Thursday, December 22, 2005

It's Over, What Now?

Well, that was quick (at least compared to the last MTA Transit Strike that lasted 12 days). One big question now -- will people keep bicycling now that they've tried it? Transportation Alternatives has 5 key recommendations to keep people biking to work even when they don't have to.

Check it out:

5 Ways for NYC to Continue Reaping Benefits of Bicycling

The City’s contingency planned attempted to redress the main obstacles to everyday bicycling—unsafe streets and lack of secure bicycle parking.

The City should learn from its plan and implement measures that will encourage New Yorkers who began biking this week to continue riding:

1) Mandate bike access to buildings. During the strike, many bicyclists took advantage of special bike access rules recommended by the City’s contingency plan. Many private buildings followed suit, allowing tenants to lock bicycles in makeshift bike rooms (often in building basements), or allowing tenants to bring their bikes into their offices where employers let people park their bicycles next to their desks. Many more did not, however. Transportation Alternatives has received many complaints from bicyclists who arrived at their office buildings on bikes and were denied access. Post strike, the City Council should pass pending legislation (Int. 155) that would require buildings to simply let their tenants bring their bicycles inside.

2) Create more and better protected bike lanes. Throughout the strike, the City coned-off Midtown bike lanes and banned parking next to them. These safe, wide bike lanes are a big reason why daily cycling during the strike increased 500%. They will continue to invite New Yorkers to bike as long as they are in place. Once the bike lanes are gone, people will be discouraged from biking. The 21 bicyclists killed in 2005 and bicycling firefighter, Matthew Long, who was critically injured this morning, underscore the need for safer bike routes.

3) Better enforcement to keep bike lanes clear and safe. During the strike, many heavily-used Manhattan bike lanes were protected with orange cones to prevent vehicle encroachment. While this helped make bicycling safe—particularly for the masses of newly-minted bike commuters—many bike lanes and the adjacent parking lanes (from which the City’s Contingency Plan banned parking) were nevertheless clogged with cars, which forced bicyclists into dangerous competition for street space, squeezing them into the path of passing car and truck traffic.

4) Create safe routes to and from greenway paths and the East River bridge biking and walking paths. Traffic free cycling on greenways and across the East River bridges is enjoyed by New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds. Most people, however, must ride on hectic, harrowing streets to access these safe paths. During the first two days of the strike, steady streams of bicyclists enjoyed safe passage up and down Fifth and Madison Avenues, which were closed to non-emergency traffic and, thus, essentially traffic-free. On the third day of the strike, the City reopened these avenues to automobiles. This effectively eliminated their use as safe bicycle routes and, in effect, transformed Fifth Ave and Madison Ave into parking lots. The dangerous traffic and lack of safe space discouraged cyclists from riding on the two avenues.

5) Erect more Bicycle Racks. During the strike, there was only one bicycle rack for every 175 bicyclists. While the ebbing number of bicyclists after the strike will free up some room, there will still be a major dearth of outdoor bicycle parking. In a situation where limited sidewalk space precludes the installation of bike racks, then vehicular parking space should be usurped to erect bike racks. 20 bicycles can be parked in the space required to park one vehicle.

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