Dear Councilman Leffler:
While bicycling on the bicycle path on 73rd Avenue near 174th Street, I was
thrown from my bicycle by an unmarked construction trench (6? wide by 6?
deep). My bicycle and clothing were damaged and I am in pain from soft tissue
injury. While picking myself up, a passing car was caught by the trench and
was momentarily out of control, posing a further hazard to me.
I have reported this dangerous situation to the Department of Transportation.
However, I am writing to you to express my anger that such construction
detritus is apparently now lawful. According to Transportation Alternatives,
construction companies are now permitted to leave elevated steel road
construction plates and unfilled trenches on our city streets. T.A. indicates
that this is a new situation, and I believe certainly one for which current
City Councilmen are responsible. I will not vote for you unless I learn that
you have taken responsible action on this issue.
Nancy S. Hemmes
Nice letter, Nancy. Remember, readers, that your city councilperson is the
first place to go with complaints like this. They are charged with assuring
delivery of the city services, like pothole filling, we all pay for. You can
find your councilmember on the web at the NYPIRG Councilfinder web page, www.cmap.nypirg/webmaps/nyc_council/default.htm.
As a T.A. member and a pediatrician, I was very concerned with the front page
photo for the October/November issue that showed two boys biking without
helmets. Even though a majority of New York boys that age probably do not use
helmets we should not encourage it in any way. It is also against New York law
for a child under 14 to ride without a helmet.
David Simeon, M.D.
New York, NY
Good point, doctor. T.A. strongly encourages children of all ages to wear
helmets whenever cycling. But not all kids wear helmets all the time. T.A.
seeks to show city cyclists as they really are. One intent of the cover was to
emphasize that traffic calming makes cycling safer by slowing cars so as to
make crashes less likely, and less severe. Unfortunately, helmets only help
after the crash. - Ed
You'd probably get more people to write letters to everyone you mention in the
newsletter if you included e-mail addresses for the people. I can't speak for
others, but, personally, I'd be much more likely to send letters if I could
just sit down at the computer and do it all, rather then finding stamps,
buying paper for the printer, etc. Anyway, keep up the great work!
New York, NY
It's true, the ease and enviro-friendly nature of e-mail are great and
might encourage more to write. The problem, though, is that many public
officials discount email so much that even if more people write, they won't
equate it with more concern. Snail mail letters and phone calls still get more
attention than e-mail; we hope that will change soon, but until then, your
extra effort does make a difference. Also, many e-mail addresses are not yet
listed in the various guides to elected and public officials T.A. uses. - Ed.
I have read quite a few articles in your magazine referring to "traffic
calming." One of the most stress-causing acts by vehicle drivers is horn
honking. Not only does the driver who honks increase his own stress levels,
but he increases that of other drivers, pedestrians and neighborhood
residents. Getting drivers to use their horns only in emergency situations
would go a long way toward calming traffic and making New York much more
Unfortunately, current laws are unenforceable. When have you heard of someone
getting a ticket for honking their horn? Noise pollution is not yet a top
priority for our elected officials. (Maybe as the senatorial election draws
near, it will become a crackdown of the month.) The solution is to have
vehicles built with simple meters which would count the number of times the
horn is used. Then, every year when vehicles are inspected, the driver would
pay for the number of times the horn was honked.
Some might dismiss the idea as unrealistic, but it is not. The only obstacle
is politics. Can we muster the strength to lobby our state officials to pass
the required legislation? Let's give it a shot.
Horn honking is no doubt one of the most annoying features of city living,
especially in Manhattan. Current ticketing is about one per day. For more
summons to be given requires a huge, organized public outcry. For example,
residents and civic groups on the East Side demanded horn control during 59th
Street bridge traffic re-routing in 1996, and as a result cops handed out
hundreds of $220 (and up) tickets. For neighborhoods inundated with honking
noise, we suggest joining the Neighborhood Streets Network (call T.A. for
info). Together, groups can make their case more effectively. Also, again,
write your city councilmember.
Pursuing your suggested route of new legislation is a huge undertaking
(witness T.A.'s traffic calming legislation, a popular bill that nevertheless
took three years to pass), requiring resources T.A., unfortunately, doesn't
have. (P.S. to Julius: joining T.A. as a member is a great way to help us
acquire those all important resources.) -Ed.