T.A. StreetBeat
T.A. StreetBeat February 17, 2011    
T.A. and New York Bike Messenger Foundation have teamed up to teach New York City cyclists that biking polite is the better way, whether you ride for work or play. A series of educational postcards are due out this spring.
Image courtesy Daniel S. Burnstein

Articles and Actions

Events and Alerts

T.A. in the News

  • "Reports to Transportation Alternatives in recent weeks all sound like the NYPD is undertaking a ticket blitz, targeting bicyclists only, rather than targeting the most reckless behaviors that endanger walkers and fellow riders. This lack of discretion undermines the type of enforcement needed to make our streets safer."

    -- T.A.'s Director of Bicycle Advocacy Caroline Samponaro on Gothamist. 2/11

T.A. Takes on the Ticket Blitz

How do we want bicyclists to be seen by the NYPD?
Image courtesy flickr user istolethetv

Hey New York Post, check out this victorious triumph of truth over tabloid: With the help of Councilmember Jessica Lappin and City Council Transportation Chair James Vacca, T.A. just passed the Saving Lives Through Better Information Bill. No more hyperbolic presumption in the papes about the state of our streets; T.A. just won a mandate that the NYPD make traffic safety data a part of the public record.

Passing the Saving Lives Through Better Information Bill is a certain victory for T.A.'s NYPD advocacy, but it is not going to staunch the NYPD's recent surge of summonsing cyclists. This is not a blitz or a crackdown or a temporary condition. Cyclists summonsed for breaking the law may be the norm from now onward. At T.A. we have our own analysis of what's happening, and why it might not be the worst indicator.

Bicycling infrastructure is suddenly a serious piece of the streetscape. New York City's cyclist population has grown at an unprecedented pace. What we do is no longer a quirky hobby or an elitist sport but a legitimate method of transportation. Bicycling is so legitimate that even the NYPD, who are so adverse to change they still file reports by typewriter, have recognized it.

But let's be straight about this: Everyone from the local crossing guard to our grandma has been complaining about bicyclist behavior. Every elected official in the city has gotten the call. The tidal wave of complaints has overcome even Mayor Mike's best intentions. Now is when we need to do better. Give pedestrians more space. Make eye contact and smile. If you screw up, or startle someone, apologize. It is not so hard, but it is now more necessary than ever. Bike polite already; it is the most important advocacy we can do.

T.A. knows New York City's traffic system was built for the automobile. From signal timing to on-street parking, not much of the streetscape is ideal for bicycling. It's ridiculous that bicyclists are being summonsed while circling a park. Adults are not required by law to wear a helmet; it is not illegal to occupy a full lane of traffic; exiting a bike lane to avoid an obstruction (like this perhaps) is entirely legitimate. Cyclists being summonsed for legal behavior is unjust, and a massive failure in officer education on the part of the NYPD.

As the watchdog protecting New York City cyclists, we're keeping a sharp eye on every step the NYPD takes to increase bicycle summonses. From grassroots to tops and every angle in between, T.A. is on top of this. Here's how:

Keeping Track -- Micro: T.A. is documenting all bicycle summonsing activity. If you find yourself on the wrong side of a red light and the receiving end of a summons pad, let us know the deets.

Keeping Track -- Macro: Until yesterday, there was no City agency tasked with tracking, analyzing or publishing traffic violation or summonsing data. T.A.'s Saving Lives Through Better Information Bill just mandated the release of that data. Because the law does not go into effect until summertime, T.A. has submitted a FOIL request for all summonses issued to bicyclists by the NYPD to stem the tide until then.

Relative Danger: T.A. is calling on the NYPD to put a little research ahead of their outreach efforts. The majority of summonses should go to the most dangerous road users, no matter what the trending topic is on NYPD Rant. We want NYPD summonsing efforts to respond exactly to the road users likely to cause the most harm.

T.A. Talks to NYPD Community Councils: T.A. Volunteer Committees have been dispatched to Community Council meetings citywide. Precinct by precinct, T.A. volunteers are letting the NYPD know that enforcement relative to danger is the only way to make safe streets a priority.

Mandate the Green Wave: T.A. is calling for traffic lights timed to be more friendly for cycling. A "Green Wave," when lights change at a cyclist's pace on major biking corridors, would make it easier for everyone to not run the red.

Educate, Then Enforce: With all the ways our streets are changing, it's sometimes difficult to know how best to use a redesigned street. T.A. is calling on the NYPD to treat the bicycling boom like they treat all other new additions to New York, from parking changes to pooper-scooper policy: Educate first, then enforce.

Taking a Class with Senator Adams: State Senator Eric Adams introduced legislation last year to mandate that driver education include lessons on how to drive around areas dense with pedestrians and bicyclists. Urban-specific driver education is something T.A. wholeheartedly endorses.

We are proud to say T.A. is on top of this summonsing situation, but despite our head start we still need your help. The NYPD certainly is not summonsing relative to danger. Here's how to let them know you think their danger indifference is a faux pas: Attend your Community Council meeting and let the precinct commander hear it direct; Call your City Councilmember and ask their help amplifying your voice; Tell it like it is with a letter to the editor of your local paper. And of course, if you have been summonsed, be sure to help us keep track.

Until then, if the NYPD's looking, they can find us bicycling polite. It's always easier to protest when you're looking your best, so we hope you will be biking polite too.
For the Love of Transit

Love! If this was our driver,
we wouldn't mind how slow the M42 goes.

We had planned to spend Valentine's Day with a pint of ice cream and a copy of the Power Broker, gluing doilies to the heart-shaped cards we made for Jane Jacobs. Then the Rider Rebellion showed up at our door. A bag of candy hearts in hand and a love-fest up their sleeve, the Rider Rebellion planned to send a citywide valentine to elected officials in Albany, letting them know our subways and buses are the lovers we cannot live without.

An amalgamated army of transit watchdogs, from T.A.'s Rider Rebellion to T.W.U. Local 100, put on their best cupid impression in subway hubs from Brooklyn to Harlem Monday. In response to the recent release of Governor Cuomo's first executive budget, they collected letters in love with sustainable transit funds.

Before that budget had become ink on paper however, Governor Cuomo's inbox was full and his phone lines unrelenting with calls. The coalition of unions, community boards, T.A. members and transit riders that is the Rider Rebellion let the governor know their priority was protecting transit funding.

As a result of that effort, we tried to dodge a bullet and got grazed instead. Governor Cuomo left riders $100 million short on transit funding, but T.A.'s Rider Rebellion staved off the drastic financial misappropriation we were expecting. The MTA says they can suck it up and take the shortfall without a fare hike or cuts to service, but we have a watchful eye in case they falter.

Crisis averted, those heroic transit hounds are taking it above ground and sniffing around some of New York City's slowest buses. It's not all that yellowed snow that's slowing buses on 34th Street, so the DOT is rallying behind a solution to what is. Their 34th Street Transitway project marks the City's first real bus rapid transit proposal and the Rider Rebellion will be out advocating to make it happen. If you don't see them there, you can always find them here.
Play For Your Health

City Hall says you don't need big wheels to play in the streets.

In honor of February in New York, try this exercise in meditation to satiate your winter-worn soul: Take a deep breath and imagine your block clear of snow and full of sun; the street quiet of cars and alive with children at play; week after week, all summer long. You just pictured a Play Street, and thanks to T.A. advocacy and a unique partnership between City Hall and the public health community, the Play Street is about to get a lot more popular.

In 2009, T.A. teamed up with the Strategic Alliance for Health and Harvest Home Farmers Markets to prove Play Streets value. On February 15th, the results of a summer's worth of case studies were published: the evaluation found overwhelming value in Play Streets (PDF), from the health of young people at active play to the health of communities with a public place to congregate.

City Hall has gotten wind of T.A.'s research, and the result is more Play Streets than ever before, with 15 more added citywide for the summer of 2011. In acknowledgment of the active play allotted by a car-free street, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene began sharing operational duties for Play Streets with the Department of Transportation starting in 2010. T.A. is calling for City Hall to take a step further and make Play Streets a citywide program (PDF) in their 2011 redux of PlaNYC.

While in action the DOT / DOHMH partnership is mostly about shared paperwork, symbolically it is an epic re-understanding. The interagency teamwork represents an attitude from City Hall that says the way our streets are shared is directly relative to the health of our city. City Hall now grasps that shared streets are the foundation of a healthy city. Now that's a reason to play in the streets.

Bike Share is going to change how New York City considers the bicycle. If you want to be hip to the lingo when Bike Share arrives, the new issue of Reclaim magazine, delivered soon to T.A. Members, is your ticket to the conversation.

Besides breaking down Bike Share, the winter issue of Reclaim magazine features the words of Reverend Al Sharpton, "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz and the New Yorker's own Hendrik Hertzberg. Reclaim will be arriving in mailboxes any minute, but only active T.A. members are subscribed. Join T.A. today, and besides discounts at bike shops citywide, we will send the new Reclaim right your way.

Bike Month, As You Wish

Furries Who Ride:
There's a niche for everyone during Bike Month.
Image courtesy Andrew Hinderaker

Any New Yorker with a bicycle affection can host an event during Bike Month. A meet-up of fixed-gear recumbent riders; a ride to Staten Island's tugboat graveyard; a bike-themed craft night to knit wool crossbar cozies -- starting this month, you can create Bike Month, as you wish.

The all-May-long Bike Month is still months away, but event registration opened on February 15th.

Organizers who plan and post early always have the highest attendance. Suggest your event today.
The 2011 Climate Ride

After 300-miles, think you can still
make T.A. look this good?
Image courtesy Daniel S. Burnstein

When the folks at Climate Ride reached out to T.A., we admit to stuttering a little. The all-green, totally charity bike ride from New York City to Washington, DC would be the most epic, multi-state venture we had ever attended, but we had faith our members would step to the challenge.

It isn't just a five-day, 300-mile tour from the nation's greatest city to the nation's capital; for T.A., it's a huge boon. The Climate Ride is a direct fundraiser for T.A. and puts better biking in New York City on a national stage. To make it work, we need you to get involved. Sign up here to be a part of T.A.'s team and ride the 2011 Climate Ride to make biking better in NYC.

Team T.A. Rides the 2011 Climate Ride
May 13-17
NYC to Washington, DC
Job Creation

Get a job!
Image courtesy
flickr user theqspeaks

For a place that's unenthusiastic about the automobile, T.A.'s offices are more like a clown car every day. We keep packing new employees into this livable streets movement, and now T.A. is hiring again! From the bicycling boom to Play Streets popularity, every aspect of T.A.'s worldview is on the rise, and we need a fresh batch of advocates to keep up with our success. We are on the hunt for a Communications Director, GIS Consultant and proposals for our CrashStat RFP.

You know what they say about the early bird. Apply today!
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