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NYC: Getting a ticket for not riding in the bike lane

Timothy Stenovec, Huffington Post
Casey Neistat, the East Village-based film maker who taught us about Chatroulette and that red subway emergency brake is at it again, this time making a video about his experience getting a $50 ticket for not riding in the bike lane.

Yes, a ticket for riding his bike in the street.

But Neistat didn’t set out to make a video protesting getting the ticket.

“My number one motivation to make this movie was to be funny,” Neistat told The Huffington Post. “I’m not trying to rise up against the man. I’m just trying to make a funny movie.”

There is some ambiguity about what exactly is legal when riding a bike. In a summary of New York City’s bicycle laws, rules and regulations, the New York City Department of Transportation says that “Bicycle riders must use bike path/lane, if provided, except for access, safety, turns, etc.” But it also says that there is “No parking, standing or stopping vehicles within or otherwise obstructing bike lanes.”

Regardless whether or not the police officer was justified in giving Neistat his ticket, he certainly accomplished his goal of making a hilarious video about the perils of New York City’s bike lanes.

(9 July 2011)
The video contains some incredible antics — don’t try these at home! As a friend commented, “Casey, you are either brave or stupid (or both).” -BA

With a very few exceptions, America is no place for cyclists

The Economist
SEATTLE – DYING while cycling is three to five times more likely in America than in Denmark, Germany or the Netherlands. To understand why, consider the death of Michael Wang. He was pedalling home from work in Seattle on a sunny weekday afternoon in late July when, witnesses say, a brown SUV made a left turn, crunched into Wang and sped away.

The road where the 44-year-old father of two was hit is the busiest cycling corridor in Seattle, and it has clearly marked bicycle lanes. But the lanes are protected from motor vehicles by a line of white paint—a largely metaphorical barrier that many drivers ignore and police do not vigorously enforce. A few feet from the cycling lane traffic moves at speeds of between 30 miles per hour, the speed limit for arterials in Seattle, and 40 miles per hour, the speed at which many cars actually travel. This kind of speed kills. A pedestrian hit by a car moving at 30mph has a 45% chance of dying; at 40mph, the chance of death is 85%, according to Britain’s Department of Transport.

Had Mr Wang been commuting on a busy bike route in Amsterdam, Copenhagen or Berlin, his unprotected exposure to instruments of death—namely, any vehicle moving at 20mph or more—would be nearly nil. These cities have knitted together networks for everyday travel by bike. To start with, motor vehicles allowed near cyclists are subject to “traffic calming”. They must slow down to about 19mph, a speed that, in case of collision, kills less than 5%. Police strictly enforce these speed limits with hefty fines. Repeat offenders lose their licences.

Calmer traffic is just the beginning
(3 September 2011)

Perception vs. reality in ‘bike-friendly’ San Francisco

Elly Blue, Grist
San Francisco, Calif.: At the end of 2009, a judge partially lifted a then-three-year injunction on building any new bike infrastructure. Ten projects came out of the gate fast, including a green bike lane on Market Street, a batch of sharrows (“share the road arrows”) scattered across the city, and a wealth of bike parking springing up in on-street spaces and on sidewalk’s edges everywhere. As we drove into town, it was exciting to see it all happening. But despite outward appearances, we’d soon learn that San Francisco’s bike-friendly makeover might only be skin-deep.

The 20 people who turned out to discuss San Fran’s biking future first watched me as I went through my war-room routine, which this time consisted of me standing by a sheet stretched across the living room windows and pointing at pictures of freeways and bike parking, asking them: What are the external costs? What are the benefits?

Audiences so far have been most engaged in listing the benefits of bicycling. I’m usually able to suggest one or two ideas, but this transportation-savvy group (which included a transportation reporter and a city traffic engineer) covered most of them on their own.

… so far San Francisco has been all promise and little progress. I wondered if the build-out had stalled, and a woman in the audience confirmed that the process has been frustratingly slow. She suspected that the city was gunshy after the injunction, and reluctant to start planning and building when it could happen again. Nods around the room confirmed this suspicion. “Portland feels safe to ride in, and here it feels dangerous,” said another woman in the audience who has lived in both cities.

But a little perspective shows there’s hope yet for a bike utopia in SF.

For the month of September, Elly Blue is traveling around the western U.S. as part of the Dinner & Bikes Tour, talking to local riders to learn about the bike economy and hear their stories over gourmet vegan meals.
(6 September 2011)