Driver Cam: The Columbus Ave Bike Lane Thru Tony Aiello’s Windshield

We talk a lot about windshield perspective on Streetsblog, so with his latest salvo against safer cycling and walking, CBS 2’s Tony Aiello has done most of the work for us.

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From behind the wheel of “Mobile 2,” Aiello, in full-on Ted Baxter mode, informs viewers that the Columbus Avenue bike lane is playing havoc with commerce on the Upper West Side. Though its design maintains five lanes for cars, Aiello claims the lane is putting the squeeze on businesses, as delivery drivers are now forced to double- or triple-park.

Cue Andy Besch of West Side Wine, one of two business people Aiello talks to on-camera. Besch is appalled that city workers cleared the bike lane with shovels during last week’s snow storm, and describes Columbus as “a major truck route destroyed.” The story’s other source is grocer Richie Zingone, in a recurring role, who dismisses the lane as “not practical” and pretty much just wants it to go away.

Aiello’s Exhibit B is a totally unsubstantiated complaint that businesses are at risk because drivers are no longer “comfortable” stopping in for purchases, what with parking shifted a few feet off the curb, as if drive-through traffic is the key to viability in one of the most walkable neighborhoods in America.

The nut of Aiello’s piece, it seems, is that Community Board 7 is following up with business owners about the lane. But while Aiello implies that the CB 7 survey — he calls it an “investigation” — was sparked by a groundswell of anti-bike outrage, board chair Mel Wymore, whom Aiello also spoke with, told DNAinfo that its purpose is to clear up confusion and misinformation. You know, the kind of confusion and misinformation that thrives thanks to half-baked hit pieces on the TV.

Instead of pretending that empty curb space was abundant on Columbus prior to the installation of the bike lane, that delivery drivers who now at least have designated loading zones weren’t previously forced to double-park, and that drivers of private vehicles were once able to whip into open spots a la Kojak, it would be refreshing to see Tony Aiello and other New York journos follow the lead of their counterparts in Washington, who have demonstrated that there’s more to livable streets coverage than gravitating to the loudest complainers.

  • Driving While Reporting

    Glad to see Tony Aiello is doing the safe thing by filing a report looking in to a camera while driving. Yeah, good job Tony. That’s real safe. Way to set a great example.

  • Look at me! I’m driving in a neighborhood where 74% of residents don’t own cars to show you that bike lanes must be inconvenient for everyone because they’re inconvenient for me… in a car!

  • Come on, Brad. You have to stop posting clips from “Anchorman.”

  • The best part of this is when Tony reports that businesses are complaining that their “pull-up business has been reduced dramatically” while cruising past numerous empty parking spaces. Anyone who’s “not comfortable” parking in the floating parking lane really shouldn’t be behind the wheel in the first place.

    It’s really quite amazing that someone who gets their news exclusively from CBS2 is likely to think that the #1 problem facing New Yorkers is the presence of bike lanes.

  • Eric, you’re forgetting CBS2’s alternate history of Manhattan, where, prior to bike lanes, drivers could easily pull in and out of parking spaces right in front of their favorite stores! Why, it was positively suburban until Sadik-Khan came along!

  • Marty Barfowitz

    OK… A slice of Junior’s cheesecake and a $20 gift certificate to Midas Muffler Shop (gifts for REAL New Yorkers, of course) for the first commenter to correctly guess where CBS2’s hardened NYC beat reporters Tony Aiello and Marcia Kramer live.

  • Haha, Marty… exactly! My initial comment was something about how reporters who live in the suburbs should only be allowed to report news in the suburbs, since they can’t possibly objectively cover news in New York City. Go work for News 12 Westchester, boneheads.

  • AlexB

    “A major truck route destroyed.” That sounds awesome. I wish I could destroy a few major truck routes in my neighborhood. The noise, space, pollution, accidents, etc. from trucks are a big problem in many NY neighborhoods.

  • J. Mork

    Some other guy just tweeted the answer — give him the prizes!

  • Marcia Kramer’s Eyebrow

    I live beyond the atmosphere of NYC.

  • BicyclesOnly

    I love all the preceding comments!

  • J

    The video even showed multiple bikes using the lane at night on a cold day after a blizzard. Also, there seemed to be plenty of parking spaces open in the video. WTF is he talking about? Also, aren’t reporters required to present at least a token of balance to their stories? Maybe interview one of the merchants who likes the lane.

    Maybe someone can do a response video showing exactly how easy it is to drive and park at businesses on Amsterdam Ave, one block away, and how there’s almost no double parking anywhere where there’s no bike lane.

  • J, the CBS2 report, if you turn the sound off, IS the response video.

    Considering he’s reporting that how has been jammed and that trucks have to “triple park,” he seems to be cruising in Mobile 2 at a moderate clip, considering it’s just after 6 PM on a weekday. Little traffic, lots of parking, no double parking, and even people using the bike lane!

  • Step Off

    As a recreational cyclist living a half-block off Columbus, I want to be supportive of the new bike lanes. But they do present some new issues/challenges, more for pedestrians than for motorists, IMO. Bi-directional bicycle traffic in the bike lanes is a HUGE issue, made worse by the fact that you can’t hear the cyclists coming, and often can’t see them clearly against the line of parked cars. The floating parking lanes also impede the sight lines for both drivers AND pedestrians who are coming off the curb. Another issue is how the turn lanes for drivers interface with the bike lane AND pedestrians–the design lets drivers get WAY too close to the curb on left turns off Columbus. Pedestrians have a LOT more to be looking out for now that these lanes are installed.

    Some of Aiello’s points are trivial, some are disingenuous. Like the other posters, I’m pretty sure that the park-and-shop customers whose loss the merchants are lamenting were double-parkers. Zero sympathy from me there. Delivery parking I can sympathize with, but are ‘No Parking’ zones in front of (or on side streets) really an insuperable issue? Shouldn’t be. Don’t haveta be. Merchants have to realize that they’re not going to get both unlimited parking AND unlimited delivery zones. Something has to give in the name of cyclist safety, which is starting from a position of zero.

    The new bike lanes aren’t perfect, but they ARE a net improvement. Once people get acclimated, and with a few tweaks to the system (like finding a plow narrow enough to accommodate the new narrower lanes)motorists, delivery drivers, merchants, pedestrians and cyclists should be able to co-exists well enough. No reason to consider scrapping the lanes over the curmudgeonly complaints of a couple of liquor salesmen.

  • fdr

    Does anyone know anything about the news director at CBS2? Presumably Kramer and Aiello have to run their stories by someone.

  • J

    Perhaps some of the crappy reporting has to do with the trend for younger, more urban viewers to get their news elsewhere. Tony Aiello and Marcia Kramer are playing to their core group of viewers, which is older and more suburban. By not striving for quality journalism, I imagine that they are doing their cause a disservice and are furthering their own decline. It’s a shame, though.

  • Driver

    “Maybe someone can do a response video showing exactly how easy it is to drive and park at businesses on Amsterdam Ave, one block away, and how there’s almost no double parking anywhere where there’s no bike lane.”
    Hmmm that makes it sound like the complaining business owners on Columbus are on to something.

  • Driver

    Either that of I missed the sarcasm, excuse my inattentiveness.

  • Really stupid report. Seems like the best points have already been made, but it bears mention that the opening trailer for this “mobile news” segment shows a closeup on a speedometer going in excess of the 30 MPH limit, and that the long awaited, six-week-delayed Entenmann’s delivery seems to have finally arrived!

  • Marty Barfowitz

    Tony Aiello and Marcia Kramer are playing to their core group of viewers, which is older and more suburban.

    Exactly. Think about who is sitting at home watching the local TV news at 6pm on a weeknight. And think about who sponsors that programming.

    It’s an elderly suburban viewership watching ads for hemorrhoid relief and auto dealerships. These are the customers for Tony and Marcia’s braindead, old-fashioned “reporting.” This is pretty much everything you need to know. Tony and Marcia’s job is to terrify and enrage this audience into staying in their seats for as long as possible.

  • dirtycrumbs

    Just who is the audience for this story? Every time I see a WOE IS THE DIRVERS!!! report from the media or any politician I just sit their dumbfounded and wonder, “who are you talking to?!?!”

    No one, not a single person in my circle of friends, or colleagues at work, can afford to own an automobile. Deep in the boroughs, I can barely afford my rent in the city, much less an g-d automobile!!!

    Why should I care about driver inconvenience? I don’t! I can’t afford to drive and I could never dream of owning a car in the city. It’s so alienating to continually hear so many of our leaders in the media and government harp on the absurd PITY THE DRIVERS!!! mantra. The trains are mess, the budget is a wreck, city expenses keep going up, up, up and this is what you’re worried about? Newsflash: I don’t give S#$t!!!!

  • I’m not sure why the city used crews to hand-shovel the snow out of the Columbus Avenue bike path, but it’s NOT that plows can’t fit in the pathway. The fact is, it IS wide enough to accommodate a plow–the short video I made on Monday, the day after the storm, shows the first block of the path (96th to 95th) plowed (look at the end, between 0:22 and 0:10).

    I suspect the reason the city didn’t plow the bike lane was that it was afraid of angering drivers by pushing snow from the bike path onto their cars.

  • I’m a suburbanite, but I don’t recognize anyone that I know as a “park and shop driver”. If we go into the city, 90% of the time we’re taking MetroNorth to jobs or cultural destinations, and then shopping when we’re in the city. Otherwise, we can go to White Plains, where we get depressed walking around the mall thinking about how much better city pedestrian shopping was.

    When I park my car in the city, I leave my car wherever I found the spot or in the lot, and hop on the subway to a neighborhood. Then I spend a lot of time walking around like city residents do.

  • dirtycrumbs, when I was in DC, there were two free papers at the metro, the express (washington post) and a right wing paper (the examiner).

    The examiner was 100% pro car….which made no sense as it’s a paper being read by Metro riders!

  • Woody

    I live on Columbus near 96th St. and was very glad to see the crews come through to hand-shovel the snow. The crosswalks badly needed attention, including especially the pedestrian islands. (This is going to be an issue as protected bike lanes — and their pedestrian islands — expand around the island. Who is supposed to clear these crosswalks?)

    Not sure it’s actually correct to say that the bike lane was shoveled though. Today I rode down to 77th St and had to walk my bike through two slushy-slippery-icy piles of snow.

    What absolutely was NOT cleared were the parking lanes because on many block parked cars prevented the plows from ever getting close to the curb on the non-bike side of the avenues. That meant that pedestrian access to bus stops, the post office, and even stores was difficult for many days. If the insistently parked cars had not been reducing Columbus to one or two lanes after the snowstorm, the plows would have had full access, and it would have been all sunshine for pedestrians — and, after a day or so, for vehicles as well..

    TOO MUCH parking is also the on-going problem for deliveries. Food City, on the corner of 94th, complains about how difficult it is for delivery trucks to park and unload. Simply reduce the floating parking lane by even one, or better, two spaces on that block and there’d be ample space for deliveries and no cause to double park.

  • Mike

    Anyone have a working link for this video? I couldn’t find one on the wcbs website.

  • Sam

    Love my car….but with the cost of gas going up, biking is looking more and more practical.

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