Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A Pedestrian Discussion

It is said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.
-- David Brin (1950 - )

Recent developments in SoHo as well as Little Italy have created embarrassingly foolish designs for our streets, on Grand Street in particular. Years of complaints about preserving guerilla art and calls for turning billboards into canvasses for contemporary art have been ignored. Even pedestrian safety is ignored. For almost 10 years Councilman Alan Gerson as well as the Community Board have ignored pleas to support Bob Bolles Park.
But, bike paths? Anything they want, they can have. Almost instantaneously, it would seem.
Thanks to Commissioner Sadik-Kahn of the D.O.T. and the Greenwich Village group that controls the Community Board’s Transportation Committee. They never saw an experimental plan in SoHo that they didn’t like.
There was never any rational question about the fact that a bike lane was needed cross-town – and that Houston Street was the place to put it. But that was ignored by D.O.T. and the next easiest thing was to carve up the underrepresented community in SoHo. It was never about bike safety. It was always about power and control over SoHo.

What we have here, now, are car lanes located nearly in the middle of Grand street and minimally used dirty green paint – preventing SoHo residents from having places to stop to drop off passengers, the elderly, handicapped or their children. It's NO STOPPING, not NO STANDING. And, no overnight parking at all on the bike lane side of the street.
In the interest of bike safety, Commissioner Sadik-Kahn, the leader of what is fast becoming a bike cult (as opposed to cyclists like you and your kids), has permitted enthusiasts to carve up our neighborhoods to the detriment of cars, buses, and trucks.
What? You are supporting the rights of these polluters over the serene quiet of a bicycle? Are you mad?

Yes, SoHo is mad - mad as hell! And, so is Little Italy.

Not only mad that the buses cannot turn onto Grand Street and then back up incessantly into the crosswalks in order to make the turn;
Not only mad that Fire trucks cannot make the turn at all on to Grand street (pray there is no fire);
Not only mad that Grand street and West Broadway have been turned into another impassable crosswalk for part of the day;
Not simply mad that this is just a completely stupid design that panders to leaders of the bike lane movement (not bike riders themselves) who are starting to look like cultists seeking power – for themselves – and their deified leader Janette Sadik-Kahn;
Not at all mad that the Commissioner is looking out for biker riders safety and their children who are sometimes into tow on their way to school. (Although many of us don’t have that option with several kids going to different schools or live too far away).
And, certainly not mad that there are fewer tourists who come to SoHo and who leave their debris on our streets as they show off their new Mercedes.

But, Mad as hell that no agency, especially D.O.T. or Traffic gives a damn about the residents and pedestrians in SoHo or Little Italy -- Who have complained for years about people being killed on our streets.

Where are the bike enthusiasts who do not live in SoHo – at the Community Board, on the Traffic Committee, in City Hall, at Sadik-Kahn’s D.O.T. –- where have they been as we have tried to have our streets repaired and protected by Traffic agents to allow us to safely cross the street?

Why are crosswalks missing at our street corners? Why have our sidewalks been broken and unrepaired for decades?
Why do we only have only a handful of Traffic agents in SoHo – from Broome Street to Varick Street – watching out for our children so that we can cross the street safely? Even parents pushing carriages are ignored, to fend for themselves.


Where is the enforcement in SoHo? The few police and traffic agents that do appear for a few hours a day during the week – watch as residents weave in and out of bumper-to-bumper cars that are blocking the crosswalks against the light.

The Enviro-biker friendly movement is the “next best thing” for a few leaders who have found a hook into political power and celebrity. This is a skyhook into personal status and political recognition. It is unfortunate that these people do not really care about those in the neighborhoods they cut up by supporting pedestrian safety FIRST. Where is the cry for politicians -- from people who do not live here -- to make our streets safer for our residents FIRST -- before basking in the glow of a Press conference touting their successes?
And, where are the giddy politicians who see only numbers in supporting this new group from out of town – on the issue of Pedestrian safety?

Or, is this new movement, which has gotten money to butcher our streets and inconvenience our residents, just a cynical ploy for a political party for its leaders? And, whom are they taking for a ride? Are politicians being paid off? Is this yet another, Hi-Rise Mike ploy to screw the residents Downtown?

Talk to us in SoHo about rights for bikers when we can cross the street safely. Many of us and our children are bike riders and have been for 30, 40, 50, or 60 years – but we all are pedestrians. Where were the snot-nosed kids pushing this agenda when SoHo was the cutting edge for bohemian artists?
The more dangerous the configuration of our streets, the more impossible to navigate our thoroughfares, the more self-centered vehicle drivers AND bike riders become – and the more the pedestrians suffer.
It’s beginning to look like this is just a fool’s game of power and control at our expense.

Is it that the pedestrians are, well, just not cool? We only walk.
If we were, wouldn't bike groups want to help pedestrians first – and then ask US to help THEM. Not the reverse.
But, that's not what is happening. Since the Community Board seems not be representative of SoHo, bike groups should be making contact with the people, not politicians or nominal groups.
We pedestrians and residents in SoHo apparently are not perceived to be powerful enough. We don't have a belligerent,
me-first, agenda that pushes certain politicians' buttons.

Children, senior citizens, the handicapped, pedestrians, tourists and, yes, weekend bike riders with their families - apparently don't count to those currently in office. Since members of many communities, such as SoHo and Little Italy, are offended by this treatment, politicians might do well to take notes.

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