Archive for the tag 'bicycling'

Source: micurs via Flickr

Source: micurs via Flickr

Last month, Councilman Mark Treyger proposed a comprehensive bike safety legislation package to help minimize bike casualties, winning support from the City Council’s Transportation Committee, the mayor, and bike advocacy groups like Bike New York.

But while no one thinks it’s a smart idea to text and cycle at the same time, not all bike advocates think the law would make streets safer.

One criticism is that the bill is an example of legislation-by-anecdote. Treyger cites his own experience of witnessing a near-collision in front of his Stillwell Avenue office as evidence of the dangers of biking and texting, when, in fact, there is little data demonstrating that texting while cycling has caused any fatalities.

From StreetsBlog New York:

No doubt, texting and biking don’t mix, but is there any evidence that texting while bicycling has caused actual crashes? When asked for data that show the need for legislation, Treyger only produced stats showing that the number of crashes between cyclists and pedestrians rose from 2012 to 2013. He could not offer data on how often cell phone use by cyclists actually contributes to crashes.

“It is hard to pinpoint exact data,” he said. “Quite frankly, after what I saw, I don’t need to see data to know that was wrong and that was dangerous.”

Secondly, some argue that cyclists would be disproportionately targeted by traffic cops, as they are more visible than drivers of cars. Furthermore, the proposed cycling laws are even more stringent than current laws for motor vehicles. Doug Gordon, a television producer who runs the biking blog Brooklyn Spoke, writes:

Treyger’s bill “would ban any use of a cellphone, tablet or computer except when attached to a hands-free device. It’s currently legal to fiddle with a smart phone while riding a bike.” Drivers are free to fiddle with GPS devices, dashboard touch-screens that require them to take their eyes off the road just to change radio stations or adjust the AC, and many other non-cellphone devices. These distractions have likely caused more fatal crashes than texting-while-biking.

There’s also plenty of research to show that hands-free devices do little to limit a driver’s cognitive distraction. If Treyger wanted to save lives, he’d propose, or at least discuss, banning the use of a cellphone in any form, handsfree or otherwise, while operating a motor vehicle.

Finally, some folks are worried about how the law will be implemented. For example, Gordon cites research showing that tickets for bike infractions like riding on the sidewalk are disproportionately used as an excuse to pull over black and Hispanic young men. Enforcement of these laws, he adds, are just a waste of valuable police resources and time.

This recent viral photo of a cop intercepting a bike for a traffic infraction, seems to highlight the challenges of enforcing bike laws:

What do you think? Should it be illegal to text and bike at the same time?

savino-1

State Senator Diane Savino fumed on Facebook about cyclists, telling her followers that she drives through her district shouting at the two-wheeled menaces to “find a fucking bike lane and get in it.”

The comment from the pol, who represents Brighton Beach, Gravesend, Coney Island and Bath Beach in addition to Staten Island’s north shore, was in response to a labor lobbyist’s post blasting cycling “apologists” following the Central Park collision that left a pedestrian dead. Another follower suggested requiring bike registration and licensing, to which the pol also said she was “intrigued.”

bikelane-savino

The Daily News reports:

Savino said her comments were meant as a joke but she continued to express frustration with bicyclists who don’t obey traffic laws.

“Unfortunately, those who don’t follow the rules of the road create problems as we saw with that terrible tragedy in Central Park,” Savino said.

“Minimally, there’s got to be greater enforcement,” she continued. “And bikers have to take responsibility for what’s happening. They’re moving sometimes at 40 miles an hour. We just went through the whole process of reducing the city speed limit to 25 miles an hour, unless it is otherwise posted. That should apply to bikes as well. We are all in this together.”

The pol also said she had no plans to introduce new bike safety legislation when she returns to Albany.

DNAinfo went to the author of the blog post that sparked the Facebook discussion:

Eben Weiss, who writes the blog, Bike Snob NYC, drew attention to Savino’s comments on Twitter and on his site on Thursday.

“A state senator bragging on Facebook about engaging in acts of road rage is inappropriate, alarming and representative of a disregard for public safety,” Weiss told DNAinfo New York.

“It’s an insult to her constituents. It’s also totally ironic because the conversational thread that inspired her comment is based on a total misreading of comments I made in which I excoriated reckless bicycling.”

savino-district

Savino’s district

It appears cyclists in her district are taking notice. Streetsblog notes that Brooklyn Spoke author Doug Gordon, a constituent of Savino’s, sent an open invitation for the elected official to ride with him and his two children and see what life is like from the saddle.

I ride my children to school almost every day and then head to work. We bike to swim lessons, gymnastics, birthday parties, parks, and to the grocery store. With or without my children, I have been harassed many times by drivers who think New York City’s streets belong solely to them. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing – riding in a bike lane or legally exiting a bike lane to make a turn or avoid an obstruction such as a parked car – there is truly nothing I can do to stop an angry driver who simply doesn’t like bicycles from getting upset with me.

I ask you to kindly join me and my children, along with any other families who would like to come, on a short bike ride. It might be helpful for you to experience what it feels like to bike on New York City streets.

Savino, who lives in Staten Island, is already well-known for her outspoken Facebook posts. In February, for Valentine’s Day, she reminder her colleagues to stop taking photos of their genitals because “no one wants to see your penis pop up in a text message.” She also railed against supporters of indicted Congressman Michael Grimm, who claimed he’s the victim of a conspiracy.

Biking on Flatbush
The NYPD has announced a two-week bicycle safety enforcement initiative called Operation Safe Cycle, which begins today, Wednesday, August 13 and continues through Tuesday, August 26.

They say they’ll be targeting cyclists who fail to stop at red lights, disobey traffic signals or signs, ride the wrong direction against traffic, ride on the sidewalk, and fail to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.

But it’s not just cyclists — the NYPD says they’re also focus on motorists who obstruct bike lanes.

“The NYPD asks all persons bicycling and driving in the city to make safety a priority,” they said in a release. “The NYPD is committed to providing a safe environment for all New Yorkers.”

It seems that as the city continues to work on Vision Zero ideas, the NYPD will keep rolling out stings that focus on one aspect that makes traveling the streets in this city dangerous — they’ve already focused on texting and driving, speeding, and other hazardous driving behaviors.

If you have some experience with Operation Safe Cycle in the neighborhood, let us know in the comments.

erica-bike

The horror! The unacceptable, outrageous horror!

The bicycle of Sheepshead Bites’ own Erica Sherman was pilfered yesterday in broad daylight at one of the neighborhood’s busiest intersections. And nobody saw nothin’.

Sherman locked her bike to the Bay’s railing at 10:30 a.m., at the intersection of Sheepshead Bay Road and Emmons Avenue. When she came back to the spot at approximately 2:30 p.m., she was shocked to find that her only means of transportation was little more than a cruddy public art display.

The thief made off with two tires with matching 8-ball gauge caps, front and back strobe lights, and an American flag bell, the last of which was surely a win for terrorism.

The location is popular with strolling neighbors, shoppers, restaurant patrons, fisherman and beachgoers. Hundreds of people, if not thousands, passed by it in the time it was locked up. And, somehow, somebody managed to go up to, inspect it, dismantle it, and walk away with their bounty without anybody saying a damn thing.

Is that the kind of neighborhood we want to be? One where neighbors aren’t looking out for each other?

Apparently, it’s not the first bike-related theft to happen at that intersection. Just a few weeks ago, also in broad daylight, a patron left his bicycle outside of Zephyr’s Deli (1729 Emmons Avenue). In the brief moment he went inside to talk to the clerk, someone hopped on his bicycle and took off.

While the thieves are the ones to blame, we can help thwart them in the future. A few things:

  • Don’t leave your bike unlocked and unattended. Not even for a moment.
  • U-locks only do so much. A chain lock that can be weaved through the frame and both tires is more secure.
  • Although it didn’t help in Erica’s situation, locking your bike in a high-trafficked, well-lighted place is better than a dark, empty street.
  • Get your bike registered with the NYPD. It won’t help if your tires are stolen, but if the entire bike is swiped and later recovered by the police, they can track it back to the original owner. Just by luck, there’s an event to do this on Monday, at 5 p.m., at Asser Levy Park.
  • Remove any dangly bits you don’t want stolen and that can’t be locked up, including American flag bells.

And for the rest of us? If you see something, say something.

Plumb Beach Bike Path Destroyed By Hurricane Ida

The bike path in 2009, just days after it was hit by a nor’easter. This unsalvageable section was ultimately ripped apart and covered in sand and gravel, and has stayed that way since.

It looks like we’ll be going our fourth consecutive summer without the Plumb Beach bike path, which was destroyed by a nor’easter in November 2009.

But, if all goes according to plan, cyclists will finally be able to enjoy uninterrupted rides from Emmons Avenue to the larger Jamaica Bay Greenway by fall, as the Parks Department has confirmed that they anticipate construction to begin this August.

“We are concurrently in the process of registering funds for the project, and awaiting approval from DEC. The scope of work includes the reconstruction of eroded portions of the asphalt bike path. The two segments we will address comprise a total of approximately 450 linear feet. We anticipate construction to begin at the end of August 2014,” wrote Parks spokesperson Meghan Lalor in an e-mail to Sheepshead Bites.

To strip the bureaucratic speak, what it basically means is that money is in the pot for the construction, and they’re working through the red tape to ensure all relevant agencies are on board.

Lalor noted that it’s too soon to say whether the project would be done in-house by the Parks Department, or bid out to a contractor (which could potentially delay the process).

Cyclists have made the dangerous decision to ride on the Belt Parkway rather than dismount or walk through sand.

It’s been a long road in getting a mere 450 feet of asphalt put down. It was destroyed when Hurricane Ida – by then a nor-easter – made landfall in 2009. The waves not only battered the bike path, but diminished several feet of sand from the beach and exposed the Belt Parkway to flooding (a problem that was addressed only mere days before Superstorm Sandy).

In 2010, the city pulled a fake-out, getting the strip ready for repaving… and then calling it quits and vanishing.

Relief seemed to be in sight in 2012, when $9 million in improvements to the area were unveiled, including long-term fixes at Plumb Beach and the development of Brigham Street Park. Then-Councilman Lew Fidler told Sheepshead Bites that some of those funds would cover the bike path repair, yet the Parks Department later said that, in fact, none of the allocated funds would be put to the reconstruction.

Finally, last summer, Fidler informed Sheepshead Bites that he had allocated $450,000 in the Fiscal Year 2014 city budget specifically for shore up the bike path and laying new asphalt. While most Parks projects take three to four years from funding to completion, Fidler predicted – correctly, it seems – that this project would move more quickly.

balkan

Source: BPL

The second annual Bike the Branches kicks off tomorrow, and our local Sheepshead Bay library is planning a special party to welcome the hundreds of cyclists from around the borough.

The event invites cyclists to tour Brooklyn with pitstops at the 60 neighborhood branches, many of which have scheduled their own programming between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to keep the energy going.

The Sheepshead Bay branch at 2636 East 14th Street will party Balkan-style with Matt Moran’s Slavic Soul Party, a well-known Balkan party band that puts a new twist on traditional Balkan music. The group mashes up gospel, techno, funk, dub, jazz and Latin beats with Balkan brass music, including Romanian, Bulgarian and Macedonian favorites. Here’s a sample:

The band kicks off at 3 p.m.

In the spirit of cycling, the library is also planning a fitness workshop with a personal fitness coach at 1 p.m., and there will be an amusing Bike the Branches book display based around a painting of branch manager Svetlana Negrimovskaya with a bike, inviting everyone to explore the library system.

svetlana

If you’re interested in the Bike the Branches event, check out the link above. Aside from the standard route, they’ve also curated a selection of customized routes for history buffs, booze hounds and more.

brigham

ONLY ON SHEEPSHEAD BITES: After many years, proposals, battles and studies, the plans to begin work on Sheepshead Bay’s newest green space, Brigham Street Park, are finally unveiled.

The park will be sited at Brigham Street, sandwiched between Emmons Avenue and the waterfront. The current site is now a rubble-filled lot abutting the entrance to the bike path and greenway leading out to Plumb Beach. That entrance is about to get a whole lot more appealing with what looks like might be the new gem of Emmons Avenue’s eastern terminus.

The park will feature a playground, walking path, picnic tables and lots and lots of greenery.

Let’s take a closer look at the plans currently being circulated to local leaders by the Parks Department, and which will go for approval by the Public Design Commission later this month.

Check out the plans!

Sheepshead Bay Bicycles (Source: Google Maps)

Sheepshead Bay Bicycles located at 113 Noel Avenue in Gerritsen Beach (Source: Google Maps)

New York City is bicycle crazy these days as exercisers, sightseers and cash-conscious commuters of all stripes are hopping on bikes like never before. The bicycle craze has not gone unnoticed by Robert Ferrarin of Gerritsen Beach, who has made a killing in repairing and selling used bikes.

According to a report by Crain’s New York, Ferrarin runs his business out of his garage located at 113 Noel Avenue in Gerritsen Beach. Ferrarin, who owns a construction company, started repairing bikes as a hobby but has seen his hobby grow into a lucrative business:

Sheepshead Bay Bicycles is poised to sell 1,000 bikes this season at an average of $300 each, up from 80 bikes during his first year in business five years ago. Customers come from as far afield as New Jersey and Connecticut, he said, and so does the inventory, replenished by six retired men who scrounge for salvageable bike parts at yard sales throughout the tristate area. He performs a tune-up with every purchase, while his wife, Brenda, assembles the bikes and his friend Richie Delea manages sales.

“We thought our first year was good,” he said. “Then it just so happened that we started at the right time.”

Ferrarin’s business was nearly washed away because of Superstorm Sandy, which destroyed 200 bikes at a cost of $30,000 in damage. Despite the setback, Ferrarin noted that the city’s Citi Bike program, which lets anyone rent a bike at kiosks around the city, has added to the bike craze – and his business.

“People who are nervous about riding in the city will get more comfortable. When they get tired of [returning their Citi Bike] every half-hour, they might want to come buy a bike,” Ferrarin told Crain’s.

Plumb Beach Bike Path Destroyed By Hurricane Ida

Plumb Beach immediately after Hurricane Ida in 2009. The stretch of bike path has since been removed, and erosion has beaten back the shoreline even more.

ONLY ON SHEEPSHEAD BITES: The money’s finally in the pot to make long-awaited repairs to a section of bicycle path that crumbled into the waters off Plumb Beach nearly four years ago.

Councilman Lew Fidler informed Sheepshead Bites that he has allocated $450,000 in the Fiscal Year 2014 city budget to shore up and lay new asphalt to approximately 300 feet of bike path at Plumb Beach, after Hurricane Ida caused the stretch to fall into the sea in 2009. The path is currently closed, and has long been neglected as officials slowly rolled out plans to fight erosion at the beach, and quibbled about whether or not funding was available.

The money was allocated to the Parks Department, which is responsible for maintaining the path, Fidler said, and it should cover the entire job. But if $450,000 seems to be a high price tag for 300 feet of asphalt, Fidler said the funds were justified by the path’s important location as a physical barrier between the water and the Belt Parkway.

“Anyone who thinks it is no more than laying asphalt isn’t remembering why it needs to be done to begin with. It collapsed. It needs to be rebuilt,” he said. “If it doesn’t cost $450,000, the excess money will be returned. Better than if the amount is short, which delays the project for another fiscal year.”

It’s unclear, however, when work will begin on project. Parks projects often take three to four years before the first shovel hits the ground, as the department engages in surveys and studies in the run-up to construction. Representatives from the Parks Department said it’s too soon to tell if the bike path will follow the same schedule.

“It’s too early right now to have details on this since FY 2014 doesn’t begin until July 1. After the funding is confirmed we will start the process of survey and design, then develop a bid and procure a contractor. Next month we should have a better idea of when work is expected to begin,” Parks spokesperson Meghan Lalor wrote in an e-mail to Sheepshead Bites last week.

Fidler, though, is more optimistic.

“I assume it will go forward more expeditiously than most jobs once the Plumb Beach restoration is done,” he said.

Fidler said in 2012 that funding for the project would come from $9 million he allocated for the construction of nearby Brigham Street Park. At the time, however, Parks claimed that those funds would only go to the park itself, and there remained no funding for bike path repairs.

The Plumb Beach parking lot and bicycle path are currently closed, as contractors secured by the Army Corps of Engineers continue the second and final phase of erosion protection at the beach. The site – a former channel that separated Plumb Beach from the mainland and allowed water to pass through into Shell Bank Creek before the creation of the Belt Parkway – has long been victim to nature’s fury. After years of erosion ate away the coastline in an attempt to reclaim the channel, the beach was shored up in 1992. Over the next decade, the new sand washed away, reviving calls from groups like the Sheepshead Bay – Plumb Beach Civic Association for a long-term fix. After Hurricane Ida pummeled the beach in 2009, when water threatened the Belt Parkway’s resiliency and obliterated the bike path, Army Corps began studying possible fixes, and determined it would restore the sand, add vegetation that would hold it in place, and construct two stone groins and a breakwater that would keep sand from drifting away.

Contractors closed the parking lot and bike path to stage their equipment as they begin the second phase of the project – constructing the groins and breakwater, and planting vegetation.

The plan to protect Plumb Beach includes a breakwater and two stone groins at both ends of the beach.

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz announced today that he will withdraw legislation he introduced in the Assembly earlier this month that would transfer oversight of a swath of sand at Brighton Beach and Coney Island from the state to New York City.

Cymbrowitz did not credit the decision to opposition from environmentalists who worried the Parks Department, less constrained by the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s more stringent oversight, would botch the job, as first reported on Sheepshead Bites. Instead, the Sheepshead Bay-Brighton Beach legislator said he did it because he himself had mounting concerns over Parks Department decision-making in light of the controversial new boardwalk comfort stations.

“I believe that giving the city any additional authority of the area near the boardwalk is a mistake. The state Department of Environmental Conservation should continue to have oversight and this legislation will not move forward this session,” Cymbrowitz said in a strongly worded letter to the mayor, according to a press release.

The bill, which can be read here, would have transferred oversight of 250 feet of sand immediately south of the 2.5-mile Riegelmann Boardwalk. It was sponsored in the Assembly by Cymbrowitz and co-sponsored by Alec Brook-Krasny. Diane Savino introduced it in the Senate.

When asked about the legislation earlier this week, Cymbrowitz told Sheepshead Bites that plans to create an already funded bicycle path adjacent to the boardwalk had been stalled for nearly eight years. Cymbrowitz said that the DEC had denied the Parks Department’s application, as well as other attempts to build community resources on the beach, and that he had hoped to free Parks from DEC’s yoke.

That upset activists who said that the DEC had more stringent standards for a reason: they serve as a watchdog over would-be projects that can contribute to beach erosion and other environmental risks.

The Parks Department told Sheepshead Bites that they did not request the bill, nor had any input into it.

Cymbrowitz has now changed his tune, saying that the plan is nixed because he has lost faith in the Parks Department’s ability to meet residents’ needs, citing the new boardwalk comfort stations as the turning point. Residents from the Oceana Condominium complex have protested the new bathrooms and comfort stations adjacent to their facility, claiming that they obstruct views and attract vagrants. Cymbrowitz sided with the residents, even sending a letter to the Parks Department.

His concerns have escalated alongside the mounting missteps of the comfort stations’ installations, according to his press release:

His appeal fell on deaf ears and, despite several well-publicized protests by Oceana residents, the original plan prevailed. During installation, the piles hit solid granite and seawater and the borings couldn’t go through, delaying the process. The Parks Department then devised an alternative construction plan that involved pouring concrete in the sand. Environmentalists and FEMA have already deemed this method unsafe, according to Assemblyman Cymbrowitz.

The legislation, however, was introduced on May 3 – at least a month or more after Cymbrowitz sent his critical letter to the Parks Department opposing the comfort stations.

Sheepshead Bites could not reach Cymbrowitz for comment on this article. We will update this post if we hear back from him.

UPDATE (4:28 p.m.): Brighton Beach resident Ida Sanoff, executive director of the Natural Resources Protective Association, which vocally opposed the legislation, is celebrating the withdrawal as a victory for the community.

“It just goes to show there’s no limit to what you can do when you shine a light on the darkness. And just the fact – politics is all about looking good – and just on the basis that this was being done so quietly raised a lot of red flags,” said Sanoff. “This would have had far reaching impacts on all the people who live and work along the shoreline. This would have put hundreds of thousands of people who would have been put at risk. This is a victory.”

She added: “Sometimes these things are resurrected in a slightly different form. I can assure you that we’re going to be very, very vigilant. We’ll keep a close eye on any piece of legislation that’s proposed that has anything to do with the shoreline … There are no secrets along the shore. If it doesn’t come out in the wash, it’ll come out in the rinse.”

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