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Bus Lane Blocked, He Trained His Computer to Catch Scofflaws (nytimes.com)
350 points by sethbannon on March 16, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 374 comments

Hello HN,

I wrote a longer post here, https://hackernoon.com/cameras-as-traffic-cops-99a85513e1e0

I also called in to Ask the Mayor this morning to discuss. He was not happy


Great research, I wish you luck!

One of the things the mayor said interested me:

> If someone's blocking [a bike lane] for thirty seconds while they get their groceries or drop their kid off, I don't think they should get a ticket for that.

Do you agree? And do you have any data on how much of the blocking going on is A) the "thirty second dropoff", B) driving in the lane, and C) stopping and parking for any period of time?

Lastly, I'll add that as a walker in NYC (no car, no bike), I have no fear of being struck by cars. I fear bikes. I rarely see bikes obey traffic laws at all, and have frequently come 1-2 feed away from being side-swiped while a bicycle blows through a red light. Since you're so passionate about this I'm sure you follow traffic laws, but maybe you'll be inspired to take a look at bike behavior too!

Bikelanes are for cyclists. Blocking them even for 30 seconds endangers the cyclists, how will have to merge into car traffic. That your mayor does not understand this, is testament to his ignorance of the issue.

Blocking a bike lane is potentially causing severe injury to a bicyclist, as now your car is blocking their path and they could end up smashing into your illicitly parked vehicle.

I've had friends end up going through the rear windshields of cars, getting doored, etc here in Seattle, so even though I don't bike, I make a point to go and harass people illegally parked in bike lanes (which is really common north of the ship canal).

What if a bike can't stop in time coming down the hill? They're going to likely get horribly injured due to your illegal parking job. The bike lane is for bikes exclusively, even in the suburbs.

Failure to control speed is a moving violation and should be ticketed appropriately. What if a person is crossing the street and, according to you, a bike would be potentially unable to stop?

Any vehicle on the road has a legal obligation to operate their vehicle safely and lawfully — that means a bike ought never be unable to stop in time.

Some person could get horribly injured due to a bicyclist failing to control speed.

> Any vehicle on the road has a legal obligation to operate their vehicle safely and lawfully — that means a bike ought never be unable to stop in time.

Would you make the same argument about leaving unmarked construction equipment behind blind curves on the freeway?

Blocking or unexpectedly merging into downhill bike lanes in the city is similarly bad.

Coming down a hill at 20Mph in a bike lane that should be at least partially clear on a wet day (very common in Seattle) is perfectly legal. Running into a large unexpected object in the path is hardly the cyclists fault.

> perfectly legal

Well, not necessarily.

If your reflexes are good enough, and your brakes are good enough, and your tires are good enough, that you can safely stop a bike going 20mph on a wet downhill section, then yes; you are still in control of your vehicle and operating at a safe speed. No legal problems there.

But maybe your reflexes aren't that good because you haven't had coffee yet. Or maybe your brakes are worn down. Or maybe you're on crazy thin road tires that have effectively no traction going downhill in the rain. Or some combination of all three.

The point being, if it's not physically possible for you to stop that bike in whatever time interval is required, are you really operating that vehicle safely? Probably not.

And to the extent that you're legally required to operate at a safe speed and maintain control of your vehicle, your behavior would no longer be "perfectly legal."

So 20 mph + downhill + wet roads may very well be illegal for some combinations of cyclist and bicycle but not others. It seems premature to declare that perfectly legal in all cases.

I tried telling that to the insurance agency when I rear-ended a car that suddenly stopped in front of me. It didn't work.

Someone suddenly stopping shouldn't be unexpected, nor is it necessarily against the rules of the road. Hacker News is fun and all but consistently gets beaten by 15 seconds of googling e.g. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/28/nyregion/double-parking-i...

If you can't see whether there's a large object in your path within time to stop, you're going too fast. There could be a fallen or slow bicyclist in the lane.

This is so obviously, indisputably true. How can anyone be downvoting?

You’ve clearly never been going downhill on a bike and had someone illegally stop their car or pull out in front of you. Bikes take more distance to stop than cars.

You've clearly never considered the necessity of matching your speed to conditions and surroundings and whatever surprises they may hold.

I have. For close on fourty years of much cycling and driving. Which may be a contributing factor in my never having suffered an accident.

No, it's always their fault. /s

That’s the point. People in cars have to be able to avoid objects in front of them (whether that’s drivers suddenly stopping or other obstructions) and so do bicyclists.

now your car is blocking their path and they could end up smashing into your illicitly parked vehicle. I've had friends end up going through the rear windshields of cars

I agree with the arguments about moving cars pulling into the bike lane, doors opening, etc, BUT if you can't avoid smashing your bike into a parked car with enough force to go through the rear window, then you definitely aren't skilled or responsible enough to be riding in the city.

Would you feel the same about a driver hitting a car parked on the freeway?

Of course. My belief is that if you ram your car into a stationary object, regardless of the conditions, you're at fault. Either you weren't paying attention or you were driving too fast for conditions.

Thanks for the consistency.

It would be instructive if more people took motorcycle safety training. They really emphasized that you should ride as though there could be a dropped load of concrete, boulder, or pothole around every corner, every blind hill, or every car, and stop accordingly.

I think this is mostly because the consequence of hitting debris is much more likely to be fatal on a motorcycle, but it would be good advice for anyone, really.

Exactly. Because one time there will be such a surprise object in your way.

You should see the driving and biking conditions in Seattle. Expecting a bike to stop on a dime when coming down a hill just after it rains is wholly unrealistic.

First, I don't understand why you need to "stop on a dime" to avoid a stationary object ahead?

Second, a huge part of safely operating any vehicle in an environment (especially a chaotic one you share with cars, bikes, and pedestrians) is awareness of your surroundings and the ability to avoid collisions. This is seriously driving / biking 101.

If you are zooming around on your bike and just thinking "hope no objects / people / cars are sitting stationary in my way because there's no way I can stop and I'll definitely hit them", then you're a dangerous menace.

s/bike/car and good luck in court. "But I couldn't stop! The road was wet!"

Maybe you shouldn't be cycling in Seattle then?

I think you are making the wrong argument here. A bicyclist should have control of their bike. If there is injury involved, that is on the cyclist. (Dooring is another issue.)

But I think the problem becomes very clear if you allow another car to pull up next to the one in the bike lane and stop in the middle of the lane to berate the first car. Just for 30 seconds or so. If somebody rear-ended that car, the person in the moving vehicle should get a ticket. But what should be the consequence to the person stopped in the middle of the lane? Would the mayor be so casual to "30 second" stops if car lanes were blocked by parked cars 40% of the time?

I once had to go around a car stopped in a bike lane, slid and fell badly while trying to re-enter the somewhat elevated bike lane (about two inches from the road - it's like a red painted sidewalk, two feet wide, with a bevel on the edge). The driver was inside the car having a phone conversation, so he was probably stopped there for just 30 seconds - enough to cause a bicycle accident.

You could have, you know, stopped and waited for the car to start moving. As cars do when blocked.

A post elsewhere hear said it already, but it’s my experience too: cyclist break laws constantly, due to apparent feeling of entitlement to keep moving fast, regardless of the traffic, lights etc. the thought of just stopping safely for a few seconds didn’t even cross your mind in the situation.

No. Sorry. They did not cause an accident. It is important that your understand this.

Note that I am not sympathetic to the driver of the car. They probably deserve criticism, but not blame for your slide. I know that you want to blame somebody that is not yourself. That's human. But when any pedestrian, bike, car, airplane, drone, skateboard, etc. runs into a stationary pedestrian, bike, car, airplane, drone, skateboard, house, fence, animal, etc. it is almost certainly the fault of the moving object's operator.

In your case, you failed to change lanes safely. It sounds like you really blame the lane design for having a bevel between lanes. It's interesting to me that the bevel probably has almost zero effect on cars/trucks but a significant effect on bikes. That seems like a bike-hostile design. The fact that it is only two feet wide seems questionable to me. A slow-moving bike would also encourage you to change lanes, navigating the bevel twice.

So by the same logic, if you stop your car in the middle of the highway and someone slides into the parapet after going around it, you did not cause an accident?

I agree with the bike hostile design part. Navigating the bevel downwards is not a problem. Navigating it upwards at a steep angle of attack is.


> As for getting doored, well, how are motor vehicles avoiding this? Oh, right, by WATCHING WHAT'S GOING ON.

Motor vehicle drivers don't have to worry much about being doored, as they're way more visible and it isn't life-threatening for them if it does happen. The person opening the door is way more likely to be injured in such a scenario than the driver of the oncoming vehicle.

Also, if we biked the same way we drove cars, that is, in the middle of a full lane, then we wouldn't be at risk of being doored either. I do that on occasion as necessary, but you would not believe how furious drivers get when they're stuck behind a cyclist going much slower than them that they cannot pass.

How about this -- You can make it the cyclists' fault if and only if you can get all drivers to be OK with cyclists taking full lanes of traffic, away from all car doors. This will likely reduce the max speed of vehicle traffic to around 12 mph.

NYC has a law requiring cyclists to stay in the bike lane if one is present. Only more civilized cities (like Boston ;) allow bikes to take the full lane. Although traffic moves so slowly there's rarely a point unless the bike lane is blocked.


You're missing the point, which is that bike lanes are frequently in door zones whereas main travel lanes are not (because they are much wider and have more buffer zone).

"Also, if we biked the same way we drove cars, that is, in the middle of a full lane, then we wouldn't be at risk of being doored either."

That's exactly how I ride, it's called the primary position and in the uk it's what the government recommend.

Drivers lose their shit here if you do that and hold them up. I do it anyway as necessary in more unsafe segments of road.

Drivers lose their shit everywhere.


Unless they're going to murder you I suspect you're still safer.

I ride a motorcycle and I like breathing.

The other day I was riding down a normal surface street in Seattle and a parked late model Camaro with black windows started its engine and pulled out from the curb in a few seconds. There was no angle that would have allowed me to see if this car was occupied.

I was able to stop in time and avoid an accident but if I had not reacted I would have ended up on his roof. In your opinion was I in the wrong?

You don't sound willing to give cyclists any support when you condemn the entire group for the actions of a few and disregard legitimate threats to their safety.

No, you practiced safely operating your motorcycle. More should be as responsible.

I've always been willing to support cyclists but cannot ignore the staggering number of them that completely disregard traffic laws on a near constant basis. And then come online and winge about the risks TO THEM while ignoring the risks THEY impose on others. In the name of what, being able to maintain their momentum? Sure, I'd love to do the same, yet abiding by traffic laws is a bit more valuable that my selfish desires.

Downvote all you like but understand you're downvoting someone that does cycle and has a lot of respect for the challenges presented doing so in an urban environment. You're downvoting someone that favors the activity but has taken the time to point out you're being pompous assholes QUITE a lot of the time when you're out and about on two wheels.

How do you know I am a pompous asshole quite a lot of the time? How do you know if and why I downvoted you?

You seem to be angry at an entire class of people which is unfair to individuals. Your bias strikes me as dangerous.

The bike lane is entirely within a door-length. Cars are already on both sides (parked on one side, driving on the other), so cyclists often have nowhere to go. Drivers and passengers being unaware of cyclists is not the cyclists' fault!

A public awareness campaign of the Dutch Reach could help a lot. https://99percentinvisible.org/article/dutch-reach-clever-wo...

As could penalties for endangering fellow road users.

The mayor's view is consistent the engineering rationals for bikelanes. Bikelanes are for cars. Not in the sense that cars are meant to drive in bikelanes. In the sense that bikelanes exist to relegate bicycles to second class road use for the sake avoiding inconvenience to motorists. Ticketing cars for standing in bikelanes would inconvenience motorists.

Roads are mostly 2D which prevents such simple rules from working. If nothing else people and cars need to pass bike lanes at intersections.

On top of that almost every bike lane I have seen has had parking one side with the only way to park a car is for the car to also use the bike lane. EX: 3rd google image for bike lanes: https://bikesiliconvalley.org/wp-content/uploads/Veterans-Bl...

Going 3d with dedicated bike skyways can solve this problem, but bikes are 3rd/4th class citizens in most places because they get a relatively small fraction of overall transportation. (Cars, walking, subways or other public transit, then biking.)

Crossing a bike lane isn't the same as stopping in it. You can check that there aren't any bikes in the bike lane before crossing it to park. You can't check that there won't be any bikes in the lane for the next 30 seconds before stopping to load some groceries.

Parallel parking takes most people a while. Bikers can easily show up in that timeframe.

Good point. I guess bicyclists just have to stop and wait like a driver would on a street without a bike lane. We accept that but not double-parking.

I believe the biggest problem is due to the design of bike lanes. They are often narrow and squeezed between car lanes and car parking. Due to this design bike lanes are also more often subject to being blocked by construction and forced to merge with car traffic. The visibility on bike lanes are way poorer than regular car lanes due to the above factors. In cities you also have to deal with the loading and unloading of goods. This means large, tall vehicles blocking the sight and often crates and people moving in your lane.

How often do you experience your whole lane blocked by the content of a whole appartement?

In Stockholm where I live snow, and ice make bike lanes hard to see and also makes them inaccessible.

I really agree that you shouldn't keep a speed where you can't control your vehicle, but so common design flaw puts an unreasonable amount of responsibility on the biker compared to heavier vehicles misusing the bike lane.

> Bikelanes are for cyclists

As a regular biker in NYC I would agree. But there is a cultural gap that we have not bridged yet. NYC was designed for cars (as were most cities in America). The biking ecosystem has made huge strides in NYC in the last decade - from CitiBikes, to dedicated bike lanes, to the massive increase in daily bikers.

It's pretty difficult to argue that NYC was "designed for cars" in the same way as Houston when much of it was designed in the pre-car era. See for instance Manhattan's street grid designed in the 1800s, and large parts of the other boroughs. It's true that parts were REdesigned for cars to some extent, taking away street space, adding highways, etc.

Source: researching my ancestors' addresses in NYC from 1880 onward and seeing how many of the streets from then still exist now.

(Re biking in NYC, it's great to see the changes.)

It's not that simple. In most cities cars are supposed to merge into unprotected bike lanes when turning right. This is safer for everyone.

Not sure where your at, but this is generally considered poor road design, and even on 2 lane streets you'll add a bike box to keep drivers separated from bikes. Having 2 ton boxes of metal and glass interact with bikers unpredictably is risky!

I'm only familiar with this on the west coast, but yes, you're usually required to merge into the bike lane to turn right.

Here's an image: http://www.sfbike.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Right-Turn....

From CA directly: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/pubs/hdbk/turns

> To make a right turn, drive close to the right edge of the road. If there is a bike lane, drive into the bike lane no more than 200 feet before the turn.

This is also true in Washington State. Not sure about Oregon.

Up here in Seattle, SDOT got rid of this style of bike lane over the past few years. Outlying suburbs keep the edge of the bike lane solid at turns (not like the dashing shown). Portland has gone the same direction, separating bicyclists from drivers as much as possible.

Having spent some time in Cali, I very much appreciate our infrastructure up here. Lots of law and order type politics down there, but when it comes to actual issues like public health, its given nary a glance till upper middle class people are dying.

In Oregon, moving into the bike lane to make a turn will get you a ticket. I see people do it pretty often however, and I have only ever known one person who got caught.

Which COMPLETELY ignore the recklessness continuously perpetrated by the CYCLISTS. There's no endangering here, certainly not at the speeds the cyclists should be operating their bikes in a congested situation.

How fast do you really think they are going? 15 mph is a pretty good clip on a recreational (non-racing-style) bike. Most people I’ve run across are doing 12-15 tops.

I don’t notice any complaint in your post about how cars are flying along recklessly at more than twice that speed.

When I regularly rode in London I'd do 7.4 miles in 35 minutes on a Brompton, average of 12.5mph, but factor in red lights, hills etc and peak speed must have been 20.

Sure, on downhills I expect you’re getting up to 25 mph or more.

Whataboutism. A wrong by one side does not excuse a wrong by the other.

> I have no fear of being struck by cars. I fear bikes.

Piling more anecdata into the pile, I've got two things to offer:

1. I'm worried about both; I've been almost hit by both, my wife's been dinged a bit by a car while walking.

2. As a biker, I also worry about hitting pedestrians - because they're so often blundering out into the bike lane or the street without looking. Granted, a bike is more difficult to see than a car - partially because people aren't really used to looking for them - but still.

Just like cars, bikes have a responsibility to look out for pedestrians and other vehicles and avoid hitting them. At the end of the day, you can try to blame a pedestrian for "blundering out" but you will be the one getting the fine because as the vehicle you are the one posing the biggest threat.

Also, as the op pointed out, bikers are largely ignorant or disrespectful of the law. If it's a red light and a bike blows through it, is it really the pedestrians that are the problem for not watching for illegal bikes?

Similarly, for cars turning or other traffic backups, other cars have to deal with this all the time. You stop and don't hit them and wait for the road block to clear. Sometimes traffic jams happen. If you can't stop in time you are going too fast for your vehicle and conditions. Cars accept this, but I've seen dozens and dozens of bikers both not knowing the rules of the road and/or getting irate at regular traffic thinking that somehow they are more special and deserve everyone getting out of their way in a jam.

> Just like cars, bikes have a responsibility to look out for pedestrians and other vehicles and avoid hitting them.

If, as a pedestrian, you dart out in front of a car or a cyclist going at legal speeds, and there isn't room to swerve to avoid you, you're going to get hit. Period. Physics is inviolable on this count. Stopping distances are what they are.

You could just set citywide speed limits of 5 mph to decrease stopping distances enough to allow vehicles to avoid darting pedestrians, or pedestrians could just not step out in front of vehicles that have the right of way.

It's really not hard to, as a pedestrian, upon reaching a road or bikeway, look for oncoming traffic and yield to it if they have the right-of-way. If you insist on stepping in front of oncoming traffic and you get hit, that's on you.

> or pedestrians could just not step out in front of vehicles that have the right of way

Please note that in my original comment I was talking about bicycles which do not have the right of way, because they are going through a red light while pedestrians have the walk signal.

I was quite serious when I said "I rarely see bikes obey traffic laws at all". If you live in NYC you know what I'm talking about. They fly through red lights and stop signs putting themselves and others at great risk.

Bicycles are the reason that I carefully look both directions, usually twice, even when I have the walk signal when crossing the street.

When I was blundering about in Amsterdam I was very pleased to note that all the cyclists had bells on their bikes which they would ring when pedestrians were around, or clackers on the spokes so I could hear them coming. The sound of a bike bell became very recognisable very fast.

I can hear cars coming because they make a lot of road noise, bikes are ghostly quiet.

Yes pedestrians should be more vigilant.

In my country a bike bell is mandaded by law on all bikes using public roads, altough it's not really enforced. All of my bikes are equipped with one, even the mountain bike. Pedestrians are not that used to bike bells and about 20%, especially the elderly can't hear it or choose to ignore you. People with kids on the other hand are always vigilant.

> Just like cars, bikes have a responsibility to look out for pedestrians

Absolutely, and when I'm in a bike lane next to heavy pedestrian traffic, I try to be more careful. But as CydeWeys points out, Sir Newton preempts local, state and federal laws, and always has.

> bikers are largely ignorant or disrespectful of the law. If it's a red light and a bike blows through it, is it really the pedestrians that are the problem for not watching for illegal bikes?

We're just throwing around anecdata here, so I'm not going to try to argue the "No True Bikeman Would Run A Red Light"; I try not to, and I certainly don't blow through them when there are pedestrians. I also certainly do see other bikers doing that sometimes, though I also see most stop and wait, or carefully navigate the intersection.

> I try not to, and I certainly don't blow through..

You ”try” to follow the law? Can you understand why bikes aren’t the most loved vehicles on the road. You essentially admit to following the law when you feel like it.

You should stop at red lights and stop signs every single time — not just when you deem it prudent. If you want to treat red lights like yield signs, then you can’t complain when motorists treat bike lanes like loading zones.

As a pedestrian in a major city in the UK I see drivers jump red lights / not stopping at mandatory pedestrian crossings (or worse, not stopping when the crossing is currently in use).

I also see cyclists performing similiarly unlawful acts.

The difference from my perspective is one of those groups is totally isolated from the outside world in a 1 ton metal box. Neither is in the right, but (from experience of both) I'd much rather be hit by a cyclist.

A side point of this is it's pretty difficult for a cyclist to not notice they've hit someone and drive away, as we see fairly regularly with drivers:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/12/11/four-drivers-ran... http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-essex-41174459/cctv-... http://metro.co.uk/2018/02/12/driver-leaves-pedestrian-dead-...

The law says that pedestrians will stay on the curb until the light says WALK.

The law says that pedestrians will not walk in the street except to cross it.

The law says that pedestrians will use the right side of crosswalks.

The law says that pedestrians will not cross an intersection diagonally.

The law says that pedestrians will hail cabs from the sidewalk.

Do you always follow those laws, or only when you feel like it?

> You essentially admit to following the law when you feel like it.

Are we playing "holier than thou"? You've never jaywalked? Double-parked?

I tell you what; I'll stop going through red lights on my bike when I literally don't see another car anywhere on the road; in exchange, can you come to the funeral parlor that's across the street from me, and kindly ask their customers to stop triple-parking and forcing other cars, buses, and bicycles into oncoming traffic in order to pass?

What's your point here, I see cars run red lights and ignore pedestrian crossings all the time.

> Lastly, I'll add that as a walker in NYC (no car, no bike), I have no fear of being struck by cars. I fear bikes. I rarely see bikes obey traffic laws at all, and have frequently come 1-2 feed away from being side-swiped while a bicycle blows through a red light. Since you're so passionate about this I'm sure you follow traffic laws, but maybe you'll be inspired to take a look at bike behavior too!

I strongly agree that more research is warranted. I bike and walk, live in an area where bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure varies greatly, and would like to add some insight into this issue.

I have a strong preference for following traffic laws, but often don't.

In areas where the bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure is well developed, I almost always obey traffic laws. In areas with less developed infrastructure, I break them. Anecdotally, I find this to also be true of other pedestrians and cyclists.

I suspect that this is because the social contract for non-drivers is broken. That is, the implicit agreement that non-drivers will give away some of their individual freedoms for some benefits like convenience or state protection.

When the infrastructure is bad, missing, or unenforced, following traffic laws makes me less safe, and it is certainly an inconvenience. The risk of being ticketed is low, so I see no reason not to break the law.

For example, if I expect traffic to ignore crosswalks, there's not very much reason for me to walk across them. It's probably safer to cross whenever I am whenever I see a break in traffic.

Likewise, I sometimes run red lights on my bike. I do this in situations where the cross traffic is clear, and there either isn't a bike lane, or when it's blocked. This allows me to avoid merging with traffic at an intersection, which is safer for me.

Many people also break laws simply out of convenience. That makes sense. They're used to ignoring the law, and the people around them do it too.

I want to follow the law. My experience is that non-car infrastructure allows me and others to do that safely. I'd really love to see whether this is backed up by data, or it's just my own experience.

As a walker in NYC I've been hit by cars twice and once by a bike. All three incidents happened while crossing legally, in a pedestrian crosswalk with a walk signal. The biggest difference is how the operators of the vehicles acted. The car drivers were worried, polite, stopped and got out to make sure I was okay. The cyclist (who was running a red light) cursed me and rode off with a raised middle finger.

It's a small sample set, obviously.

When I see cyclists approaching a red light, I generally assume they will run it. I'm not judging this one way or the other; it's just what I've come to expect by observation. Usually they're polite and attentive enough to aim behind crossing pedestrians, but it seems that many feel they have an overriding right-of-way regardless of signage or signals.

The cyclists I've spoken to about this shrug it off as a necessary evil -- biking in NYC is difficult and dangerous, and meticulously following the traffic rules makes it more so not less so. And once you're accustomed to breaking the rules for safety's sake, you begin to do it for convenience's sake as well.

It follows my observations. If you go to areas where the rules for cars etc make no sense either, you get a situation as seen on youtube when you search for traffic in India.

Driving in those places is like riding a bike in more rule-abiding places.

I fear being hit by cars as a pedestrian, not cyclists.

The "thirty second dropoff" is going to block at least one travel lane regardless. Why not just stay in the vehicle lane?

Do you think double parking for 30 seconds deserves a ticket?

If you think the bike lane deserves to be blocked because you "rarely see bikes obey traffic laws at all," surely the pervasive speeding, rolling stops, and failure to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks among drivers makes them even more deserving of having their travel lane blocked?

Or is that not what you meant? If not, why bring up cyclists' supposed failure to follow traffic laws when we're discussing drivers blocking travel lanes?

Come to Colorado, I've been run over by deranged cyclists four times, twice resulting in hospitalization and once I was able to sue the guy into bankruptcy.

They seem to think sidewalks are for them, it's bizarre.

I’m in the car with my wife right now in Boulder. Whilst reading these comments I’ve seen 2 bikes on the sidewalk (bike lane available) and one just ran a red light (folsom/canyon).

Can the code be modified to track the amount of time each infraction lasts, then graph that? It would be interesting to see what percentage take 30 seconds or less.

Many of these bikes are actually e-bikes.

I think it would be a good improvement if taxis and ridesharing cars didn't care so much about dropping off people exactly at their destination but instead found a safe spot within half a block instead of blocking bike lanes and bus lanes.

This can pose a problem for visually impaired persons, other disabled persons, or people carrying ungainly packages in bad weather

Those cases are currently a vast minority of reasons why bike lanes are blocked. If those were the only times that bike lanes were blocked, at least 99% of existing blockages would be solved and everything would be vastly safer.

The injury potential of a bike vs a car is a major reason why you should fear the car more.

I can kinda understand why he wasn't happy. Your initial phrasing was very hostile. I am not sure what he would have said if you had phrased your question more neutrally, but your tone definitely gave him the opportunity to partially ignore your (totally valid!) concerns.

In this situation, it is not OPs job to satisfy the mayor. It is this mayor's job to be a representative of the people so IMO the Mayor should have been able to handle hostility and criticism.

The mayors opportunity to partially ignore concerns shows their incompetence towards the issue.

UPDATE I wanted to mention that I totally agree with what you had said. I do not want to blame OP for being concerned and potentially angry

What you say is undoubtedly true. In a better world, we'd have a better mayor. That ideal mayor could always give the optimal public-serving answer no matter how they are approached. If the mayor were in the habit of listening to my advice, I'd surely tell him the same. His answer was suboptimal.

But for the purposes of this conversation, the only control surface I have is my speech, and the only mayor there is is the one on the other end of the line. So, depending on what kind of result I want, I must modulate my tone.

Right, his job is not to 'satisfy the mayor', but his job is to try to accomplish his goal. The poster is saying you are more likely to accomplish your actual goal if you don't start by being antagonistic, which is certainly true.

Am I the only one who felt like if you filtered out the douchiness of the question and the touchiness of the mayor's answer, it was a worthwhile exchange? Question asked, question answered, and the answer was substantive enough that one could go on and answer follow-up questions (although they'd have to be in writing since the radio format apparently does not allow for that).

Tone of delivery is as important as the message itself. You need to treat people with respect if you want the same from them.

What was the hostile part? The "Dont tell me its a state problem?" I mean the man punts everything to the state, I had to preempt

But it didn't work, right? He turned your attempt at preemption into a distraction from your point.

I don't know how best to handle these things, but what I might have said is something like, "<Why it's important that bus and bike lanes not be blocked.> <What you invented, the results.> <Would the city consider investing in an invention like mine, or else what are we going to do to reduce the rate at which these blockages occur?>"

FTR, I'm totally in favor of the automatic enforcement you describe! I'd also like to mostly or entirely remove free parking from the city.

Yeah, good point. Maybe I should have tried to be less accusatory.

Being any amount of accusatory is counterproductive when you want someone to honestly answer a question in any context.

From Abraham Lincoln in 1842, speaking about his preferred approach:

It is an old and a true maxim, that a "drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall." So with men. If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which, say what he will, is the great highroad to his reason, and which, when once gained, you will find but little trouble in convincing his judgment of the justice of your cause, if indeed that cause really be a just one. On the contrary, assume to dictate to his judgment, or to command his action, or to mark him as one to be shunned and despised, and he will retreat within himself, close all the avenues to his head and his heart; and though your cause be naked truth itself, transformed to the heaviest lance, harder than steel, and sharper than steel can be made, and though you throw it with more than Herculean force and precision, you shall be no more be able to pierce him, than to penetrate the hard shell of a tortoise with a rye straw.



> A common expression would have us believe that ‘you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar’. But this is not true in the case of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster (xkcd, 2007).

Yes, NIH cited XKCD https://xkcd.com/357/

Missing the forest for the trees.

I don't think that applies here since the poster didn't disagree with the excerpt, they only pointed to a correction -- the fact that an aspect of conventional wisdom had been rendered untrue via research.

The link to xkcd-inspired research was useful.

That you can take criticism and admit to some fault in a public forum already puts your rhetoric above those of most commenters-- myself included.

I hope you can effect the political change you seek.

I make the similar mistakes all the time in my personal and professional life. It's an easy one to do.

How happy were you with his answer? It seemed fairly reasonable, he pushed back a bit and matched your tone I think, but overall sounded like he's very much on your side to me regarding the larger problem. I feel like he deflected a little by emphasizing accidents over blockages, without acknowledging much that blockages push bikes into dangerous situations. But I'd probably agree that prioritizing safety over annoyances is reasonable.

If we remove free parking from the city does that apply to bikes as well?

Damned if you do, damned if you don't. If the goal was to imply to the audience listening that the mayor likes to pass people's issues onto the state instead of addressing them, then that goal was accomplished successfully. Not bringing it up would have simply resulted in the mayor passing the buck without the audience being aware of that context.

Calling a politician on a radio call in show is typically very unlikely to result in any actual action, on any issue, regardless of tact taken. Making the audience aware of the problem, and your distaste for the mayor's proposed solutions ,may be more useful to one's goals.

I also don't think pimping your product on a radio call in show is very tactful either.

It's absolutely warranted and you did great. Everyone else on Hacker News is commenting as if perfect communication would have solved this issue. What they don't understand is the political reality of the situation - that in no universe of conversations, would Bill DeBlasio have admitted on recording that he was wrong or whatever.

In my experience, when politicians act defensively and cornered, they often go and make changes behind the scenes later. When you let them go without a scuffle they will view you as a non-threat. So great job, and cool project!

The "NYPD is unwilling and unable to enforce" part was the hostile part. That comes of as "traffic cops aren't doing their job" when I think you meant "without 100x more traffic cops we can't even make a dent in this"

Yeah, he certainly could've been more pragmatic because I'm sure ultimately he wants to see the problem solved, not figure out who to blame.

While I respect that this sucks for bikers, I gotta side with the Mayor on this one.

There is a limited budget for enforcement, and it makes sense to focus that enforcement on crimes that cause loss of life or serious harm first.

And frankly, the economy of NYC would come to a screeching halt if people couldn't double park to make quick stops. The cost of delivering anything would go up significantly to account for the cost of parking and time spent circling for legal parking at every drop-off, or the cost of all the fines.

Also, you probably should have started with, "And I understand some of this is a state issue, but can you clarify which parts are a state issue and which parts are things NYC could do?". That would have been a lot better than "And don't tell me it's a state issue!!"

This type of enforcement pays for itself. Quick google search shows $115-150 for blocking a bus lane by standing parking or other means. Same price for bike lanes. That's $115 for a few minutes of work while on patrol or checking meters. You get 4 in an hour (seems likely) you're doing very well.

Ever heard of speed traps? Jurisdictions that pay for themselves by ruining a stretch of highway. Same deal here.

I'm not saying this is a good thing. However saying that it's "limited budget for enforcement" is just wrong. It is in fact a "Revenue Generation Opportunity".

That only works if everyone in town knows about it and you only catch tourists. If you start nailing locals for something they do all the time, they get really upset.

Maybe they should stop parking in bike lanes then.

Perhaps. But usually what happens when city gov't starts relentlessly targeting their own citizens with what amounts to revenue generation via enforcement, the citizens effect change in the gov't so it stops.

Seems good: make the law reflect reality, rather then fake laws with no enforcement.

NYC still has automated red light cameras... well known to piss people off. So I would say experimentally you are wrong.

That didn't seem to have stopped the enforcement efforts in places like Missouri.


In your example, double parking sounds like a symptom of a larger problem: too many vehicles on the street and not enough parking.

Reform & enforcement should be focused on the root of the issue: more temporary parking & to make it more expensive & less convenient to own and store a vehicle in the city.

There will never be "enough" parking in urban areas, and attempting to force there to be "sufficient" parking is how you end up with suburban sprawl & extremely expensive high density development.

Parking can never cover its own cost per square foot, hence why there is so little of it outside what the government provides or mandates.

Stronger enforcement via ticketing and towing is the quickest means to clear the bus lanes and bike lanes, after that adding barriers to the most illicitly parked in areas is the next step.

I agree with strong enforcement. Only then will people see the actual value of a parking spot and thus can it cover its own cost.

I don't understand the "there will never be enough" part. No one is saying there wont ever be any cases of double parking. But this discussion is about reducing its frequency to some acceptable threshold, something certainly possible. It will certainly cost, just like double parking does.

There are a lot of private parking garages in NYC. Are those all government mandated?

That's why they're doing stop and frisk and writing people up on drug charges right?

No, that's because they are racists.

I think the movement to radically improve our streets needs to be clear about what an end-goal that will work for all parties looks like.

To my mind, the only tenable solution is bifurcation: vehicle traffic over here, everything that is not vehicle traffic over here. Further division within those buckets will be necessary and often contentious, but it's the initial, physical separation of motorized vehicles of a certain class (buses, trucks, cars, motorcycles) and everything else on the road (electric single-person devices, bikes, etc.) that will prove the most impactful and crucial to a changed transportation landscape.

I see that happening in my lifetime, but I'm not holding my breath. In terms of political difficulty, making life difficult for Americans in their cars is right up there with controlling their access to guns.

As another commenter has correctly pointed out, the streets and regulations are basically working the way they were engineered to work: for the benefit of cars and drivers. We need to change that but we need to be transparent about that being the goal. Ticketing people cannot be the goal and it will not have the desired effect - it will just trigger a backlash.

What I love about this story is that it represents a tipping point: it's no longer safe to assume that the person on a bike is socio-economically or politically disadvantaged in relation to the person behind the wheel of their Lexus or Mercedes.

Don't know anything about the mayor but what he said seems reasonable to me. As a cyclist myself I have no problem merging into traffic if my lane is blocked, my experience though is most cyclists don't like to stop so end up cutting into the live lane putting themselves at risk.

Disclosure: not American don't know the rules there.

So are you also OK with Camera Traffic Cops catching biking scoflaws who don't stop at lights, go the wrong way on one way streets, ride at dangerous speeds etc?

Yes, of course.

Well ... I was asking the author of the article :)

But thanks.

I would be OK with it as well but I think lots of people wouldn't. I think the only way to formalize such a system that treated all bad behavior equally in an automated fashion would result in the bikes having visible identification and I think that might be a non-starter for many.

Please don't confuse frequency of hearing a message with the frequency of belief in that message in a population. Sure, there are a tiny fraction of bike riders who don't care about rules and happily flaunt them and defend their 'rights' to do so, but they are far overrepresented in the dialog. Most people who ride bikes follow the rules pretty closely, and don't go home at night posting on city message boards about how it's their right to break the law.

>"Please don't confuse frequency of hearing a message with the frequency of belief in that message in a population."

To be clear we are talking about NYC here. If we were talking Coppenhagen or Berlin or Amsterdam yes that would be true.

I'm not confusing "frequency of message." I'm being informed by actual observation. The overwhelming majority of bicyclists in NYC do not stop at red lights or use hand signals. All you have to do is stand on the stand on the street to confirm this. And yes it's the law:


And I'm speaking as a cyclist.

And I'm speaking as a cyclist who has ridden in Manhattan as my main form of transportation 8 months/year for 10 years, as an occasional driver, frequent uber/taxi user that I disagree with your assessment.


Cars usually don't stop at stop signs either, they slow down, check for oncoming traffic, then go if there is none.

If you read what I wrote I said "stop at red lights." Do cars "usually" blow through red lights?

Also why does bad behavior by car drivers makes bad behavior by bicyclists acceptable?

Everybody makes rolling stops at stop signs on empty roads every once in a while. Based on my own anecdota, I wouldn't say that they usually make rolling stops though. It's still a ticket, that many local police in the US are more than happy to hand out. Not that it matters either way- it doesn't mean that it's OK for anyone to ignore stop signs as a rule.

> Everybody makes rolling stops at stop signs on empty roads every once in a while.

I don't. Nobody in my family does (at least when I'm in the car with them).

Neither do I.

So, since they're breaking the law it's ok for you to break some too.

Don't have kids yet, eh?

> You stopped at every red light on your way to work today(...)?

Yes. I bike 6 miles but only hit 7 lights because I head over to the west side greenway.

> (...) and you witnessed nearly every other cyclist doing the same?

Your original claim was:

> The overwhelming majority of bicyclists in NYC do not stop at red lights or use hand signals.

Even if I saw, say, 40% of bicyclists blow red lights, it would still contradict your claim of an 'overwhelming majority'.

Also, I'm a bit confused now about your claims. Are you claiming that a majority of bicyclists every now and then goes through a red light? Or are you claiming that a majority of bicyclists constantly go through red lights? I disagree with the latter but could agree with the former.

That's an interesting idea! But I'm not sure such a system is feasible.

Judging by historical bike registration programs, the realistic implementation of such a system would be expensive, underachieving, and offer noteworthy levels of customer disservice. No one would accept the idea of a bike registration fee over ~$5, meaning the system would not be self-funded. Identification would probably be easily counterfeited. Bikes lacking identification would be ignored.

Technically speaking, what ID would be visible to traffic cameras? A giant QR code fairing over the front wheel? Bikes come in many shapes and sizes so it's not as simple as a license plate. About the only guarantee you have is that it has at least one wheel that is at least 10" in diameter. You could maybe go with a radio beacon or something invisible but enforcement of requiring ID becomes very difficult.

>"Judging by historical bike registration programs."

Well most bicycle licensing programs ended decades ago. I think it would be far more efficient and cheaper to implement such a system a now.

>"Technically speaking, what ID would be visible to traffic cameras?"

A small RFID transponder on the bike and an antenna mounted over the bike lane at an intersection. The antenna activates the transponder. This is similar to how the EZ-Pass toll system works in the US. Cars come in many shapes and sizes too and it works just fine .

RFID tags combined with cameras watching for and flagging untagged bikes.

I’m working on this problem now on the UK with a very similiar solution. Let’s get in touch?

Tweet at me, https://twitter.com/Bellspringsteen and I will DM you my email

> NYPD officers behind a computer screen who could review the footage and issue the ticket

Nobody wants this. The people won't want it. The courts won't want to deal with the all the people fighting the tickets out of spite, the police won't want to be essentially call center jockeys. Also, disconnecting the offense with the punishment is a sure way to make your enforcement system ineffective -- people will just treat it as an occasional NYCFU tax.

> But I also think that the current methods of enforcement...

You do understand that laws which are selectively enforced against the marginalized shouldn't be laws, right? It's terrible how our institutions treat them, and your solution is to treat everyone like them?

> Firstly, the camera systems should blur all faces onboard the camera before transmitting to the internet.

Anything less than 100% accuracy will never work. It's easy to brush off small error rates when you're designing the system. Not so much when every mistake is used against you by groups trying to take the cameras down. Plus people are identifiable by far more than just their face. A project at my alma mater could clock people by just their walking cadence.

> Yes, but these people could already go down and view the street

Not even the courts agree with you on that. Just because a passerby could look through my front windows doesn't mean it's not stalking if you do it 24/7. Just because someone could see me in public doesn't mean the police don't need a warrant if they want to tail me 24/7.

> People who speed and go through red lights hate those cameras.

Everyone hates those cameras. They lasted less than a year in my city.

* They reverse the presumption of innocence since the ticketed person winds up with the burden of proving that state is in error. The obvious situation being that they weren't the one driving the car.

* They were sold to the people as a safety implement and as a cash grab to municipalities.

* They didn't make the roads any safer since almost all instances of running red lights was accidental and people actually went faster on the roads to make up for the slowdown due to the cameras.

* Nobody likes being constantly watched. Especially if it's public you can glean a ton of personal information about people with 24/7 footage like this.

You're trying really hard to make fetch happen. If more than half the time the bike lane is blocked by cars then it would probably be better off as a vehicle stopping lane. It would probably free up the bus stop too. I guarantee that more people are hailing rides than riding bikes.

Who are you quoting? I search for that text and came up empty.

Car crashes are a leading cause of death in the US. Speeding a mere 5mph over in NYC can mean the difference between a lethal collision and survivable one. Underfunding of police departments where they can't enforce the law is a bug, not a feature. If the law is unjust or the punishment too severe, then that's what needs addressing no?

I find those opposed to traffic cameras are often also ones that break the law as a matter of routine and daily habit. Getting a ticket is not an "oops", it's "a cop happened to be nearby this time". Is it difficult to admit the necessity of laws like stopping at red lights or stop signs?

If there are problems in the program's implementation (e.g. cutting yellow times) or corruption (kickbacks), that is not the fault of traffic cameras. It's a problem with the local government.

Lastly, how do you feel about driverless cars? Automation would surely save lives but would presumably burden car users by following the law all the time as well. Granted, attempting to evade compliance would simply be impossible, not imposed by a fine.

You have to realized that New York City, as a polity, is very far from American norms.

To start off with, the majority of households in New York City do not own cars. New York has been consistently electing anti-car culture politicians for almost two decades now. And New York has a sizable contingent of people actively demanding red light cameras and speed cameras. Not to mention that New York already effectively has a surveillance network anyways, and yet that doesn't seem to fall afoul of the existing laws and rights.

If the laws are so terrible than they can be repealed. But the solution is to not stop enforcement of laws on the books in total.

Legally speaking , robot-tickets for driver offenses can generally be avoided by simply making an affadavit of non-responsibility, since the robot doesn't have evidence of who is driving the vehicle.

The whole system relies on the honor system, so honest people pay and dishonest scofflaws don't. Yay!

Sure, but the cost of the ticket is then paid in risk. If the police come back with evidence that you were in fact driving the car and you have a signed affidavit that says you weren't you're in much bigger trouble.

Unless the picture shows who the driver was.

Source: I ran a red light and got a picture of myself in the mail

And if it's your car, and you want to claim that it's not you, they ask you who it is.

In California at least, you can just ignore that question.

Not in many other states. MO for example specifically puts the onus of who is operating your motor vehicle on you, the owner. Or you need to declare it stolen.

But can they assign the ticket to you personally? In my experience, places that put the responsibility strictly on the owner of the car do so by removing the attachment to an individual's driving record and instead attaching the ticket to the car itself, like a parking ticket.

All automated tickets in mo are non-moving violations. So yes you are correct on "points". But mo also allows you to convert almost any driving ticket to a noisy muffler by paying 3x or more the price by paying a lawyer. Unfortunately even DUI (up to a point). It basically encodes the realization that the state just wants the revenue. Randomly assessed taxes on correct road use.

You can always directly fight the ticket too. I can't tell how far it is from legal graft... But I did avail myself of it, it would be dumb not to as the 3x cost for a ticket was still 1/2 what you'd get dinged by the insurance for the original ticket.

Many jurisdictions that use them now have the camera record at least three things:

1. A video of the car committing the infraction

2. A photograph of the car's license plate

3. A photograph aimed at the driver's seat, capturing the face of the driver of the car

While you can try to argue the photo of the driver is too blurry or unclear to serve as evidence, it's not as simple as saying "wasn't me". Also, even if you manage it, it's not enough to just say "wasn't me" -- you also will need to provide the name of the person you allege was driving.

Let's fix that: your car, your responsibility.

> You do understand that laws which are selectively enforced against the marginalized shouldn't be laws, right?

What are you suggesting here, that we just shouldn't have traffic safety laws at all? Anyone can go at any speed, in any lane or direction, and ignore traffic signals at whim?

The solution is to stop selectively enforcing laws, not to get rid of them entirely. Traffic safety laws have very good purpose that is in the public's interest.

What do you think the difficulty of doing this for people running stop signs would be? Seems like a different problem as multiple frames would need to be considered.

I love that Bill DeBlasio derides car culture on the call while taking a car every damned day from City Hall to his gym in Park Slope.


Good on you. If the mayor can't enforce his own bus lanes, then they're no use and might as well be removed. Just let people park there! If the bus riders complain, tell them the truth - they can't afford to police them and/or the state won't allow cameras.

SF solves this by putting cameras on the busses themselves. Bus driver sees someone blocking the bus stop or bus lane, presses a button and creates a ticket.

You get a live witness, video footage and only enforcing it when a bus needs that space.

It works too, uber drivers do not like picking up people in bus stops.

You could extended it to citizen cyclists too with some political controversy.

I would love to be able to write tickets on cars illegally parked in bike lanes. Give me a ticket book and I'll work for free. I'll even document every ticket with unimpeachable timestamped video footage.

In some German cities you can email the police a photo along with a description when and where the infraction took place and they will issue a ticket. In other cities you might have to mail it the old-fashioned way.

We've got apps for this in NYC that issues enforcement and TLC driver complaints through the 311 system, and I use 'em.

Given I’m no fan of red light cameras already, your idea of 24/7 automated city wide traffic enforcement sounds dystopic and ripe for abuse through ever more granular infractions and escalating penalties.

I’d rather cyclists continue to be annoyed than everyone suffer under that.

I think you're redefining "everyone" as "people who drive cars" here, and cyclists as "non-everyone".

I believe the growth of automated police enforcement affects everyone, but it's true that drivers would feel this impact the most.

Edit: Since we're talking about NYC someone who replied to me has more specific data. Roughly 2.5% of commuters use bikes in the city. Obviously it's going to be much less in suburbs and rural areas that aren't as densely packed.

Some rough napkin calculations:

Number of cyclists [1]: 786,000

Number of vehicles [2]: 263,000,000

Does 99.8% of people not count as everyone in a discussion like this?

If you could make a change that improved the daily lives of 99% of people wouldn't that be the easiest policy decision in your life?

[1] https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2014/cb14-86....

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passenger_vehicles_in_the_Unit...

Why are you using nationwide numbers to address a NYC-local problem.

In New York, only 25% of people drive to work, and in Manhattan it's 5%. Why do they get free rein to block the single lane allotted for 95% of people, in addition to the two-four lanes that they are allotted?

Why are you using total number of people when we're talking road users? Yeah, a lot of people walk or take the subway but they're not exactly concerned about what the edge lane is used for.

I'm not particularly biased towards cars or anything, you could remove the bike lane to make room for bigger sidewalks and have a positive effect since way more people are walking than either driving or biking in Manhattan.

People use the bike lane as a stopping lane because nobody is in it. If there was actual bike traffic this problem wouldn't exist.

Where do you live? People use bike lanes in NYC all the time.

And the total number of people is absolutely the right denominator here, as publicly owned land should be allocated for the greatest possible good of all. You're assuming your conclusion by claiming that vast swaths of public land should be dedicated to drivers alone, and not to the rest of the majority of people who do not drive.

You know what every single person who takes the subway also does? Walks. On average, many blocks, on both ends of their trip. You know what these people will benefit from? More sidewalk space in congested areas. More traffic calming measures, slower vehicles, and safer crossings.

Which was ultimately my suggestion. You could get rid of all cars for all it matters to my argument.

My claim is that bike lanes are an inefficient use of space because they are underutilized and would be better served either for vehicles or pedestrians since they make up all but a tiny percentage of commuters.

If you're going to do all of that traffic calming you probably should just have the bikes use the roads since it'll be safer for them and the speed differential be lower.

NYC DOT keeps stats on bike lanes, and per area of road used they serve more people than vehicle lanes do.

And I do agree with getting rid of many of the cars, and especially all that free public parking. You could easily have wider sidewalks and and bike lanes everywhere if you eliminated a side of parking on every road. As it is now over half the total road surface is allocated to parking, most of it free, which is just absurd.

I'd expect the bike lane blocking problem is not really because of people who "drive to work"; it's because of deliveries, repairs, maintenance and such. (At least where I ride, that's >95 % of bike path disturbances).

Where I ride it's usually taxi or other TLC vehicles just parked there, doing nothing. Usually on break or waiting for a pickup.

Yes, but even taxis aren't "driving to work", they are at work.

They can be "at work" somewhere other than illegally parked in the bike lane waiting around or on break.

Of course they can, and should, but this does not make it relevant to bring in the argument "only 25% of people drive to work".

I still don't understand how this is relevant. You are not allowed to park in bike lanes, full stop. It doesn't matter why you are going somewhere; it's still illegal regardless of whether you're going to work, or going shopping, or whatever.

Given that most people in Manhattan do not drive, it makes sense to prioritize non-drivers over drivers.

For NYC in particular there are better stats (2014):

"About 86,000 adult New Yorkers, 2.5% of all commuting residents, usually bike to work or school" [1]

[1] http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/bicyclists/cyclinginthecity...

Sweet! I'll edit my comment.

Don't forget that cars are much less than 50% here, and bus commuters are among the people that stand to benefit.

You're comparing the number of people who cycle to work with the number of cars in the US. That's an odd comparison.

In spring 2017, the number of people who have been cycling within the last 12 months amounted to 66.21 million. [Source](https://www.statista.com/statistics/227415/number-of-cyclist...). Given that some people own two vehicles, I think you'll find similar numbers for people who own cars and bicycles.

And part of the reason people don't cycle to work is that there aren't safe cycle routes to their work. If you build your infrastructure for cars it forces peoples hand. The Netherlands has extensive cycle friendly roads and adoption is much higher.

More people cycling improves life for everyone, even the drivers.

Cool, so if we make it suck less to ride the bus or bicycle, we'll have more of both, and more commuters will fit in less space. Win/win.

Yeah I am also concerned about more cameras. Why are you against more cameras? What are your concerns?

Automation of police enforcement allows a precision and completeness in ticketing that was never envisioned while writing the laws or fines. It would only start with blocking bike paths or bus stops. Once the technology is there, there is incredible incentive by the city to expand the scope to generate more revenue, as we've seen with red light camera installations.

I'm all for allowing that particular incentive to run rampant. Running red lights is unsafe and kills innocent people. Are you suggesting running red lights shouldn't be enforced 100% of the time??

Everyone has the option to obey the law!

Also not envisioned while writing the laws was a wish for some people to break the law and get away with it. They weren't hoping for partial enforcement, laws are written to communicate the standards under the hope that all people will abide. Enforcement was never intended to be less than perfect, it has always been to do as much as is practical. New technology is making it more practical, but isn't changing anyone's intent. There is no sacred amount of precision or completeness in ticketing that ought to be preserved in the face of improved ability to enforce laws.

I'm also hopeful that self-driving cars, and more bike support, and other changes to transportation, make this issue (and it's enforcement) disappear.

Numerous studies have shown increased accidents with the use of red light cameras (others have shown decrease in collisions but also increase in severity). In Florida for instance, fatalities and collisions went up. [1]

Speed limits are also based in large part on the 85th percentile speed of actual traffic, which presumes 15% of drivers are breaking the law.

So no...I don't believe absolute traffic enforcement was ever envisioned, and I don't recall ever hearing of a politician running on that platform.

Lest you believe I'm a law breaker looking for leniency, in over 20 years of driving I've never received a moving violation.

[1] http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/florida/fl-nsf-red-light-ca...

Okay, I read that article, and it said traffic went up over 8.32% overall, and then showed some increases in accidents near 8%. It looks like they reported absolute numbers without controlling for the increase in traffic. If traffic was up 8.32%, and angle crashes were up 6.72%, doesn't that imply that angle crashes were actually reduced by around 1.6% per capita?

What about this one:

"Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study stated that fatal crashes from red light runners increased by 30 percent per capita after cities turned off their red-light camera programs."

> Speed limits are also based in large part on the 85th percentile speed of actual traffic, which presumes 15% of drivers are breaking the law.

It's a misleading assumption to suggest that the way speed limits are determined actually implies a design intent to retain a 15% minority of law breakers. The stated and explicit intent of posting the speed limit is to set the maximum, and for nobody to exceed the maximum.

Also: "The speed limit is commonly set at or below the 85th percentile operating speed (being the speed which no more than 15% of traffic is exceeding) and in the US is frequently set 4 to 8 mph (6 to 13 km/h) below that speed." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_limit#Maximum_speed_limi...)

> So no...I don't believe absolute traffic enforcement was ever envisioned

It doesn't matter what was envisioned. We don't need to preserve what was envisioned.

> in over 20 years of driving I've never received a moving violation.

That's great! I would be more impressed if you hadn't done any speeding or run any red lights in 20 years. (I can't claim that, though I also haven't had any tickets in 20 years.)

A better solution would be to do regular speed studies and actually update the speed limits posted. Also, prevent municipalities from passing laws on their own speed limits and creating speed trap situations.

I see a lot of speed limits that are woefully out of date and/or very different from the 85th percentile speed on any one motorway.

> It doesn't matter what was envisioned. We don't need to preserve what was envisioned.

Then we should just ditch the whole speed limit concept. You should be punished for variance from 85th percentile speed on a motorway in either direction. Too slow or too fast are both dangerous

> Are you suggesting running red lights shouldn't be enforced 100% of the time??

The majority of red light tickets are for people not coming to a complete stop before turning right on red. Quite often, the non-turn lanes aren't even instrumented because it's not profitable.

There's also the issue that red light camera vendors encourage shortening the yellow light, which increases revenue and harms safety.

Do you have any sources on these claims you can share?

Adding in the problems of private vendors commercializing law enforcement wasn't on my mind, but is a very good point. I would hope that, despite any pressure to shorten the yellow light, laws and safety advocates would prevent that from getting out of hand.

What is currently most out of hand between unsafe driving and unreasonable enforcement revenue, is clearly unsafe driving. So even if enforcement isn't perfect, I still think a correction towards enforcement is a good thing on the whole. I hate driving because of how crazy unsafe large numbers of people will be for really marginal benefits. The wish more more enforcement crosses my mind almost every day.

And, again, we can easily defeat any evil government revenue enforcement schemes by simply following the laws we should have been following all along.

Chicago is a good example, they reduced yellow lights below federal minimums to maximize revenue, and the contract was rife with corruption.

"A Tribune-sponsored study of the red-light program in 2014 found that nearly 40 percent of the intersections equipped with the cameras are likely making the streets more dangerous. The study found that the cameras caused a 22 percent increase in rear-end crashes, yet provided no safety benefit at intersections that never had a problem with right-angle crashes in the first place."



I don't really want to spin here on red light cameras only; there are many more ways to enforce traffic laws than that, and if we could use people for 100% enforcement I'd be in favor of that.

I want self-driving cars and other mass transport to eliminate the need for enforcement completely.

I have to be honest though, the stuff you're throwing at me is tingling my spidey sense just a little. These quotes are stated in a way that sounds convincing and bad, but fails under math scrutiny.

The quote you picked left out the 15% improvement in angle crashes they measured (* cited in the bigthink article below).

You can have 40% of intersections with a 1% increase in crashes, and also have 60% of intersections with a 1% decrease in crashes, and you have an overall slight reduction.

These resources seem level headed:




And these feel like fluff, and even propaganda:



The Tribune is a pretty factual paper, but studies have been mixed over the years. Confusing the data is the implementation of RLCs at sites that never had an issue with right-angle crashes, that’s a key reason the Chicago data showed an increase in collisions.

I don’t think we’ll agree on this issue, but I understand your arguments and they are reasonable.

> I don’t think we’ll agree on this issue, but I understand your arguments and they are reasonable.

Hey thanks for saying that. I can return the favor, you’ve been very reasonable too. I don’t disagree that red light camers specifically might have some tradeoffs, and maybe it’s true they’re a net negative right now, I don’t know.

As far as the safety goes, have we actually given it enough time? Would it change anything for you if we fast forward into the future, and imagine that all intersections have cameras and everyone expects them? Today’s trade off between T-bones and rear-ends when there are cameras is presumably caused by people not expecting a camera and then realizing fairly late that they might get a ticket. Is it reasonable to assume that if cameras were everywhere, the rear-enders would eventually settle at a lower rate?

If we fast forward, I do think we’ll see at least a marginal improvement in safety. The cameras would never go away though, and the laws would have to be rewritten in a way to maintain revenue through minor infractions. That cost would land hardest on the poor and working class.

I’m a careful driver, wealthy enough to pay the fines without a care, so it wouldn’t really affect me. Neither would congestion tolls, or the numerous other solutions involving regressive taxes or fines. Less traffic would be worth the cost...I find myself often wishing they’d just triple tolls and gas taxes so my commute would be shorter. Not proud of those thoughts.

TBH, I would have agreed with you a few years ago, but lately my perspective has shifted. I don’t wish to muddle the safety argument with inequality, but it is part of my aversion.

A possible solution... remove revenue. Hell, have the fines be earmarked as a direct cash back tax cut or something. Redistribute the money from the guilty to the innocent, and keep the motivations clean.

Rolling right turns on a completely empty intersection late at night done at 5mph is treated the same as running through a red light with traffic with a $550 ticket.

Because of financial incentives for municipalities, the laws tend to stick that way, even when law makers want to make distinctions in red light camera types. And it hurts the poor the most.

See more red light camera bullshit here: http://www.highwayrobbery.net/

> Rolling right turns on a completely empty intersection late at night done at 5mph is treated the same as running through a red light with traffic with a $550 ticket.

And it takes all of 2 seconds to circumvent... by not rolling through. Get a ticket only once, and you'd probably learn your lesson and never do it again. You always have the power to avoid that ticket.

> See more red light camera bullshit here: http://www.highwayrobbery.net/

No, thank you. I sense bias and propaganda in the URL name.

This feels the same as the people who claim there's a conspiracy and that bicycle helmets don't increase safety, or that requiring motorcycle helmets is abuse of government power.

As a citizen who wants peace and safety for myself and my family, I am in favor of more speed limit and red light enforcement, among the many other apparently controversial things that I'm happy to pay a little bit of tax for, and/or happy that the government can make some revenue on.

Does data matter to you? If increased cameras let to increased accidents would you still be in favor? Do you think that there are unintended consequences to ultra strict enforcement?

Yes data matters to me. If cameras or other types of enforcement truly made things less safe overall, I wouldn't want them. I don't think that's the case, but I'm certain there are unintended consequences to certain kinds of enforcement.

I can ask you the same. Do you care about data? Your question about data follows a link to highwayrobbery.net, which is using FUD and inflammatory language, and I would bet some misleading characterizations of "data" to rile people up over this issue.

If the "data" is being politicized and falsely presented, if people are actually mad about a perceived tax or government control, and not about safety, do you consider that data that matters?

Automated enforcement is a difference in kind, not a difference in quantity.

The entire structure of penalties was built on the assumption that people would usually get away with infractions. One can speed for years only occasionally having a ticket, but absolute enforcement would make the simplest regular trip have an extreme cost (or jam traffic like never seen before), and most peole would accumulate enough points to lose their license within 20 miles...

With absolute enforcement and penalties for every infraction, the entire set of penalties would need to be reworked. Maybe something like 1c/mph-minute over the limit. Or $1 for blocking a bike lane for 5 min.

This is awesome work, and a great example of the kinds of civic analysis and action developers can take to make their cities and communities better, or at least more informed of the reality they operate within.

Also, wanted to applaud and state that I wholeheartedly agree with your recommendations for both installing cameras everywhere for this purpose, but also for advocating for the faces to be blurred and for the data to be available to the public. As I see it, the surveillance state is here to stay, and thus our efforts are better geared towards pushing for equiveillance rather than fighting against inevitable surveillance: https://blogs.commons.georgetown.edu/isdyahoofellow/david-br...

So the solution is simple: Create a dedicated package delivery/cab pickup/dropoff lane for those vehicle that clearly need to stop frequently but for short times. /s

Maybe try to reclaim some of the street parking spots by making them 5-10 minute stop only. Given the ratio of street parking to population that's probably not enough. Enforcement would be difficult too. It seems the crux of the issue is that there are vehicles that need to make short stops at establishments and cant afford to spend an hour finding a legitimate parking spot each time. The only reasonable option now is to park illegally and try to be quicker than the cops.

Seattle has more than a few 3-minute loading parking zones around neighborhoods. They're usually placed to be convenient for wheelchairs, walkers, dollys, hand trucks, and carts; but aren't restricted to any group. And unlike most other street parking, most of these spots don't swap to free at 8pm, instead staying loading zones 24/7.

Enforcement is the same as any other priority parking spot - if the police find your unattended car, they'll ticket and tow.

And most people seem pretty honest about it. It's easier to park somewhere else if you're eating or working in your car. And less risky (cheaper) to park in a garage if you'll be a while.

Seattle is kind of an anomaly in a lot of ways where people actually pay attention to the laws and follow them for the intended purpose more than their own benefit. Anecdotal evidence, when they were fixing an expansion joint on I-90 a few years ago they needed 80k people not to drive that week over I-90. They estimated that 130k people worked from home that week. Employers were totally cool about it too. "yeah work from home this week".

I think a good percentage of those 130k would give one of their limbs for a better commute on I-90. :)

Feels a lot more like NYC is an anomaly where no one cares about rules directly impacting them.

The Pacific Northwest in general seems to have a more communal culture (moreso Oregon than Western Washington). But NYC.... Dear lord.

The tech industry and canada being next door might help with that :D

For a minute I thought you were saying "steal the employee" then remembered the Canadian stereo types. Tech I'm sure helped but I was in welding class at the same time and Boeing the Boeing folks also shifted

Canada is closer to New York than Oregon.

That's good to know but Seattle is in Washington. Unless you're trying to be funny and we're all wooshing due to Vancouver WA vs Vancouver BC

Bus lanes and stops are actually empty a lot of the time, they just need to be clear at the particular moment when the bus needs them.

With real-time tracking of bus and delivery vehicle locations, I wonder if it would be feasible to work out a software solution that allows delivery vehicles official, coordinated access to the unused time slices. Much like an automated version of what air traffic controllers do for runways and taxiways.

So for example, when a UPS truck enters a neighborhood where it needs needs to deliver 3 packages, the UPS routing software could query the transit agency software telling it the 3 locations, and it could respond with time ranges that they're available. Bus #123 will be at stop #456 at 2:33pm, and that stop won't be needed by another bus until 2:44pm, so we can reserve the time slot 2:35pm-2:42pm for you to make your delivery.

Accurately predicting when a bus will be at the stop in a window 2 hours into the future is effectively impossible, but being able to say "this stop won't be needed in the next 5 minutes" is almost certainly feasible. So the UPS software would need to dynamically decide the routes based on parking availability that is constantly changing throughout the day. Not an easy problem, but one that seems solveable.

The city only needs to publish the ETA for the next bus on each stop, information that bus riders would also find extremely useful.

Busses get slowed down for any number of reasons. Bus schedules are basically fantasies, as any big city resident can tell you. There are too many things that can slow a bus down. Stop lights, accidents, securing wheelchairs, delivery vehicles blocking your lane, construction, police activity, congestion, the guy who gets on and discovers he doesn't have bus fare and wants to argue about it, and on and on and on.

> as any big city resident can tell you.

I used to take the bus every day in Prague (Czech Republic) for about 6 years. It was almost always on schedule in both the morning and afternoon.

I don't know anywhere near enough to argue why in general. But not having drivers sell tickets, and route planning certainly help. For example, shorter routes are guaranteed to reduce variance. But I'm not sure what the downsides are.

Former Seattle (now Las Vegas) resident here. To make the buses run on time, the planners build in "time stops." These are locations where the bus should go through at specific times to not be too early for the rest of the schedule, and they also provide some buffer for buses to recover time lost due to bike loading, disabled passengers, and traffic congestion. If you're getting the bus after a time stop, you'll likely almost always get it on time. If your stop is before the time stop, bus arrival times will vary wildly.

It gets even more interesting when you add transport of the bus: the Seattle (King County) Metro also serves Vashon Island, so some of the buses travel on ferries with their associated delays and peculiarities.

I get on a bus right before a time stop. It's only about 30 blocks after the previous time stop (Northgate TC) but has arrived as soon as 5 minutes before the posted time. That's always fun when combined with a 10 minute late bus following it.

It always stings to see the bus approach early such that I have to run for it, only to then have it wait for 5 minutes at the time stop 2 stops later.

> some of the buses travel on ferries That's an interesting that they would do that along an entire route rather than splitting the two. I've never heard of that before.

I also do really like how Seattle has that dedicated busway twice a day. It's one of the avenues downtown right?

Third Avenue downtown, yes.

Also an insaneo bike lane iirc.

One thing that helps is that the transit authority (ie. DPP, routes that are run by other companies usually are not that good at keeping the schedule) seems to genuinelly care about keeping the schedule. For streetcars there are online monitored checkpoints at least every kilometer or so (usually on each other stop, as part of the station sign, look for rectangular hole in the upper part) and buses are online GPS tracked, this dat is then used both to improve the scheduling and assess the driver's performance.

Edit: another thing that certainly helps is that most transit lines do not go through the typically congested streets (eg. no daytime public transit goes through the Magistrala in city center) and if they do they are separated (eg. Jecna).

In smaller cities with less congestion it's much easier to keep the busses running on schedule. I took the bus every day when I was in college and it was like clockwork, but that was in a modest town with low population density. The situation gets worse in a hurry when you're in the middle of Manhattan on roads that were originally laid out for horses.

This is the exact opposite of what UPS software does today. It routes based on spending the least amount of gas. Dynamic routing to also conserve fuel in NYC would be a quite a thing and what's the incentive to do that? They would need to get enough tickets to justify the cost.

> They would need to get enough tickets to justify the cost.

That's easy! Even more with the proposed automatic system.

> The city only needs to publish the ETA for the next bus on each stop, information that bus riders would also find extremely useful.

This information already is collected and available by text.

> Bus lanes and stops are actually empty a lot of the time, they just need to be clear at the particular moment when the bus needs them.

Yes, this is true. Here in Chicago, it is only illegal to block a bus stop if it is interfering with a bus [1]. I would imagine that this is the case in NYC as well.

[1] https://chicagocode.org/9-64-140/

Given that at high times of the day buses could be coming every 5 minutes, one could easily argue that you're interfering with buses. Later in the night, seems like a good compromise.

Great idea. I agree, they only have to be open when the bus is there. And in fact, maybe there is a $ amount that the city would be ok with if the bus lane was parked.I.e. if a ambulance was there. So if there was dynamic parking for city streets then potentially solved.

> Create a dedicated package delivery/cab pickup/dropoff lane for those vehicle that clearly need to stop frequently but for short times. /s

I'm not sure why you have to be sarcastic saying this? Toronto is experimenting with this idea by stripping parking spots on some of the most high traffic routes... and exchanging it for taxi/delivery/bike/pedestrian spaces/wider streetcar pick up spots...

It's a real problem that isn't going away. Delivery is getting more and more popular every month throughout North America, not only for traditional ecommerce but also groceries and fast food. Same with 'fleet-based' car systems such as Uber/Lyft (which are better for cities/the environment than owning cars) which will be massively increasing in scale with self-driving cars.

So, why shouldn't we design infrastructure for them as much as bikes?

I not sure why the promotion of bike (lanes) has to always be at the detriment of high demand short-term parking. If anything the only long-term losers should be private car spots, but only because other means have reached higher demand and utility.

But even then that's not exactly an unsolvable problem either absent restrictive municipal policy and that prevent the development of underground parking.

Maybe. But instead of dedicated points. Why not just have a market set the price of parking. So no free parking. And the price of parking is set so that we are at 75% capacity by day/hour or something like that. So that way there are always spots available and everyone pays their due.

I agree! "Cheap" parking is another syndrome of America's car culture. Nothing is free and we pay for the free/cheap parking in other ways.

In this case it trickled down to the buses and bikers. They pay for it in longer more dangerous commutes

How is "car culture" relevant to contractors and delivery vehicles?

In NYC in early 20th century, long-term street parking was uncommon. As cars became more common, street parking was considered a blight and made illegal. The American Automobile Association successfully lobbied to get this regulation overturned in 1950.

The streets are now lined with parked cars, which means that police, taxis, contractors, and delivery vehicles double-park, often blocking bike lanes and bus lanes.

Car culture keeps parking prices down, to the point that all spots are always taken, pushing delivery vehicles into illegality.

They take up all the spots on the street...

I don't follow. What does contractor and delivery vehicles taking up all the spaces have to do with "car culture"?

Other way around. Parked cars ("car culture" meaning the expectation that there should be free and easy street parking everywhere) take up space that could be otherwise used by contractor and delivery vehicles.

No one is arguing against contractor and delivery vehicles needing space; car free places such as campus quads or (say) Vernazza, Italy allow "special purpose" vehicles in.

I could be wrong, but I think you have it the wrong way round. I think what the previous poster means is that cars take up all the spaces which leaves none for delivery vehicles, etc...

1.) Contractor and delivery (and police!) vehicles ought to pay to park, even for 30 seconds. 2.) These fees will be passed to customers, who will pass it onto their customers or move their business somewhere else - where infrastructure exists to support it.

Downside of this strategy is now you have another variable delivery cost that will be passed onto all consumers in the area.

If the person receiving the delivery has to bear the delivery cost, instead of transferring it onto bikers, drivers, bus riders in the form of obstructed streets, I would call that an upside.

That sounds like a plus. The cost of using the infrastructure should be passed on to the end users.

A system like that breaks down the first time 10 people need to access the building and there are only 8 spots. Do you tell the UPS driver "Sure, you can park here to deliver the package, but it will cost you $100/minute.". It's also horrifically complex to implement.

The only complex part should be gathering the data (how many spots are open in this street at these times).

I bet in most places these things are measured, and if they aren't it could be simple to measure. LA has parking meters that take credit card payments. You can extrapolate parking spot availability from that. Obviously I'm ignoring the cost of adding credit card parking meters where there aren't, but it proves my point that it could be simple

Choosing a price doesn't have to be complex either. Every quarter raise the price until the desired free space is available

Does this system retroactively raise the price on cars that are already parked there? Or does it create an incentive to get their early and park as long as possible since you'll never find a spot this cheap again?

Sorry, wasn't clear in what I imagined.

Every single street parking meter I have ever seen has working hours (including holidays) and constant price to pay. There's no price increase in certain hours of the day or that sort of thing.

The price adjustment would be changing that constant price per quarter of the year.

So you don't get there early in the day or hog a spot. Every one pays the same regardless of what time they want the spot during the working hours

Assuming 1 spot = 1 vehicle, 10 vehicles won't fit into 8 spots anyway.

I agree that cities need to allocate street space for very short term parking for deliveries, cab/ubers, etc. We shouldn't be forcing drivers to break the law to do things that are part of the normal routine of the city and endanger pedestrians and bikers. Every metro city should be planning for all types of traffic.

I have a friend who was an armored truck driver. When they build a lightrail/trolley in my city, they put the track on the road near the only "secure" route out of a mall within the city. Technically, they are parking illegally, but the police look the other way and there doesn't seem to be a political or engineering solution. Now, the trolley waits behind the armored trucks twice a day.

They often do that by taking away space from cars.

London has red-routes, where you absolutely can't park.

There are a lot fewer parking spaces, and a congestion charge, along with lots more bus lanes... this didn't happen all at once though, but over many years.

Convert all bus stop areas into 3-minute loading zones? Charge a fee when taxis / ridesharing / delivery providers want to use them, then use that for a transit fund.

>"So the solution is simple: Create a dedicated package delivery/cab pickup/dropoff lane for those vehicle that clearly need to stop frequently but for short times. /s"

The parking lane has already been pushed out to make room for a dedicated biking lane. Proposing another dedicated lane on top of this is not a "simple" solution.

I'm not sure if you missed it, but the "/s" at the end of the message is short for "</sarcasm>". jandrese was not being serious with the given suggestion.

LOL, I just thought it was typo. I guess I didn't get the memo on the new sarcasm tags. It's actually a very fun comment then. Cheers.

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