Tuesday, April 23, 2013
By Kate Hinds
A bike share docking station came to Soho on Tuesday. Camera in hand, we went to check it out.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Hear why Washington got closer to a possible immigration deal but stepped back from a gun control compromise. Then, what you need to know about the bike share. Plus: the latest on the Boston marathon bombings; a close look at economic development in India as a model for other countries; CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein on his 14 years at the head of the system; and why visual literacy should be worked into education.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
The latest info on the bombing at the Boston marathon yesterday. What we know, how you can help, and what the lessons are for New York City and national security. Plus: anthropologist and activist David Graeber discusses his new book called The Democracy Project: a History, a Crisis, a Movement; and why the industrialization of food production is a good thing according to food economist Jayson Lusk.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
By Kate Hinds
Over 100 people turned out Tuesday night for a marathon community board hearing to discuss extending the Upper West Side's only on-street protected bike lane. The city wants to extend the Columbus Avenue lane from its current terminus at 77th Street down to 59th Street, where it would connect to a bike lane on Ninth Avenue, giving Upper West Side bikers a protected ride to Midtown Manhattan. The city would also lengthen the Columbus Avenue bike lane up to 110th Street.
Many of the attendees wore stickers supporting the Columbus Avenue lane, and over the course of the meeting, dozens of people -- including the former "Ethicist" columnist for the New York Times -- spoke out in favor of a proposal to double its length. But by the time the three hour meeting was over, the transportation committee of Community Board 7 failed to pass a resolution supporting it.
Here's how it went down.
First up: the New York City Department of Transportation presented data about the Columbus Avenue protected bike lane as it exists now. The DOT's Hayes Lord painted a rosy picture: cycling has increased by 48 percent since the lane was installed. Vehicular speeding is down. The travel time for cars has improved. But the real benefit, Lord said, is that while total crashes have increased slightly, pedestrian injuries along the corridor have dropped by 41 percent. Moreover, he said, the bike lane is good for business: the retail occupancy rate for the Columbus Avenue BID south of 82nd Street is at 100 percent.
("I don't believe a word of it," hissed a man sitting next to me, one of the relatively few naysayers in the audience.)
In fact, said the DOT's Josh Benson, who was up next to talk about the lane's extension, the biggest problem with the lane is its "lack of connectivity" to the city's bike network.
As Benson got into the nuts and bolts of how the lane would be extended, two facts immediately stood out: to accommodate necessary turning lanes and pedestrian islands, he said, the DOT would need to eliminate about 61 parking spaces along the east side of Columbus Avenue -- affecting 24 percent of the available parking. Also, because of the way Columbus and Broadway intersect, the bike lane south of 69th Street would not be protected. Instead, he said, it would be an "enhanced shared lane" -- meaning cars and bikes would mix together in a travel lane, with the understanding that cars won't be allowed to pass bicyclists. And south of 64th Street, ongoing long-term construction projects would hamper the installation of a permanent lane.
When the public comment period opened, most people spoke out in favor of the extension. School children talked about commuting to school on the protected lane. The manager of the local Patagonia store said "it has been nothing but a positive for our business." The worries of a business owner -- who operates a moving company -- were assuaged by the DOT's assertion that it could create loading zones for moving trucks. Two future City Council candidates spoke in favor of the lane. Even Randy Cohen -- the former "Ethicist" columnist for the New York Times-- said supporting it was a moral imperative. "The improvements in safety are so fantastic," he said, "it seems like an ethical responsibility." But even that impassioned plea couldn't save the proposal.
When debate opened, it became apparent that committee members were divided. The loss of parking was a major objection. There were other, more arcane concerns: if the lane is on the left side of the street, one wondered, how would bicyclists safely make right turns? And some worried about the safety of the proposed enhanced shared lane. "Perception is everything," said board member Ken Coughlin. "If the lane is perceived as being unsafe for cyclists, it's not going to be used by cyclists." He presented a resolution in support of the lanes -- and asking the DOT to look into turning the shared lanes into protected lanes when construction of the water tunnel is done. But Coughlin made clear, "I would rather see an enhanced shared lane than nothing."
Nothing was what he got. When it came time to vote, Coughlin's resolution didn't get the majority it needed for committee support.
But Mark Diller -- the chair of Community Board 7 -- said it's not over.
"The resolution failed -- for tonight," said Diller. "But there's still potential for other resolutions, so we will continue to work on it." Because the community board had to be out of the space by 10pm, the clock ran out. At future meetings, Diller said, "I'm sure somebody else will present another resolution, and I'm sure that will be discussed and hopefully we'll finally get to one we can approve."
Andrew Albert, co-chair of the transportation committee, said the board wanted more details about parking, loading zones, and its outreach plans for local businesses. "When DOT gives us the information we asked for," he said, "next month there will probably be a very different kind of vote."
"We're not done with this," added another board member, "by any means."
For a PDF of the DOT's presentation, click here.
Thursday, October 25, 2012
By Kate Hinds
Mayor Bloomberg has signed off on a package of legislation designed to regulate the behavior of commercial cyclists.
The laws create civil penalties for businesses whose bicyclists fail to adhere to rules already on the books, like wearing reflective vests and helmets. It also requires commercial cyclists to complete a safety course, and revises the identification requirements for cyclists.
The New York City Council overwhelmingly passed the legislation earlier this month. The New York City Department of Transportation is currently going door-to-door to commercial businesses to make sure they understand the new requirements.
Starting in January, the DOT will begin issuing fines to businesses whose cyclists fail to comply with the new laws.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
(Elizabeth Spain - New York, NY, WNYC) New York's City Council overwhelmingly passed a package of four bills designed to give the Department of Transportation more enforcement power over delivery cyclists.
The legislation creates civil penalties for businesses whose bicyclists fail to adhere to rules already on the books, like wearing reflective vests and helmets. It also requires commercial cyclists to complete a safety course.
“New York is a city on the go and we want to keep it that way, but we must do so safely,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “Business owners are responsible for the safety of their employees and anyone else in the workplace ... We must all work together, along with the Department of Transportation and law enforcement, to make our streets safer. This is what this legislation aims to do.”
Civil penalties will give the DOT more power to issue fines and enforce the rules, which previously were criminal penalties and often not followed through on. Ticketing bicyclists for moving violations, like riding on sidewalks or running red lights, will remain under the purview of the New York Police Department.
The city's DOT has a six-person bike inspection team that's been going door to door to businesses on Manhattan's east and west sides. The inspectors' job right now is outreach and education; in 2013, however, they will begin enforcement.
A spokesperson for Mayor Bloomberg says that he will sign the new legislation.
Tuesday, October 02, 2012
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
More than two years after its southern segment opened, bicycling advocates are asking District and Maryland transportation officials why there has been no progress extending the 8-mile Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) that is supposed to run between Union Station and Silver Spring, Md.
The southern segment is a completed, off-road bicycle path running straight north from Union Station through Northeast Washington to the Brookland neighborhood, but the remaining three segments are a combination of off-road and “interim routes” that force cyclists to leave the path and crowd onto city streets.
“In a couple of places it actually goes up relatively steep hills. In one place it goes against traffic,” says Shane Farthing, the executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. The group is urging the District Department of Transportation to begin work on the northernmost segment inside the district, from Riggs Road to the Montgomery County line.
“We’d like to see DDOT pushing harder on that,” Farthing says.
But starting work on the MBT’s center segment in D.C. is more complicated: there are outstanding land-use issues that have to be resolved by the National Park Service, DC's transit agency (WMATA), and the DDOT concerning federal property around Fort Totten, where the proposed trail makes a sharp left turn in the vicinity of a trash transfer station. That is where bicyclists face the thorniest part of their ride as two-way bicycling traffic has to squeeze into one of the “interim trails,” a one-way street for cars.
“For kids and novice cyclists who might want to try this connection, I do think where you are sent into oncoming traffic it is intimidating,” says Farthing, who gave an interview at the noisy intersection of Fort Totten Drive NE and Gallatin Street NE.
“All of the area around Fort Totten is National Park Service land, and there are certain agreements that WMATA has with rights of use to get the Red Line through. So they have to make sure (that) all those different legal agreements on land use work together to allow for the trail access,” he added.
The partial completion of the MBT is not stopping bicyclists from using it as part of their daily commutes or for recreation. There were 11,503 trips on the MBT last year, a nearly three-fold increase from 2010, according to DDOT figures.
Sam Zimbabwe, DDOT’s associate director for policy, planning, and sustainability, said funding and land use issues have delayed progress.
“Some of what we face is a challenge of resources and dealing with multiple trail projects moving forward at the same time,” he says, adding that the Fort Totten area “is probably one of the most challenging sections of the trail in terms of dealing with competing needs of the right of way.”
Zinbabwe countered criticism that the DDOT isn't prioritizing the project.
“We don’t feel that we are [idle]. I think that we continue to try to move it forward,” he says. Although Farthing says he believes the entire bike trail could be finished in two to three years, Zimbabwe called that goal “optimistic.”
In Montgomery County, where the proposed trail would end at Silver Spring, there are also outstanding conflicts concerning land use.
The group Montgomery Preservation Inc. is unhappy with a plan to run the trail between its building that houses a B&O Railroad museum and Metro’s Red Line tracks. The plan also calls for building a bicycling bridge over Georgia Avenue that would block views of the historic railroad bridge. The MBT is part of the county’s master plan and the Montgomery County Council has approved funding.
“The county council, county executive, and bicycling community are all interested in completing the design and construction and opening up this important part of this heavily used trail,” says Bruce Johnston, the chief of MCDOT’s division of transportation engineering.
Although frustrated by the slow progress, Farthing looks forward to a day when commuters can ride their bicycles all the way from Silver Spring to Union Station without squeezing past moving vehicle traffic.
“The ability to take your bike on and off Metro, the ability to mix it with bike share, we’ve got a lot of different ways that you can integrate biking into daily life, but it is important to have the trail so the people can do it safely and easily,” Farthing says.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
By Kate Hinds
(New York, NY - WNYC) When it comes enforcement of cycling laws, New York City is willing to employ the stick. But first, the city wants businesses -- and their delivery men -- to eat carrots, at least until January.
On a recent afternoon, Department of Transportation inspector Demel Gaillard paid a visit to Haru, a Japanese restaurant on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The manager, Jamyang Singye, greeted him at the door.
"How can I help you guys?" Singye asked. "We’re just here to see if you guys have your posters posted," said Gaillard. "Outlining the commercial bicyclists law?"
Gaillard is one of six DOT inspectors, and his job is to make sure business owners know the commercial cycling rules and are communicating them to their employees. Singye brings him downstairs to the kitchen, where the rules are displayed on one of many text-heavy postings. "I’d be happy to give you a new poster," says Gaillard, offering up the newer, full-color edition.
"Do you also have it Chinese?" asks Singye. In fact the poster comes in seven languages -- a necessity in a polyglot city where bicycle food delivery men often hail from abroad. Haru, which has a Japanese sushi chef, Chinese delivery staff, and a manager from Nepal, is no exception.
"That would be great," says Singye.
What's not great is the public's perception of bike delivery guys. Speaking at a hearing earlier this month, New York City Council member Jimmy Vacca said the city's rogue cyclist problem is "tremendous."
"There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not in Manhattan where I don’t see a commercial cyclist on the sidewalk, going the wrong way on a one-way street," he said. "This is a constant occurrence.”
DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan hears these complaints all the time. Her inspectors can't enforce moving violations -- that's the domain of the police. In July, Sadik-Khan explained what her department can enforce.
"Our emphasis here is making sure that everybody knows you need to wear a helmet," she said, ticking off the requirements. "You need to wear a vest, you need to have bells and lights and have a bike that's in working condition and follow the rules of the road."
Commercial bicyclists also need reflective devices on their bikes or tires, and a numbered business ID card. Business owners must provide this equipment for their employees.
Since July, the DOT has visited over 2,100 businesses to tell managers like Singye what he needs to do to follow the law and, as Inspector Ronald Amaya explained, what will happen if he doesn't.
"In January 2013," Amaya said, "if you’re not in compliance with all the rules and regulations – like your delivery men not having their vests, their helmet, ID cards, and the poster’s not up in your establishment, we will be issuing a fine, anywhere from $100 to $250."
Here's the important distinction with enforcement: if a DOT inspector sees a delivery guy riding without a vest, the inspector will issue a ticket to the business. If a police officer sees a delivery guy breaking a traffic law by, say, riding on the sidewalk, the officer will ticket the bicyclist. Brian McCarthy, a deputy chief for the NYPD, told TN the department has expanded enforcement and so far this year has issued 8,959 commercial bicycle summonses. That's about 25 percent of all bike tickets.
The DOT is holding public forums to hammer this point home. At a recent meeting on the Upper West Side, DOT staffers handed out posters, bells, and even samples of reflective vests to over a hundred managers and delivery workers. Department educator Kim Wiley-Schwartz explained details of the coming crackdown to a standing-room-only crowd of managers and bike delivery workers. She spoke about the need to wear helmets and vests and carry ID. Then she did a little consciousness-raising about the need to follow the rules of the road -- and yield to pedestrians.
"You do not have the right of way. I don’t want a ‘ding ding ding ding’ as people are crossing the crosswalk when they have the light," she said, imitating the sound of a frustrated bicyclist leaning on his bell. "They have the right of way."
After the meeting, a lot of workers said the rules made sense. But Lawrence Toole, who works at a restaurant in the theater district, said he felt a little picked on.
"These are small businesses, and what they’re doing is they’re hiring people that need jobs," he said."It’s bad enough that there are no jobs out there. Now you’re going to penalize the people that are giving the jobs to people."
But a few seconds later, he reached acceptance. "But we got to follow the law all the same."
City Council woman Gale Brewer, who represents the Upper West Side, says there needs to be a culture change -- and it won't come easily.
"It is a very challenging job to convince the delivery people and their managers -- the managers change often, the delivery people change often," she said. There needs to be "constant education that safety comes before a customer who wants their food right now."
Starting in January, businesses that don't follow the rules could pay the price.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
UPDATED with Chicago dooring figures below.
New York is dreaming of a world where taxis and cyclists can be friends.
And so will the taxis of today, according to Taxi and Limousine Commission Chairman David Yassky.
"We believe the stickers and video will really resonate with riders and inspire them to pause for that critical second before they open the door and exit the taxi,” said Yassky. “It’s that moment of pause that could make all the difference in the world to both a bicyclist and the taxi passenger alike.”
The message not to fling cab doors open without first checking for bicyclists will be hammered home in a video message that will play on all 13,000 Taxi TVs (assuming passengers don't turn them off first). "Take out a friend," reads the message on the video. "Take out a date. But don't take out a cyclist."
Getting doored is rightfully high on the list of fears for any urban cyclist. When a car door opens in a cyclist's immediate path it can not only injure him/her, it can fling the biker into the path of oncoming traffic. It can be common and even deadly, though few studies track dooring.
Illinois began what we believe to be the first statewide effort to track dooring last April. We've asked the Illinois DOT for the figures from that effort and will report back as soon as we get them.
UPDATE: Steve Vance of Grid Chicago got in touch with the data. He used his access to the Illinois DOT online Data Mart and found there were 344 reported doorings in Chicago last year, responsible for one in five bike crashes. It should be said that's a big spike over 2010.
A 2010 survey in NYC counted bike-related infractions at 11 locations found that dooring (including near-hits) is a pervasive phenomenon with 77 infractions over the two days of measurement, 19 of them on one street alone.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin enacted an anti-dooring law in 2009 that switched culpability from cyclists to motorists for dooring accidents, and added a $40 fine for striking a cyclist with a car door.
Taxis, with their frequent stops and passengers exiting from both sides, are at high risk for causing dooring incidents.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
If you’ve ever seen a man riding a bike down the side of the road with a cello strapped to the side of it, well, chances are it was Ben Sollee. The Kentucky-bred musician has earned quite a reputation for ditching the van in favor of
Thursday, August 02, 2012
By Kate Hinds
Listener-submitted photos are the foundation of the exhibit. But we also rounded up discarded bike parts and recycled bikes -- generously donated from both Recycle-A-Bicycle and the New York City Department of Sanitation.
We're putting the finishing touches on the show now, and hope you'll be able to experience it in person. In the meantime, check out some pictures of how -- and where -- we got the bikes, a trip which took us from the muraled walls of a Long Island City nonprofit to a city garage with a majestic view on the Hudson River.
For more on the exhibit, visit the Greene Space website. For more on our abandoned bikes project, check out this page.
Monday, July 23, 2012
Grant Petersen, founder and owner of Rivendell Bicycle Works and author of Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike, discusses the imminent launch of the New York bikeshare program and offers his take on how and why to ride.
Friday, June 15, 2012
By Kate Hinds
Car alarm going off? Someone park too close to you? Putting notes on car windshields is a time-honored New York City way of conveying annoyance. Now that's expanding to another form of transportation.
Friend to TN (heck, he's TN spawn) Collin Campbell sent us this picture, describing it as "a (loud, argumentative) traffic jam on a bike rack." It was taken right around the corner from WNYC near the intersection of Varick and Charlton Streets -- a place where bike parking is indeed at a premium. But that's no excuse to lock your bike to another one. If you're the owner of a brown Upland Beach Cruiser, please report to the corner.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
By Kate Hinds
Police commissioner Ray Kelly Tuesday affirmed the NYPD's policy about how -- and under what circumstances -- the police department bike and pedestrian crashes. Transportation Nation first reported on this back in April.
Kelly was at One Police Plaza Tuesday for the department's annual Medal Day ceremony. In the Q&A afterwards, he was asked by a reporter about this issue. The question came a day after a lawsuit was filed accusing the department of failing to thoroughly investigate when pedestrians and cyclists are struck by cars.
You can read the exchange, or listen to the audio below.
Q: Do you want to respond to transportation advocates who are questioning whether the department investigates deaths (and) injuries of bicyclists who are not likely to die?
Kelly: What is the question? I'm not..what is the question?
Q: The transportation advocates are saying the department doesn't investigate deaths...(Kelly: deaths?) involving bicyclists unless the bicyclists are likely to die. Is that something that you -
Kelly: We have a policy for accidents. We don’t have a different policy for bike accidents or accidents involving bicycles. We have -- if people are seriously injured, our accident investigation squad does an investigation.
Q: So they would investigate all accidents involving bicyclists?
Kelly: Involving serious injury or death.
Q: Serious injury or death?
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
A report in Bicycling Magazine ranking the top 50 most bike-friendly cities places Washington fourth. In the magazine's last ranking, in 2010, Washington didn't break the top ten.
See the entire list 2012 here.
Then, as now, the list was dominated with more predictable cities like Portland, Minneapolis, Boulder, Madison, and Eugene. Seattle and San Francisco also made both lists.
But the big story of this year's list is the prominence of big cities --like Chicago and New York, which, like Washington, both climbed in ranking.
Most of the changes that the magazine credits in Washington, DC -- including bike share and more bike lanes -- began under DC's former transportation commissioner, Gabe Klein, who now has that job in Chicago (up to #5 from #10 on the last Bicycling Magazine list.)
The magazine examined cities with populations of at least 95,000 for "a robust cycling infrastructure and a vibrant bike culture."
The magazine reports that bicycle ridership increased in Washington "80 percent from 2007 to 2010." The capital city's bike share program is growing in popularity and recently clocked its two millionth ride.
Friday, May 11, 2012
New York City has made live its draft maps of bike share stations. The stations dot all of Manhattan south of Central Park, Long Island City, Downtown Brooklyn, Williamsburg, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Fort Greene, and Clinton Hill. (See here, for why they won't be in other neighborhoods.)
The bike share docking stations will extend the reach of the transit system to the far East and West sides of Manhattan, as well as northern Williamsburg and Greenpoint, which are currently underserved by the subway system.
In those neighborhoods, riders will be able to take a bike share to the 7 train in Long Island City or the L in Williamsburg. Now, those riders have to take an impossibly long walk, or take the G to either of those trains.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show that bike share is designed to expand the transit system -- not for recreation. "So you rent a bike, go to work, leave the bike when you get to work, pick it up when you get out of work, leave it when you get home," the Mayor said.
Neighborhoods that currently have no transit connections could be accessed through bike share. The growing population center of Williamsburg will be connected now to and Downtown Brooklyn, as well as Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Still unconnected: Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Windsor Terrace, Carroll Gardens, Crown Heights, and Prospect Heights as well as the Upper West & Upper East sides. Those neighborhoods will have to wait until 2013.
"I'm extremely proud to release this plan for the Citi Bike network . New Yorkers created this plan during the past six months, contributing time and expertise in workshops, on-line and in dozens of meetings to discuss and plan the City's newest transportation system," said New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.
The DOT says the "draft maps are the product of hundreds of meetings with community boards, elected officials, members of the public and stakeholders in each district, as well as from some 70,000 station location suggestions and comments on DOT’s bike share Web site," adding that the maps have been presented to local council members and "DOT is currently in the process of reviewing the maps with local community boards in the service area."
For the most part, community board leaders say they've been delighted with the siting process.
The locations are on "wide or underused sidewalks," as well as road space that is current "No Standing" or "No Parking."
Citibike will launch in July, and will cost $95 a year or $9.95 a day to join. Annual members can ride any bike they want for up to 45 minutes a ride, then usage fees kick in, starting at $2.50 for up to 75 minutes and $9.00 for up to 115 minutes.
Daily members get 30 minutes of free riding, with an hour costing $4 and 90 minutes costing $13.
The DOT cautions: "Citi Bike is transportation, not recreation. It is designed for short trips and encourages users to return bikes quickly so that others can use them...Think of Citi Bike as a taxi cab: Get one, get there, then dock it. See attached maps for indications of the kind of rides Citi Bike can be used for."
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
When New York Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson and New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan announced New York's bike share program last fall, the intention was clear -- they were setting up "a new system to be comprised of 10,000 bikes and 600 stations in parts of Manhattan and northwest Brooklyn -- at no cost to the taxpayers" as Sadik-Khan put it then.
The system, it was explained, needed to be large to make it work -- the more potential users could depend on finding bikes in a variety of locales, the more it would be an actual public transportation network -- not some urban folly.
But when the system was presented Monday under its brand new-name, Citibike, to be funded through a five-year, $41 million contract with Citibank and a $6.5 million Mastercard sponsorship, it was somewhat less extensive -- at least at first. "It will be a phased-in deployment," Sadik-Khan said at Monday's press conference. "I mean we can’t just airdrop 10,000 bikes in. It will be between August and spring of 2013 that we'll have the deployment of the full system."
The bike share program, it turned out, would NOT hit the Upper West Side, Upper East Side, Park Slope, Cobble Hill, or much of Brooklyn beyond Bergen Street until a year from now.
Sadik-Khan wouldn't explain why, or when, this decision was made. No other DOT officials would speak to this issue, implying that this was always the plan. When I asked Alta president Alison Cohen about delays in implementing the program, Sadik-Khan's spokesman rushed over to prevent her from answering.
But speaking to elected leaders, officials and several sources familiar with negotiations over the bike share contract, a story has emerged of a far more rocky road to a sponsor than yesterday's happy news conference would suggest.
"I got a call sometime last week, that’s when I first heard of a delay," said Council member Gail Brewer, who represents the Upper West Side. Brewer says she was told there would be 7,000 bikes rolled out at first, with the balance coming next spring. Was she disappointed? Brewer, a big bike share backer, was philosophical. "I'll be disappointed if I don't get my day care slots back," Brewer said, referring to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed budget. "You have to have priorities."
When the city announced that Alta Bicycle Share would be operating the bike share it made one in a series of splashy promises -- there would be no cost to New York taxpayers. "Alta will be getting a sponsor," Sadik-Khan said at the time. That would make New York the only large-scale system in the country to be entirely privately funded.
"We're getting an entirely new transportation network without spending any taxpayer money," Bloomberg said at Monday's press conference. "Who thought that could be done?"
Apparently, there were a lot of doubters. Puma was approached, and Adidas (New Balance has sponsored Boston's "Hubway.") So was American Express. "All the usual suspects," said one source familiar with the negotiations. "The list of companies who could spend this kind of money just isn't that long. And it was unprecedented to raise that kind of capital for an unproven system -- bike share on European scale, an order of magnitude larger than any system in existence in north America."
By February, officials were beginning to sweat. If New York didn't find a sponsor, the city could be on the hook to Alta -- but worse, many officials thought, the bike share program could be imperiled.
"It's a lot of money and each company has to decide whether the opportunities they'll have by sponsorship fit their clientele," said Bloomberg on Monday, maintaining he never worried.
But Alta's business plan was confusing, sources say, making it hard to reel in the big money. In late winter, the city involved its Economic Development Corporation in the planning, adding some business gravitas to the discussions. (The EDC is a quasi city agency that usually hands out loans to entities willing to locate or create jobs in New York.)
Ed Skyler, Bloomberg's former Deputy Mayor for Operations (and Sadik-Khan's old boss), is a top Citibank executive. Citibank was lured in.
(Even so, everyone, from the Mayor on down, credits Sadik-Khan. "I never worried," Bloomberg said, "because Janette went after it. And anyone who knows Janette knows if she sets her mind to it it's going to get done.")
Eventually, Citibank was sold. "We think this is a very innovative program that makes people’s lives easier, that’s what we do, that’s what we do as a bank," Vikram Pandit, Citibank's CEO, told me Monday.
Was he worried about controversy surrounding the program? "This is a program supporting bikes, bikes are environmentally friendly, they're good exercise. There’s always controversy -- but on balance we think this is a great program," Pandit said.
The Citibank contract was signed only two weeks ago -- far later than officials had hoped. Without the contract, there wasn't the upfront capital to get the bikes produced. And that, multiple sources confirm, was the major reason for the delay in getting the bikes to some neighborhoods.
Bike share boosters are, for the most part, expressing just the faintest disappointment at the delay in bringing bike share to the full footprint.
"The reality of implementing an entire transportation network from scratch for a city as large and complicated as New York will obviously require a careful approach," said Transportation Alternatives chief Paul Steely White. "The city is working with local communities to roll out bike share with as little disruption as possible. Sometimes that means revising timelines. The important thing is to keep moving forward and work toward meeting the huge demand for bike share in New York City."
Steely White, Brewer and others are willing to cut the city some slack -- willing to give credence to what the city says. "We said we would find a sponsor. And we did," mayoral spokesman Marc LaVorgna said. " We're doing something that's never been done before."
When the bright blue bikes were unveiled Monday at City Hall plaza, there were smiles and claps. And the idea of "Citibike" seemed to convey exactly what the city wanted -- these bikes are for transportation, for getting around the city. These are urban bikes. And they are intimately tied with the city's economic future.
"A perfect outcome," Sadik-Khan told me yesterday. I told her I was guessing she was exhaling right about now. A faint smile played across her lips.
Friday, May 04, 2012
By Kate Hinds
Proponents of cargo bikes were out in force this week, trying to sell transportation ministers from from dozens of countries on the idea that cargo bikes are not only capable of moving goods around cities, in many cases they're preferable to trucks.
Randy Rzewnicki is working with the European Cyclist Federation on their CycleLogistics project. Funded by the European Union, the nine-country, multi-year project is promoting moving goods by cycle. "There's a whole lot of things that can be moved by bikes, " he said. "Our estimates, from the research that we've done, is that 50% of all light goods in cities could be moved by bicycle."
CycleLogistics researches and tests cargo bikes, connects with transport companies, runs a "shop by bike" program, gives cities cargo bikes to critique and test themselves, and aims to be a "best practices" warehouse for people and companies looking to make the switch from four wheels to two (or, in some cases, three).
"CycleLogistics has been a niche market," Rznewnicki said, "but it's starting to mature now. And some of the signs that we're seeing are companies like TNT, UPS, DHL, FedEx, which have active cycle delivery projects." He said TNT is working to create a mobile depot in Brussels that is serviced by cargo cycles.
Outspoken, a UK company, is also using the mobile hub idea -- only theirs is a giant cargo delivery bike. "They're using some of their big bikes, (ones) that can carry 250 kilos, as a kind of a mobile depot," said Rzewnicki. "Because that bike isn't going to go door-to-door." But the smaller bikes can.
And they go to places that motorized vehicles can't. Outspoken Delivery is based in Cambridge -- a place where, according to Gary Armstrong, the company's business development manager, "lorries and vans aren't allowed in the city center between 10am and 5pm. "Few motorized delivery services can wrap up business before 10am.
"So we do the last mile for them," he said. Outspoken recently delivered 17,000 magazines to 430 locations in two days by bike. Last year, he says, Outspoken couriers cycled 54,000 miles around Cambridge.
Scottish bike designer Nick Lobnitz got the idea for his Paper Bicycle company when he took a long look at the trailers the Royal Mail was using. "I thought 'that's rubbish! I can do better than that!" He started by making what he says is a low-maintenance bike with a lower center of gravity. Then he added a trailer. "It's a car boot for a bike," he said, adding that he had taken his with him on the plane from the UK to Leipzig then biked from the Leipzig airport to the conference center.
The bike looks somewhat imposing -- but a test drive dispelled any worries about maneuverability. How does it feel so light? "It's clever heavy," he said. "It feels exactly the same as riding a normal bicycle except you'll be slower uphill and faster downhill." His bikes and trailers are in use in public bike share systems, food delivery services. He said even the gardens and groundskeepers in London's Hampstead Heath park use his bikes to transport supplies around.
Lobnitz says he's not getting rich quickly; last year, for example, he turned about a thousand dollar profit. "The easy way to make a small fortune in the bike industry is to start with a large fortune," he said. "But I'm happy. It's nice to make things people appreciate."
Friday, April 20, 2012
(Cindy Rodriguez -- New York, WNYC) An avid cyclist and wealthy New Yorker has pledged $40 million to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation. It's the largest donation ever made to a city park and it will be used to build an indoor recreation center called the Fieldhouse.
The donor, Joshua Rechnitz, is the founder and chairman of the New York City Fieldhouse, a non-profit corporation. "We want this to truly be a community endeavor that will add amenities for park users and provide a much needed all weather sports facility," he said in a press release.
Plans for the indoor recreation center include a 200-meter track for cycling and a 22,000 sq. ft. field for high school, college and professional level sports such as basketball, tennis and gymnastics.
Regina Myer, president of Brooklyn Bridge Park, said that the new facility would be along Furman Street, an area of the park used for maintenance and operations.
"Indoor recreation was always part of our park plan but for many many years we just simply didn't have the money," Myer said. "When we realized that Mr. Rechnitz had this vision we worked with him to come to this announcement."
Myer said there will be an approval process, which will include discussions with the community. If all goes well, plans are to break ground in a year and a half.