Daily News to Deceased Cyclists: “Your Fault.”

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Cyclists protest on Sixth Avenue following the death of David Smith


Last week, we criticized accounts of the death of 63-year-old cyclist David Smith, who was memorialized Wednesday with a Ghost Bike and a die-in on Sixth Avenue. Though Smith was riding in the bike lane and was knocked into traffic by an illegally parked driver who opened his door in Smith’s path, initial media reports portrayed the crash as a blameless "freak mishap."

That was only a taste of what was to come. Here, verbatim, are the first five paragraphs of the Daily News story on Saturday, after another cyclist, Franco Scorcia, was killed at W. 40th and Broadway:

Only one person thought it was still safe for Franco Scorcia to take to the streets by bike – and that was Franco Scorcia.

For years, friends told the 72-year-old Bronx father to "leave the bike alone."

The ex-cabbie’s two sons were so worried about their dad they offered him a car.

"We told him so many times, ‘Don’t ride the bike,’" Scorcia’s son, Vito, 37, recalled Friday.

The elder Scorcia brushed such demands aside, saying he loved cycling too much to quit. It was that fondness for experiencing the city on two wheels that cost him his life Thursday night when he crashed into a charter bus in midtown.

Given such a loaded lede, you’d expect some exposition describing the mistakes Scorcia must have made that led to his death. But aside from strongly implying that Scorcia’s age was somehow a factor, the article includes no details of the crash, other than to say the bus driver was issued six summonses. Regardless, to the writers and editors of this story, Scorcia’s mistake was riding a bike on the streets of New York: "It was that fondness for experiencing the city on two wheels that cost him his life."

As such biased coverage is fairly commonplace, it’s no wonder the causes of cyclist fatalities and the lack of consequences for motorists go unchallenged, especially when the driver is the sole living witness.

Negating the Daily News’ own follow-up coverage that told of how David Smith was known as a safe rider, the Scorcia article links the two deaths — not because they were both killed at the hands of drivers, but because they were both "elderly cyclists" who, readers are to presume, had no business being on bikes. In so many words, the piece says Scorcia was asking for it.

On average this year, a city cyclist has been killed about every 16 days. Conveniently for much of the mainstream New York press — not to mention hostile police, indifferent prosecutors, and reckless motorists — they can’t defend themselves against such charges.

Photo: cultshaman/Flickr

  • Larry Littlefield

    Want to analyze press bias? Note to those with a regional (including the suburbs) Public Use Microdata Sample from the 2000 census and a program to run it on. Cross press occupations (journalist, editor) and income by means of transportation to work, vehicles available and place of residence.

  • ln

    Thanks for finally opening a discussion on Franco’s death.

    Franco’s family is also upset that the news reports seemed to blame him for the accident. This man drove a cab in the city for years, he knew about traffic and was a safe rider.

    He continued to travel NYC streets after his retirement just because he loved to ride.

    The bus driver didn’t care enough to take one quick look to see if the path was clear before turning to pickup passengers at a no-standing zone. Many would like to know what violations the driver was cited for.

    Please visit his ghost bike at 40th and Bwy, leave a flower, candle or prayer. Or visit it virtually here:

    http://www.ghostbikes.org/new-york-city/franco-scorcia

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Elderly cyclists? If the News thinks that elderly people are that prone to error, I’d much rather have them on bikes than behind the wheel.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    As part of my job I look for articles in the NJ press about bike and ped issues. The same bias is commonplace in the press on this side of the Hudson as well. In an article from one of the Bergen County papers about a 74yo woman who was killed in a Paramus mall parking lot they say “Police Chief Richard J. Cary added the area is not a marked pedestrian walkway.”

    Now this is not a direct quote from the police chief so I don’t want to burn him too much but COME ON!!! Where the hell are there marked pedestrian walkways in a parking lot anyway!

    Yeah! You’ll find them alright but not in this bike/ped backwards part of the country. Try California or another one of those enlightened states out west. Better yet go to Europe and see how the do parking lots in Germany.

  • Mitch

    Tonight’s Prairie Home Companion included a tribute to David Smith — he was the recording engineer at Town Hall.

    Garrison Keillor gave a short eulogy and told how he died — he was riding his bike from his home in the Village when “a door opened suddenly in front of him,” and he bounced off the door into the path of a truck. Then the Boys of the Lough played a sad song.

    Streetsbloggers would probably have put more emphasis on the circumstances of his death, but the tribute was moving nonetheless.

  • Eric

    How long before these idiots start writing about “suicide by bike?”

    I guess we can take solace in the fact that the bus driver was actually cited for something.

    Condolences to Mr. Scorcia’s family and friends.

  • on the mentioned video site the topic of where should a no-dooring graphic could be displayed.
    i am for a no dooring graphic on the yellow cabs, it doesnt need to be large, the size of a vehicle license plate, and since we are talking about license plates, they should be quadruple the current size. Trucks should have larger plates than cars. rental trucks and big box trucks should have the plate stenciled on the rear door

  • a very sad story. hope never happen again. always be careful any where you go.

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