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September 18 2014 by G. Safety Question

Hi G.,

Unfortunately, the north and southbound bike lanes above Union Square are scant and the ones that do exist — talking about you, Fifth and Sixth Avenues — are in serious need of improvement. 

Since you're riding up Fourth Avenue, your best bet is to ride the two blocks west to Sixth Avenue. While that lane needs work, there are more bicycle riders there than on Park Avenue, and with greater numbers of bicyclists on the street comes more driver awareness and more safety.

Transportation Alternatives is working to improve dangerous arterial streets throughout the five boroughs. To make your voice heard, take a moment to sign T.A.'s petition to fix 5th and 6th and consider joining a Manhattan Activist Committee meeting to meet up with fellow activists.

September 2 2014 by Keith Legal Question

Hi Keith,

According to VTL § 1236(c), "every bicycle shall be equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement."

If you're capable of making the rear wheel of your fixed gear bike skid using pedal resistance alone (a "skid stop"), you could argue that your bike meets the requirements of the law and hope that the judges finds in your favor.

From a safety standpoint, however, brakeless fixed-gear bikes do not have the same stopping power as a bike equipped with a mechanical front brake. So we'd advise you to install one, both for your own safety and others'.

Here's the science behind the statement (via Wikipedia):

On any bike with only rear wheel braking, the maximum deceleration is significantly lower than on a bike equipped with a front brake, and a wet surface further reduces the effectiveness of this method. As a vehicle brakes, weight is transferred towards the front wheel and away from the rear wheel, decreasing the amount of grip the rear wheel has. Transferring the rider's weight back increases rear wheel braking efficiency, but a front wheel fitted with an ordinary brake might provide 70% or more of the braking power when braking hard.

(See bike blogging godfather Sheldon Brown's article "Braking and Turning Your Bicycle" if the above doesn't sell you on mechanical brakes.)

To answer your second question, fines for equipment violations are generally around ninety bucks.

Good luck, ride safe and get yourself a brake!

August 12 2014 by Sheryl Legal Question

Hi Sheryl,

You do not need to provide a Social Security number if you mail in the ticket and pay the fine.

If you wish to plead not guilty, you'll have to show up at the assigned court date. FYI, here's how you'd request to have your traffic ticket hearing postponed and rescheduled:  

Mail your request to the Albany, NY, address on your ticket. The office must receive your request at least ten days before the date of your scheduled hearing. You also may make your request in person at any Traffic Violations Bureau office in New York City, or telephone the Traffic Violations Bureau at (718)-488-5710, at least one day before the date of your scheduled hearing.

Good luck and ride safe!


August 20 2014 by Jack Legal Question

Hi Jack,

Unfortunately, the law is not going to be on your side for this one — unless there is specific markings or signage allowing you to ride against traffic, then the direction of the bike lane is assumed to be with traffic.

You are within your rights to fight the ticket, and you may find a sympathetic judge, but ultimately it's your responsiblity to be aware of street markings and signage. 

Good luck and ride safe!

September 8 2014 by Anne Legal Question

Hi Anne,

Vehicles parked in bike lanes pose a danger not just to bicyclists, but to all road users, contributing to unpredictable traffic patterns. Accordingly, it's very important that activists put pressure on the NYPD to take the issue seriously.

Brooklyn's 77th Precinct patrols the majority of Bergen St. (from Ralph Ave. to Vanderbilt Ave.). To make your voice heard and help effect change, attend a precinct community council meeting [find dates, times and location here], bring a few friends who share your concerns and be prepared to provide documentation. With patience and persistence, activists at the local level have been able to help sway the enforcement policies of local precincts. 

To amplify the power of your voice and meet likeminded Complete Streets activists, consider joining up with Transportation Alternatives' Brooklyn Activist Committee, and while you're at it, take a quick moment to sign the petition to bring Complete Streets to nearby Atlantic Ave and show your support for better and safer streets in Brooklyn.



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