War on Cars at a Fever Pitch in NYC: NMA E-Newsletter #557

In our experience, we have never seen the likes of what is going on in New York City with the war on cars. Not only has the city become one giant speed trap with over 2000 “school zone” speed cameras, soon the city/state plans to implement congestion pricing below 60th street. The government expects motorists to help pay for not only fixing the subway, but building all bike lanes, delivery zones, and road diets NYDOT plans on implementing soon. On top of this, the average vehicle speed in Manhattan is currently only seven mph. Congestion is worse than ever due to the multitude of ridesharing and other mobility/transportation companies who have taken over the streets.

New York’s Vision Zero program has also become a political football. Vision Zero philosophy has declared that the motorist is always wrong in any traffic accident involving another street user such as a bicyclist or pedestrian. It also has stricken “accident” from its vocabulary because that implies chance was involved. Traffic collisions, the rightful VZ term, determines fault and assigns blame. This ideology already pits motorists against other road users and does not make anyone safer. Even safety advocates are now asking questions about NYC’s capacity for Vision Zero and Jalopnik.com also recently posted: Vision Zero is the Wrong Goal.

In May, cycling and transportation alternative advocates declared a Vision Zero state of emergency due to an increase in traffic-accident bicycle deaths. In response, the mayor’s office unveiled a $58.4 million plan to placate those advocates. With the goal of a full network of bike lanes by 2030, the Green Wave bike safety plan would install 30 new miles of protected bike lanes every year for the next ten years. Police will also be required to crack down on drivers who block bike lanes and flout related traffic rules. NYC also plans to implement signal timing to make cycling more efficient (while doing the opposite for driving).

Earlier this year, mayoral candidate and city council speaker Corey Johnson distributed a lengthy plan to get rid of cars in NYC.

Instances of conflict between motorists, car owners, and the city have ballooned in recent months. Even though NYC continues to pour money into its Vision Zero program and builds more bike lanes, the death of bicyclists who have been hit by cars has already surpassed the 2018 fatality rate.

The increase in rideshare cars and other mobility devices such as e-bikes, e-scooters, and mopeds are also causing major headaches.

Soon, private car owners might find they have no place to park their car near their residence because residential parking permits are once again on the table. Disabled residents are already finding it difficult to travel, and if they lose their neighborhood parking, it might just become impossible. Service companies might also have difficulty parking near their businesses, let alone actual service calls.

NYC DOT Director Polly Trottenberg declared at a recent press conference, “We are not backing down on Residential Loading Zones.” Even though the delivery zone experiment was a bust in the Fort Greene neighborhood, plans continue for the reduction of street parking in lieu of delivery zones in dozens of residential streets.

In August, the 14th Street bus express lanes project was curtailed due to two court orders, and a lawsuit brought by disabled residents. Corey Johnson has even expressed safety concerns over the project. If implemented on that major thoroughfare, vehicles would have a tortuous task of weaving across Manhattan. Nearby, 12th and 13th Streets also have received road diets in the form of bike lanes.

Central Park West residents are suing the city over proposed bike lanes that will take over 200 parking spaces and threaten 200 more soon after.

Bronx business owners won an injunction to stop a bike lane plan along a major business street in Morris Park. A final mile of a four-mile bike lane in Forest Hills, Queens has been delayed due to community opposition. Last year, Dyckman Street in northern Manhattan had its bike lane removed after business owners complained. (NYC is already planning to reinstall it.)

New York City has a big problem. On one hand, it wants motorists to pay for subway repairs (through congestion pricing), and on the other, city officials want to get rid of cars.

Here are two other issues that don’t get a lot of press but are vital to the life of a city.

When roads diets have been implemented with bike lanes, delivery zones, etc., emergency vehicles have trouble getting through to help those in need. Fire engines cannot make quick turns if permanent pedestrian islands have been set in place. Also, if motorists have no room to pull over on the street due to road diets and congestion, fire trucks and ambulances can’t get through in an emergency.

The second issue has to do with freight delivery. In a recent well-researched CityLimits.org post, one statistic really stood out: the DOT expects that in the next 25 years, cargo tonnage into NYC will increase by 68 percent. Plans are underway to bring some of the freight into the city’s docks, but trucks will still be needed to move those goods and deliveries around the city.

New York City’s street turmoil will not end anytime soon. Bicycle advocates will continue to stage die-ins whenever a bicyclist is killed, and motorists will continue to file lawsuits against NYC DOT with their plans to road diet streets, etc. In the meantime, traffic might just come to a halt, making a living and moving about in the Big Apple even more difficult.

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