January/February 1997, p.12


Dear T.A.:

I found out about T.A. when I saw twenty cyclists coming out of 92 St. Marks one night, and asked them what on earth was going on.

Bicycle, light rail, subway, pedestrian, open space, traffic calming and clean air advocates all have the same goal: improving the quality of life via breathable air and better non-automobile transportation infrastructure. Just think what could happen if there were real connections among all these interests (say, for starters, a common publication!) Each group would have a stronger backing and louder voice because of the association with the larger group. Individuals initially active in one particular field would be exposed to all of the groups. Few of us travel exclusively by bicycle, subway or foot. Why not try to combine our efforts?
Daniel Lerch
Brooklyn, NY

Dear Daniel:

As a member of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, T.A. combines efforts with other organizations working toward the same goals. T.A. also contributes to Tri-State's weekly publication, Mobilizing the Region, which is sent to subscribers by fax or e-mail. If you're interested in reading MTR, fax a request to (212) 777-8157 ore-mail to tstc@igc.apc.org -Ed.

Dear T.A.:

In your July/August 1996 issue I read the following letter:

About the St. Nicholas Avenue bicycle lane: I like it! Much better than St. Nick used to be. NICE!
-Dan Convissor

Now don't get me wrong. I am all for bike lanes. Central Park should be closed off to motor vehicle traffic permanently and patrolled by bike-riding cops. The streets between 6th Ave, University Place, 3rd St. and Houston St., should be a pedestrian mall. Bike racks should be everywhere. But I live on St. Nicholas, and the bike lane is a traffic and pedestrian safety disaster. St. Nicholas has always been a bit of a speedway. The lights from 127th St. to 145th St. turn green at the same time, and speeding drivers try to make the full mile.

What used to be a heavily trafficked two- lane (in each direction) road is now a heavily trafficked (and high speed) one lane where the bike lane is used as the passing lane. Having the sprint take place in one lane instead of two has exacerbated an already dangerous free-for-all. The bike lane has left a single car lane that is too wide for one car to occupy without leaving tempting passing space on one side, but too narrow for two cars to occupy together.

The lack of properly timed lights is the real problem on St. Nicholas for pedestrians and bicyclists alike. If St. Nicholas cannot be restored to two lanes in each direction while maintaining the bike lane, the bike lane should be erased.
Lewis Erskine
Harlem, NY

Dear Lewis: We understand your frustration-and fear-of having to face aggressive and irresponsible drivers in what you perceived to be a safety tone-the bike lane. We too believe that lights should be timed to discourage speeding.

We don't agree with your idea of restoring four lanes of traffic, however. Rather, we would advocate narrowing the car lane further by adding a zebra-striped buffer zone between the car lane and the bike lane, as now exists on Lafayette Street. This discourages drivers from ignoring the sanctity of the bike lane and slows speeds by pre- venting cars from passing at all. -Ed.

Dear T.A.:

A statement made by John Kaehny in the Nov/Dec 1996 issue cannot be allowed to pass without comment. In his column, he compares the seemingly "inevitable" curse of "traffic jams and heavy traffic" to the "common wisdom" that "crime in the city would never go down" until "Rudolph Giuliani became mayor." He further writes "...the Mayor...has fought back crime."

This comparison is both gratuitous and false. The uphill struggle faced by advocates for a transportation policy relying on mass transit, cycling, skating and walking stands on its own. It does not need to be compared to anything, let alone an obviously self-serving claim by a politician about to seek re-election.

And whose "wisdom" is John referring to? Whatever one may think about Mayor Dinkins, crime decreased in his last two years.

While Mayor Giuliani has the right to try to convince the electorate that he alone has reduced crime, his potential opponents will dispute his assertions. T.A. should not be shilling for Rudy any more than it should have for Ed Koch, as it once did briefly in the '70s, Nor should it state political rhetoric as fact, even in someone's column. That role is more than adequately filled by The New York Post.
Bob Pfeffennan
New York, NY

John Kaehny replies: Well said. My analogy was clumsy and inaccurate. The intent was to emphasize that New York's transportation mess is not an act of God and that things could be dramatically improved if our political leaders got to it. As for shilling for Rudy Giuliani, T.A. has tried to be fair. We praise the Mayor when his administration takes a progressive tact (a sadly infrequent occurrence) and criticize him when it doesn't. We've rated the Mayor's transportation policies as a D- the last three years running in Manhattan Spirit and have pictured the Mayor as a two-headed monster (with the Governor) in this publication for his assault on public transit.