Mike Rubbo sent me a link to this video by Ron Gabriel. It's very nicely made, and shows very dramatically the points of conflict which he saw over a brief period of time.
However, I think the way Ron himself as well as other people who have commented on the video talk about what they see is quite telling.
The discussion on Vimeo and on the blog is about "long-standing bad habits" of users of various modes, about "selfish people" and enforcement of the law.
I don't see the behaviour at this junction as being about "bad habits". What I see is simply a very badly designed junction which almost invites people to behave in the way that they do.
Dutch road junctions don't look like and work like this - they are different for a reason: it removes the conflicts and improves safety. A long-standing theme of Dutch road design is the concept of Sustainable Safety. The concept is to remove conflict so that collisions are rare and the consequences of those which remain are relatively small. Roads are made self-explanatory so that bad behaviour is reduced and the way people behave is changed. Less "enforcement" is needed when people have no reason to want to do dangerous things. This has resulted in the safest roads in the world.
The links below take you to several examples of these principles at work, some of which if adopted in New York could reduce the problems at junctions like this:
- Simultaneous Green lights for cyclists, keeping cyclists and motor vehicles apart.
- Roundabouts designed to keep modes apart.
- Avoidance of traffic lights for cyclists
- Short delays for crossing the road for cyclists and pedestrians
- Cycle Paths to provide cyclists with their own space
- Streets which prioritize cyclists, or pedestrians, over drivers (not just back streets, but those which take the most direct route)
Quite often in other places, cyclists are singled out for more criticism than other groups. There is a reason for this. While there are sidewalks for pedestrians and roads for drivers, cyclists have no true place of their own and are left with a choice of "sharing the road" rather unequally with motor vehicles or riding illegally on the sidewalk.
Road design overall is in general rather too dominated by motor vehicles. That's certainly the case in New York, and while New Yorkers walk quite a lot, the conditions for cyclists contribute to the very low cycling rate of the city. There is an inadequate level of subjective safety for cyclists, as is quite easy to see if you watch the video.
Even amongst those who cycle in the city, few would want their children or grandparents doing the same thing.
There is a solution to this problem, but it doesn't come from maintaining the design status quo while enforcing rules. Design of infrastructure needs to change to reflect the usage which you want to have and to encourage people to behave in a safe way. It's especially important at junctions.
Mark wrote recently about junction design in the USA. Don't miss the second part.