Monday, May 19, 2008

Chiming In: Unsolicited Responses to Questions Already Answered

Last week the New York Times concluded its three-part Q&A session with Joshua Benson, the bicycle program coordinator for the New York City Department of Transportation. Basically, readers were invited to submit questions, some of which Joshua Benson proceeded to answer. While this made for informative reading, I did feel there were certain areas where Mr. Benson could have been a little more forthright. I also secretly wished I had been allowed to answer as well. Then I realized I have my own blog, so I decided to butt in anyway. Here's a selection of questions and answers from the series (excerpts in italics) to which I've added my own two cents:

Q: I would LOVE to ride my bike to work, or for that matter, ANYWHERE around the city, but there's no place to lock a bike up!!! How do we get this issue addressed and corrected?
--Posted by Donna V

A:
[lots of stuff deleted] I'd also like to remind all the readers that we are currently holding a competition for a new bike rack design. [even more stuff deleted] For more information on this competition go to: CityRacks Design Competition.

RTMS: Further to Mr. Benson's reply, the CityRacks Design Competition is over. Or at least it might as well be. This is because my three entries are sure to sweep the podium. I’ve got this thing locked up like a fixed-gear in front of a dive bar at happy hour. Here they are:

Entry #1: Pirate Statues


Nothing makes a better bike rack than a pirate statue. Its peg leg is a perfect anchor point for a U-lock or chain, and its crotch makes it impossible to lift the bicycle up and over the pirate like you can do with a parking meter. Furthermore, the menacing scowl and hook hand will deter thieves. (Assuming, of course, that the thief is not also a pirate who lives for ribald swashbuckling and duels with other pirates.) Lastly, locking stuff to pirates is just plain fun.

Entry #2: Human Statues


Human statues (or stationary mimes) are just as effective as inanimate statues with the added bonus that they are sentient and can actually guard your bicycle. Here's one in England or somewhere which is doing just that. New York City has long looked abroad for urban planning solutions, and unlike much of the stupid stuff that makes its way to this country from overseas (I'm looking at you, socialism) this is one that should not be overlooked.

Entry #3: Porta-Pottys


Earlier in the article, Mr. Benson mentioned the Department of Transportation's "Coordinated Street Furniture Franchise," which includes public toilets among the items planned for our city's streets. Well, I see no reason why bicycle parking and public restrooms can't be neatly integrated. One key, two purposes. New Yorkers are famous for their "get up and go," and this will enable them to go while they're on the go with their bikes.

Q: The mayor's efforts to promote biking are laudable. However, without increased enforcement of the sanctity of the striped lanes, the initiative will only go so far. Aside from begging the police to do their jobs, what is the Department of Transportation (or the Mayor's office of Sustainability) doing to ensure that motorists take bike lanes seriously?— Posted by Dan

A:
[yada yada yada] Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, as part of a review of global best practices for bicycle-friendly street design, has visited Denmark and just returned from Colombia. We have found that designs from other countries can't simply be transplanted to New York City streets. [yada yada yada]

RTMS: Hey, I want to make fruitless trips to foreign countries under the guise of information-gathering too! Maybe I can become DOT Commissioner. That way one day you can read this in the Times: "Commissioner BSNYC, as part of a thinly-disguised research mission, has visited Amsterdam where he learned that the city's legal prostitutes and marijuana, while thoroughly enjoyable (especially when used together), can't simply be transplanted to New York City streets."

Do many members of the Department of Transportation bike to work? Bloomberg makes a show of taking the subway—do you have any impression if he’d consider showing off the city’s bike lanes?
--Posted by Rich Allan

A: Many D.O.T. employees bike to work on a daily basis. I often “bike pool” with co-workers who live near me. Our indoor bike parking room and outdoor racks here at D.O.T. headquarters in Lower Manhattan are nearly full every day...


RTMS: Benson’s answer is a half-truth. I went by 40 Worth Street today. Here's a picture:


The outdoor rack was indeed nearly full, but I didn’t see any tandems. So how can he be “bike pooling?”

Q: Mr. Benson, many thanks for your efforts to make our city more easily cycled. We have a long way to go but I'm encouraged by the recent progress and Commissioner Sadik-Khan's commitment to cycling. As a resident of Queens, I'm particularly interested in cycle infrastructure in the outer boroughs — a glance at the official bike map suggests Manhattan has historically been the top priority. Trying to ride somewhere in Queens reinforces this theory. Could you discuss D.O.T.'s future plans for the rest of us?
--Posted by Alex

A: Thanks for your question regarding the city's bike network expansion in the outer boroughs...


RTMS: Hi, Alex. I note both you and Mr. Benson use the phrase "outer boroughs,” which is a nice way of saying that as a Queens resident you don't exist on the cultural radar. Calling the boroughs outside of Manhattan the "outer boroughs" is not only inaccurate, but it also reaffirms the notion that anyone who doesn’t live in Manhattan is a second-class citizen. (Funny how most of the "inner city" neighborhoods are in the "outer boroughs." How can something be "inner" and "outer" at the same time?) The fact is that two of the "outer boroughs" (Brooklyn and Queens) are much larger and more populous than Manhattan, which, for millions of people, is actually the "outer borough." In truth, the only real "outer borough" is Staten Island, which is really far away from the rest of the city, has only like half a million people, and is basically just New Jersey with alternate-side parking rules. Of course, since Brooklyn's become so trendy its days as an "outer borough" are numbered, even though it hasn't moved physically, so you can expect it to benefit from the "hipster-to-hipster" network of bicycle paths and lanes the city is creating to make sure the hottest and most expensive neighborhoods are easily accessible to one-another by bicycle. But Queens? As long as you empower their “outer borough” thinking by using the term yourself, you can keep dreaming, Archie Bunker.

Q: Can we talk about the Manhattan Bridge entrance? It is terrifying. How can D.O.T. expect average cyclists to merge with tractor-trailers on their daily commutes? Please tell me what the plans are for this crossing. I use it everyday.
--Posted by Brooklyn!

A:
[useful info deleted]

RTMS: Non-terrifying bridge entrances?!? Yeah, right. Here's another question: How come my bike lane isn't carpeted in velvet, and how come I'm not escorted by two beautiful women on Colnagos who throw rose pedals in my path as I ride? Well, last time I checked, this was New York City, not Portland. Every day each one of us is a wayward SUV and a can of white Krylon away from becoming a ghost bike, and that's the way we like it. The Manhattan Bridge was closed to cyclists for ages while they built that fancy new bike lane you're now riding on, and it wasn't that long ago that the "bike lane" on the Williamsburg Bridge barely had a floor. Literally. You could see water. It was like crossing a rope bridge in the Himalayas. So if you're using the same bridge entrance every day and you're still terrified, you need a shrink or you need to move to the Bay Area. Urban planning won't help you.

65 comments:

Anonymous said...

FIRST YAY!

Anonymous said...

second, yawn.

Anonymous said...

Haha

Anonymous said...

Major tactical error on my part. I started reading the post before checking to see how many comments there were :-(

Anonymous said...

close. . .

Anonymous said...

cat up points...

[censored] said...

whoohoo

Anonymous said...

yet, another Topten!

Cameron said...

top ten ... speed

Anonymous said...

Fixed-gear reference on Jezebel.com

http://jezebel.com/391629/bigger-than-burning-man

techb3 said...

how about a plan to get pedestrians to use their lane, especially on the brooklyn bridge. As "scary" as the manhattan bridge may be, at least it is fairly unoccupied.

Anonymous said...

dirty dozen

Anonymous said...

How about just sucking it up.

OpenYourEyes said...

Back with AUTHORITY, BSNYC/RTMS! Any good cheeses to report on?

Your first-hand knowledge of cycling the streets and your knack for biting sarcasm would make you a terrible Commissioner. Politics being what it is, you are thoroughly and completely overqualified due to competence, to become a Commissioner of this fascist, capitalist, fossil-fueled clusterfuck of a society. Your place will be with the break-away republic, where you will be lauded with rose petals and exquisite colnago riding beauties as a matter of PRINCIPAL rather than policy. Never, ever degrade yourself by feigned association with 'the man'. It brings much fear and depression to your loyal following.

Bobbo said...

"Commissioner BSNYC, as part of a thinly-disguised research mission, has visited Amsterdam where he learned that the city's legal prostitutes and marijuana, while thoroughly enjoyable (especially when used together), can't simply be transplanted to New York City streets."

Triumphant return...
brilliant...and made my day

Thanks again

Hannah said...

In addition to combining public toilets and bike parking, how about adding bike washing into the mix? The toilet at Madison Square Park goes through a thorough cleaning cycle between each user, with all surfaces (including the toilet paper) being automatically washed down. If I could just leave my bike in there for that cycle, it would come out sparkly clean. Unfortunately, weight sensors on the floor currently prevent this.

Anonymous said...

BSNC/RTMS-

I wish you'd hurry up and jump the shark. This funny stuff is eating into my work day.

Anonymous said...

Bikesnob, don't encourage more timid cyclists to move over here. Please.

Sincerely, The City That Knows How

techb3 said...

anon 12:30,

i'll leave the "sucking it up" to you. i would rather whine about something that will clearly never happen because im a bitch that cant deal with human traffic on the bridges... come on man, what is your problem anyway? was my comment rude? was it an unreasonable complaint? were you offended by it? if i had posted anonymously would you have been less likely to respond? did your boss not let you leave early for lunch?...

Anonymous said...

Why do cities keep redesigning bike racks? They're not public art and when they try to be they are very hard to lock bikes to. I work at a symphony hall and the city recently came around and replaced our serviceable bike racks with these spindly treble clefs and informed us that they are bike racks. I never would have guessed.

lorna doone said...

RTMS,
You are strange. Is that a prison watch tower in the background beyond what looks like a church behind the pirate? What gives?

Anonymous said...

Just use the Manhattan Bridge. Much faster, much less annoying. Not scary if you didn't just move here from Idaho. If you did, you're probably not used to being in a hurry anyway.

Anonymous said...

Well done, sir.

Ben Quinn said...

I read this local collegiate racer kid's blog, who is both amusing/odd, and he mentioned you in his last post, http://colin-don.blogspot.com/. You might find his "lists" entertaining.

techb3 said...

i give up...the "scary" line was a reference to the post. i take the manhattan, brooklyn, williamsburg and 59th street bridge. it doesnt matter. it's not even worth commenting because half the people on here are too worried about making the "podium."

Anonymous said...

Oh, techb3, I wasn't the first annon. Was just thinking out loud. After you've taken the B.B. more than once, you pretty much know the deal. Great place to be if the B.B. is what you're after. Kinda sucks when you're rushing to work. Or even home from work. So, yeah,the other bridges.

Polygraf said...

Whats with the new "welcome to brooklyn" plaque that took almost two weeks to install?
I take the BrooklynB in the morning(not a lot of foot traffic in the morning) and ManhattanB at night cause I'd rather be squeezed between a tractor and an suv as they fight to merge onto the BQE than having to weave around the onslaught of bug eyed tourist.

My question or demand would be to get these damn traffic cops to do a better job and to recognize cyclist before encouraging oncoming traffic to cut you off(especially along chambers st.) get to it commish.

Karl Rover said...

Bay Area riding is just as treacherous as NYC. Come ride in Oakland during commute hours to get a taste for local driving habits. Not fun.

leroy said...

BSNYC -- the problem with the pirate bike rack is that an animatronic voice rejects all bikes with triple chain rings: "Aaarghh, yer drive train not be straight and true enough fer me leg, Buck-o."

As for the beautiful women on Colagnos escorting you across the bridge, that got rained out Friday, which was national ride your bike to work day.

My disappointment, however, was nothing compared to Cipo's.

He was slated to escort female riders across the Williamsburg, but only got to pace a bedraggled hipster wearing girl's jeans.

You picked the right weekend to leave town.

johnb said...

Bitter is Back!!!!!
that's all that really counts.

ka_jun said...

I dunno, I kinda like our bike racks. No pirate, to be sure, but I know that pirate racks would bit a hit here.

Commiecanuk said...

Anon 1:04...I have no idea that everyone thinks bike racks to be such a public eyesore, yet parking meters haven't really changed in 50 years, and parking lines are still just white or yellow, you would think in the fashion capital of America, the lines would at least be black by now.

Given the fact that everyone hates cyclists and they are the transportation pariahs of the world, NYC should just make this the new bike rack. Embraces history, very secure, the faces can be painted to match the ethnic communities of NY. The '10s are all about Obama anyway.
They will be used as tourist sites, much like the famed mooseses of Toronto. People will fly in from other countries to see large plastic statues painted different colors, because you just can't do that in Europe.

oh yeah, bitter is back, and this time, it's personal.

stack-up said...

HOW come I'm not escorted by two beautiful women on Colnagos who throw rose pedals in my path as I ride? That's a legitimate question.

pedalstroke said...

[useful info deleted from this post]

mr.complaint said...

Snobbo

You aren't escorted by two beautiful women on Colnagos who throw rose pedals in your path as I ride?

That's sad. And to think that my two maidens come in from the Bronx every morning and they have a couple homies escorting them. It's quite a parade. Me, the maidens, their homies, their dogs, dog handlers, food service, the grips and best boys......

Have you ever thought of becoming a NYC Cop?

http://tinyurl.com/yuwyk

Then you could be bitter and usefull.

Of course, we could also use a good hitman.

G Lee said...

Don't move here. We have enough crybabies.

Anonymous said...

dear new york,

your city's flat, so quit bitchin. get on your bike and ride it already.

love,
bay area

Anonymous said...

[useless techb3 deleted]

Joshua D. said...

Move to the bay area?

Yeah, here you can only bike over one bridge - the Golden Gate - and the only people who do that are tourists on their rented hybrids, or dentists on Kestrel tri bikes.

techb3 said...

anon 4:11,

Do you exist in the real world anonymously? i bet you have a name and people know who you are. i bet you mind your manners at work and on the street because you cant hide behind an anonymous title in the real world. delete me and my useless comments all you want. hope that helps you cope with your miserable existence. you probably dont even own a bike.

Anonymous said...

[useless techb3 deleted]

Anonymous said...

[useless techb3 deleted]

Anonymous said...

[useless techb3 deleted]

Anonymous said...

[useless techb3 deleted]

Anonymous said...

[useless techb3 deleted]

techb3 said...

feel better?

Anonymous said...

Commie,

You just can't use that as a bike rack. Oh sure it's iconic enough, but they just won't do.

Years ago, before BSNYC/RTMS was born, NYC had these great expanded steel mesh garbage cans. Toss 'em under a bus and e bus got towed to the yard. Couldn't keep them on the street. Folks grabbed them and took them home, no small feat as they weighed over 40 lbs.

Seems they made the perfect leaf burning container. I recall watching two guys lug a couple on to the Dashing Dan for the evening commute one fall.

Your proposed bike rack would end up on front yards all over Nassau and Suffolk counties. Possibly with some hipsters fix gear still attached.

wishiwasmerckx said...

I will steadfastly boycott the porta-potty bike racks unless they have a cone of smugness firmly secured to the top.

bikesgonewild said...

...welcome back, bsnyc/rtms...funny stuff aside, you should be the "bicycle coordinator" for the nyc-dot...

...& we could all be yer little on-line helpers, w/ all the sound advice we have to offer...

...just sayin'...

Emperor Norton said...

Joshua D, please do not visit or move to the bay area. I would not want your image of who commutes across the golden gate bridge to be needlessly biased by reality...

Jonathan said...

it's "rose petals", not "rose pedals".
initial mistake in the post, repeated in the comments by several others. sad.

Andy Pandy said...

The kinfolk said Jed move away from there, said Californy is the place you ought to be, so they packed up the truck and moved to Beverley. Hills that is, swimming pools and movie stars.

See problem solved

Jack said...

I know a couple of people in the bay area that I wouldn't mind if they became "ghost bikes"

sprider said...

Welcome back, RTMS, did you find that pirate on your vacation?

Lucky for us, all we have to worry about out here in the sticks is how to spend $25 million in Federal-grant funding on non-motorized transportation. Bike lanes, you want 'em, you got 'em. Helmets, we're buying for everyone!

Of course,the hoops are many and oddly shaped, but we're jumping through them to get the dough.

We were treated to a brat-fry (like a bar-b-que) and a free movie (Klunkerz) the other night, courtesy of this grant. I even saw some folks ride to the park.

Quitcherwhinin about bridges and start complaining about what really matters: Free movies with Gary Fischer!

Eric said...

A small correction:

Here in Portland, the beautiful ladies are not riding colnagos. Bianchis, Treks, and various garage sale Miyatas, but few on colnagos. Second, most of the "beautiful" ladies on bikes, are either middle aged or are lesbians, or both.

Also, the drivers here scare much more easily than in NYC or Philly. I would say that the drivers here in Portland actively work to not run you over (lifted trucks, GM SUVs, and BMWs excepted, of course), whereas in Philly they aim right for you.

Anonymous said...

How fast does New York traffic normally move?

Sorry, if it sounds like a lame ass question, but I live in Phoenix, AZ. We have the Nation's highest pedestrian/bike death rate and due to 110 degree heat like today the fewest cyclists and pedestrians out and about. The drivers are absolutely insane here doing 60 mph down a 25 mph streets. I thought drivers in Washington DC were nice and not overly aggressive except for the cab drivers, just to put things in perspective.

Joshua D. said...

Emperor Norton:

I was really just expressing my frustration that there is no way to bike over the Bay Bridge.

So you don't have to worry - I'm in the east bay. Since I'm not a dentist, I can't afford to live in Larkspur and commute to work flanked by beautiful women on Colagnos. You're right - there are also podiatrists on Orbeas and investestment bankers on Merlins that ride the bridge daily - not only for their own health, but for the health of the planet.

I'm sure you look spectacular on your commute.

Jim said...

I notice the porta-shitter has a cone of smugness worn on its side.

For anything or anybody that resides in Noo Yawk, isn't a cone of smugness pretty much redundant? Or am I thinking about Boulder?

Emperor Norton said...

Joshua D, my point was that no self respecting Marin dentist would be caught dead on a Kestrel. What, is it still 1989 in the east bay? In this century, they all ride Cervelos, or Gurus. And the Podiatrists ride Pinarello Princes. The Bankers ride Bianchis, the investment bankers ride Ibis, the lawyers ride BMC, and on and on. And yes, I do look stunning on my hemp and bamboo Calfee. The earth.

Anonymous said...

Hey I ate at that Cornish Bakehouse in London. Great Cornish pasties. Right across the street from the High Court of Justice (or something like that) on Fleet St. in London.

Anonymous said...

hey bsnyc you rock man!!!!!

vero said...

ouch, bsnyc. what's your beef with socialism?

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