Citi Bike Ridership Numbers Hit New Weekly Record

Weather or not, here they come.

Citi Bike had its best week ever last week, with the blue bikes handling 867,838 rides, or roughly 124,000 per day, Streetsblog has learned, an astounding figure that is only partly due to last week’s pristine spring weather.

That’s up 30 percent from the 671,000-plus rides from the same May 7-13 period last year, and beats the prior record of 864,559 rides during a week in August 2022.

The new record was set with strong ridership on Thursday, Friday and Saturday last week, with each day surpassing 130,000 rides. Citi Bike only had 12 total in all of 2022 that exceeded 130,000 rides. (The single-day record remains 138,694 on Sept. 14, 2022, a Ruthian figure that, like all records, will someday fall.)

“We will never get tired of saying it, no matter how many times it happens: more New Yorkers are hitting the road on bikes — especially Citi Bikes — and shattering ridership records,” said Patrick Knoth, the associate general manager of Citi Bike at Lyft. “Riders have made Citi Biking a verb for a reason — it is a fast, reliable, equitable and sustainable transportation option that connects riders with everything our great city has to offer.”

Slow rollout. It is likely that all the dark blue areas in this map will get Citi Bike by the end of this calendar year. There are no plans for further expansion at this time. Map: DOT (with Streetsblog)

Some of the ridership increases can be explained by the gradual increase in Citi Bike’s footprint in the city — the Lyft-owned company now has nearly 30,000 bikes across 1,800 stations — but not all of it, given that the bike share system still excludes whole areas of town, including all of Staten Island, half of Brooklyn and The Bronx, and most of Queens. Citi Bike leadership points out that the limited zone also means that the majority of Citi Bike riders are coming in areas where the fleet’s 181,000 members are most likely using Citi Bike to replace car trips. (An annual membership, which offers unlimited rides on non-electric bikes, costs $205, up from $185 late last year.)

Reduced fare membership is also up, with 15,774 people signed up for the $5-a-month program, up nearly 40 percent from the 11,365 members this time last year. During last week’s record ridership, reduced fare members took about 12.5 percent of the total rides, evidence that residents of NYCHA houses and clients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program want access to low-cost bike rides.

Reduced fare members took an average of 238 trips in 2022, which is 77 percent more than full boat Citi Bike members, the company said.

Overall this year, Citi Bike ridership is up 26 percent vs. the same four-plus months of the year, the company said.

Even with the gradual post-pandemic recovery of many transit systems, Citi Bike would still rank as the 30th biggest transit system in the country.

Citi Bike’s success is its greatest challenge: Just like with most transit systems, the coverage area tends to remain static; beyond the end of this year, Citi Bike has no territorial expansion plan, though the company says it will continue to add docks and bikes in high-use areas to improve bike availability (for instance, since 2022, the company said it has increased the number of Midtown docks by 39 percent and the number of docks in the Financial District by 27 percent).

By the end of 2024, the company says it will have 40,000 bikes in place.

Lyft said that since the first quarter of 2022, the company now has 34 percent more staffers for its rebalancing effort, and will increase the staff again through June.

Lyft currently does not get money from city taxpayers, unlike literally every form of public transit, despite having far more riders than another city-subsidized mode: the NYC Ferry system. (On its best week in the fourth quarter of 2022, the ferry system carried 150,000 riders, according to the latest data.)

Then-candidate Eric Adams said in 2020 that he would publicly subsidize Citi Bike to enable a fuller, more equitable, expansion, but he has failed to do so. An email to City Hall on Monday was not responded to (update: until after initial publication of this story — see note at bottom). Cities such as Boston and Washington put public money into bike share, though conservatives often complain.

Citi Bike is also doing well in Jersey City, which was cheered on by the city’s mayor, Steven Fulop:

We started the largest bike share program in NJ. Please see attached the latest Citi Bike JC Quarterly Report for Service Year 9, Quarter 1. A few highlights below:
•                     Significant ridership increases system wide, with record high winter ridership this…

— Steven Fulop (@StevenFulop) May 13, 2023

Update: After initial publication of this story, City Hall sent over a statement from a spokesperson who declined to attach his or her name. The statement did not address the specifics of our question:

“Mayor Adams is committed to providing New Yorkers equitable, safe, and convenient bike share service, and these numbers show that our administration’s support for Citi Bike has helped the system reach exciting new heights. We continue to discuss with our service provider how to achieve these mutual goals and make this service available to even more New Yorkers.”

Truck Driver Kills 5-Year-Old Girl In a Downtown Andover Crosswalk

Last Tuesday evening, around 5 p.m., the driver of a Sysco delivery truck struck and killed a 5-year-old girl in front of her family while they were walking to an art class in the heart of downtown Andover.

On Sunday, the victim’s family identified the girl as Sidney Olson, aged 5, and launched the “Sidney Mae Olson Rainbow Scholarship Fund” in her memory at her preschool, the SHED Children’s Campus in Andover.

Sidney Mae Olson. Courtesy of the Olson family.

“We’re grateful for the outpouring of love and support for our family and friends after the tragic death of our bright-eyed, 5-year-old daughter, Sidney,” her parents said in a statement. “She was known for her soft-spoken style of building bonds across groups, and memorably asked for her birthday party to be a rainbow theme because ‘it’s everyone’s favorite colors.’ In her spirit of boundless love and inclusion, we hope this fund provides opportunity to children who might not otherwise have it.”

The killing occurred in a crosswalk at the intersection of Elm and Main Streets, where the two streets meet at an angle in front of the town library in the heart of Andover’s downtown.

Several eyewitnesses told reporters on the scene that the family was obeying traffic laws and that they had a walk signal when the perpetrator, who has not been identified, drove the truck into the crosswalk.

Police say that the driver drove into the crosswalk from the center left-turn lane on the eastern leg of the intersection, coming from Elm Street, with the intent to continue south onto Main Street.

Glen Johnson, the Chief of Communications for the Essex County District Attorney’s Office, told StreetsblogMASS that that the driver remained on the scene after the crash and won’t be facing any citations or charges until police finish a detailed investigation.

In spite of eyewitness reports that her killer drove into the crosswalk while Olson and her family were legally protected by a walk signal, Johnson said that the police and the DA’s office have decided not to restrain the perpetrator from operating a motor vehicle.

“There’s a need for further investigation,” Johnson told StreetsblogMASS. “That’s just the normal protocol.”

In spite of considerable foot traffic in the area, the intersection of Elm and Main Streets includes two “slip lanes” that allow drivers to make right turns onto Main Street – which is also a segment of Massachusetts Route 28 – without stopping.

Slip lanes have been discredited as an obsolete and unsafe roadway design because they encourage “easy and fast vehicle travel” at the expense of pedestrian safety, according to guidance from the Federal Highway Administration.

According to the MassDOT crash database, there had previously been 35 reported crashes at this same intersection since the start of 2018, including 7 that had resulted in at least one injury.

About a quarter-mile to the northeast, another driver struck and killed a 78-year-old pedestrian on Elm Street almost exactly one year ago, on April 27, 2022.

WalkBike Andover, a local street safety advocacy organization, has initiated a petition on in which they demand new “no turn on red” signage and an exclusive pedestrian phase on the intersection’s traffic signals to stop motor vehicle traffic in all directions while the intersection’s walk signals are activated.

The petition alleges that the group has asked the town to make these changes previously, but that Town Manager Andrew Flanagan rejected their proposals in the interests of “minimizing driver delay.”

Southern California Mobility Advocates Rally for State Speed Camera Bill

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

This morning, Southern California livability advocates gathered to urge the state legislature to approve A.B. 645, Assemblymember Laura Friedman’s bill to enable use of speed cameras to make streets safer. A.B. 645 would allow the limited use of speed cameras in school zones, on high injury networks, and on roads with known street racing, as a pilot in six cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, and San Jose.

The rally took place in front of Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon’s Lakewood office. Rendon has been notoriously hostile to low-emission transportation, and it’s not clear whether someone so cozy with fossil fuel interests would facilitate the passage of safer streets legislation.

Speakers today included representatives from Streets Are For Everyone (SAFE), Street Racing Kills, Streets for All, Faith for SAFEr Streets, SoCal Families for Safe Streets, and family members whose relatives were killed in traffic violence.

As Los Angeles reels from an April 25 crash where a driver took the life a mother and severely injured her six-year-old while they were walking to school in mid-city, SAFE released a new report entitled Speeding is Killing Our Children. The report enumerates the outsized role that driver speed is playing in the current spate of collisions that have taken the lives of students throughout California.

The Speeding is Killing Our Children report highlights stories of several children who drivers killed in school zones – including 12-year-old Isaiah Suarez Rodriguez of South Gate, killed by a speeding driver

According to the report, CA traffic fatalities are 25 percent higher than the national average. Calendar year 2021 saw 4,133 CA traffic deaths, plus 157,737 moderate-to-severe injuries from crashes. The largest factor in these CA injuries and fatalities is unsafe speed, which was a primary cause of 29.4 percent of all those crash injuries and fatalities.

Among those tragedies, SAFE Executive Director noted, “if one could try to say one fatality is more tragic than another, it’s when our kids – the future of our society – are mowed down by careless and speeding drivers, especially near schools.” The report’s authors surveyed driver speeds at multiple schools in several California cities, finding that 65 percent of drivers sped through school zones at more than five mph over the posted speed limit.

The report includes eleven recommended solutions, many of which involve reconfiguring streets in school zones for slower speeds. It also recommends installing speed cameras in school zones, as would be permitted under A.B. 645.

Speed camera programs have shown success in other states – via SAFE fact sheet

Streets for All Executive Director Michael Schneider noted that

If any serial killer, disease, or natural disaster were killing this many people, it would be treated as an emergency and we’d dedicate serious resources to fixing it. Yet when this many Americans are killed by drivers each year, it is treated as a cost of doing business in a car-dominated country.

Schneider praised A.B. 645 for building on successful speed camera programs in New York City and Chicago while adding equity provisions, while calling attention to the bill’s provisions requiring that cities spend money generated on traffic calming measures “ensuring that the revenues go towards a long-term fix.”

We are here in front of @RendonAD62’s office asking that he move AB-645 forward. Too many people die in our streets due to speeding drivers. Automated speed enforcement will save lives. @StreetsR4Every1 @streetsforall

— Michael Schneider (@schneider) May 15, 2023

Though the need is clear, A.B. 645 may face an uphill battle. Previous attempts at similar bills failed in recent years. Friedman has noted that the latest version “has been very carefully crafted to remove almost all opposition.” Will Rendon support safer streets or the continued worsening of the current deadly status quo? Time will tell.

Scooter Companies Talk Best Practices (Though Low Speed Limits May Be Counter-Productive)

Micromobility companies want more Americans to ditch their cars for emissions-free travel — and to make it happen, they say cities must adopt policies that will entice people to use electric scooters and bikes.

A coalition of representatives from the four major national e-scooter brands — Bird, Lime, Spin, and Superpedestrian — shared its best practices for deploying a fleet of micromobility devices at the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ Designing Cities Conference in Denver on Monday, emphasizing policies that make devices easily available, easy to use, and easy to park near a destination for 24 hours a day.

“At the heart of our campaign, is the idea that some changes in life, though hard, are ultimately worth it and can make your life better,” said Christian Navarro, head of brand marketing at Lime, adding that scooter use is a great way “to alleviate the headaches of car ownership” and provide “a source of newness, freshness, and … an exciting way to go about your day unburdened.”

The group says that having a large enough fleet in areas where people want to travel — specifically, a ratio of one vehicle per 500 people and a ratio of two operators for markets that offer between 1,000 to 2,000 scooters — encourages people to think twice about using their vehicles to make short trips.

Moreover, pilot of at least two years and a permanent contract of three to four years allows enough time for riders to adapt to using scooters in their area and for companies to invest more heavily in their programs. Communities with seasonal population changes like vacation communities or college campuses might require more devices at peak times.

“Eventually we want this to be boring,” a spokesperson for the four e-scooter companies said. “Scooters and bikes and whatever comes after that should be regular parts of the transportation system. You don’t talk about the safety risks of Vespas even though motorcycles and Vespas are far more dangerous than scooters. They’re just an ordinary piece of our streetscape.”

The companies must also make a profit in order to continue operations. Unlike most other transportation systems, micromobility companies are not subsidized by the government, and most actually pay cities permission fees to provide the service, as well as any fines for users who illegally park a device. (The scooter companies argued that ideally, those fees should be set at a fraction of rideshare vehicles that emit pollution, cause congestion, and put more stress on roads.)

Those costs, though, haven’t stopped some companies from hauling in revenue. Last year Lime earned $466 million in gross bookings and $15 million in earnings before taxes and depreciation costs.

Most importantly, the scooters and their routes must be safe to use. In order to ensure this, the groups pursued a joint commitment with public officials, city planners and transportation leaders to ensure scooters are considered a viable transportation mode when designing streets. That could include a 15-mile-per-hour speed limit for the devices to discourage riding on sidewalks, mandatory parking areas with dedicated scooter corrals, and recommending but not mandating helmets.

That said, a recent study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that low speed limits can spur riders to scoot on the sidewalk instead of the road. In Washington, DC, where shared scooters’ top speeds are throttled at just 10 miles per hour, riders are 44 percent more likely to use the sidewalk than those in the communities where scooters are allowed to go twice that fast, like Austin, Texas.

“Our results show that restricting scooters to low speeds offers a trade-off,” said IIHS Vice President of research Jessica Cicchino, the study’s lead author. “At slow speeds, riders are more likely to choose the sidewalk over the road. That puts them in less danger from cars but could mean more conflicts with people on foot.”

As shared electric scooters and bikes become more popular, those sorts of sensitive policy considerations are becoming more urgent than ever. Americans took half a billion scooter and bike share rides since 2010 including 112 million trips in 2021 alone, according to a recent NACTO study.

Shared e-bike trips doubled from 9.5 million in 2018 to 17 million in 2021, and riders have been shifting towards using devices more frequently throughout the day instead of just during the morning rush, the study found. As of last summer, the country had 300 e-scooter systems and 45 dockless bike share systems, in addition to 61 docked bike share networks.

And the industry argues that demand for car-free transit options is only expected to continue. The North American electric scooter market could reach $15.4 billion with 3,182 units by 2029, according to one market estimate.

The micromobility surge, though, is not being adequately met with road design changes that users need. And rather than meet that challenge, some cities have simply banned the technology entirely.

When a vehicle driver struck and killed a scooter rider in Nashville in 2019, for instance, then-mayor David Briley sought to suspend a scooter pilot that had gained popularity among Music City riders. The city’s Metro Council rejected the ban, and Briley lost re-election a few months later; a new pilot program of seated scooters just launched in Nashville in March.

Scooter companies say that banning the devices is counterproductive and city leaders should work with companies to craft regulations that make roads safer in the long run.

“Cities have little control over their streets but the truth of the matter is, banning scooters because someone was killed by a car is the same as banning bicycles or walking because someone was killed by a car,” the spokesperson said. “We’ve done amazing work with cities using our data to identify the roads that are dangerous or where riders feel they are afraid so they can work on those locations and improve our infrastructure.”

Steal This Idea: The Larger the Car, the More You Pay to Park

Big news out of Montreal: Starting on July 1, drivers of larger, heavier cars will pay more for residential parking permits in one busy corner of town.

In the Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie, permit prices will depend on the engine size and vehicle weight, with cheaper prices for electric, hydrogen and plug-in hybrid cars vs. all other engines. Owners of the more-efficient cars will pay just $115 (Canadian) so long as their cars weigh less than 3,000 pounds. Owners of any car lower than 2,500 pounds will also pay that rate.


The prices top out at $205 for so-called “clean” cars weighing 3,700 pounds or more — or dirty cars weighing 3,200 pounds or more.

“The approach aims to encourage residents to own both cleaner and smaller vehicles, as well as to use car-sharing services,” summarized Eltis, a European news outlet.

CTV News and the Montreal Gazette, which first reported the story, said the rising fees are also inspired by a “huge increase” in the number of SUVs in Montreal, just as there is south of the border.

Car ownership in The City of Saints is growing faster than the population, up 21.7 percent between 2001 and 2021 vs. just 11.3 percent population growth. The biggest increase in cars was among light trucks and SUVs, which increased by almost 190 percent.

During that time, the neighborhood also saw one-quarter of its parking spots lost to the swelling size of the new cars.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, a popular figure in the livable streets movement, cheered the neighborhood for its decision, both for its impact on road violence and on climate change.

“How do we protect the more vulnerable on our streets?” she asked recently. “The bigger a vehicle is, the less vision you have. [And] for climate change, if you have a vehicle with gas, well, it’s not as good.”

She cautioned residents against objecting to the change, saying that those car owners could get smaller vehicles or get rid of them altogether.

As a point of fact, even at $205 per year, a residential parking permit in that portion of Canada’s most important city is a bargain. A typical parking lot in the neighborhood charges $85 per month, or $1,020 per year.

The neighborhood’s mayor, François Limoges, focused on the logistics.

“Cars are taking up more and more space,” he told La Presse. “The increase in the size of automobiles has led to the reduction of 4,000 to 10,000 parking spaces. “Manufacturers systematically put bigger vehicles on the market, except that they forget that all this has a growing cost for infrastructure. A RAM 150 takes the place of two Yaris on the street. This must be taken into account.”

But he also said the permits aren’t meant to solve all the world’s problems.

“We’re also hoping to start a conversation about vehicle sizing more broadly, for other people to look into this and consider the impact on safety as well. This discussion needs to happen,” he said.

That discussion is, alas, underway, albeit under-weight. Some cities in the U.S. (most notably, Washington, D.C.) are charging owners of super-heavy vehicles slightly more to register them. It’s an issue that is coming to the forefront as aging parking garages groan (and sometimes collapse) under the weight of today’s heavier cars.

But in other ways, our nation is going backwards — the Biden administration, for example, is offering tax credits to purchasers of some of the heaviest SUVs and trucks on the market … all because they are powered by electrons, not by burning fuel.

Some of those drivers, no doubt, will use the savings to pay for … increased parking fees.

Op-Ed: The Killing of Jordan Neely and the Broader Failure of New York’s Police-First Policy

This piece was first published on the website of TransitCenter.

New York is still reeling from the horrific video-taped killing of subway rider Jordan Neely by a fellow passenger while he was having an apparent mental health crisis. The alleged killer, Daniel Penny, used a chokehold against Neely for over 10 minutes despite being warned that it could kill him. No charges have been filed. Over the weekend, protestors angered by the killing and the inadequate response by New York City’s Mayor, Eric Adams, blocked trains by holding open train doors and by jumping onto the tracks. Throughout his tenure as Mayor, Adams has been unwavering in his support for using police to manage the presence of people with no housing and inadequate mental health care. 

This act of vigilante violence has brought to the fore the crisis of how to address safety in public transit facilities. What we are witnessing is the consequences of a profound failure of cities to address the much broader issues of widespread homelessness, the inadequacies of our mental health systems, and the decision to respond to the tragic results with a rhetoric of demonization and policies of criminalization. Neely’s tragic and avoidable death requires that we move beyond the calls for accountability for the perpetrators to demanding political accountability for elected leaders who have failed Neely and millions of other Americans facing housing and mental health insecurity. 

Public transit remains, by every objective measure, a very safe way to get around. But it is also true that these same leaders have failed public transit riders by refusing to provide struggling people with holistic support services, heightening the risk that riders will encounter someone in crisis.

Neely had been homeless for years, and many New Yorkers were familiar with him as a subway and street performer who was an expert Michael Jackson impersonator. The day he was killed, witnesses report that Neely was in a deep crisis—expressing the need for food and shelter and engaging in disruptive and possibly even threatening behavior. The passengers that subdued him, especially the one who placed him in a chokehold may well end up facing legal consequences following an investigation by the local police and District Attorney Alvin Bragg. But will there be a similar process to hold accountable Mayor Adams and other elected officials who have responded to the city’s homelessness crisis by turning it over to the NYPD? For the leaders who have framed the issue as a problem of unhinged individuals rather than a profound failure of government to insure people have access to safe, stable, and supported housing?

We’ve been here before 

New York’s homelessness crisis has been decades in the making. In the 1970’s and 80’s, local leaders responded to federal cutbacks and the pressure to stop capital flight by subsidizing the finance and real estate industries and cutting essential services. The cumulative effect of this austerity budgeting has been the creation of massive inequality that produced a class of new billionaires and hundreds of thousands of people living on the streets, in public transit, in shelters, doubled up, or in other forms of insecure housing. And then when the impact of this policy failure results in increased disorder and at times violence, the response from politicians and the media is to blame the victim. 

Each time this happens it is treated as a new crisis that must be dealt with immediately through intensive policing. Any talk of investments in supportive housing and mental health services is dismissed as incapable of providing the immediate relief being demanded. But time and time again, elected officials have refused to even begin the process of developing long term strategies. Instead they rely on rhetoric of criminalization and demonization describing those in distress as a threat to riders. These characterizations are echoed by local media, some of whom jump at every opportunity to describe the subway system as unsafe and out of control, even when actual crime rates are low and declining.

A policing-only strategy is guaranteed to fail 

The result of this has been both to increase the costly presence of police in transit and to create a rhetorical space that enables vigilantism. It is well known that increased police presence in transit systems produces racially disproportionate criminalization of people of color, the poor, and other vulnerable populations. It is also hugely expensive. California’s BART police costs the system over $90 million a year, 10% of the entire budget. The Los Angeles Metro system spends $150 million a year on policing. The NYPD’s Transit Bureau spends more than $250 million a year. 

In addition, this rhetoric and the inability of police-centered strategies to really solve the problem gives way to privatized vigilante violence. In 2021, riders captured video of members of the Guardian Angels using violence against subway riders, claiming to address disorderly passengers, who were actually going home from a Stonewall commemoration protest. And of course there is the 1984 incident in which Bernard Goetz shot four riders by whom he felt threatened. Empowering this outsourcing of violence to attempt to produce security is a tragic step in the wrong direction by elected officials and the media who are more concerned about maintaining support for policing than producing true public safety. 

But even this debate over the provision of essential services versus the need for immediate securitization is a bit of a false choice. There are interventions we could engage in today to immediately address the problem without having to rely on policing and forced hospitalizations. During COVID the city placed people in dozens of hotels around the city to create safe and immediate housing for thousands. But with the waning of the pandemic, and the return of tourists, these hotels were turned back over to the private market and their residents too often put back on the streets. 

Transit systems have had to bear much of the burden for these policy failures. As public and semi-public spaces, public transit has become a refuge of last resort for many, representing a space that is out of the elements, safer than shelters and streets, and a place to panhandle. This places a significant burden on other passengers and the systems themselves. Our municipal leaders must do their jobs in order to allow transit agencies to focus on theirs – getting trains and buses out the door every morning. 

A different world is possible 

A growing number of systems are turning away from police centered strategies. They are looking to civilian ambassadors, wayfinders, and outreach workers. Just last year, New York placed many of their station agents outside their hermetically sealed token booths to more easily interact with passengers. But these agents have limited training in dealing with those in crisis and quickly turn to police to fill the gap. More needs to be done to create a workforce capable of both offering directions, being responsible eyes and ears, and offering assistance to those in crisis.

Some cities have created new ambassador programs as an alternative to policing to create a safer riding experience for all. Los Angeles approved its new Metro Ambassadors program in 2021 in response to demands for non-police safety strategies. They are currently hiring 300 people to work in the bus and subway systems to help riders navigate the system and to connect people in distress with services. California’s BART system has had ambassadors since 2021. These workers focus specifically on passengers in crisis and have extensive outreach training. Portland’s TriMet system is also ramping up non-police crisis intervention teams to connect people with essential services. In Chicago, community based “violence interrupters” have been riding trains at times to try to stem the violence, calling for a more concerted effort to be funded by the transit system or city government.

But so long as city leaders abdicate their responsibility to care for all their residents, there is a limit to what transit systems can do on their own. Without adequate housing and mental health services in the community, even well-trained outreach workers have limited options. Transit systems need to join the chorus of people demanding that cities provide adequate services. Even the best trained and qualified civilian staff can only do so much if there are no services available to help people in crisis. At best agencies can try to stabilize individuals living in transit systems and reduce their impact on other riders. 

Alex Vitale is a sociology professor at Brooklyn College.

Opinion: Massacres in Texas — One With a Car, One With a Gun — Reveal Two Sides of the Culture of Violence

In the space of less than 17 hours, American news outlets this weekend exploded with headlines about two separate but eerily similar mass killings in Texas. Both assailants killed eight people each, and injured seven and 10 more, respectively. The victims of both killings are believed to be predominantly people of color: mostly families of Korean and Indian descent in the first, Venezuelan migrants in the second. One killer had multiple neo-Nazi tattoos, a history of racist internet activity, and reportedly wore a patch on his jacket that said, “Right Wing Death Squad” while he massacred his victims; the other reportedly shouted anti-migrant epithets while he slaughtered his, according to some witnesses.

Both stole the lives of people who mattered, who were loved, and who cannot be replaced.

Both happened in public spaces where safety should be guaranteed: an outlet mall on a Saturday afternoon, and a bus stop on a Sunday morning outside a shelter for the unhoused.

Both used weapons that advocates have fought for years to regulate because they are uniquely capable of killing large numbers of people in moments: the AR-15 rifle and the SUV.

News organizations just seem constitutionally unable to assign agency when the agent in question uses a car. Imagine a headline reporting “Man Whose Gun Fired Bullets” where the police and witnesses had identified him as the one squeezing the trigger.

— Greg Shill (@greg_shill) May 8, 2023

There are important differences between the epidemic of mass shootings and the epidemic of traffic violence in America, many of which arose in the aftermath of the two atrocities.

Much of the news coverage of the former — which occurred in the Dallas suburb of Allen — clearly identified the gunman who pulled the trigger and discussed the ways that Texas’s lax gun laws and other systemic failures enabled his crime. Meanwhile, many of the headlines about the latter — which occurred in Brownsville, a town along the border with Mexico — confusingly implied that the driver’s car had committed mass murder, leaving unclear whether that car was somehow driverless or operated by a motorists who did not own it.

That car, by the way, was a Range Rover SUV, which is part of a vehicle class that is so much more likely to kill the people its operators hit that experts say its proliferation has become a major driving force behind a national pedestrian death crisis that recently reached a 40-year high. Few articles about the Brownsville massacre, though, even mentioned the national movement to get regulators to address the dangers of these trucks, or how the death toll in Brownsville might have been lower if the driver’s car had, at the very least, been smaller, or ideally, outfitted with speed limiting and automatic braking technology already required on many cars in Europe.

Meanwhile, President Biden issued a statement following the Allen shooting calling on Congress to “send me a bill banning assault weapons” such as the AR-15 used in the shooting, because that class of weapons is so much more likely to kill the people being targeted that experts say their proliferation has become a major driving force behind a national mass shooting epidemic that is setting national records, too.

The President gave no statement about the Brownsville massacre at all, even after survivors pleaded with him to at least reunite them with their families while they healed from their horrific injuries.

Slightly think we should start calling giant SUVs and pickup trucks “assault cars”

— Daniel Knowles (@dlknowles) May 7, 2023

Some have argued that what happened in Brownsville, like all traffic violence, may not be strictly comparable to a heinous act of gun violence like the one that occurred in Allen. For one, the investigation is still ongoing, and police have so far declined to charge the driver with murder, only manslaughter; investigator Martin Sandoval told reporters the cause of the crash “could be intoxication; it could be an accident; or it could be intentional.” Maybe the driver’s brakes simply failed. Perhaps he was even obeying the speed limit on the 45-mile-per-hour road — a velocity at which 90 percent of struck pedestrians will die, but which is commonplace throughout communities where people walk anyway.  Maybe he was a drunk who made the reckless choice to endanger others after kicking a few back.

And even if this was a true vehicle-ramming attack? Well, then clearly the only thing we can do to stop future violence is to throw this single driver in jail (or, if he has a diagnosable condition, perhaps a carceral mental health facility). After all, as the saying goes, cars don’t commit vehicle-ramming attacks; people commit vehicle-ramming attacks. And people who drive dangerously, and who design dangerous roads and vehicles, and who build parking lots outside of bars and strip funding for addiction treatment and mobility alternatives for people who use impairing substances? None of these people cause accidents. Accidents are simply acts of God. And our best hope to take on God is pouring money into the multi-billion dollar autonomous vehicle industry and waiting for them to figure it out.

All these arguments, of course, do exactly the same work as the arguments of the gun lobby in the wake of a mass shooting: they lay blame for atrocities on everyone but the architects of dangerous systems themselves.

They divert attention from any and all life-saving actions that would come at that system’s expense: universal background checks, and road diets, and ending legal immunity for gun manufacturers, and diverting money from highway agencies to transit, and the universe of other structural reforms we could make tomorrow if we had an ounce of political will.

They convince us that dangerous systems are worth it because they get us to work faster, or because they give us a sense of safety should an intruder enter our home — as if those things could not be had with, say, a high-speed train, or a society where the intruders didn’t have guns, either.

They give industry cover to slowly remake the world so that we don’t just choose to pick up the keys for a weekend road trip or pick up a shotgun for a weekend hunting trip, but so we have no choice but to depend on these objects for our basic mobility and security whether we like it or not. And if you think that’s not the end game of the gun industry, think again; the auto industry just got there first.

Sixteen people are dead in Texas. Some of their names we know; some we don’t. What we do know is that their lives mattered, and that countless other lives were shattered when their loved ones were murdered in utterly preventable crimes. And we know that all of these losses share a common root: a failure to reject the dangerous systems upon which our country is continually being rebuilt, and which are not fundamental to who we are, no matter what they tell you.

Velo-City: Where the World Learns How to Build Streets for Everyone

João Pedro Boechat, Director of Cycling Infrastructure for the city of Niteroi in Brazil, wasn’t convinced that Dutch-style protected intersections are the safest design for cyclists, since it has right-turning motorists and people on bikes meeting at a 90-degree angle.

But getting convinced to think of streets in new ways is exactly why some 1,500 delegates and transportation experts are meeting this week in Leipzig, Germany at the Velo-City conference, where they can learn about best practices globally for building streets that are safe not only for cyclists, but for everyone. As Richard Ter Avest, a Dutch consultant, pointed out, “75 percent of deadly accidents happen at intersections.” Conventional, non-protected intersections just don’t work for safety. Dutch-style protected intersections, even if they seem counter-intuitive at first, clearly do.

A cyclist going through a demonstration protected intersection.

Ter Avest was speaking at a presentation outside the conference center that featured a portable mock-up of a protected intersection, as seen above. Skeptical transportation officials from Denmark to Montreal and Brazil watched as the design–and how it works–was explained.

Of course, the conference was much more holistic than just discussions about the minutia of turning angles and intersection designs. Officials from throughout the world talked about both federal and local policies to make cycling a safer, more integrated part of everyday life in their countries and cities.

The keynote speaker was Carlos Moreno of the Sorbonne University-IAE Paris, the originator of the concept of the “fifteen-minute city”–the idea that cities should be built in a way that residents can ride a bike or walk to do all their daily shopping and life activities at facilities built nearby. “We need to reshape cities, develop high-quality social life, break gentrification and have a humanistic quality of life,” he told the packed audience during Tuesday’s opening presentation. “We need to develop a new revolution, the revolution of proximity.”

The standing-room only main hall at Velo-City

The week-long conference includes some sixty breakout sessions on various topics ranging from how to accommodate women in cycling and how to make sure people who are visually or audibly impaired can still get around safely by bike. At the “Women in Cycling” session, moderated by the European Cycling Federation’s Jill Warren, participants tackled important questions about diversity and inclusivity to better understand the needs of women and other marginalized groups. In “The Rise of Cargo Bikes: A Game-Changer for European Cities,” panelists described the various forms bicycles can take to help move cargo, packages, and families. Anna Holligan of the BBC and Ceri Woolsgrove of the European Cycling Federation talked about how modified cargo bikes can become everything from rolling broadcast studios to music venues. But, more typically, the discussion focused on how cargo or “box” bikes can replace motorized trucks for “the final leg of a delivery.”

BBC’s Anna Holligan with her rolling broadcast studio in the Netherlands, from her Twitter feed

A presentation on the second day of the conference focused on how to make sure bike lanes accommodate visually impaired people. The Dutch Cycling Embassy’s Margot Daris showed slides that included visual distortions to approximate how visually impaired people can see the world. One particular disease causes people to be unable to see clearly in the upper or lower quadrants of their vision–a strong argument for consistency in the use of color in designs, since they can lose track of bike lanes and markings that change from block to block or across intersections. “Use continuous paths and clear contrasts,” said Daris, showing a picture of a red cycle path in the Netherlands where the red continues across the street to make sure everyone can tell where they’re supposed to be. She also stressed the importance of having large bus-boarding islands with a channel for the bike lane so visually impaired bus riders don’t find themselves standing on the bike path as they wait for their bus.

Such considerations don’t cost much more money, explained the panelists, but good design for people with limits to their sight or hearing also, as it turns out, makes for safer streets for everyone.

The Congress convention center in Leipzig, Germany

Boechat, the planner from Brazil, started to see the benefits of the Dutch intersection as he watched it in use. Ter Avest stressed the importance of the concrete island that forces drivers to slow down when turning and also improves sightlines so motorists and cyclists can see each other clearly and have time to respond.

And that’s the point of the conference–to show people how some countries that have successfully made cycling an integral part of daily life accomplished their impressive mode-shifts and safety goals.

The conference continues through Friday.

Manhattan Judge Tosses ‘Green Amendment’ Lawsuit Against Two Bridges Mega-Development 

A Manhattan judge has tossed out a lawsuit attempting to stop a Lower Manhattan development on the grounds that it would infringe upon New Yorkers’ new constitutional right to clean air and water — the first-ever decision in a New York City case involving the so-called “green amendment.”

The lawsuit against the Two Bridges complex claimed that the development and construction process would violate residents’ new constitutional right to clean air and water because it would eliminate some parking spaces, and add density and traffic, especially in a low-income community of color that already suffers from high rates of asthma.

Read Julianne Cuba’s award-winning story by clicking here.

But Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arlene Bluth, in her April 17 decision, wrote that some of what plaintiffs fear is not actually a violation of their constitutional rights, but just a part of living in the Big Apple. She also added that it’s a good thing that the development would reduce parking, hopefully encouraging more public transit use.

“The complaint … contains varying alleged harms, some of which are simply part of living in Manhattan,” wrote Bluth. “Plaintiffs complain about a lack of parking (which may actually encourage the use of public transportation although plaintiffs apparently claim it will lead to increased driving, possibly while looking for a spot) before complaining about increased carbon dioxide emissions.”

The case — which was filed in October by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund on behalf of 12 plaintiffs and the local Council Member Christopher Marte — was the latest in a string of lawsuits against the controversial project, which includes towers of 80, 69 and 62 stories next to an existing 80-story tower at 225 Cherry St. The development comprises about 2,775 new units, roughly 25 percent of which, or 694, would be priced below market rate, including 200 units set aside specifically for low-income senior housing. It would also include new amenities like community facility space, retail, outdoor space, according to the project documents.

That’s life in the city, a judge said in her dismissal of a suit against the Two Bridges complex.

The development has snaked its way through the legal system for more than six years, and each time, the courts have ruled in favor of the developers. Bluth’s main contention against the lawsuit, referring to it as “yet another ‘bite at the apple,’” was that the courts have already decided the project’s fate after going through the lengthy environmental review process known as the State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQR, more than four years ago, and that nothing in its blueprint has changed significantly enough to warrant a new analysis.

As such, Bluth admitted she was not ruling on the merits of the suit’s use of the “green amendment,” a constitutional provision guaranteeing every resident’s right to clean air and water that passed overwhelmingly in 2021.

“The Court makes no finding that concerns about air quality are unfounded. It simply finds that such a concern was addressed in the environmental analysis and there is no basis to revisit it here,” she wrote.

Other lawsuits citing the green amendment have been filed upstate, including against the permitting of a waste transfer station in upstate Cayuta, but the one against Two Bridges was the first in the city.

Regardless of the fact that Bluth did not rule on the merits, she strongly expressed her individual opinion on the inappropriateness of using the green amendment to stop a dense urban development. And she said she “hesitates to create a brand-new route to challenge developments on an environmental basis, which is exactly what plaintiffs’ action would entail.”

Her dismissal also echoed the concerns of affordable housing advocates who feared that the lawsuit, if won, could set a dangerous precedent for stopping other much-needed development projects.

“Plaintiffs’ purported environmental harms are, for the most part, the types of harms traditionally raised by those who oppose construction projects,” Bluth wrote. “But those valid arguments do not create a substantive basis for this action or require the city to revisit the completed environmental reviews for this project. As [one of the developers] points out, if the green amendment could be used to create a way to reopen previously unsuccessful efforts, then countless projects would be ripe for challenge.”

She also argued that the amendment was primarily written to give New Yorkers the legal standing to stop environmental harms caused by projects like waste transfer stations and toxic landfills, not housing.

“The construction of these buildings does not evince the same sort of environmental concerns that might accompany, for example, a landfill or toxic waste site,” Bluth said.

An environmental lawyer who is not involved in this specific case dismissed Bluth’s dismissal as merely “procedural.”

“The judge talked about a number of things, some of it does go into the substance of the case, but really what the judge is deciding on was more of a procedural decision, which is that the green amendment can’t be used to bring up another challenge that was already brought and basically lost,” said Sonya Chung, a staff attorney at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, which supports the “community’s long fight against gentrification and development without meaningful community engagement and leadership.”

Attorney Jack Lester, who is representing the plaintiffs, vowed an appeal.

“The court misinterpreted the green amendment. It failed to apply the newly enacted constitutional amendment to the facts and circumstances of the Two Bridges development project,” he told Streetsblog. “She said the people who are suing had already lost in court in prior court cases and therefore she didn’t want to reopen the case. She just dismissed it given that there were prior cases.

“I just think the court didn’t have a complete understanding … because it’s new and it’s never been litigated previously in New York County,” he added.

A spokesperson for the city Law Department said the agency is “pleased with the ruling and will defend it on appeal.”

KOMANOFF: You Nearly Die, You Keep Going

I came a second or two from death on Saturday, in the Bronx. As I was cycling south on Broadway, headed home to lower Manhattan after a day exploring uptown, the Bronx and Yonkers, a guy coming the opposite way in an SUV left-hooked directly in front of me.

Charles Komanoff

Drivers encroach on me often, unsurprisingly with all the cycling I do in and around New York City, averaging close to an hour a day. Usually it’s from behind, fast-passing. It’s unsettling, but over in a flash. The danger feels different when it unfolds in front of you, as if you and your bicycle were filling a 200-inch screen when Godzilla enters the picture.

My riding pal Dave and I were wrapping an easygoing day-long ride under a glorious soft-blue sky punctuated by electric clouds. The rains were gone and people in vast numbers were strolling, hiking, bike-riding, tossing baseballs. Kids, families, everyone out on the best day of spring, seemingly throwing off three years of Covid restlessness. The world’s ills felt at bay.

Up Riverside Drive, across the Heights to the Harlem River Greenway, past the Inwood car washes, up hilly Riverdale into bustling Van Cortlandt Park, onto the stately South Country trailway to leafy Westchester and a descent through Yonkers’s Italian-futurist Carpet Mill Historic District.

After sandwiches, we pedaled in cadence toward the Broadway Bridge to get us over the Harlem River into Manhattan. Wind at our back, mostly downhill, we hightailed it until Broadway and 240th Street, where the wall of cars abruptly began. Sigh. The next two dozen blocks would be bumper-to-bumper.

What Broadway looked like on the day in question. Photo: Maneka Kapoor

Broadway is two-way, with one regular lane and one “service” lane in each direction, the two separated by iron stanchions holding up the elevated #1 subway track and trains, plus the supposedly obligatory parking lane on each curb.

The two of us on our spindly bikes moved like daddy longlegs clambering over a sea of metal hippos. Block by block we shimmied through and around the molasses-like cars and the rusted stanchions, shaking off the trains rumbling and screeching overhead and the air-splitting horns.

Truth be told, it was exhilarating. We kept advancing, now in the main lane, now shunting into the service lane, probing and slicing, not halting even once.

Intersections are the worst, of course, as crossing traffic injects an extra dollop of chaos. I was utterly alert and so I saw it from the git-go: a northbound SUV emerging from the maw and turning left fast, barreling perpendicular across and filling the space in front of me. I was headed straight for it. My hands were over the brakes, as always. I squeezed and squeezed again. The bike slowed and left a bare bit of room between his broad side and my front wheel.

I’ve no idea if the driver ever saw me. Had I been five feet further on, he would have smashed me. As it was, his vehicle brushed past without my even having to stop. I still had the green light and resumed pedaling.

In 50 years of riding a bike practically every day, this may have been my third closest call. I’m not ready to talk about numbers one and two. Only once, in 1999, in Chinatown, was I knocked to the ground by a car — also a left-hooker. Neither I nor my bike was damaged. How much is luck, how much is skill, that I’ve yet to be maimed by a driver? Is my good fortune statistically normal for someone who has logged 125,000 bike miles? Or have I been pulling off a miracle?

Adam Uster wasn’t so lucky. At the start of the week, the 39-year-old Brooklyn father of two was run over and killed by the driver of a flatbed truck in Crown Heights. Adam, hauling a bike-trailer with a week’s groceries and moving at a good clip, had begun passing the truck on its right. Video of the crash obtained by Streetsblog doesn’t show the trucker signaling, and anyway it seems doubtful that Adam, a seasoned rider and a cycling advocate to boot, would have ridden past a big vehicle he knew was about to make a turn. The way I see it, he lucklessly got caught in a one-second death interval, not ahead enough to clear the truck, not behind enough to stop before it.

Adam’s was the 13th cycling fatality in New York City this year, putting us on pace to surpass the full-year record of 35 set in 1999. His death pervaded the week for many of us. Take two seconds from me and give them to Adam and he would be alive and I would’ve been unlucky #13.

And yet, I keep riding. Just like Adam did. As Isaac Zal, one of his friends, said at Wednesday night’s vigil for Adam.

“If he wasn’t safe on these streets nobody is,” said Zal. “Is that a reason to stop riding? Absolutely not. It’s a reason why more people need to ride, it’s a reason why the cars need to slow down.”

Can’t stop won’t stop. You nearly die, you keep going. 

Generated by Feedzy