Cyclists Protest Tomlinson Crossing “Solution”

Allan Appel PhotoA railroad’s owners put warning signs up at one of New Haven’s most dangerous cycling spots. That only got worried cyclists more upset—and on their bikes to protest.

“This is unacceptable,” said Juli Stupakevich. So she and other angry and worried cyclists Monday evening bestrode the dangerous rails curving bumpily crossing Route One at the entrance to the port just west of Waterfront Street.

After years of documented accidents at the spot  due to protruding and curving tracks that topple riders, the tracks’ owners, Providence & Worcester Railroad, came up with a graphic response. It put up signs urging riders to dismount and walk.

A dozen people gathered Monday evening to say that’s not enough—they want the treacherous road filled in. They plan another demonstration is planned for Tuesday at the site. Organizers want temporary structural repairs to the tracks, a bike lane, or steps to a longer-term physical solution before another rider is injured.

“Walking your bike is an insufficient response,” said Lisa Anamasi. She and Stupakevich led the way Monday hailing drivers, and be-ribboning the insufficient signs.

Stupakevich bemoaned even the positioning of the signs, which she said do not give sufficient warning for a cyclist going 20 miles per hour to slow or dismount. A permanent westbound sign is in place, and a temporary is on the eastbound side.

Click here and here for previous stories about the dangers for bicyclists at this passage.

After repeated attempts to reach a railroad official for comments, the company said the only person allowed to speak to the press, Marie Angelini, was on an airplane and unavailable.

The dismounting on the eastbound lane is now fairly impossible, in the view of Matthew Feiner of the Devil’s Gear Shop. The now single lane is narrow, so a dismounting would take place, in effect, in the middle of a stream of cars on the heavily trafficked roadway, he said at Monday’s rally.

Until a sidewalk is re-established, after the I-95 reconstruction is done, the only way to get safely across in the eastbound lane is to take the lane at its center and, slowing, try to cross the tracks at as much a perpendicular angle as possible.

“Even if you’re a conscientious cyclist taking the lane, the highly aggressive traffic might not yield to you,” Stupakevich said.

Describing herself as a confident and experienced cyclist for the past ten years, she said she’s still nervous crossing these tracks. She’s been using the road more often this summer to play softball in East Shore Park.  On a recent crossing, where she took the lane, a car racing behind her stopped within an inch of her wheel, she said.

“I’m very nervous for riders not as confident as I am, for families on their way to the park.”

Jason Stockmann said bicyclists’ preferred temporary solution would be for a speedy installation of flange filler on the protruding tracks. That’s a rubberized compound or insert that would make passage over the tracks smooth, and eliminate the open grooving in which wheels are being caught.

“The compressible rubber inserts allow rail to travel through at low speeds,” Stockmann said.

The proposed solution came up at a recent meeting of the statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board.  “P&WRR owns the railroad tracks and has rejected the idea of using rail flange fillers as a solution to this problem,” reported Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) spokesman John Dunham, a member of the board.

Elm City Cycling Board member Mark Abraham (pictured) said the gouged grooves around the tracks, traps for bicycle wheels, looked much worse than at his last look-see.

Stockmann speculated that the heavy truck traffic doing work on I-95 contributed to the worsening condition.

There was genuine anxiety that another accident was coming soon.

A cyclist approached, and Stupakevich urged her to slow down before the rail tracks, which she did. When the Tomlinson Bridge rose for boat traffic, she shouted explanations to an interested truck driver who pulled up in the westbound lane to listen.

Stupakevich (pictured) called city’s traffic and parking czar Mike Piscitelli an ally in their quest..

“We agree that the warning signs are not acceptable,” Piscitelli wrote in an email message after the rally. “A constructed physical improvement is necessary. As you know, this is a state road. At our request ConnDOT convened a working group in 2009, but there has been no follow-up to date.”

Tuesday’s demonstration begins at 5:30 p.m.. What might next steps be? “Increasing the pressure,” said Stupakevich

Post a Comment

Commenting has closed for this entry

Comments

posted by: streever on July 13, 2010  10:29am

Great work Juli! Very exciting. Elm City Cycling had a meeting, or there would have been a lot more riders there yesterday.

As a very experienced road rider I assure you that the problem is very real. Aware of the danger, riding slow, and paying attention, I have almost lost my wheel in the tracks. There is no-where for a bike to go.

The most frustrating part is how few trains actually use the railroad (roughly 3 per month and none during the extended construction). It isn’t exactly a high-volume crossing, so P&Ws; refusal to fix the problem is extremely frustrating.

posted by: juli on July 13, 2010  10:51am

one correction: this evening we will meet at the tracks at 5 pm. (but will still be there at 5:30 as written above)

thank you for this article on such a dangerous situation, alan. and thanks for everyone who joined or are coming this evening.

a better solution must be put in place on tracks that aren’t even in use, on a route heavily-travelled by cyclists.

posted by: downtown d on July 13, 2010  10:52am

Thank you for all your hard work on this issue!

posted by: Jeffery on July 13, 2010  11:11am

Here is a simple idea.
Take Chapel St to Ferry St to Fairmont Ave to Woodward Ave. instead of traveling over “the heavily trafficked roadway” that has “heavy truck traffic doing work”.
Help yourself and you help others.

posted by: William Kurtz on July 13, 2010  11:32am

The Providence and Worcester Railroad is directly responsible for this treacherous stretch of road.  Why not call or write to them and ask them why they refuse to take any meaningful action despite the large number of crashes and injuries on Forbes Avenue on their unused and unmaintained track?

The main switchboard number is 508.755.4000

David Fitzgerald (VP Of Operations) .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (ext. 405)
Thomas Lewis (Chief Track Engineer) .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (ext. 250)
Richard Fisher (Director of Rules and Safety) .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (ext. 316)

Once Ms. Angelini lands, she can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or ext. 365.

posted by: Erin on July 13, 2010  11:52am

It’s great to see this kind of activism on what is clearly an insufficient response to a very serious problem.

In no way am I absolving the P&W Railroad from their responsibility to implement acceptable safety measure on this crossing, but I want to point out that the miserable design of this roadway is a contributing factor.

ConnDOT also has a responsibility to respond with funding to complete this street by designing and rebuilding it to include safe and accessible options for all users:  pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles.

It is grossly unjust to spend billions of dollars on a bridge expansion project that is legally limited to motor vehicles, while leaving other users to risk their lives for access to downtown New Haven.

P&W must come up with a short term solution, but in the end, the buck stops with ConnDOT.

posted by: psychocycler on July 13, 2010  11:57am

Are these rails even in use currently? If not, the solution should be extremely easy to remedy. Thanks for bringing attention to this dangerous spot! Let’s keep up the pressure with calls to ConnDOT and our state reps.

posted by: destrOYER on July 13, 2010  12:07pm

So glad to hear some people are taking action on this. I wrecked myself pretty bad on these tracks two years ago and when i went to the hospital and was trying to describe where it happened they were like, “oh yeah, everybody wrecks their bike there”. I was dumbfounded. It makes me angry how so many other cities (with so fewer resources) have such better infrastructure in place for cyclists and pedestrians.

posted by: MRM on July 13, 2010  12:08pm

Ha! It also looks as though the person who designed the sign might be a good candidate to submit to the unnecessary quotes blog.  “Danger”? As in it is not really dangerous? Or are you quoting someone? 

http://www.unnecessaryquotes.com/

posted by: Alphonse Credenza on July 13, 2010  12:44pm

Of course, radical bikists demand that OTHERS do for them.  Give me, give me, give me!

Like the (adult) bikists on Whitney Ave. over the past few days, who:

1) Rode down the yellow stripe, both hands high in the air.  Wearing flip-flops.  No helmet.

2) Failed to signal a turn—left.  No helmet.

3) When the car in front of him turned right, he served left to go around it, into the passing lane, at perhaps 20 mph.  No helmet.

4) Rode through the red light where cars were stopped.  (Several of these.  Some with helmets.)

5) Rode on the street until he couldn’t pass the traffic and then rode on the sidewalk.  And then back into the street when he cleared the bottleneck.  This one had a helmet.

You have no claim to any “rights”—however, you may misunderstand this word to mean—to force construction on these tracks. Get off your bikes and walk it.  And get off the darn streets.  It’s too dangerous for an unprotected, unstable vehicle—don’t shove a study in front of my face, please, I don’t buy it.  None of you have much common sense.  You just want to ride, and to hell with everyone else.

posted by: HewNaven?? on July 13, 2010  1:01pm

Actually being an experienced road cyclist doesn’t really help here. Road cyclists generally don’t know how to maneuver their bikes as well as other kinds of cyclists. I’m thinking a BMX rider or mountain biker would have no problem getting over the tracks. In my personal experience (about once a week in the summertime) I’ve gotten across the tracks with no problem, but it required me to lift up the front end of the bike twice in quick succession as I cross each track (the back end of the bike will naturally carry over). I’m not sure really young or elderly or even an average cyclist can perform this maneuver which is probably why so many people are getting hurt. In addition to the technical skill required, the tracks are at a weird angle which requires a cyclist to come out into the lane, which though legal, is not exactly intuitive and can actually seem death-defying to an unexperienced cyclist or ignorant driver.

That being said, this whole approach is very typical of the DOT which has proven once again that they not only don’t care about cyclists, but they may actually hate us so much that they want us dead. Is that sign someone’s sick joke?

posted by: downtown d on July 13, 2010  1:35pm

alphonse: what are you talking about?! cyclists are mandated by law to be in the streets with cars.

and what of you alphonse? it sounds like you just want to drive, be damned with any other form of transportation!

if cyclists listed every bad driver (as you have listed one bad cyclist), there wouldn’t be enough storage space on the NHI’s server to hold all of the complaints.

in short, this is what your comment reads like: “facts? laws? who needs them! bicycle punks. all should be dead. why can’t you just waste your money, resources, and lives behind the wheel of an auto like the REST of us.”

posted by: MR on July 13, 2010  1:42pm

The scare quotes around “DANGER” are the other criminal part of that sign.

Seriously though—the (insane) suggestion to dismount effectively turns you from a cyclist in fast-moving traffic, to a pedestrian in fast-moving traffic.  Dangerous to the cyclist, and to motorists.  This isn’t a “cyclists vs. motorists” battle—both parties need a better solution for the safety of all.

posted by: anon on July 13, 2010  1:54pm

There is a lot of high speed traffic here on a very narrow road (it is now two lanes, instead of the usual four).

Unfortunately, this isn’t just a problem for cyclists—if a cyclist flips on the tracks (highly likely, in fact has happened again just in the past week), they are likely to hit an oncoming car. That car may swerve in avoidance or surprise, striking several oncoming cars or trucks.

We’re talking about the possibility of a half dozen driver deaths here, to happen in the very near future, not just the death of one or two cyclists.

Hope this helps.

posted by: ben on July 13, 2010  2:00pm

Support this fix here: http://www.seeclickfix.com/issues/1300

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on July 13, 2010  2:03pm

Alphonse,
I sympathize with your point-there are many people who dangerously ride bikes. I don’t wear a helmet because the good ones are expensive and they’re uncomfortable especially when frequent 180 degree head turns are required. I’ve also probably done some of the things you’re complaining about, but I’ve also driven a car dangerously as I’m sure you have before in your lifetime. I think to characterize most cyclists and most cycling, in general, as being dangerous just isn’t true.
Furthermore, drivers have absolutely no leg to stand on when talking about demanding accommodations from “OTHERS”. The amount private individuals, companies, businesses, municipalities, regions, states, the nation, etc has accommodated for automobile use is not in the same universe as the accommodations made for cyclists or pedestrians.
As one example, out of millions, take Whitney Avenue. What was once a picturesque urban Avenue with a trolley line, minimal car usage and heavy pedestrian traffic a century ago, has been completely handed over to automobiles. It is an extremely wide street that accommodates very high speed travel mostly for people who don’t live in the city, pay city taxes, or really care all that much about the city. Walking becomes unpleasant thanks to the constant noise generated from traffic, crossing the street because dangerous and annoying thanks to short lights, high speeds, infrequent crossing opportunities and an atmosphere of “for cars only, other uses need not apply”. Biking is dangerous because it is mostly a 4 lane highway with no shoulder.
Any movement to make biking, walking and transit use more pleasant, easy and convenient should never be seen as “taking away from drivers, cars and motorists rights”, it should be seen as restoring the balance that has been overwhelmingly lopsided for several decades toward one governmentally-preferred, subsidized and entitlement-driven form of transportation.
“You just want to ride, and to hell with everyone else.”
That is precisely the mentality of drivers, the only difference is that this is accepted as the norm because the government has endorsed this way of thinking through policy after policy of auto-centric planning.

posted by: Pedro Soto on July 13, 2010  2:28pm

... considering the billion dollar I WANT TO DRIVE TO HELL WITH EVERYONE ELSE bridge currently going up right next to this road! ...
While the Q-Bridge needed replacement, seeing that going up just shows you how many drivers feel as if it’s their god-given right to drive their cars no matter what.

The irony about these tracks is also that THEY ARE NOT CURRENTLY IN USE.  Does anyone realize this? The required track improvement has not been done past this, so no train traffic currently runs to the port.

Actually, considering the state of things and the danger of imminent harm to unsuspecting cyclists, a guerrilla move might not be the worst thing:

Just fill in a few parts of the tracks in with driveway tar, at least for the time being. When they actually get around to extending the tracks, it could be pulled out and a proper fix implemented….. but this is all hypothetically speaking of course.

posted by: Ned on July 13, 2010  3:37pm

Mr. Credenza is just expressing the impotent rage that the majority of drivers experience - trapped in their toxic steel and plastic cages, debt slaves to their car loans and insurance companies, sitting in traffic all of their movements tightly controlled by anonymous DOT bureaucrats, harassed by the police, impeded by all of the other drivers, denying that they could be killed at any time in a crash, recognizing that they are supporting the Saudis and destroying the environment and powerless to do anything about any of it.  George Bush said it: “they hate us [bicyclists and pedestrians and {especially} skateboarders]” for our freedom.”

posted by: Jason S. on July 13, 2010  3:54pm

Small post-script to this excellent article by Allan:

At the ElmCityCycling meeting Monday night, a New Haven Police Officer described going down on the tracks on a motorcycle.  He suggested contacting the Fire Department for a list of motorcycle, moped, and bicycle accidents at the site.

posted by: Bill Saunders on July 13, 2010  4:01pm

I haven’t ridden this stretch since the construction began (on my way to go fishing), but from the pictures, the situation doesn’t look much worse than the abominable train track crossings on Grand Avenue, which have certainly lunched a few bike tires (on my way to get bait).

posted by: anon on July 13, 2010  4:05pm

Not sure why solutions only focus on the tracks. Slow the traffic down to 15 miles per hour using speed humps like those currently in place on the Chapel Street bridge. This is a major construction zone with constant truck traffic—given the extremely high volumes and speeds, any speed above that is dangerous, with or without the tracks. I’d be surprised if there weren’t several more serious crashes here before the construction is over.

posted by: Ray Willis on July 13, 2010  4:48pm

You ROCK Juli!

posted by: 7uh on July 13, 2010  5:05pm

“George Bush said it: ‘they hate us [bicyclists and pedestrians and {especially} skateboarders]” for our freedom.’”

Wow - congratulations on some serious sanctimony. In actual fact, I think Credenza was hating on what HE perceived as those bicyclists’ attitude that they are “free” from traffic laws.

posted by: davec on July 13, 2010  5:52pm

I got an idea.  Tell General Motors that they are New Haven’s new light rail tracks.  They’ll be out there tonight ripping them up.

posted by: Cornelius Von Splattem on July 13, 2010  7:40pm

How absolutely right these young people are. Anything that stands in the way of personal transportation is a complete abhorrence to modern society and unconstitutional as it impinges on civil liberties. Why should a railroad have the right to cross a road, even if it is much more efficient at moving freight and cuts down on the emissions that cause global warming. Cyclists are saving the universe. They should quite rightly be given precedence. They do not use gasoline and are saving the planet. All the hot water they use for a shower after a good cycle around town should not be counted. The fact it uses more globally warming gases to produce the hot water is a non issue. Why, even my daily jaunt across the Tomlinson bridge in my super charged Hummer produces less hot air than the average cyclist. My complaint is that there are all these red lights that hold me up at intersections. The city must do all it can to eliminate them as I have to stop and wait a few minutes here, there, and everywhere. Much more than the ten seconds it takes to get off a bike to walk it across a railroad track. Why do I pay taxes on my vehicle, gas, vehicle emissions tests, license plates when I cant do whatever I want with it. Cyclists can do whatever they want. They are the elite of the traveling world, but I can’t join them.  Even the sign says not one more.

posted by: anon on July 13, 2010  9:48pm

On the signs… I’m not sure if most of the riders on this bridge even speak English. Did the DOT look around at the demographic and traffic counts here? Are there plans to put up the signs in Spanish? Or does it not matter if people get killed as long as they aren’t voters?

posted by: grew up here on July 13, 2010  10:35pm

let’s face if you can read and ride maybe you should find another way around . spent my childhood in fair haven heights .this the only track crossing left .just use some common sense chapel st and river st were covered with these track learn to ride or just read the sign

posted by: Personal Story on July 13, 2010  11:11pm

I have a scar on my shoulder from a nasty crash I experienced on the tracks heading back into New Haven in the fall of 2008.

I was riding single-file with two other cyclists, in the lead. I turned my head back, and yelled to my companions to be careful, “the tracks are dangerous” and tried to ride successfully over them. My front wheel made it over the first track ok, but then got stuck in the groove adjacent to the track closest to the bridge. The wheel slid out and over I went.

Luckily, I fell on my aluminum glasses case, which was in a belt pack, softening my landing (and possibly saving my hip from being broken!), before I rolled over and skidded on my shoulder.

There was no traffic at the time, but my friends were quick to scoop me up and out of the road, because it’s a dangerous road.

The sidewalk isn’t a safe place to ride a bicycle, and the approach to the bridge on the sidewalk is a sandy mess- and has tracks of it’s own. Certainly not a solution.

Tilcon has a great flange in-road in nearby Branford. Those trains are slow-moving, similar to those that will eventually service the port. Make the tracks safe! I have a scar, but otherwise am ok. If there were cars speeding behind me, leaving less than the 3’ required by state law in passing room, I might’ve been killed.

This is a matter of a state road and a private company not taking into consideration all the users of the roadway, and citing greed (cost) as the reason not to make this a safe route for the three modes of transportation that use it: cars, bicycles, and trains.

Fix this now! My sunglasses are bent from this accident, and because they’re prescription, and I don’t have health insurance (too costly!), I have a daily reminder of this issue!

posted by: originaljames on July 13, 2010  11:24pm

As experienced bicyclists will attest to, even if adjacent compromised asphalt (i.e. gaps) are addressed next to the RR tracks, there still will (necessaily so) be a certain amount of potentially hazardous train wheel clearance required…..Either try to hit the tracks @ a 90 degree angle or (if not possible) just walk the bike over the given RR track crossing.
Also, of equal importance, is the need to be visible—no matter the time of day—when riding…...The guadier, the better (ex: orange or lime green vests) after all, at-the-end-of-the-day, it is not a fashion show….This is a life & death proposition to get on a two-wheeler (ex: under tressles, even in daylight hours, motorists sometimes experience blindspots while their eyes adjust).....Do you ride on hilly terrain w/numerous horizons OR have lower profile youngsters?/; forget about aerodynamics & install a rod/flag assembly to your own ‘iron horse’!.......JMcH.Safe.Cycling.Advocate/(We.I.r)

posted by: streever on July 14, 2010  4:54am

Cornelius Von Splattem,
Right on. Red lights cause you, while normally operating your vehicle, to have serious crashes, just like the CAO of New Haven, NHPD members on motorcycles, and scores of experienced bicyclists who suffered broken femurs & collarbones on these tracks.

You are totally right. These tracks, with no practical warnings or ways to cross safely, are identical to red lights, especially in the ways that they have injured so many people.

posted by: Alphonse Credenza on July 14, 2010  6:14am

You radical bikists who ride on the street and are then, may God forbid it, badly injured by some of the crazy drivers out there—there are plenty of them—take your lives into your own hands. 

The danger to you, when you ride in the street, especially without a helmet, is readily apparent.  Do you run with scissors?  Do you point a loaded weapon at a person for fun?  Not if you have any sense.

And when you have, as I, a friend who has been severely disabled with a metal plate in his head for 30 years after a car knocked him over as he rode in the street (without a helmet), you will understand why I know you to be completely wrong to ride in the street and senselessly insistent upon your “rights.”  Two ruined lives - his and the driver.

posted by: Will New Haven on July 14, 2010  7:37am

Hey friends.  While construction is going on in this area you have to be understanding that things won’t be perfect. Pedestrian traffic is probably discouraged as well because it too is dangerous here. Until construction is completed use common sense and drive or get where you’re going another way.

posted by: eli antonio on July 14, 2010  8:18am

I have the solution.  bicyclists stay off of the roads used by cars, and cars stay off of bike paths.  perhaps the bike community can have a bake sale and build their own bridge. or perhaps they can move to burlington vermont or portland oregon.  there are several options, they don’t have to live in new haven, they don’t have to use the public lands.

posted by: anon on July 14, 2010  8:33am

Where are the “sharrows” and new bike lanes that the city promised to install years ago?

Is there any accountability at City Hall?

posted by: William Kurtz on July 14, 2010  8:34am

Interesting; a number of protesters (“Will New Haven” and “Eli Antonio” among them) have suggested that cyclists and pedestrians can just “go another way” or “stay off the road.”  I would be curious to know what rationale supports the suggestion that some citizens are to be catered to more than others, based solely on how they choose to get around.  In some cases, of course, people aren’t choosing for are forced by economic or other circumstances. 

But, maybe you’re right.  Perhaps motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists simply can’t share this road successfully.  Therefore, I propose an entirely reasonable solution.  Since there’s already a river crossing which is legally limited to only motorized traffic, how about if all motorists use the Q Bridge to move between downtown and the east shore.  Cars can get on using the entrance at the end of Worcester St. and get off at Woodward Avenue. 

The Tomlinson Bridge can then be used solely by cyclists, pedestrians and other users of non-motorized transportation.  There will then be plenty of room for cyclists to cross those tracks at a right angle.  It’s a perfect fix; and for an added bit of poetic parallelism, everyone gets a unique inconvenience.  Motorists will be sitting in the rush-hour Q Bridge traffic and only cyclists and pedestrians will ever experience the frustration of being delayed while the bridge is up.  CONNDOT, are you listening?

posted by: William Kurtz on July 14, 2010  8:50am

Alphonse,

I think the sad details of your friend’s story illustrate exactly why you should be a little more supportive of us “radical bikists.”

I’ll reiterate once more than it’s not some ambiguous or lofty “right” to ride in the road; it’s the law in all 50 states, and many municipalities, (New Haven, for one) explicitly forbid cycling on the sidewalk.  So the “should we ride in the street?” question is settled.

Of course I don’t know the details of your friend’s crash.  I agree that it’s generally a poor choice to ride without a helmet and I almost always wear mine.  But I’m not even sure you could buy a bike helmet 30 years ago—they certainly weren’t in common use, so don’t be too hard on your friend.  But wearing a helmet has nothing to do with the cause of the crash.  What happened?  When cyclists and drivers follow the rules of the road, observe posted speed limits, allow proper clearances when passing, use caution at turns and intersections and clearly signal their intentions to each other (while of course remaining attentive to their surroundings) bikes and cars can easily share the streets.  Problems occur when the rules and safeguards put in place are ignored; the entire system break down when cyclists are riding against traffic, or darting out of sidewalk curb cuts, or when drivers are texting or speeding. 

I should probably also point out that “danger” is more properly attributed to its source.  The analogy is backwards in your own rhetorical question (“Do you point a loaded weapon at a person for fun?”)  In this case, it’s the driver who is pointing the metaphorical loaded gun at people.

posted by: downtown d on July 14, 2010  8:59am

the last three comments are ridiculous.

alphonse. it’s the law that bicycles ride on the street. my “rights” as a cyclist are to be within the law and ride in street.

Will new haven: sorry, i didn’t mean to lump you in to that category. you’re fine, but it was a problem before the construction, it’s a problem during construction, and it’s going to be a problem after construction. no 2 ways about it. i would say that there is another way for automobiles to get across that river mouth - push the autos away. there’s no other way to cross for pedestrians and cyclists within a good long trek.

eli antonio: the separated bike path is a great solution. the city/state/fed should fund it. they fund the roads for cars and if you would like dedicated transportation lanes for bikes, then the city/state/fed should fund it as well. i doubt you have much concept of the amount of subsidization cars are given in our society (read: every comment by ‘anon’ and Jonathan Hopkins ever on this site). stop, think for a moment, and then realize that your car travel is ridiculously subsidized. i would LOVE to see car drivers hold a bake sale and try to pay for the roads/energy resources they use without printing money.

http://www.mattbors.com/strips/654.gif

posted by: streever on July 14, 2010  9:02am

rhetorical question to you 3:
Should the police officer who was legally & safely riding his motorcycle when the tracks caused him to crash, breaking both his knees, have been “Staying off the road”? This was years before current construction.


Alphonze:
Odds of surviving a bike accident are equivalent to being in an SUV, and far better than being in a pickup truck. Also, who says that any of the cyclists speaking out want to not wear helmets?

Eli:
Property & income tax are what finance the road. Not taxes on cars or gasoline. Can you explain to me why someone who drives on a road that everyone pays for has the right to dictate who else gets to go on it?

Will:
The track situation has been dangerous for years before the construction.

What you are all missing is that tracks like these are simply NOT DONE this way anywhere else. Even in Providence and Massachussets on the P&W rails they use flange fillers on curved tracks. It’s an easy, cheap, safe solution to a real infrastructure problem.

instead of using other folks real concerns as launching platforms for your own misguided and uninformed viewpoints, I recommend doing something worthy of news attention.

posted by: Steve B on July 14, 2010  9:30am

It’s just plain ignorant to suggest that cyclists riding in the street are somehow “radical.” As previously pointed out and as you no doubt are fully aware, cyclists are required by law to ride in the street.

Furthermore this road is a DESIGNATED BIKE ROUTE. That’s straight from ConnDOT.

One not in response to an earlier comment: the crossing at Grand Ave, which was a bane for bikes and cars alike, has been repaired. Thanks to the city for addressing that.

posted by: radical bikist on July 14, 2010  10:13am

Why so much hate against some good folks trying to bring resolution to a dangerous problem in our fair city? Many have advocated for streets to be repaired that pose dangerous problems to drivers in cars. Why can’t bikists do the same? This really shouldn’t be so controversial.

FYI, Will - this bridge has been a site with very high numbers of accidents well before construction even started.

posted by: jondoeski on July 14, 2010  10:33am

I know you shouldn’t have to; however your probably better off patching the holes yourself.  It seems a lot of energy has been invested in this protest.  I just wonder if this energy could be applied in a more productive manner?  How many cyclists encounter this problem daily?  Just sayin.

Pedal down the foot hills…
Wheelies on the front…

good luck to ya’ll with the cause!

posted by: Will New Haven on July 14, 2010  11:25am

Hey fellas: No I did not realize this is an ongoing problem.

Bikers certainly do have legal rights to ride on the roadway, but in light of you all being aware of the dangers you face, what’s the difference? Personally, I wouldn’t take my life into my hands based on a legal premise or idealist view of how things are supposed to be.

Jondoeski: you can’t be serious. I got this (kind of twisted) mental picture of your suggestion and almost fell out of my chair laughing.

posted by: robn on July 14, 2010  12:14pm

Cornelius Von Splattem,

There are 114,000 BTUs in a gallon of gas and a brief shower only takes about 17,000 BTUs.

GAS

SHOWER

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on July 14, 2010  12:58pm

In the early 20th century, New Haven had a city ordinance that limited traffic to a maximum speed of 10 miles per hour within a mile of City Hall, and 12 miles per hour beyond that mile radius. This was done to slow down the unruly trolleys that would zip by pedestrian packed sidewalks and streets at an unbearable 15 miles per hour once every 10-25 minutes. Thank god today all we have to deal with are constant streams of automobile fleets cruising by at 35-60 miles per hour with a few patches of bumper to bumper traffic that give me a chance to inhale those wonderful exhaust pipe fumes.
Fortunately for the poor urban dwellers of the mid 20th century, elitist planners, politicians and bureaucracies decided that entire neighborhoods were unworthy of existence and their residents were unworthy of opinions, so the process of rebuilding this country around the automobile from our countryside to our farmland to our small towns to our cities could take place with no sizable opposition. The American public didn’t choose this lifestyle, it was imposed upon them by the government, which was bought by big oil and car manufacturing companies. The accumulated wealth of our nation was unwillingly poured into massive infrastructure by the hundreds of thousands of miles, car production by the millions and house building by the millions so that the public could be turned into paychecks for big corporations. This process has been so distorted and ingrained in our society through manipulative advertising campaigns, commercials, political rhetoric, and inaccurate history that people actually think the auto-centric society we currently have was the result of some natural progression through public choice and preference, when that is the furthest thing from the truth. 60 years ago, if one were to ask someone dwelling in the Oak Street slums how their neighborhood could be improved they’d respond with minimal cosmetic changes like more windows, better ventilation, larger apartments, more porches and balconies, fixed sidewalks and streets, more street trees, etc. These are exactly the kind of improvements that urban renewal should have focused on, instead a small group of largely suburban dwelling elitists made decisions for people based on misconceptions that were heavily influenced by big business that wanted people living in walkable communities to become car buying, oil consuming, big housing lot owning, debt-filled corporate slaves. Someone’s life that revolved around hard work, religious involvement, civic activism, local commerce support, raising kids, and whenever possible, recreation could not have cooked up so crazy plan to turn America’s landscape into a massive highway that went from strip shopping center to business park to housing subdivision at an astonishingly inefficient rate. The idea to raze an entire neighborhood and build massive curving geometries of concrete and steel came from rich people who had time to waste daydreaming about fantasies and what they thought was “good” for other people. Congress through enormous subsidies at large scale farms that promoted mono-crops. Surely this didn’t leave the small farms in New Haven County with a choice between bankruptcy and selling land to developers or the federal government for highway construction, right? You cannot support driving dependency, highways, suburban subdivisions, shopping malls, business parks, etc without supporting a massive culture of entitlements, welfare, and subsidizing that come from mandates from the federal and state governments.
So, Alphonse, Eli and others, this is who you are siding with-socialists, elitists, big business, and you are condoning and trying to continue decades of governmental mandates and policies that take from the middle and working class and give to large corporations, most of which don’t even have headquarters in this country anymore. Just because a majority of Americans have been coerced into adopting this elitist mentality doesn’t change where it came from or who its benefiting and hurting. Hiding behind auto-centricity is a horrible way to spend one’s life-it is inexcusable, indefensible, and if often makes hypocrites out of conservatives.

Also the proposed solutions for this bridge aren’t to render the tracks unusable, they are just to make it safer to cross, right? Surely there are solutions that maintain the rail and allow cyclists to safely cross over it.

posted by: streever on July 14, 2010  2:02pm

Will:
Fair enough! The big issue as Steve B points out is the road is a designated bike route by Conn DOT. That means that many amateur/inexperienced/non-local cyclists expect it to be relatively safe & usable on a bike.

So, while most of us DO make a choice to avoid it, it’s a choice we can make. There is no warning for a cyclist who is not part of New Haven bike culture, or for instance someone who doesn’t speak english, or someone from out of town.

The only solution offered by the railroad is a sign directly above the track telling you to dismount—in a no-shoulder, one-lane, with traffic speeds of up to 50mph. It’s just extremely impractical and not feasible, especially after the downhills leading up to it.

posted by: anon on July 14, 2010  4:23pm

Jonathan - this supports your arguments about conservatives backing good transportation policy:

http://t4america.org/blog/2010/07/09/american-conservative-magazine-rails-against-the-machine-promotes-alternatives-to-the-automobile/

In fact, you could argue that our highway systems expanded most rapidly under the direction of our most supposedly “liberal” administrations. Teaming with the major corporations and oil companies, the Democratic auto and highway construction unions fiercely lobbied for systems that would line their pockets, but not necessarily benefit all Americans.

Lamont, Malloy, and DeStefano are no different than these folks in their approach to transportation policy.  They want gold-plated high speed buses and rails for a small elite of regional suburban office workers (who vote in large numbers), but refuse to take an adequate sum of money out of the hands of large union contractors to rebuild our neighborhood-level transportation systems such as walking routes and buses that actually run on time from Hamden Plaza to Union Station.

posted by: Wooster St cyclist on July 14, 2010  5:40pm

I have been traveling by bike for the past 5 years from New Haven to East Shore Park for softball and not once have fallen.  Perhaps these cyclist need to put training wheels on their bicycles.  Be aware of your environment, be aware what’s in front of you.

posted by: Unicycler on July 14, 2010  8:42pm

I see a few issues here.  For starters, the bikes pictured in these photos are part of the problem - street bikes designed to be ridden on the best of surfaces.  They are excellent machines on well prepped surfaces, but introduce sand, pebbles or any deviations in the road surface, and you can have a problem.  Bikes designed for a more hybrid environment are better suited to less than ideal conditions.  Anyone riding a dedicated street bike should know the inherent problem with substandard surfaces. Guess what - in CT you’re going to have less than perfect surfaces so ride a bike that is appropriate for the conditions!  Another issue - a bike rider has an inherent responsibility, just like any other users of the roads, to be aware of his or her surroundings and conditions.  Given all of the signs at this spot, how could you not know that caution is required?  Everyone else needs to adjust to the conditions, why can’t some cyclists? This article is a perfect example of some cyclists not paying attention.  All the signs are there, impossible to miss, and yet a cyclist approaching still needs to be “urged” to “slow down.”  What is up with that?

Do you avoid dropping your front wheel into catch basins?  Do you avoid manhole covers? Do you take evasive action when you see sand or debris in your path?  Are there signs to tell you where these are? No, but there are signs here, and it looks like there are allot of them.  Why then can’t a rider, whose basic responsibility it is to be aware of his or her surroundings and conditions, take the appropriate action to avoid having a problem at this crossing?  Does the state need to consider licensing bicyclists?  Perhaps so - some training might help to make riders aware of and know how to navigate simple anomalies. If you cannot read signs, interpret them, and deal with a simple deviation from the norm, then perhaps you should not be riding a bike at all. And am I inferring that someone here is suggesting that signs need to be posted in languages other than English?  That is laughable.
This looks more and more like hyperactive “community organizers” pushing an agenda…

posted by: Bill on July 15, 2010  6:32am

Unfortunately ECC and it’s radicals give the rest of us cyclists a bad name and what’s worse is they think they actually represent cyclists. It’s the typical liberal attitude that the elite can speak for us dumb average people.

posted by: streever on July 15, 2010  7:44am

Unicycler,

You may have missed reading how a. there is no place to safely dismount when approaching the bridge from East Shore
b. Motorcycles have had accidents there too due to the track

No, it’s not just bike tires. It is a well-known poorly designed street configuration.

posted by: Alphonse Credenza on July 15, 2010  7:50am

Most of you do not address the immediate and real problem of physical safety.  This is the just about the only concern I have. 

Yes, I am inconvenienced by you while driving, but I am far more frightened that I will be unable to stop fast enough to save you the pain of injury or death if you should swerve near or dart in front of my vehicle—and so many of you do this because you ride a bike as if you were driving your auto. 

At least, when an auto is driven badly, we have seat belts and a protective covering tested for safety.  You have no protection, NONE, other than a padded helmet, when you hit the roadway at 20 mph.

Instead, I read glib explanations having nothing to do with the danger of riding exposed and unprotected side-by-side 2500 lb. rolling bombs.

Is the law as it stands a good reason to continue to be a present danger to yourselves and others? ...

posted by: William Kurtz on July 15, 2010  8:19am

I’m not sure where all the “hating” (as I think the kids call it) towards people trying to call attention to this problem is coming from, especially when it’s being voiced by those claiming to be cyclists themselves. 

Would you be so cavalier about a three-foot wide pothole in the middle of a major thoroughfare?  Or a little grit in your tap water? 

Every cyclist who rides on the streets and not only on the canal trail or the beach boardwalk should know that a bicycle should cross a railroad track with its wheels perpendicular to the rails.  As the picture with Mark Abraham (in the green shirt) should make clear, this is difficult to accomplish on the eastbound side and all-but-impossible on the westbound side.  It’s worse now, that the road has been narrowed to one lane in each direction. 

I would invite anyone who thinks the signs fix the problem to come down there at 5:00 and see how welcoming an environment that is to stop, dismount, and walk for 30 feet or so down the street with 50 mph traffic backing up behind you.

And for those who see some kind of liberal-elite-community-organizer thing going on here, I would point out that the Providence & Worcester Railroad’s decrepit response to this problem illustrates exactly what’s wrong with laissez-faire capitalism.  This is the same attitude that got you thalidomide, Bhopal, Exxon Valdez, the BP oil spill, Love Canal,  Three-Mile Island, imported Chinese aspirin and pet food, etc. etc. etc.

posted by: Will New Haven on July 15, 2010  9:18am

After seeing some lame biking discussion on SeeClickFix.com this is a breath of fresh air.  Credenza I’m with you.  Kurtz & Streever what are they supposed to do, redesign the whole street for a few bicycles?  This is not a hating thing, but I think you know that already.  You have an agenda and you are going to put whatever spin on it that suits your needs at the moment.  When the economy improves there will be more money for ancillary stuff like this.

posted by: streever on July 15, 2010  11:15am

Will, again:
“recommended [on-road] bicycle route for cycling around New Haven, focusing on routes that connect New Haven’s neighborhoods while enjoying as many calm, wide, and scenic streets as possible.”

This is from DOT, concerning the ride over the bridge.

posted by: anon on July 15, 2010  11:28am

Will New Haven, if there are only a “few” bicycles here, how do you explain the fact there have been dozens of severe injuries at the location (of both cyclists and motorcyclists)?

Have you done a rush hour count of bike traffic here?

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on July 15, 2010  11:40am

“At least, when an auto is driven badly, we have seat belts and a protective covering tested for safety.”
Thank god! Its about time cars became safe, I can’t believe its taken this long to address the 15 million auto accidents that lead to 50,000 deaths and 5 million injuries every year. Wait…you’re not talking about the same old safety precautions that have been in place for decades, are you?

“what are they supposed to do, redesign the whole street for a few bicycles?”
Why not? This country redesigned our entire landscape around the automobile in the mid 20th century when car drivers and suburban dwellers were still a tiny minority. We should pour money into better biking infrastructure and take away from automobile infrastructure to do so, in order to encourage cycling and discourage driving. We should also take money away from highways to improve pedestrian circulation paths in our towns and cities to encourage more walking and transit use. We should each have many different transportation options that are all equally viable. Why are people against choice? I guess we could continue to invest overwhelmingly in cars but all that’s gunna do is maintain our dependence on foreign oil, keep asthma rates high, make people sick due to poor air quality and lack of exercise, which will continue to raise healthcare costs for everyone, it will continue to bankrupt the suburban middle class as they struggle to pay 1/3 of their income on transportation and it will continue the history of corruption, entitlements, subsidies, and coercion that is ingrained in this country’s automotive past.

posted by: Vinny G on July 15, 2010  2:26pm

“what are they supposed to do, redesign the whole street for a few bicycles?”
““what are they supposed to do, redesign the whole street for a few bicycles?”
Why not? This country redesigned our entire landscape around the automobile in the mid 20th century when car drivers and suburban dwellers were still a tiny minority. “


Not everyone has the physical ability to ride a bicycle.  There are handicap and elderly that rely on motor vehicles for transportation.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on July 15, 2010  4:18pm

Vinny,
You are correct that not everyone has the ability to ride a bicycle. I don’t see why that justifies auto-centricity. If we built walkable communities instead of single use suburban subdivisions then people with disabilities could just walk or wheelchair to their daily needs. People depend on cars, not because of the cars, but because of the environments people inhabit, which demand car usage.
For instance, a disabled neighbor of mine wheels down to the corner everyday to pick up a newspaper, then heads to Edge of the Woods for groceries and a couple times a week waits for the bus, uses the lift, sits in the handicap section and gets off at the Mitchell Library to pick up or return a book. And every once in a while I see my neighbor in a special handicap accessible van, which I guess is to go somewhere that the bus system doesn’t go to.
My neighbor can do these things because sidewalks in my neighborhood exist, they’re mostly smooth, the corners have crosswalks and lights, the streets and sidewalks are shading by trees and stores, shops, jobs and parks are within a short distance from homes and these places are connected to other neighborhoods and downtown by transit where people can get to other needs that aren’t in their neighborhood and the buses are wheelchair accessible. This is called transportation options.
In the suburbs, like Orange for example, these transportation options don’t exist. Driving is mandatory because housing is too far from stores and jobs or is separated by fences or large roads. If my neighbor lived in Orange, she would have to wait for that van to pick her up to do anything, making her completely dependent on a car. This is a constant in suburbia and places that don’t have transit options because of bad infrastructure, low density and bad zoning. Even people who are physically able to ride bikes, walk, use transit don’t have that option in most of the country. This is the problem-lack of options, and its because we pour so much money in cars and their infrastructure to focus on anything else.

posted by: Will New Haven on July 15, 2010  7:08pm

Streever - If the DOT suggested you to jump off the Tomlinson Bridge would you do it?

Anon - What constitutes a “severe” injury?  Did you poll the people that fell for the exact nature of their injuries? If so, how many have real injuries and how many are malingerers looking to cash in on their mishap?

Jonathan - This is life in a decaying, old New England city - and its suburbs.  In theory what you’re saying sounds good, but what should be and what is are miles apart. There are definitely places in the US that embrace your ideals though

posted by: 5784787486747 on July 15, 2010  7:21pm

I like Alphonse Credenza, and think his Wall Street Journal take on these things is amusing (“bikist” is a deserving Stalinist epithet for ECC champions), but this a bad stretch that should be fixed by a Scandinavian-styled bureaucrat.  I would also like state-sanctioned prostitutes, which is my sexist and crass way of saying it is likely to happen despite the efforts of the handsome liberals pictured.

posted by: William Kurtz on July 15, 2010  9:44pm

Will New Haven,

What about those planning a bike trip unfamiliar with local roads who have only the DOT for guidance?  Also . . .

what constitutes a serious injury in your book?

Perhaps the broken femur, suffered by the rider who crashed on 6/27/10.  That will require 14-16 weeks in post-surgery recovery?

Perhaps the shoulder injury suffered by the man who came up to us today on the bridge, which also required surgery and a lengthy rehab?

Perhaps the sprained wrist of the woman who crashed on 6/24 last year?

Maybe the knee injuries suffered by a Yale police officer who crashed there on his motorcycle and also required surgery?

I do not know the complete details of every case but I know for a fact that at least three of those four (which are only a few of the people I can think of off the top of my head, at 10:30 at night, who have crashed on the same 35-40 feet of road)  have neither sought nor received any financial compensation from anyone for their injuries. 

Since I am one of the people you singled out as having an “agenda” let me be 100% clear:  I definitely do have an agenda and it’s entirely transparent.  I want the out-of-state corporation, the Providence and Worcester Railroad, to fix this dangerous condition which is putting greater New Haven cyclists at risk of injury and death.  Since cyclists are already subject to all the risks presented by self-confessed dangerous drivers like Alphonse Credenza:

I am far more frightened that I will be unable to stop fast enough to save you the pain of injury or death if you should swerve near or dart in front of my vehicle—and so many of you do this because you ride a bike as if you [I]  were driving your [my] auto.

it seems unfair to subject them to this additional, entirely avoidable and preventable problem. 

What is your agenda?

posted by: Bill Saunders on July 16, 2010  2:22am

William Kurtz,

Perhaps a class action lawsuit by the injured cyclists would be an appropriate response.

posted by: Melissa on July 16, 2010  8:51pm

Way to go Mr. Kurtz! When are you going to run for office. You have my vote!

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on July 17, 2010  5:08pm

Will,
This city is decaying precisely because of automobile-oriented planning.
Trucks consume 15 times the amount of oil a comparable cargo train does.
One lane of passenger rail track carries as many people as 15 lanes of highway.
Mixed use planning where housing, shopping, jobs, services and recreation are within walkable neighborhoods is cheaper than providing separate housing subdivisions, office parks, shopping centers, and regional parks and additionally the compact walkable model yields more revenue, maintains more long term residents, keeps money circulating locally, costs less to maintain and provides that same amenities while using a fraction of the amount of land as comparable suburban models.
The things that I’m saying should be are cheaper to implement and have a higher return on investment than the things we currently do and presumably will continue to do, which is auto-dependent planning and subsidizing. It is more cost-effective to do denser, mixed use, walkable, transit-connected, compact communities than it is to do what we currently do. Taking $300 out of the $2 billion 1-95 bridge project for this:
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_vtVzglyvlE0/SlIoWKY7ZDI/AAAAAAAAAvU/ldOlXiw_qvA/s320/FlangewayFiller.jpg
isn’t going to put an end to driving, it’s just going to make this bike route safer and might encourage more people to use their bike as a serious transportation device. Neither would taking $1 billion out of the bridge reconstruction money from the stimulus package and re-purposing it for transit prevent people from continuing to drive if they choose to. Balancing funds between biking infrastructure, cars, transit and walking networks would only increase options. Driving would likely get more expensive if this were done, but cheaper options that weren’t there before would become available.
The roadblocks are coming from big corporations that don’t like change, and will screw the public if it means continued market predictability and security. Instead of General Motors switching to build trolleys, they’d rather spend millions trying to convince the American people that 35 mpg is fuel efficient and that the middle class can actually afford a car for every person with a driver’s license. Congress is bought and acts in the interest of those that line their pockets.
Our national psychosis is so deep that people are actually fighting against these Tomlinson Bridge protesters and against their own interests. The government took our collective wealth and invested it in a living arrangement without democratic process, then the companies, corporations and industries that built, designed and supplied the infrastructure for this living arrangement-the car companies, oil companies, home builders associations, etc-have spent decades on marketing, advertising, political buy-outs, etc to convince the public that this is what they want and that consuming products amounts to a purposeful life. Its baffling that dissenters from this system-people who advocate for transparent government spending, balanced transportation funding, democratic process, equal representation, shared public spaces, local civic organization, etc-are met with such objection from people who stand to benefit if these changes are enacted, which include a lower cost of living, better housing options, more convenience, higher quality of life and more easily accessible services.

posted by: originaljames on July 18, 2010  9:12pm

EARLY AM PUNCH-IN FOLKS (i.e. @ 7-7:30AM):

There is an unaddressed/pent-up demand for the ability of ‘green-oriented-commuters’ (you know, the two-staged, mass transit & bicycle combo commuter crowd) to get into town early enough to be of use to their employers.

Many of us have been ‘derailed’ in our attempts & efforts to make this a reality for many other like-minded individuals looking to keep their motor vehicles parked more often.


http://newhavenregister.com/articles/2010/02/12/opinion/doc4b74ad05d8e71927251507.txt

posted by: Do the Numbers on July 19, 2010  7:14am

Robn

A gallon of gas has 114,000 BTUs. A car will go on average 25 mile on a gallon, so thats 4,560 BTUs per mile. The longest ride in New Haven to downtown is 3 miles, so a biker saves 13,680 BTUs compared with using his or her car.
They then take a BRIEF shower and use 17,000 BTUs. On these calculations cycling to work in New Haven uses 3,320 BTUs more than driving. It could be even worse if the cyclist took a REAL shower, not a BRIEF one. If an Un-BRIEF shower uses 34,000 BTUs, the break even point is more like an 8 mile ride. Even with a gas guzzler getting 12 miles a gallon the 4 mile break even point is beyond the city limits.

The conclusion is cycling in New Haven actually damages the environment.

Some people should try walking.

posted by: HewNaven?? on July 19, 2010  8:41am

Do the Numbers,

Do ‘em again.

-A 5 minute shower uses about 10,000 BTUs

-Most car drivers in New Haven do a lot more than 3-miles per day, so do most cyclists. I know of at least a few who commute to and from New Haven from 10+ miles away. So we’re saving a lot more energy than you presume by choosing to bike. Cars on average are using much more energy for a standard trip - Probably more like 25,000-50,000 BTUs per trip. (You also forgot to factor in the return trip in your scenario).

-You left out that building a car uses 115,000,000 BTUs. That’s 11,500 showers right there.

-You made one very big assumption that your whole case rests on. I’m sorry to tell you that its wrong. No one takes a shower after each and every bike trip. That’s insane.

-That stuff that drips out of your pores when you exercise is perfectly normal. You don’t have to wash it off every time it happens, you’ll be okay.

-Why waste your breath defending industries that will kill innocent people and destroy cities rather than face bankruptcy or change? Shouldn’t you be trying to dismantle such things?

posted by: destrOYER on July 19, 2010  9:24am

The argument not only assumes that cyclists are some sort of serial compulsive hot shower taking individuals, but seems to imply that people who drive Hummers with their A/C on never shower at all.  I assume this is due to the fact that they have evolved into a superior race that has no sweat glands and so they do not sweat or smell at all.

posted by: Jason S. on July 19, 2010  1:49pm

Do the Numbers,


To add just one more thought to what Jonathan Hopkins and HewNaven have written, it’s not fair to compare a 3-mile car trip to a bicycle commute for several reasons. 

Driving begets more driving.  When the government builds roads and sets speed limits and zoning codes to favor drivers of all other road users, it shapes car-friendly settlement patterns in the built environment, which in turn cause the number of miles driven to multiply. 

If everyone in New Haven drove to work, even if their drive remained a modest 3 miles, the city would need more parking garages and more residential driveways, pushing homes and businesses further apart from each other.  Roads would need to be widened.  Businesses would favor single use structures over mixed use.  Ubiquitous parking would make spaces around buildings unappealing places to walk, sit, or play (Los Angeles has the best weather on the planet and should have outdoor cafes on every block, but instead it has relatively few, because the seating area would be surrounding by unappealing blacktop, speeding cars, and exhaust: the city’s area is 1/3 parking). 

All of this would make it harder to walk, bike, or take transit in the city.  So instead of just driving to and from work, an admittedly benign 6 mile commute, suddenly you need to tack on a few miles for that detour to Stop&Shop; instead of dipping into a local grocery on your walk home from work.  Ditto for visiting friends who live many miles away.  Also add miles driven to a gym to get the exercise that could be built into your lifestyle if you walked or biked to work.  Suddenly you’re driving more extraneous miles after work and on weekends than you spend actually going to and from work. 

No one who has posted on this page wants to eliminate automobiles.  And I don’t even think anyone wants to make driving more unpleasant.  If anything, transit-oriented development and a growth of cycling and walking will take cars off the road and actually *ease* congestion. 

What is needed is a shift away from a culture of motorist entitlement.  By marginalizing all ways of getting around besides autos and airplanes, the federal government has unwittingly created an unfair cultural bias against other modes of transport, including flexible combinations of modes that take advantage of the strengths of each (“multi-modal”). Motorists seem to feel that they deserve untrammeled use of all roadways in American, and that even the most minute diversion of funds away from automobiles, or the most modest reclamation of blacktop for use as bike lanes or green space, is a pork handout to a tiny but vocal cabal of cyclists or a small cadre of hapless transit riders. 

I missed the part of the Constitution where it says that the right to drive a motor vehicle shall not be infringed.

The future of transportation will be more complicated, more multi-modal, and possibly involve getting around a little less quickly—and yes, driving *will* be more expensive—but it will give rise to healthier people, safer streets, more vibrant and walkable neighborhoods, and, of course, reduced fossil fuel consumption.  If this sounds like a bad thing to you, then you obviously haven’t visited Copenhagen or Amsterdam!

P.S.— Your thermodynamics are quite charitable to the automobile, which achieves only about a 15-20% efficiency in converting chemical energy into kinetic energy.  And your estimate of 25 mpg for city driving is on the high end for the American automobile and SUV fleet, which is appallingly inefficient.  In city driving, a mid-size sedans average 21 mpg while a full-size SUV gets something in the neighborhood of 13 mpg. 

Also not mentioned is the fact that auto emissions are highest during the first few miles of driving due to incomplete combustion while the engine is warming up.  This makes short car trips more environmentally damaging than they appear at first glance.

posted by: ROBN on July 23, 2010  12:33pm

DOTHENUMBERS,

Wrong.

Average fuel efficiency is about 17mpg.

Ditto to HEWNAVENS point about embodied energy in a car…you haven’t recognized this.

Ditto to JASONS…You have no basis for assuming that the average automobile trip in lieu of a bike ride is 3 miles.

You also have no basis for assuming that the average automobile trip in lieu of a bike ride results in an extra shower for the bike rider.

The facts are clear….bikes are much better for the environment (and you) than cars.

http://www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics/html/table_04_09.html