: Bicycle City.
Bicycle City’s car-free lifestyle and eco-friendly practices are not only great for the environment, they have myriad benefits for residents as well. Vehicle emissions hurt both the earth and people. Hydrocarbons emitted by autos can cause eye irritation and permanent lung damage, often beginning with minor symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Carbon monoxide from cars can impair visual perception and mental function. 1,500 cases of cancer each year can be attributed to automobile emissions.

Bicycle City eliminates its residents' dependence on their cars. Instead of driving to the grocery store to buy dinner, you can ride your bike or walk. That short trip to the store might keep as much as 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the air and keeps you physically fit and healthy. In other cities, biking to a grocery store might never be a consideration; busy highways without dedicated bike lanes make bicycling a dangerous a feat for both motorists and bicyclists. But Bicycle City is designed expressly for pedestrian, cycling, skating and other forms of human powered transportation and those safety concerns are a thing of the past. Here, residents freely bike and walk wherever they need to go, increasing their cardio-vascular endurance, burning calories and having more fun.

Traffic safety is a big concern for bicyclists, pedestrians, and especially for parents and their children. In 2002, 460 US children died as a result of being hit by cars, and more than 38,000 were treated for pedestrian-related injuries. Almost 90% of all bicycle-related deaths are from collisions with motor vehicles. In Bicycle City, children can play freely in their front yards, ride their bicycles, and enjoy the outdoors without fear of speeding cars racing through their neighborhoods.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Piecemeal still?

So with our "new" DOT commish why does it still seem like we are getting piecemeal projects? And those projects don't seem to be some of the things that NYC advocates have been working on for quite some time. I propose that it is time to give some of these homegrown ideas a chance. Here are a few:


Carfree Bedford


Are these worth pursuing?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

LA Times covers the Anarchy in NYC streets

Great article that really gets to the heart of the matter.

Still, Manhattan's jam-packed streets often resemble a battleground between bike messengers, car commuters, delivery boys, jaywalkers, limousine chauffeurs and taxi drivers. A few years ago, New York Post columnist Steve Dunleavy described a "civil war" on the streets, referring to bicyclists as "pedal punks" and "kamikaze bike bullies."

"This is a moment when everything can happen," he said, referring to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's willingness to work with the cyclists and the increasing number of cyclists on the streets. "But," he added, "there are some serious cultural structures that have to be dismantled."

As the second quote demonstrates, we are not going to get very far if there is not a cultural shift towards cyclists in NYC.

Just one?

Here is an article in the mainstream press about getting down to one car (or no car). I found it interesting and pretty informative overall. Here is an excerpt:

Further, cities and states have real incentive to invest in trains and buses. Studies show that property values -- read tax bases -- grow rapidly when public rail systems are built. One report found that the value of homes in one Dallas neighborhood doubled when a light-rail system was built nearby.

"City after city is finding that good public transit is good economic strategy," Millar says, adding that there is a 6:1 return on federal dollars invested in public rail systems. Public transit systems in Los Angeles, Denver, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Dallas and Minneapolis have cleaned up their dirty, low-rent images of the 1970s and '80s, and are investing in slick technology to make them even more appealing. (For example, San Francisco's BART system now allows downloads of schedules and maps to iPods.)

I think the more we can rely on public transit and each other, we will make more progress. I have been car free for about 7 years now and intend to stay that way. While it is easier to be car free in a city like NYC, when ever I visit or think of where else I could live, one of the top priorities is being car free.

Here is Bloomberg's comments on the gas tax

Monday, May 5, 2008

League of American Bicyclists new rankings

Here are the current ranking from League of American Bicyclists.
The new Bicycle Friendly Communities are:

Colorado Springs, Colo.
Durango, Colo.
Minneapolis, Minn.

Arcata, Calif.
Bainbridge Island, Wash.
Charlotte, N.C.
Charlottesville, Va.
Coeur d'Alene, Id
Oxford, Miss.
Port Townsend, Wash.
Sitka, AK.

Eleven communities renewed their designation at the same level, with one exceptional standout, Portland, Oregon, which moved up from gold to platinum. These communities are:

Portland, Ore.

Madison, Wis.
Tucson/East Pima Region, Ariz.

Bellingham, Wash.
Missoula, Mont.

Albuquerque, N.M.
Ashland, Ore.
Gilbert, Ariz.
Longmont, Colo.
South Sioux City, Neb.
Sunnyvale, Calif.

Looks like Portland continues to be the Golden Standard in the US. I noticed that Madison is a gold while Minneapolis (which I visited recently) is in the Silver category. Even more interesting is the lack of any large cities (NYC, Chicago).

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Red Hook bike master plan

Might toss my hat in the ring for this as well. Master Plan for Red Hook sounds like a fun project.

Wild in the Streets

Here is a good article about the daily battle between motorist and cyclist on the streets of NYC.
On streets clogged by pollution-emitting cars, buses and trucks, New York City’s quest to establish reasonably safe cycling paths by adding to its roughly 300 miles of bicycle lanes has been welcomed by cyclists. But the lanes are often battlegrounds between cyclists and drivers who seem undeterred by the clearly demarcated paths.

Although city regulations forbid cars from blocking bike lanes — a violation that carries a $115 fine — those rules are routinely ignored by drivers who use the lanes as parking spots, loading zones and places to pick up passengers. Such maneuvers have enraged cyclists who say they are unlawful, rude and dangerous.

As the article points out that we are far from finding some kind of common ground between the two users of the street. Both see its function as fundamentally different (something I am looking at in my study). I think these quotes from the article demonstrate the point.

On Second Avenue, Lynn Roman, a 42-year-old construction company employee, sat behind the wheel of a gray Toyota Land Cruiser just north of St. Mark’s Place. Ms. Roman said she planned to be there only briefly while a passenger ran an errand but added that she rarely paid attention to bike lanes.

“I have other things on my mind,” she said. “This is the city. Bike lanes belong in parks.”

A few moments later, Jon Weiner, 34, a sound engineer from TriBeCa who was riding a BMX bike, said he had come to expect a cavalier attitude from drivers in bike lanes.

“A lot of them don’t seem to have any idea that they’re doing it,” he said. “And if they do they don’t care.”

Over the past few weeks I have had conversations with many cyclists and some feel that no matter how much bike infrastructure the city builds, until we can have a change in the perception of biking in the city as a good thing, changes are not going to have that great of an effect.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Visioning a Greenway

Well after seeing what Minneapolis did to its old train tracks it got me thinking about the rail line that runs through Brooklyn and Queens that is the old Bayridge LIRR line. Old NYC has some great pictures of the line. Here are just a few:

The question is what would be the best use of this line. Would it make for a great bike and pedestrian trail, Light rail Line, Bus Line, Nature trail, or some combination? It seems that the possibilities are endless and with the right support and infrastructure this old rail line can be a new great urban space. The highline part II.