October/November 1999, p.12


Dear T.A.:
As a Transportation Alternatives member who also happens to work for MTA New York City Transit, I took umbrage at your claim that NYC Transit has been reluctant agency when it comes to widening sidewalks and making related pedestrian improvements near subway station entrances. My experience on Manhattan projects (the new Grand Street subway entrance and the upcoming 72nd Street expansion among others) has been that NYC DOT is still more interested in vehicular mobility than public mobility. My employer is open to sidewalk neckdowns and other pedestrian enhancements, we just need help convincing DOT that the snowplows can get around them and will not impede traffic.
Steve Strauss
New York, NY

We are glad to hear that NYC Transit is "open to sidewalk neckdown and other pedestrian improvements." We are also appreciative of the 24 hour bicycle access provided to the subway system and Transit's apparent willingness to help place bicycle parking near subway entrances. However, Transit needs to be far more aggressive about integrating the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists into its plans for individual stations and overall into its capital budget. The Transit's parent agency, the MTA, often uses its influence within the New York City Transportation Coordinating Committee to stymie Federal funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects. A good place for the MTA/NYC Transit to start is creating a bicycle/pedestrian working group internally and to hire planners dedicated to making the connection between bicyclists, pedestrians and the transit system. NYC Transit will have an important role in the DOT's forthcoming $3 million "Pedestrian/Subway Interface" project. Let's hope this project is the beginning of a new partnership for pedestrians between the agencies. -Ed

Dear T.A.:
This week I watched a woman in a motorized wheelchair try to make her way up 7th Avenue in Brooklyn. Because curb cuts are rare and inconsistent, at crossings she had to weave from one side of the avenue to the other to get onto the sidewalk and continue her trip. The sight would have been troubling at any time, but I found it especially shocking after spending half a year in the Netherlands. The Netherlands is a cyclist's paradise, where towns and cities are amply supplied with bike paths and lanes used by everyone from children to the elderly, and that bikes are the chief mode of transport for a substantial portion of the population. Disabled people who cannot ride bikes, however, also make good use of the bike paths.
In the struggle to develop more bike paths and bike-friendly policy in New York, we should think more broadly about what transportation alternatives are. We can make alliances with groups other than cyclists - like wheelchair users - who would benefit from a city where drivers are not the only ones with claim to the roads.
Ellen Gruber Garvey
Brooklyn, NY

A fine suggestion. T.A. finds common cause with groups like the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association and Disability Law Clinic on issues as diverse as access to the Tri-Boro bridge and pedestrian barricades in Midtown. -Ed.

T.A. member Jon Hill forwarded us some fan mail from a west coast pal:
Holy *@#!. I spent all morning on the Transportation Alternatives website. You goddamn New Yorkers are so extremely lucky to have an organization like that, with that marvelous a web site to boot. I managed to download applications for six or eight different transit agencies, get info on bridges, and read advocacy articles too. Thanks for turning me on to that site.
T.J. Mitchell
Los Angeles, CA

Thanks T.J.! And thanks to volunteer webmaster Ken Zirkel who keep our site in tip top shape! (www.transalt.org) -Ed.

Dear Brooklyn Marriott:
I travel for business about twice a month, and whenever possible, I stay at Marriott Hotels. When I am not travelling, however, I commute every weekday to my Midtown office by bicycle via the Brooklyn Bridge. This takes me past the Brooklyn Marriott every morning at about 6:30 am on the new Adams Street bike lane.
Frequently, taxis and car service limos are parked illegally at the curb directly in front of the Marriott; meanwhile, the Marriott driveway is almost always empty. This forces me and other cyclists to swerve out into traffic as we pass the hotel. This is extremely dangerous, exposes Marriott to liability, and also deprives cyclists of a bike lane that the City built at great expense. This lane half a block from the bridge is the primary artery for Brooklyn cyclists heading to Manhattan.
Marriott treats me very well when I'm travelling I'd like to think that you have the same concern form my well-being when I'm at home. Thank you for your attention.
Tim Reason
Brooklyn, NY

The Marriott replied:
Thank you for sharing your concern regarding bicycle safety, particularly the Adams Street Bike Lane.

Since the Bike Lane opened in late 1998, the hotel has been addressing the problem you have mentioned. As you know, Adams Street was used as a parking area for various vehicles in the past. With the renovation of Adams Street and the implementation of the bike lane, the New York Marriott Brooklyn has been attempting to keep the appropriately designated areas in front of the hotel as clear as possible. However, our staff has encountered verbal and attempted physical abuse as we attempt to police the area.

Marriott is working closely with the city to improve the situation so that bicycle riders like yourself and many of our Marriott staff members, can properly enjoy the new bike lane. If you wish to discuss this matter in more detail, please contact me.
Ken Schwartz, GM
NY Marriott Brooklyn