Electeds, Local Media Wage War on Staten Island Cyclists

The recent motorist assault on a Staten Island cyclist is a symptom of anti-bike bias routinely displayed by local politicians and the Staten Island Advance, as chronicled on a web site encouraging action for safe streets.

STATEN_ISLAND_POLS.jpgCouncil Members Vincent Ignizio (l) and James Oddo scientifically prove that bikes can’t fit on Jefferson Avenue in Dongan Hills. Photo: SI Advance

Drawing exclusively on Advance coverage, Islander Rob Foran’s site, called "Life or Death?," notes that City Council Members Vincent Ignizio and James Oddo, along with Borough President James Molinaro, have called on NYPD to excuse illegal bike lane parking, for the elimination of "sharrows" on Jefferson Avenue, and for the removal of the bike lane on Father Capodanno Boulevard, where Gregory DeRespino was allegedly yanked off his bike by irate driver Michael Graziuso in July. Graziuso now faces charges of assault and harassment.

For its part, three times in the past two months the Advance has editorialized against bike infrastructure, while criticizing NYPD for enforcing laws intended to keep drivers out of bike lanes. Here’s a passage from the first screed, published July 4, entitled "The City’s Bike Obsession":

More people should ride bicycles, for a number of reasons. But in the
real world, that’s not going to happen to the degree the cycling true
believers fantasize about. Many people simply can’t. And the great
majority of those who have the physical ability have no desire to ride
bicycles for transportation or sport — especially on city streets. So
hard-core cyclists will always be a finite minority, no matter how many
bike lanes the city creates. And the notion that all these new lanes
will promote a massive surge in cycling is pure fantasy.

Not only do they object to safer cycling conditions on the grounds that so few Staten Islanders bike — in part because it isn’t safe — Advance editors claim that helpless motorists are bound to occasionally act out against cyclists who insist on exercising their right to the road.

You really have to read this August 21 editorial in its entirety for the full effect, but here’s a sample:

An ugly incident of road rage recently on Father Capodanno Boulevard
underscores the folly of the Bloomberg administration’s over-the-top
infatuation with dedicated bicycle lanes.

The particulars of the incident — this time
between a motorist and a bicyclist — are in dispute. The bicyclist
says the enraged motorist got out of his car and pushed him off his
bike.

The motorist, who was arrested and charged with assault and
harassment, insists he merely tried to pull the bicycle off the street
after the bicyclist had gotten off it.

What seems certain, however, is that the confrontation was the
direct result of the city’s contradictory and confusing policies
regarding the rights of bicyclists and drivers, respectively.

In other words, if a driver stops and exits his vehicle to physically accost a cyclist in a bike lane, Mayor Bloomberg made him do it. Amazingly, the Advance stops short of calling for charges against Graziuso to be dropped. Perhaps a cyclist-induced temporary insanity defense is in order.

Foran urges cyclists and others interested in safer street conditions — bike riders aren’t the only vulnerable ones, after all — to contact the mayor, DOT Commish Janette Sadik-Khan, and Council Member John Liu to show support for Staten Island bike lanes and continued enforcement of the law. And it couldn’t hurt if Messrs. Ignizio, Oddo and Molinaro, and the editors of the SI Advance, were admonished to tone down their rhetoric, before the next like-minded road rager decides to take action.

  • Blair Mastbaum

    I have Sadik-Khan installs bike lanes on every street on that horrendously horrible island.

  • Blair Mastbaum

    hope… not “have”

  • We’ll simply have to make sure that when bike share arrives, S.I. gets its fair share of stations. Then residents can bike to the ferry in the morning, disembark and bike to work, and then do the same in reverse at the end of the day.

  • JSD

    Ugh. I live on Staten Island, and am at a loss for words.

    This sort of editorial is a symptom of a failing newspaper in a failing borough, preaching to an aging, bitter, and angry population. It is difficult not to become extremely disheartened reading something so cavalier towards progress, and so dismissive of change. Sadly, many Islanders simply want more roads, less ticketing, and higher speeds. They also want less traffic, less accidents and safer conditions. Anything that even approaches an encroachment on their idyllic vision of suburban life is dismissed as too liberal, too green, or too progressive for their Limbaughesque view of the world. These are the people at town halls, shouting their thinly veiled far right inspired hatred for the future.

    Yes Staten Island. It is the dozens of cyclists causing your problems. Not the thousands upon thousands of cars.

    I don’t intend to paint with a broad brush, because the North Shore of Staten Island is a diverse and rapidly growing place. But the South Shore is dying or moving away. The Brooklyn transplants are flocking to New Jersey retirement communities. The youth are fleeing to anywhere else but here.

    There is indeed some reason to hope for the future. But an editorial so shortsighted, in a place so stuck in its Robert Moses fantasies is truly disheartening to residents interested in improving a place known more for its mall than for its 2800 acre Greenbelt.

  • Grinner

    Hey, The Advance and Borough President Molinaro aren’t always anti-bike. Every May, a representative from the B.P.’s office braves the dark underbelly of the SI. Ferry terminal to provide a bagel or party and coffee for the morning bike commuters; i know, because i was part of the photo-op published in the Advance a few years back. Of course, because cyclists are the most likely people in S.I. to be terrorists, i didn’t get to the breakfast table until i’d gone through the daily search of my bag.

    I’ve ridden stretches of I-94, Broadway, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Aves in Brooklyn, and Queens Blvd., and i can say without hesitation that S.I. has the scariest roads i’ve ever ridden. The Terrace, Forest, Victory, Hylan–i’d just as soon ride the Expressway. Of course, i’m sure things have improved in the (almost) two-years since i left for Brooklyn… at least now the drivers leave the cars to assault cyclist, right?

  • vnm

    Guys, they have science on their side. We can’t fight that.

  • JSD

    In addition, might I add that after typing “I am at a loss for words”, I proceeded to write four paragraphs.

  • “We shouldn’t make cycling safer because not very many people ride bikes since it’s so unsafe”

    That logic is indisputable. I’m going to go buy a car.

  • Gob

    I heard the jury’s still out on “science”.

  • What a great juxtaposition! Yesterday was the day to discuss living without a car in suburbia, and today is the day to discuss cycling conditions in New York City’s most suburban borough. Staten Islanders are probably the most prototypical suburbanites living in New York, and I can easily visualize the SI Advance editorial board mouthing all the counter-carfree arguments cited in yesterday’s post.

  • rlb

    “Perhaps a cyclist-induced temporary insanity defense is in order.”

    My experiences lead me to believe that driving induces insanity in many people. Probably to a point where it could be defensible in court, and city planners should ultimately be held reponsible for promoting insanity inducing behavior.

  • Doug

    Anytime you see someone excusing car-on-bike violence, change some verbs and nouns around and ask yourself if editorial writers and politicians would still excuse it. Change this:

    “The motorist, who was arrested and charged with assault and harassment, insists he merely tried to pull the bicycle off the street after the bicyclist had gotten off it.”

    Into this:

    “The motorist, who was arrested and charged with assault and harassment, insists he merely tried to push the car off the street after the driver had gotten out of it.”

    No editorial writer in his right mind would excuse driver-on-driver violence or allow for a world where a driver could be excused for taking matters into his own hands because another driver was blocking a lane.

    But cyclists are asking for it. Right.

  • Matt

    We should just cut this island morass of stupidity out of NYC once and for all.

  • Streetsman

    Doug, imagine the vehicle was blocking a bikeway and then change it to this:

    “The cyclist, who was arrested and charged with assault and harassment, insists he merely tried to push the car off the bikeway after the driver had gotten out of it.”

    Imagine that phrase appearing in a paper. Definitely shows you how far towards auto dominance of the roads that the Advance is leaning.

  • Shemp

    Is there a chance that rising sea levels will submerge S.I. before the rest of NYC?

  • glenn

    I grew up on SI. Walked to PS 45, biked uphill to IS 61 (bike parking in friend’s garage) and took the bus to Curtis HS. You can totally get by in St. George and much of the North Shore with very limited use of a car.

    Staten Island is a clear example of too much dense development (yup, it is dense and in many, many areas mixed use too) without adequate transportation planning. Staten Island went from 40k residents or so after WW2 to 200k after the Verranzano bridge and nearly 500k now. And they have mostly the same road infrastructure (there’s really no room to build anymore because of the density) as they did before the bridge and lost the North Shore Rail Road to boot. It can easily be retrofitted to much less car usage. Restore the North Shore Rail, Connect it to Bayonne’s light rail on the Bayonne Bridge, allow dollar vans, and rezone some areas from residential-only to mixed use.

    But most of this will never happen until oil hits $500/barrel. I moved out as soon as I could and never regretted it.

  • Paul

    No room for cars. Sorry folks…cars in the city are dinosaurs. Dinosaurs will die.

  • IsaacB

    Oddo is the guy who tried to float a curfew a few years back.

  • It’s unfortunate that it takes an assault to get some reinforcement of cyclists’ rights in SI. Notice how no one is surprised by the fact that this occurred, or how the Advance editorials skew facts and twist the language of the law to suit the impatient driver.

    Situations such as these are the reason that Staten needs even more help from transportation advocacy groups, rather than the occasional photo-op or summer event, as well as a stronger organization of constituents to stand up to politicians who represent interests that threaten our safety. This is an opportunity. Active dialogue between motorists and cyclists must occur not only before we can achieve infrastructural compromise, but also so those from the windshield perspective can understand our point of view. And they can’t if they’re too afraid to set foot outside of their cars.

    P.S. Is Molinaro getting a bit soft? ‘”We have more bike lanes than we have traffic lanes,”‘ indeed! Preposterous!

  • Can we give SI to NJ where it rightfully belongs? NJ sued to “own” Liberty Island; surely they have at least as much claim over SI!! Let’s save the state some legal fees and donate SI to NJ.

    PS – Dear NJ, the bill for operating the ferry is in the mail.

  • Similar hijinks are going on in Brooklyn…

    “New Bike Lanes Touch Off Row in Brooklyn”

    http://tinyurl.com/l8fzve

  • Similar situation across the narrows, “New Bike Lanes Touch Off Row in Brooklyn”

    http://tinyurl.com/l8fzve

  • Sorry the above link doesn’t work. If ya wanna read it, I reckon ya gotta go to the NYTimes website and search for the title. I apologize for the inconvenience.

  • Josh

    It’s a shame, because SI has some nice hills and roadways, particularly along the Greenbelt. And pretty soon there’ll be the Fresh Kills Recreation Area, which’ll be a multi-use park for bicycling, kayaking, and hiking — with majestic views of the harbor and Manhattan skyline. I think a few of DoT’s protected bike lanes, used with success in Manhattan and Brooklyn (though with your usually auto-biased complaints), will ease things a bit. SI is a lovely place to bike were it not for the drivers — mostly young and entitled — who seem to enjoy running everything off the road.

  • crin

    Sounds like the cyclist was a douchebag too. By his own admission when the light turned green he just sat there rather than move along.

  • A comment on crin’s post….if the cars stayed in the car lane (as they are legally supposed to) the cyclist wouldn’t have held up a single car.

    Isn’t that correct?

    I don’t know if you’re from SI, but lots of people here, including some local politicians and the local papers editorial staff, think drivers cannot be expected to obey the law, and should be allowed to break without getting so much as a summons for doing so. I don’t agree with that.

  • Daniel Winks

    What idiot designed a bike lane like this?  Motorists should be REQUIRED to merge into the bike lane before making a right turn.  Not doing so creates a HUGE risk of getting right-hooked.  If the cars turning right are in the same lane as the cyclists, a right-hook CANNOT HAPPEN. It’s only when they turn across a bike lane from another lane to the left that poses this risk.  If the motorists are required to merge into (and yield to cyclists already in the lane), then chances of right-hooks are dramatically reduced, and a cyclist would then be expected to move forward or clear the traffic lane when the light turns green.

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