Steve Faust, Well Known Bike Advocate, Mourned

Steve Faust with his wife Linda at the first Five Boro Bike Tour in 1977 where Steve was a volunteer and photographer, according to Ed Sobin. Photo courtesy of Steve Bauman.

By Jen Benepe–April 1, 2014

Cyclists have been mourning the death this past Saturday of Steve Faust, 67, a long-time bicycle advocate whose voice was heard in many places trumpeting the cause of cyclist safety.

The cause was chronic lymphocytic leukemia which Faust battled for some time, but had been surviving, according to his family.

Mr. Faust, who is survived by his wife Linda, and his children, Nathan and Julie, and their spouses Terry and Tamarah, will be memorialized this Thursday on the upper west side, followed by a funeral to be held in Long Island.

Faust was known for his dedication to the cause even though he was rarely paid for his work, which often included attending the National Bike Summit where he visited elected officials to demand safer streets for New Yorkers.

Cyclists International accompanied Mr. Faust in 2011 to several congressional offices, and heard him tell our elected officials in no uncertain terms, that what we have in cycling infrastructure, is not enough.

Steve Faust (left) with Mike Kruimer of the East Coast Greenway, photo courtesy Sharon Behnke.

“Steve’s advocacy extended half a century,” said Steve Bauman, a close friend and fellow advocate. “He led a protest against the lack of pedestrian/ bicycle access at the Verrazano Bridge’s opening in 1964.”

That followed with one of Mr. Faust’s biggest contributions to making the city’s roads and bridges more accessible, his 1976 proposal to add a bike path to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge , the connection between Brooklyn and Staten Island.

What makes Faust’s study, “A Bicycle/ Pedestrian Path for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge: A Demand and Feasibility Study,” so remarkable is that his idea has been revisited every several years by various mayoral administrations and departments of transportation, yet the bike and pedestrian path has never been built, noted one of his close friends, Roger Herz.

In 1993 the New York City Department of City Planning called for a footpath across the bridge as part of their “Greenway Plan for New York City.”  That was followed in 1997 by a feasibility study conducted by the city’s planning department. Ironically, after many fits and starts, including a promise from Mayor Michael Bloomberg to establish the path in 2003, the project was reborn under a new name, Harbor Ring, and is currently being reviewed under the MTA’s 2015-2034 Capital Needs Assessment that would include a feasibility study for a bike path.

But the Verrazano wasn’t the only bridge that Faust felt cyclists should be able to cross.

Faust was also well known for his critical contribution to what became informally known as a bicyclists’ manifesto, or formally

Linda Faust (left) and Steve Faust (right), photo courtesy Sharon Behnke.

known as the “Bicycle Blueprint” during the Mayor Edward I. Koch administration, and for his work on the city’s Committee on Bicycles and Bicycle Facilities, said Herz who first met Steve and Linda at an American Youth Hostel ride in 1974.

“Koch’s election was a big turning point because his administration was willing to meet and listen to the bicycling community. At that time only two East River bridges permitted bicycle access – the  Brooklyn and Williamsburg,” recounted Bauman.

“The Brooklyn Bridge promenade had 5 flights of stairs that had to be navigated. The fight to get those stairways removed took a 2-plus year effort.”

“Steve was in the middle of this fight [and he] spent more hours on it than any of the handful trying to remove those stairs. The Landmarks Preservation Commission’s approval was a result of the many hours Steve spent pouring over the Bridge’s construction documents.”

But the Bicycle Blueprint, and Koch’s approach to cycling was later overshadowed in part by Koch’s proposed ban on bicycles during weekdays on three major avenues in the city, Park, Madison and Fifth to accommodate the Taxi and Limousine lobby that didn’t want cyclists in the way.

But Faust thought differently about the whole thing. In a recent response to a negative framing of Koch’s bike lanes accompanying the Opinion Pages in the New York Times discussing lanes past and present, Faust wrote:

“Cyclists had some tumultuous times with Ed Koch, but on balance, much, much more was accomplished than lost in those 12 years. Koch laid the groundwork for what has followed. 

I was part of the NYC Bicycle Advisory Committee formed by Koch in 1978. Much of the agenda laid out then was accomplished by Koch, and much of the rest has been put in place by following administrations. Koch was not at all a bicycle failure, and what Bloomberg is doing is not at all out of line with plans laid out over 30 years ago.

“You might say he was pushing the envelope at the beginning,” recounted Herz. “Not everyone in the beginning thought that bicycles were a legitimate mode of transportation.”

Faust held a masters in city and regional planning from the Harvard University School of Design, and went to work for the Federal Transit Administration.

Staying there until 2000–22 years–Faust planned, designed, and performed environmental reviews and construction oversight of multi-billion dollar transit projects in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, including the new 2nd Ave. Subway, Metro North stations and trains, New Jersey Transit bus and rail, and Connecticut bus and New Haven Rail Services, according to his resume.

Steve Faust helped Steve Vaccaro and Adam White, lawyers, develop critical insight on how a cyclist descends on Hudson Terrace (heading south) in Fort Lee, NJ. Courtesy, Steve Vaccaro.

But even after his retirement Faust was active in bicycle advocacy. He played a strong role in assisting co-counsels Adam White and Steve Vaccaro who have been active in pressing the cases of cyclists and pedestrians–or their family members–after horrific crashes in New York City.

Faust worked for the firm as an expert who documented crash scenes and other crash evidence, and prepared reconstructions.

“He prepared with me to give testimony in several cases, although he never actually got to testify, ” said Vaccaro.

Vaccaro shared pictures of distance markers Mr. Faust had recently created and placed on Hudson Terrace to demonstrate the number of seconds a driver had to view a southbound cyclist before striking him.

“He had a powerful and intuitive insight into how traffic works and helped me develop theories of liability. We’ll miss him very much,” said Vaccaro.

Faust is also fondly remembered by many cycling advocates who closely watched the unfolding of mass arrests of cyclists during the Republican National Convention in New York in 2004, and at a subsequent critical mass bike ride in 2008. Both events yielded court cases where Faust provided “brilliant” testimony, according to his good friend and fellow advocate Steve Bauman.

“Those were both federal cases and I would argue that the whole nation owes him thanks for his efforts holding back the tide.” (See end of article for some excerpts.)

Faust also spent two years in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1970, and for one year acted as a press photographer and scout in Vietnam.

The memorial for Mr. Faust will be held this Thursday, April 3, 10 AM, at the Plaza Jewish Community Chapel at 630 Amsterdam Ave. at 91st St. There will be free and secure indoor bike parking as well as garage parking at Central Parking at 601 Amsterdam Ave. (about $25 for 2 hours.)

The memorial will be followed by a burial at 1:30 PM at the Long Island National Cemetery, at 2040 Wellwood Ave., Farmingdale, NY 11735.

For friends and family there will be Shiva visiting hours which will be announced at the memorial.

And now for some brilliant excerpts from Steve Faust’s recall of his testimony after the 2004 RNC arrests, brought to you jointly by Peter Meitzler and Carol Wood.

“This account [below] is by Steve Faust, a transportation expert who served as an expert witness in the case.”

———–[Steve’s account]————————————

The federal court sessions ended about noon this morning. The city and the CM lawyers wrapped up – answering a lot of direct questions form the judge.

Quick opinion – the city will lose. The question is HOW they will lose – a slap on the wrist or a 2 x 4 upside the head.

However, if the city remains totally stubborn they will carry this on in state court – it ain’t over ’till it’s over.

Yesterday – Chief Smolka – Assistant Chief Bruce Smolka, Commanding Officer of Patrol Borough Manhattan South

This is The Man in control of the CM police response since April 2004. BLAME: put 75 percent of the blame on the Mayor’s orders to clean up the city for the RNC put 99 percent on Chief Smolka’s approach to carrying out that order. Adds up to more than 100 percent? There is more than that much blame to go around.

Smolka made the most outrageous series of statements about how bikes don’t belong on the streets. When asked what constitutes a parade or procession, it boiled down to: Whatever I decide it is. How many bike constitute a procession – 7 could well be a procession, but 7 cars would never be.

it went on like this for over an hour…..

I am reasonably convinced that Smolka is channeling the spirit of Vlad the Impailer, or else he has been sent here on an international police exchange – we sent a NY cop to Baghdad and we got back Smolka from Sadam’s police force in exchange. Alternate location – Smolka was in the Serbian secret police on an exchange….

My Testimony Yesterday –

Had no problem covering the Madison Square – 23rd Street Diversion. Smolka admitted in writing that the supervisor at Madison Sq “”misunderstood the orders””. Gee, if the cops can’t get something like this right, what else did they screw up….? The photos of the barricade tape and the very calm turn onto West 23rd were bombproof.

City tried to hammer me about “”illegal riding”” like riding in the middle of an avenue or going thru red lights. Did a good cover over why bike lanes are to keep cars out and not keep bikes in – substandard and we knew it when we (I was there in sausage factory) drafted the law. Lots of good reasons for cycling away from far left or right sides of roads, and why a cyclist would be in the middle of the roadway. Punches holes in the fact the CM (and other) riders don’t hug the edges of the roadways.

Red lights got covered per CM – the police started the Oct ride like a RR Train – rolling through all intersections at police direction – once the train was started it’s very hard to change the mode of operation – even after the police drop off – as they did after the 23rd St diversion. I also noted that on other rides I lead, I always instruct riders to obey all lights – but at least always treat the red light as a stop sign. Not perfectly legal, but it appeared that the judge was happy with that as a safe approach. Can’t lie on the stand – tell the truth – in the best form you can. City kept trying to hammer public safety issue – we are here to help you sh*t – but kept falling flat on their faces.

Long discussion of the world class rides in NYC that get parade permits – 5 Boro, MS Tour for example. Very easy to say they need permits to ride on highways normally closed to bikes – FDR and Henry Hudson for example – and because they close entire streets for hours, not minutes. These are very special events. But had a large bunch of fun with the tail end of the MS ride – the group that used the Lincoln Tunnel and up Jersey to NYState border. When the riders return via the GWB, I explained that they were riding on the NJ highways without police escort, and return down Riverside Drive etc on the city streets, as traffic, without needing the police – over a thousand riders doing this.”

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