Steve Cuozzo’s Bike Data Is Like Donald Trump’s Data on Obama’s Citizenship

Living in this metropolis of coastal elites, it can sometimes feel like you inhabit a different universe than the America where paranoid skepticism of the president’s citizenship runs rampant, and giving people the option of getting around safely without a car is viewed as a U.N. plot to subjugate us all. But New Yorkers do have the Donald to remind us that birthers live among us, and we also have Steve “the Cuozz” Cuozzo to show us that insane Tea Party-style conspiracy theories about livability aren’t just for the crazies in Albemarle County, Virginia. In fact, our local data-denier gets guaranteed column inches in the New York Post.

This week the Cuozz has really been on a roll. Let’s start with Monday’s column, where Cuozzo tried to disprove DOT’s commuter bike counts by asking for data on bike parking usage in office buildings from the Real Estate Board of New York.

This is sort of like asking Grover Norquist to just give you the facts on the Affordable Care Act. REBNY was the main lobbying group working against the Bicycle Access Bill when it was moving through the City Council in 2008 and 2009. Until that bill passed, the real estate industry had been foiling attempts to legislate access for bikes to buildings for more than a decade. REBNY successfully watered down the final legislation to keep buildings from having to permit people to bring their bikes inside through their main elevators. Any building without a freight elevator is totally exempt.

So Cuozzo’s commuter cycling metric relies on office building data furnished by an interest group that fought tooth and nail to oppose commuter bike access to its office buildings.

Counting bikes parked in office buildings also doesn’t capture anyone who biked to the train on their way to work, or anyone who parked their bike on the street, or anyone who parked at a garage, or anyone who parked at a workplace that’s not a corporate office. And Cuozzo’s count requires you to believe that the managers at these buildings counted every bike that employees brought up to their offices. Wouldn’t it be more straightforward to, you know, count people biking on the street?

But lets assume for the sake of argument that Cuozzo’s data point — 278 bikes parked in the Midtown and Downtown office buildings that reported to him — represents something real. It still doesn’t tell you anything about the growth of cycling in the city.

To quote the Cuozz, “you don’t need a degree in statistics to grasp” that a single number is totally useless as a measurement of how much cycling in the city has gone up or down. Maybe last year, only 100 bikes were parked in these office buildings on a similar day of the year with similar weather, and this new number represents a huge increase. Who’s to say? Not statistics buff Steve Cuozzo. All he has is one number given to him by a group with a vested interest in making that number as low as possible. (You know Cuozzo has no qualms about lying and spinning when he says, all polling to the contrary, that the Prospect Park West bike lane is “detested.”)

Cuozzo puts his combination of wild speculation and cherrypicked information up against DOT’s screenline count, the annual tally of cyclists crossing into Manhattan below 60th Street. The fact is that the DOT screenline bike count has been in use since 1985 — before Janette Sadik-Khan, before Iris Weinshall, before Lee Sander or Lou Riccio were in charge of DOT. It provides year-over-year trends in bike usage, counting actual people riding actual bikes into the Manhattan central business district. It’s not perfect, but unlike Cuozzo’s smoke-and-mirrors, the screenline count provides real data about changes over time. And it shows that cycling into the center of the city is up substantially.

Like a lot of pundits who oppose making streets safer, Cuozzo styles himself a “real New Yorker” and enjoys pitting pedestrians against cyclists. Here’s a highlight from his anti-bike rant today, calling for NYPD to step up the intensity of its bike crackdown: “A 2-mile-a-day walker like myself despairs of seeing an officer lift a finger when a maniacal cyclist whizzes the wrong way through a crowd.”

See? The Cuozz is on a mission to protect pedestrians from maniacs. Except when the maniacs drive multi-ton vehicles and the city actually saves lives by transferring space from the maniacs to pedestrians. That’s an utter outrage to the Cuozz.

When the hundreds of thousands of people who walk on Midtown sidewalks each day got some room to breathe with the addition of DOT’s new plaza spaces in 2009, pedestrian injuries dropped 35 percent. You’d think a walker like the Cuozz could appreciate that, but instead he looks down on the “low-rent tourists,” yearning for the days when he could watch “the strangely beautiful confluence of auto lights between 47th and 42nd streets.”

As for all the injuries and trips to the hospital that those plazas have prevented — they’re as real to the Cuozz as Obama’s birth certificate is to the Donald.

  • Marsha Kramer’s Purple Eyebrow

    A 2 mile a day walker? You can get 2 miles a day – easy – in NYC between errands and walking around at lunch. So what exactly is that supposed to mean? You can still drive a car all around the city and claim to be a 2 mile a day walker…

    I got news for The Cuozz, I ride my bike everywhere. I used to ride to work all thru the 90s and this last decade. It had to be locked up on the street. Just about everyone I know doesn’t have access to indoor bike parking, but they ride and lock up wherever they can and pray their bikes are there when they get back. His logic is stunning – those numbers mean absolutely nothing.

  • =v= Every Manhattan building I’ve worked in forced bike commuters (and bike messengers) to use the freight elevators, because bicycles are supposedly unprofessional and must be kept out of sight. What with us being kept out of sight, how would REBNY’s “office managers” be able to count us in the first place?

  • Anonymous

    Even worse is this continued logic that commuting is the only legit time for transport. Every person against bike improvements tries again and again to point at “low” bicycle commuting numbers. This completely ignores the other 98% of the time people spend traveling from A to B to C, which is nearly always under 2 miles (the perfect cycling distance).

  • Anonymous

    All the objections about the data, ridership, safety, etc are theatrics. This has become a culture war between a small number of self identified “real New Yorkers” who are fearful of change, and everyone else.

    People, the economy, neighborhoods, long standing ethnic communities; they are all constantly shifting and changing, and that frightens a lot of people. You can’t do anything about real-estate or the economy or terrorism or immigration in New York, but it’s not politically complicated to latch on to bike lanes and bikes as one small, tangible change to resist. It doesn’t matter that lanes make sense or are popular, because that’s not what this is really about.

    I was just talking with my Park Slope neighbor–a proud native new yorker–about the PPW lane. He said he thinks bike lanes are a great idea in other cities, but they are being “forced” on the “culture” of New York. The assumption is that anyone who rides or likes the lanes is not a “real New Yorker,” even if they are the majority.

    There has to be a way to diffuse the issue, because the war against cyclists has become a proxy war against the future, which doesn’t solve anyone’s problems.

  • moocow

    That’s really well said. Thanks.

  • Street Pete

    Bingo. Exactly. Well said. Two thoughts:

    1. I suspect $5.50 gasoline and $3 transit fares might help defuse the war against cyclists.

    2. It’s incredible that a guy like Steve Cuozzo can get up in the morning, walk two miles to his office, sit down at his desk and then just proceed to type out lies, misinformation and total bullshit to be printed in the next day’s newspaper.

  • TherBir

    “As for all the injuries and trips to the hospital that those plazas have prevented — they’re as real to the Cuozz as Obama’s birth certificate is to the Donald.”

    To be fair to the “birthers”, Obama has presented a valid Hawaiian Certification of Live Birth. He has not presented a Certificate of Live Birth i.e. a “birth certificate”. These are different documents, the “birth certificate” being the original, long form document filed shortly after birth, while the “certification of live birth” is a print out of a computer record in a state database.

    While I personally think Obama was born in Hawaii as he says, it is an interesting question why he doesn’t release the original document. Is it a power play? Does it include information he thinks would hurt him politically?

  • wkgreen

    Beyond being a non-issue since it is not even logical that he would be born anywhere but Hawaii, why does the president’s place of birth even matter so much? This is a relic left over from 1787 that’s just too damn difficult to get rid of, and has about as much relevance to today as the 3rd Amendment restriction on the quartering of soldiers in peacetime. Or maybe for those who don’t think that our country is “American enough” we should just propose an amendment to prevent anyone with a weird last name from running.

  • Anonymous

    If only 278 people ride their bikes to work every day, how does our statistics maven Cuozzo explain the deaths of 18 cyclists in 2010? Is he suggesting that cyclists have a one-in-fifteen chance of dying on our streets? Or were the dead all delivery guys in his twisted universe?

  • Delver

    To be fair, does it matter? John McCain was not born in the US. He was born in the Panama Canal Zone. He is a naturalized US citizen because his Dad was already a citizen. Regardless of where Obama was born, no one is disputing the fact that Obama’s mom was a citizen.

  • Stan

    People like your neighbor don’t realize (or remember) how practical and enjoyable riding a bike is. I think Bike Share will go a long way to change this.

  • krstrois

    Steve Cuozzo is one of those people who filters everything through “Yay, more stuff for ME” or “NO, don’t take stuff FROM ME.” He literally can’t see the world any other way. Anything that is not done just for him is an entitlement program. There is no rational argument to be had with someone like him.

    I take comfort only in that he is old and so is the readership of the Post. I do hope he lives long enough to see two men get married in a protected bike lane.

  • TherBir

    I believe that the “natural born citizen” requirment has been interpreted by the courts to include people born outside the U.S. when both parents were U.S. citizens, not just one.
    Anyway, the interpretation of the “natural born citizen” Constitutional requirement is a different subject than the “birth certificate” issue.

  • TherBir

    I believe that the “natural born citizen” requirment has been interpreted by the courts to include people born outside the U.S. when both parents were U.S. citizens, not just one.
    Anyway, the interpretation of the “natural born citizen” Constitutional requirement is a different subject than the “birth certificate” issue.

  • Anonymous

    The zero-sum mentality has become pervasive in political discourse these days. Anything that benefits someone else must be my loss, and any anyone else’s loss must imply a gain for me. There is no room for things that benefit everyone, or have a negative impact on everyone.

  • Anonymous

    I think the workaround is to figure out how to create a sense of ownership among would-be opponents. If they can have something invested in a change to the community, then they will advocate for it. I worked for an art director early in my career who would approve anything as long you framed it as “his idea.” Name bike paths after people? Weave them in with community events like little league and the 4th of july? I don’t know, just spitballing here…

  • Bolwerk

    Hell, yeah, but it’s kind of worse than this. The American political system should not be measured on a left-right scale. It should be measured on a prosocial/antisocial scale. The Cuozzos and teabaggers of the world are narcissists and sociopaths, not simply “conservatives.”

  • @ Bolwerk

    From what I’ve seen of conservative ideology, “antisocial” would be a perfect description. It’s all about ME, about MY RIGHTS, about MY STUFF (as krstrois says.) The ideology of rugged individualism and individuals over society is both conservative and pretty antisocial.

  • wkgreen

    Actually the law on the books at the time that Obama was born stated that for a child born outside of our borders, if only one parent was a citizen, then the parent had to have resided in the U.S. for 5 years since the age of 14 in order for that person to be able to petition to have the child considered a U.S. citizen. Since his mother was only 18 she would not have been eligible. This is neither here nor there, however, since it would be extremely unlikely that a woman so young, presumably in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy, would leave her life and parents and the only life she knew to give birth half way around the earth in a country she had little connection to. For what purpose? The level of neo-natal care in an impoverished 3rd world country? It’s too idiotic to even consider.

  • Bolwerk

    @Suzanne: Sure. Conservative is how they describe themselves. It sounds nicer than jack-booted thug. If there even is one, the true conservative party in the USA is the center-right Democratic Party though. I think hanging up on ideological differences is really problematic, however, because the major problem with teabaggers, Republikans, and Cuozzo is that they are antisocial. Their otherwise silly right-wing ideologies are bad, but secondary.

  • Bolwerk

    @Suzanne: Sure. Conservative is how they describe themselves. It sounds nicer than jack-booted thug. If there even is one, the true conservative party in the USA is the center-right Democratic Party though. I think hanging up on ideological differences is really problematic, however, because the major problem with teabaggers, Republikans, and Cuozzo is that they are antisocial. Their otherwise silly right-wing ideologies are bad, but secondary.

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