Monday, March 29, 2010

“Whenever we don’t dress up like clowns, they don’t move as fast.”

[post 091]

NY Times, March 19, 2010

Bike Lane Blockers, Beware
by Bao Ong

Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times
The Bureau of Organized Bikelane Safety, on patrol on 6th Avenue Friday.

“Excuse me, sir,” Barbara Ross said to the driver of a black town car parked on Avenue of the Americas near 37th Street. “You are obstructing a bike lane.”

Considering that Ms. Ross, 46, was wearing a white hazmat suit and an orange traffic cone on her head and riding a large red tricycle, the driver, Ross Ravita, took her relatively seriously. He protested that he was making only a quick stop, and though he did at one point tell her, “Hold your horses, lady, this isn’t your street,” he yielded his ground and drove away.

It was another victory for the Bureau of Organized Bikelane Safety, a provisional wing of the environmental advocacy group Time’s Up, which staged a street-theater action Friday afternoon to urge drivers to stop blocking the city’s more than 300 miles of bicycle lanes.

The six riders started at Madison Square Park before crawling up Avenue of the Americas to Bryant Park. While takeout deliverers and messengers zipped past vehicles blocking bicycle lanes, the bike-lane safety team, armed with crime-scene tape and fake parking summonses, set cones around the illegally parked vehicles and reenacted crash scenes.

“It’s a bike lane, not a parking lot,” one member of the group, Benjamin Shepard, shouted to a minivan driver.

Although the city has pushed to make the streets more pedestrian friendly in recent years, cyclists say drivers still ignore the white bike lines and not enough get slapped with the $115 fines.

Ms. Ross said that enforcing fines would help ease the fears of new cyclists. “We want to make biking for everyone,” she added.

Of the half-dozen lane-blocking drivers ambushed by the enforcement team — from a Fresh Direct delivery truck to a silver Lincoln Town Car — all moved without hesitation, except for a cement truck driver who shrugged his shoulders and said he had nowhere else to park.

The cyclists, who carried a boom box blaring ’80s tunes, called their ride a success and ended with a victory dance.

“Whenever we don’t dress up like clowns,” Mr. Shepard said, “they don’t move as fast.”

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