Winter 1999-2000, p.26


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
Holliswood, NY
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. - Ed.

Dear T.A.:
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

Dear T.A.:
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!
Jim Patterson
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.

Dear T.A.:
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 livable.
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.
Julius Chakonas
Brooklyn, NY
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.