Gridlock Sam's Master Plan: Bicyclists and Pedestrians

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Each Thursday in April, Sam Schwartz, aka Gridlock Sam at The Daily News, and former NYC traffic commissioner, explains another facet of his plan for equitably pricing NYC transit and tolls. This week: bicyclists and pedestrians.  

Comments [46]

john from long island

does sam live in manhattan? Does he have family in NJ? has he ever driven on the Belt? It is very often a parking lot condition. You couldnt rebuild it well enough to accomodate all the traffic. I will then have to drive thru Manhattan, and thru the local streets of brooklyn.

Apr. 19 2012 10:55 AM
Orangeandblue from Midland Park, NJ

This is a link to a similar safety debate occurring in Germany and across Europe as more people cycle.

Apr. 13 2012 10:18 AM
Steve F from Brooklyn

Before we build redundant bike bridges between Brooklyn and Manhattan, there are 4 existing bridges that need bicycle/pedestrian paths.

First is the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which was designed by Othmar Ammann for two paths matching the GWB paths. Ammann and Whitney completed a study for the city finding that the VNB paths can be installed for $26 million. The space is there and does not interfere with the car lanes. It would be very nice to complete the VNB before its 50th birthday in 2014.

Second, the Goethals Bridge actually has two narrow paths, but they are closed. Port Authority should open at least one of these to connect SI with mainland USA.

Third, either the Bronx Whitestone should get its paths restored (removed 1946) or a path should be added to the Throgs Neck Bridge. There needs to be a connection between Queens and the Bronx closer than the RFK/Tri-Boro.

Fourth, Outerbridge Crossing should have its paths restored. They were removed in 1964 - the same time the Tottenville - Perth Amby Ferry was closed. This really is the Outermost Bridge from NYC and the shortest way to Sandy Hook and southern NJ.

Finally, the George Washington Bridge path is closed between Midnight and 6:00 AM because PORT can't figure out how to secure a simple foot path. Really, when the roadway is open to anyone with a Ryder Truck, they are worried about a bicycle? There really are late shift bike riders, and riders who want to cross the bridge before dawn. Why has this bridge been kept closed at night since the 2004 Republican National Convention? Are they still worried about protestors marching downtown?

Once we finish adding or restoring bicycle/pedestrian paths to these missing "critical path" bridges; then we should look at Sam Schwartz' to the need for new bridges that parallel nearby open bridges and ferries. Right now we have higher priority missing links. And adding the missing paths to existing bridges will be less expensive and more useful than the new bridges Sam is proposing.

Apr. 13 2012 12:44 AM
Paul from Manhattan

What is "road rage"? Seems to me it's in the lexicon connected to people in cars and trucks. I love the idea that walkers/runner/cyclists could have exclusive bridges or who knows? Ride on ferry service with solar sails or a new tunnel to Jersey, unless a bridge could be engineered.

I grew up in California so the driving entitlement is a fact of life there and it's America. I went to San Francisco and it was more bike friendly, and you can get around without a car. But New York, now this is the best transportation hub we have and just thinking about how much better it would be to interconnect the whole city with streets devoted to HPVs to strollers, that's the future, at least for New York. (good luck with L.A.)

Apr. 12 2012 03:21 PM
Jessae from BedStuy

There are *so* many problems to be addressed on this issue, but I'm hopeful it can be worked out.

Where are the renderings of the ped/bike bridges?

Apr. 12 2012 01:22 PM
MarcP from brooklyn

joggers are my biggest problem as a cyclists! They're always in the bike lane/on the bike side of the williamsburg bridge. this is unsafe b/c they typically wear headphones and are unaware of passing bike traffic and often cause cyclists to swerve into traffic to avoid them. whenever i've asked them why they're in the bike lane, they say it's b/c pedestrians are too slow, but then they create the same problem for cyclists. i've had three run into me while i was in the bike lane (going the right way).

Apr. 12 2012 12:41 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

steve from nyc: by that rationale, we need to apply the same standard to cars here: three moving violations, and one loses both the privilege and the vehicle. cars and trucks have no more "right" to these streets than cyclists.

would love to see enforcement stepped up for those cars and trucks now allowed to barrel at speeds of 40+ mph on the "superhighways" created on 1st avenue, houston, 10th avenue, park and other streets. iris weinshall declared her priority as DOT chair the movement of vehicular traffic in and out of manhattan; she got her wish, and more pedestrian and cyclist deaths as a result.

Apr. 12 2012 12:23 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

as an avid functional cyclist (no longer a road/competitive cyclist--just to get around, not pay for the skanky, expensive, ever-shrinking mta options), i observe the rules, deferring to pedestrians, and generally being a good citizen. the only times i cross at a red light is if no one is coming in either direction. this gives me a way of crossing when i'm less likely to be hit by a car or anger a pedestrian. if we had real bike lanes--uniformly protected, not like the sad excuse of a lane on bleecker--and made them subject to the same traffic cautions, more people would observe the rules (vague though they may be).

as for all the whining about "hipsters" and generally painting every cyclist with a broad, ignorant brush, just stop already. most of us are taking a bicycle because we have fewer choices for distance travel within the city.

as for bridges? tolls for cars are imperative. anyone who feels it's their "right" (even as an nyc resident) to drive into manhattan should pay for the privilege (which includes parking). this is the only way to keep the infrastructure intact. naturally, trucks should pay more.

Apr. 12 2012 12:18 PM

"Hardcore Hipsters"!!!

Put a helmet on your brain-dead head and install some f*n brakes on your fashionable "fixie"!!!

Apr. 12 2012 12:13 PM
Steve from NYC

In a city with more than 8 million inhabitants, riding a bike should a PRIVILEGE, not a right. ANYONE who is 12 years or older should be required to pass a test to obtain a bike license and all bicycles -- just like cars -- should be licensed. Three moving violations on a bike should result in revoking the license of both the rider and the bike and confiscation of the bike. Motorized bikes should be confiscated on the spot and the drivers given a significant fine with points added to their driver's license. Most important of all, the NYPD should be required to ENFORCE traffic regulations for bicycles and bicyclists and not look the other way as seems to be the current standard operating procedure.

Apr. 12 2012 12:12 PM
Andrew from Manhattan

As a long time and avid bicycle rider, I consider myself lucky for not being injured in an accident. Bicycle lanes, where they exist, are generally just a poorly painted 3' wide lane littered with potholes staged precariously between cars traveling 50 mph and parked cars making it hazardous from both a car and parked car avoidance standpoint as well as the shattered road that most road tires have trouble navigating around. In addition to the obvious hazards, most of these paths are disconnected so riding with the cars is inevitable. While some areas such as lower Manhattan have separated bike paths, that is bike paths not on the main driving surface, they are few and far between. The only true bike paths in Manhattan are Central Park's 6 mile loop and the Hudson River Greenway, but having 2 real bike paths for a city of millions and the reaction against bike paths and bikers in general is testament to the animosity of New Yorkers against what could vastly improve the city in areas such as congestion, pollution and noise. Please green our city and promote biking!

Apr. 12 2012 12:04 PM

As a cyclist, I am no saint. I often go through red lights, go the wrong way on one way streets etc, etc but, I do NOT do it with a sense of entitlement or to the detriment to my fellow cyclist or to pedestrians. I do it judiciously and with extreme consideration if I feel I must do it!!

This is NOT a sentiment shared by MANY of my "fellow" cyclists. There is a SURPLUS of complete IDIOTS on bicycles, out there!

Apr. 12 2012 12:04 PM
Joyce from Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

Why not a required license (displayed on the bike) for the adult rider? Riders might start stopping for lights, not riding on sidewalks if they could be reported by license number. Now bike riders know pedestrians have no power to report dangerous bike behavior.

Apr. 12 2012 12:04 PM
Lola from Manhattan

There is no lack of respect for cyclists in the city. In New York, the alternative to bicycles is NOT driving, it's walking or public transportation.

People like me - who moved here years ago from a city where I practically lived on my bicycle - have no respect for NY cyclists because they are entitled pricks who have zero respect for everyone else. Also, they're often downright scary.

Get over yourselves!

Apr. 12 2012 12:03 PM
Drake from Hoboken

I hope we NEVER internalize traffic laws like the Europeans! 2 incidents in Copenhagen:

1) I saw a man let his obviously pregnant wife out of his car in the middle of the block and a bus driver who sees this SPEEDS UP as if to run her over!
2) I was cursed by a driver at two in the morning when I dared crossed a street on which there were no moving cars. He expected me to be a good little law abiding Dane and freeze while I waited for the little light to turn green.

Apr. 12 2012 12:02 PM
Will from Manhattan

As a long time bike commuter in the city, I've never understood why more cab stands aren't utilized. This would give a place for cabs to pull over to drop off and pick up passengers, so I as a cyclist don't have to worry about cabs swinging over 3 lanes to pick up riders, holding up traffic by stopping in the middle of a lane, etc.

Apr. 12 2012 11:58 AM
thatgirl from manhattan

we'll never "get rid of" those electric bikes. one way to get their riders to conform would be to license them the way we do scooters, thus making infractions easier to report. they are, after all, motorized vehicles, and don't belong in the bike lands (not that i've ever seen one in a bike lane--they're usually on the sidewalks).

Apr. 12 2012 11:57 AM

Just another steve jobs perspective...
Can anyone think of another way to tax the poor!

Apr. 12 2012 11:57 AM


An electric "bicycle" is a MOTORCYCLE with an ELECTRIC MOTOR!!!

They drive like a motor vehicle with the impunity of a pedestrian!!

Eliminate these things and the idiots that ride them!!

Apr. 12 2012 11:57 AM
Megan from Brooklyn

I totally agree with changing the laws so bikers are not punished the same as cars. A $275 red light ticket I just paid is not a fair punishment in comparison with a several ton car for the same violation.

Being a biker, pedestrian, and driver, I know that bikers are forced to be the most aware and careful. Every time I ride, there are several occasions where I have to avoid hazards. Whether its the risk of being doored, pushed off the road, cars parked in the bike lanes, avoiding clueless pedestrians, etc... PEOPLE NEED TO PAY ATTENTION!
If everyone rode a bike in the city just once, it would be a safety wake up call.

Apr. 12 2012 11:56 AM
Evan from brooklyn

How do you come up with 50 cents for a bike to cross a bridge? That seems exorbitant considering the minimal impact bikes have on road surfaces compared to say, I don't know, cars.

Apr. 12 2012 11:56 AM
mwong from nyc

i love the ped/bike bridge idea.

and also the driving lessons for bicyclist. The other day I had to reprimand a Wburg hipster for riding on the sidewalk and not the bike lane. She said "what bike lane?" I said, "the one right next to you!" Idiot.

Apr. 12 2012 11:55 AM


Apr. 12 2012 11:55 AM
Abi from Brooklyn

Re: biking in other cities: I've spent some time in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St.Paul), and they're bike infrastructure and bike-ped-driver relations are excellent (it was rated the most bike-friendly city in the US last year). Most of the lanes are off-street greenways, their "bike highway" so great, and there's lots of rational connectivity between the greenways and on-street lanes.

Re tolls for cyclists: how would that ever be practical? Would it be like an electronic transpass for bikes? Why would you want to tax cyclists who are cutting way down on car-based congestion?

Re: "politeness" campaigns, I've tried to be polite to peds and drivers in the bike lane and explain why they're misuse creates safety hazards for everyone, but all I get are dirty looks, and told to "F**k off" more often than not.

Apr. 12 2012 11:55 AM
Peter from Manhattan

Following up on Sam's observation that Europeans tend to comply with the rules of the road: I think that's a consequence of well-designed rules and roads. The way most NY lights are timed, it is frequently safer for a pedestrian to cross against the light. If you wait until you have the walk signal, you'll have to deal with drivers trying to turn even though you, the pedestrian, have the right of way.

Apr. 12 2012 11:55 AM

Please ask this man how charging for biking is going to make folks want to do it more?????

Apr. 12 2012 11:55 AM
Michael In Brooklyn from Clinton Hill

This proposal for new bridges makes no sense to me. The existing lanes on NY's bridges are more than adequate for the current amount of users. The bridge proposal to me will simply be an unnecessary expenditure. And don't stamp out the electric bike, regulate them like mopeds.

Apr. 12 2012 11:54 AM
Bob from Staten Island

In Staten Island they should eliminate the bike lanes and force bikes on the sidewalks. I could ride a bike across the whole island on the sidewalk and pass maybe 10 pedestrians. There is very little chance of an accident because the car centric of the island and the lack of pedestrians or bicycles.

Apr. 12 2012 11:54 AM

Great show as always. Sam Schwartz is a man ahead of his time. The bridges are a great idea. However, connections to mass transit are key. Plus Would it be possible to add a small limited trolley / tram on these bridges to increase crossing time?

Apr. 12 2012 11:53 AM
dan k from chelsea

Here’s the plan: all bike traffic should have to go over the Manhattan bridge. The whole upper deck on the south side should be for bikes & pedestrians. Close the uptown lane of the Bowery to bikes & pedestrians, and the same with the underused 4th ave. Then build a second story, high-line like platform for bikes & pedestrians over Park Ave, and have a mile of farmer’s market underneath. Have a crosstown connection from Park Ave to the West Side and East Side waterfront bike paths at the underused 23rd Street. This will make for a totally connected city of bike paths. Who ever said the city should just be given to cars??

Apr. 12 2012 11:53 AM

"Hardcore Hipsters"... oh, yeah, baby!!!

Let's keep the bikes and get rid of "hardcore hipsters"!!!

Apr. 12 2012 11:53 AM
Amy from Manhattan

If they're gonna have a "Don't Be a Jerk" campaign for bicyclists, they should have one for car & truck drivers too.

Apr. 12 2012 11:53 AM
Erika from Brooklyn

I agree that bikes should not have the same laws as vehicles however, the problem is that bike riders in New York don’t follow any laws at all. The laws are simply NOT being enforced.

Apr. 12 2012 11:52 AM
Julian from Manhattan

One thing that strikes me is the "one size fits all" approach which has been used in New York for bike lanes. In Frankfurt, Germany, where there is a wide sidewalk, the bike lane is on its outer edge. There is also often a railing to separate the pedestrians from the bikers (avoiding what Sam referred to in the beginning). By contrast, what I have seen in Manhattan is the single approach of creating a separate lane and taking a lane of traffic. In my Chelsea neighborhood, the incidence of traffic at a standstill, with idling vehicles (the most polluting condition), has definitely increased since this has been done. We have very wide sidewalks in this area (some of it), where the Frankfurt method could have been used. Creating bike lanes and increasing pollution shouldn't have to go together. There's also a lot more danger from bikes, because they don't mind the pedestrian, and frequently travel in both directions.

Apr. 12 2012 11:52 AM

There would have to be a lot more changes to manhattan roads for bikers before bridges would be any more than funnels to deadly accidents. Sam is way off his rocker.

We learned from Robert Moses that bridges do not solve anything; they just create more congestion.

Apr. 12 2012 11:51 AM
Jeff from Brooklyn

I appreciate Sam's recognition that bicyclists and pedestrians need and deserve signature projects such as new bridges, however that is not the most pressing need for these modes of travel. For the $250m he proposes we could greatly improve traffic calming on our major neighborhood roadways, dramatically increase dedicated infrastructure, and fully fund increased traffic enforcement for all modes.

While some changes should be made to the way we approach bicycling and pedestrians, we have the basic building blocks in place. We simply just need need to improve and rapidly expand what we have.

Apr. 12 2012 11:50 AM
Gabriel from NYC

Finally some sense being spoken about cycling in NYC.

Apr. 12 2012 11:50 AM
Ken Atkatz from NYC

I've been to Berlin a couple of times. I never saw any traffic congestion, but I did see pedestrians waiting patiently for the light to change before crossing -- even when there was absolutely no traffic!

Apr. 12 2012 11:49 AM
Debbie from Midtown

Is it true that a bicyclist is allowed to run a red light as Bobby G states above? I work in midtown/theater district and I see about 100 bicyclists running red lights every day at lunch. If I ever see a bicyclist NOT run a red light, I will probably go into shock. If bicyclists would stop running red lights, I would stop disliking them. I was hit by a bicyclist who ran a red light a few years ago, and thus began my animosity.

Apr. 12 2012 11:48 AM
Tom from UWS

The problem is that 30% or more of those on our streets - drivers, bikers and pedestrians - operate under the motto "Get out of my freaking way!"

Apr. 12 2012 11:47 AM
Jenna from uws

Driving lessons makes sense. Not being a native New Yorker one of the first thing I noticed in city were that bike riders do not understand or know the rules of the road. Simple things like understanding signs and right-of-way are often not observed.

Apr. 12 2012 11:47 AM
Scott from Ramsey

Question for Gridlock Sam:

How do you think adding tolls for bicyclists will change their travel behavior? Would the bicycle tolls be significant enough to reduce traffic to Manhattan and create significant economic growth in the outer boroughs?

Apr. 12 2012 11:45 AM
Bobby G from East Village

I've been riding for about a year and it's a great for getting around in this city.

Bikes are not motor vehicles, and they are not pedestrians. There should be common sense rules of the road for bikes.

1. Pedestrians have the right of way.

2. Bikes may roll through a red light if it is all clear. This is actually safer because a bike can get through an intersection without any vehicles coming up from behind and turning into it, and often, a bike can get passed the inevitable double parked vehicle before traffic comes up from behind. Unless all pedestrians who jaywalk or cross against the light get tickets, bike riders should NOT be ticketed for safely rolling through a red light.

3. Recklessly speeding through a red light could be a violation.

Let's have common sense rules for bikes that are safe and fit the rhythm of the City.

Apr. 12 2012 11:42 AM
Steve F from Brooklyn

The advert for this segment uses the voice of a woman driver complaining about cyclists "speeding" along the road, preventing her from making a left turn across the cyclists path. Major Malfuncion!
First, straight through traffic - the cyclist in this case - has the legal right of way. Turning traffic, the woman driver, MUST YIELD to all straight through traffic = cars, bikes and pedestrians. The driver was trying to perform her turn illegally!
Second, SPEEDING? The NYC street speed limit is 30 MPH. This is the maximum, not a minimum. Were those cyclists traveling above 30 MPH? If not, they were not speeding. Most cyclists travel between 10 and 15 MPH, some can ride at 20 MPH. There are very few who can ride at 30 MPH on flat ground, and they should be sent to the Olympic Cycling Team. Charges of bicyclists "SPEEDING" are false exaggerations.
This advert is misleading and insulting. Even indirectly, it perpetuates drivers impression that cyclists have no right to the road and have to yield to cars at all times. It also falsely perpetuates the misunderstanding of the term SPEEDING - as if most NYC drivers even know the speed limit.
Bicyclists face the Goldilocks Dilemma - they are either too fast or too slow, but never just right. Drivers see cyclists as too slow, blocking the roadway, or as speeding maniacs, even when they are riding far below the speed limit.
Sure, you want your advertisements to be controversial, but please try to raise the level of listeners information, and not perpetuate and enhance false images.
Would it have been out of place to add that this woman driver was up set about no being allowed to performing an illegal turn; and saying that cyclists very rarely break the "speed limits"?

Apr. 12 2012 11:13 AM
Steve from Brooklyn

Yes to tolls on the bridges! Drivers do not pay enough to cover the wear and tear they place on bridges and Manhattan Streets, plus there are way too many cars and trucks in the city. As a driver myself, I'd gladly pay a little more to make my ride smoother and faster.

Drivers are not the working class. Anyone who can afford to drive into Manhattan every day AND pay for parking is hardly a minimum wage earner.

Apr. 12 2012 10:12 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Let's see.

- Thankfully defeated charging for driving a car below 86th Street
- Tolls for currently free East River bridges
- Tolls for pedestrians and bicyclists
- Cutting back on mass transit lines
- $12 tolls for the GWB
- $13 for a movie ticket in Manhattan

How about charging tolls based on INCOME.

So Bloomberg should be charged $100K toll per crossing

The people are being gouged. Enough already.

Not Everyone is working on Wallstreet making $1,000,000 plus bonus.

Apr. 12 2012 06:54 AM

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