Candy Cranks recently did a Q&A with Michelle Ernst of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, which promotes alternative transportation and sustainable land use development in the Tri-State region (NY/NJ/CT). Michelle gave us a review of recent bike developments around NYC.
CC : What bike-related projects have you worked on with your organization ?
ME : A project we’ve worked on recently is the Bikes in Buildings law. A major deterrent to bicycling to work is just not having a place to park your bicycle when you get there. Prior to the law’s enactment in December 2009, many buildings prohibited bicycles from being brought into the office. And cyclists know that it can be a bad idea to leave your bike locked up outside, even for a short period of time. It’s still too early to see what effect this law will have on cycling, but we’re optimistic. The main challenge has been getting access to freight elevators to bring bikes in and out of buildings. Access is currently from 9am to 5pm, but many people work different hours, so if a freight elevator closes at 5pm, it can be hard to get a bike out.
CC : What are some of the recent bike developments you’ve seen in NYC?
ME : The many bike lanes that have been built recently are a big development for NYC. The NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner, Jeanette Sadik-Khan, is a cyclist herself, and she has been very progressive with projects such as closing off traffic from Broadway in Times Square and creating pedestrian plazas throughout the city. In the past three years, the city has built something like 200 miles of bike lanes. And the city is trying to track bike commuting, which is done by sending people out in the streets to do bike counts at bridges and other places. It’s not a perfect system of measurement, but it’s a start. Bicycle fatalities have dropped dramatically in the city, down from 26 in 2008 to 12 in 2009. It’s hard to discern a trend from just one year of data, but it sounds like good news to me. And I’m out on my bike very day, and I’ve noticed a lot more people cycling, even in the winter. And I’ve particularly noticed a lot more women who are riding. Just the other day, I was thinking, « Gosh, there are a lot of women on bicycles in NYC. » It’s great. So I think the trends are positive for cycling in the city.
CC: What’s next for your organization?
ME : We’re continuing our current work on pedestrian fatalities. We’re looking specifically at senior pedestrian fatalities, because seniors represent a disproportionate number of those. We’ll be examining that data to show that we need to better accommodate seniors though infrastructure, enforcement, education, and so on. Some avenues are quite dangerous to cross.
CC: Are there sources that identify the most dangerous intersections in NYC ?
ME : Transportation Alternatives releases a study called CrashStat, which shows the locations of fatalities and injuries in NYC. Many fatalities occur on arterial routes in the suburbs, because cars get up to higher speeds there. So if an auto strikes a cyclist or pedestrian at a higher speed on one of these arterial roads, that person is more likely to be killed than in places like Manhattan, where traffic tends to travel at a slightly slower speed.
CC : We’ve heard rumors about a potential bike-sharing program for NYC. Have you heard any recent news on that ?
ME : I’ve heard rumors that NYC is developing a plan for bike-sharing. The city just tested a bike share program in Summer 2009 on Governor’s Island, and I think it went well. So I think the city is looking at this option, which would be great for NYC. Of course, the problems would be theft and safety. But the data shows that the more cyclists are out there, the safer the streets.
CC : What resources do you recommend to stay current on NYC biking news?
ME : Transportation Alternatives, Streetsblog NYC, and the NYC Department of Transportation, which has a whole page devoted to bike resources.
CC : How can NYC bikers support bike-friendly initiatives ?
ME : Attend your local community board meetings. Be vocal and supportive of bike projects. Some bike lanes have encountered opposition from small portions of the community. So if cyclists don’t show up and speak in favor of projects, their voices don’t get heard. And support the NYC Department of Transporation and all the great work they do, as well as Transportation Alternatives, and our group, The Tri-State Transporation Campaign!
CC : What is your bike commute like ?
ME : I take my daughter to school every day on my bike. We ride up to her school on the Hudson Avenue bike lane. Then I take the 8th Avenue lane, which is separated from car traffic, to my office. To get home, I go south on another bike lane on 9th Avenue. My commute is not very difficult, so I’m lucky!
CC : What are your favorite bike routes in the city ?
ME : The Hudson River bike lane on the riverfront is a favorite. And crossing Brooklyn Bridge is fun. And Governor’s Island in the summertime is great, because no cars are allowed on the island.
CC : How can NYC riders ride more safely?
ME : NYC riding is pretty aggressive. And I’m less aggressive than some of the bikers out there, particularly when I ride with a child. I use bike lanes, especially the separated bike lanes. And stopping at lights is a good idea. Improving traffic enforcement is something the city need to improve. Lack of traffic enforcement is slowing down other great initiatives that the city is making. The NYPD could think more about pedestrian and cyclist safety. So there are some frustrations, but we’re working on them.
CC : What do you recommend for riding with a small child ?
ME : There is a great bike seat made by a company called Wee Ride. We tried other bike seats that fit on the back of the bike, but the weight and center of gravity was awkward for me. So now with this bike seat, my daughter sits out front and instead of looking at my back, she can see.
CC : Any last comments for Candy Cranks readers?
ME : I think the aim of the blog is terrific. I think it’s great for other women cyclists to see other women cyclists out there. So the work you’re doing is really important.