The Daily News Has Got to Stop Printing Cyclist Stereotypes

One of the enduring mysteries of the NYC transportation media landscape is how the Daily News opinion page can be so on-target with its transit pieces, and so far off the mark when the topic turns to bicycling.

Is the blurred-out form on this bike -- ##http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-04-25/local/29489004_1_bicyclist-window-car##a favorite choice## of the photo editors at the Daily News -- even a human being?

Last week, the opinion writers published this excellent takedown of the joint John Liu/Tom DiNapoli MTA audit which took the agency to task for $10.5 million in unnecessary construction spending a few days after the MTA board announced that its capital budget would have to take on nearly $7 billion in debt. The comptrollers were fiddling while the MTA’s finances burned. “One of the oldest PR tricks in the book,” the Daily News opined. Sharp, insightful, holding electeds accountable for playing the MTA blame game — it was great stuff.

Today came this bizarre attack on bike lanes and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, under the guise of a plea for cyclists to stick to the south side of the Manhattan Bridge. There’s a six-month construction detour while crews work on bridge cabling, and while that’s going on, cyclists are supposed to detour to the south side while pedestrians are supposed to take the north side.

In today’s piece, the Daily News fell back on lazy stereotypes. Cyclists “zoom along the pedestrian side of the bridge as if it were the last leg of the Tour de France” and “flip the bird at the working stiff from Brooklyn who’s trying to burn off a few calories on the way home from the daily grind.” On any given day, there are thousands of people biking to work on the Manhattan Bridge at a normal pace, some of whom are probably trying to burn off a few calories. Do they count as working stiffs?

The Daily News also failed to mention everyone who’s been biking on the south side, following the detour signs. I rode over the Manhattan Bridge this morning and took the south side. I came across many cyclists and several pedestrians along the way. It didn’t bother me much that people were walking on what is now the “bike side” of the bridge. This isn’t the Brooklyn Bridge — there’s room to maneuver. No birds were flipped by any party.

The north side is more constricted now that there are construction sheds on it, and if cyclists are passing pedestrians or other cyclists under a shed, it’s going to be an unpleasant squeeze. But whenever I glanced over at the north side this morning, I saw no one. I’m sure there are a few cyclists who continue to use it sometimes. Why? Maybe they’re scared to death to take the south side and end up on the Bowery, where vehicles parked in the new, makeshift bikeway thrust cyclists into harrowing truck and bus traffic.

In any case, the author of the Daily News piece has an open invite to take a few morning trips over the bridge by foot and on a bike. We’ll see how many bird-flipping cyclists we come across.

  • Larry Littlefield

    That article just blew my mind.  What the heck are they talking about?  Who told them there was a problem?

  • J

    The Daily News has every right to complain about some cyclists breaking the rules and being obnoxious. What infuriates me, though, is that they do not make any distinction between the cyclists that break the rules and those who follow them closely. They also make no mention of the pedestrians who walk on the wrong side, and the drivers who cut off and yell at cyclists on Bowery. This is totally one-sided garbage, and it furthers the stereotype that all cyclists are obnoxious and all other people are good, law-abiding citizens. Ugh.

  • Manny Bridge

    Sure, J, the Daily News does have every right to complain about people breaking the rules and being obnoxious, but it’s hard to take them seriously when they open with the idea that “so many New Yorkers – even reasonable New Yorkers – are so dead-set against your bike lanes.”  By ignoring the fact that 66% of New Yorkers favor bike lanes and by painting all cyclists with a stereotypical brush the Daily News delegitimizes every argument that follows.

    Bike Snob had a great post on the subject of irrational bike hate yesterday:

    “There’s certainly room for debate when it comes to municipal issues such
    as bike lanes and so forth, but when someone just hates cyclists
    because they hate cyclists then they forfeit their right to rational
    discourse.”

  • Anonymous

    Actually, I am not crazy about the pedestrians on the bike side of the bridge before or after the switch. Most are respectful and recognize that they are in bike lanes and they keep to the side and act predictably. I can live with that. But others seem completely oblivious weaving all over the path. I broke a brake cable two weeks ago on the temporary path when I had to jam on my brakes because two women who were standing near the edge suddenly darted out in front of me.

  • Joe R.

    I’m SO tired of the same old lines here.  Sure, there are obnoxious, arrogant cyclists.  And the same applies to some motorists (I encountered one last night) and also to some people on foot.  Why the special brand of vitriol if the obnoxious person happens to be on 2 wheels?  And why the double standard when it comes to “following the rules”, especially when a lot of the rules don’t make much sense to start with?  In this city the vast majority of motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians don’t follow every rule to the letter, but it seems cyclists catch the most flak for it.  How about instead just focusing on outright dangerous behavoir?  Few cyclists will come to the defense of a fellow cyclist who is doing stupid, dangerous, inconsiderate things.

    And WTF is up with the “riding too fast” nonsense I’m always reading?  The speed limit on city streets is at least 30 mph for the most part, sometimes 35 or 40 along certain arterials.  The “defacto” speed limit, over which a speeding ticket will hold up in court, is 10% plus 4 mph over the limit.  Therefore, unless I’m going 37 mph or more in a 30 zone, or 48 mph in a 40 zone, don’t give me any nonsense about going too fast.  And the honest truth is it’s rare I get much over 30 mph anyway, with the bulk of my riding falling between about 16 and 23 mph.  There’s not a special bike speed limit of 10 mph like some people seem to think.  It’s even more ridiculous when people chastise a cyclist for going “much too fast” on the same road cars are speeding by at 45 mph.

    The very reason bicycles exist in the first place is so you can go 3 to 5 times faster than walking.  If there’s going to be any enforcement to try and get people to use the proper side of the bridge, then it needs to fall evenly of both pedestrians and cyclists.  I can easily see both sides.  A pedestrian is going to be visibly shaken by someone descending the bridge at 35 or 40 mph within inches of them.  And a cyclist doesn’t want to hit a pedestrian at speed, no matter how much the media says otherwise, because they’re just as likely to get hurt.  As such, a clear path, especially while descending, is nice.  It might serve another purpose as well.  It gives the cyclist a relatively safe place to go fast, get it out of their system, so that they might ride more sanely in mixed traffic conditions.  I sometimes think that’s the reason motorists in this city drive the way they do.  They’re continually frustrated at every turn.  Maybe if they had one stretch in their commute where they could “open it up” for a while, they would behave better the rest of the time.  The same reasoning applies to cyclists.  The descents on the bridges are as good a place as any for this BUT you need to keep them clear of people on foot.

  • Some people are jerks.  Some people ride bikes.  Some people who ride bikes are jerks.  Given that there are hundreds of millions of people operating cars in the US every day, I’d be willing to bet that some them are jerks too.

  • I think the signage on both sides of the bridge is terrible.  There is a big sign at the start of the walkway/bikeway on the south side in Brooklyn that clearly indicates that pedestrians are not allowed to procede, but it doesn’t say where they should go instead. There’s no diagram of the bridge entrances anywhere.  Also, the plastic barricades at the north entrance on the Brooklyn side make it look like the north side is totally closed. 

    The Manhattan side has an even worse problem in that the entrances to the north and south sides of the bridge are so far apart that it’s impossible for people not familiar with the bridge to even begin to understand where they should enter if they notice any confusing signage.  And getting from the south side entrance to the north side involves crossing a dozen lanes of traffic.

  • NYDN has the right to breathlessly complain about certain New Yorkers “breaking the rules”, just as we have the right not to read papers that eagerly apply double-standards in the service of formulaic diatribes against bicycle riding. There are plenty of other news sources that are not mystifyingly detached from the daily experience of normal people.

    It’s no surprise that some stubborn folks are following their old routes during a temporary detour.  I pass about 30 walkers and runners on the current “bike side” of the bridge in the evenings. BFD. I ride around them.

    I don’t know what turnip truck NYDN editors fell off of but this is not news.

  • carma

    Joe,

    On most downhills a bike can easily go 30+mph.  stupidity comes in all forms.  some peds expect every car to yield to them even when they are clearly jaywalking.  some drivers clearly cant drive and shouldnt be licensed.  gabbing on the phone, texting, swerving.  and some cyclists will blast through reds without even looking a glance.

    and i agree that cyclists should follow all the rules.  if a cyclist runs a red and causes an accident, yes its his/her fault.  but how reasonable is it really if there is a red and there is no oncoming traffic and a cyclist gets an early start?  think about it.  a bicycle is 50 times more nimble than a car.  that already makes it on a different scale in terms of the rules.

  • As a non-racer who actually has a working cyclocomputer on my bike I can probably count the number of times I’ve exceeded 30 mph, and it sure as hell wasn’t on the Manhattan Bridge.

    For anyone, like the Daily News, who is unfamiliar with these two paths on the Manhattan Bridge, there are a number of joints that function like speed bumps and will prevent most cyclists from building up any real speed, even on the downhill.

    But the fact that pedestrians prefer the bike lane really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Obviously pedestrians feel safer among a bunch of commuters, be it two-wheeled commuters, than they do walking alone on a desolate bridge. 

  • Station44025

    Agreed, I don’t commute every day, but I happened to ride on the north side of the bridge last week because I was completely confused by the signage. There was a no-bikes sign sort of off to the side, under the bridge, which appeared to be indicative of nothing in particular. “Walk your bike under the bridge?” I don’t know…There was certainly nothing telling me to use a specific alternative. I didn’t see any pedestrians, and there were about 15 bikes on the bridge. Looked like a bike lane to me. The construction workers were perfectly nice, asked people to dismount and made a bit of small talk as I walked through their work area. I was asking myself “gee what is everyone making such a big deal about the detour for?” I literally had absolutely no idea that I was a jerk or a scofflaw until I read this post, four days later. Sorry New York, for the unintentional crime spree.

  • Anonymous

    I am a BRAND NEW biker (as in, just got a bike last week) and I tested out my route to work this morning. I live in DUMBO and work on 18th st. in the Flatiron district, and I did a LOT of research before heading out this morning about which route was safest and most protected, and I was still confused by the detour.  I mapped my route on ridethecity.com and it routed me over the south side of the Manhattan Bridge, but then, I guess in an attempt to avoid the Bowery death trap where it crosses Canal, it routed me SOUTH (left) on Bowery, then left on Catherine, and another left on E. Broadway to hook up with the Pike St./Allen St. bike path. I watched other cyclists take the detour recommended by the signs, and I’m conflicted about what to do when I actually ride to work on a weekday. The route that Ride the City mapped for me was extremely confusing, but seems like it might be a better option than riding UP the Bowery.

    Oh, and FWIW, I saw almost as many pedestrians on the “wrong side” (i.e. south side) of the bridge as cyclists, but no birds were flipped and I just rang my bell and went on my merry way. The Daily News are idiots.

  • BootsMade4Walking

    Sorry to be the dissenter here, but I have been nearly clipped by one too many bikers. They come up on the sidewalks, run red lights and don’t realize that as *silent vehicles* pedestrians have a very hard time noticing when they’re gunning down an otherwise empty street (just ring a bell or something). They fly out into traffic, go the wrong way down their own lanes (this has nearly led to me getting run over many times … I’ll cross the lane into a median on a major avenue, having looked upstream for bikes, only for one to come at me from the opposite direction).

    We’re not claiming this is all cyclists. We’re merely noting the traffic laws are clearly unenforced. These are vehicles that can gain some serious (lethal?) momentum, and the police should treat infractions as seriously as they would for any motor vehicle. I think that’s where my chief complaint lies: Inadequate enforcement of traffic rules as they apply to cyclists.

  • Ian Turner

    @420fb91c48fb2d92e67f326ab3e2e13b:disqus : You’re right that a lot of cyclists break the rules. So do a lot of motorists and a lot of pedestrians. Where you are wrong, however, is when you say that “the police should treat infractions as seriously as they would for any motor vehicle”. There is a major difference between cyclists’ infractions and those made by drivers, and that is that the drivers’ actions have deadly consequences. Cyclists kill, on average, about 1 person per decade in NYC, while cars kill closer to 4000. Not comparable at all.

  • Joe R.

    @BootsMade4Walking-Sorry, but enforcement isn’t the answer.  For any group, including cyclists.  Poor behavoir is a result of poor infrastructure and/or laws.  Nothing except draconian enforcement will do much, and draconian enforcement would literally mean a cop on every single corner giving tickets to violators, something NYC can’t afford even in the best of times.  No, better infrastructure is what works best.  When the city installed protected bicycle lanes, for example, sidewalk cycling on the streets they were installed on dropped enormously.  As for wrong way cycling, that exists mainly among delivery cyclists who are paid more if they deliver more.  You need to take away the economic incentive by paying them per hour, and their behavoir will change.  Red light running?  Stopping and starting uses as much energy as traveling several blocks.  NYC grossly overuses traffic lights, and optimizes them for car speeds.  End result is cyclists will often catch a light every 2 or 3 blocks were they to obey every traffic signal, and have average speeds no better than walking.  Why even bother cycling?  Small wonder then many cyclists pass red lights, although I’ll be the first to say they should at least look, and yield to anything crossing their path.  To do otherwise is dangerous to themselves, and also to people on foot, as well as plain inconsiderate.  Again, this is an infrastructure issue.  Put bike routes where they don’t encounter traffic lights, elevating them above the street if need be, or remove the traffic lights along bike routes, or have detectors which give bicycles priority at intersections.  The Netherlands is building out a series of bicycle highways where one can go miles without stopping.  NYC would do well to emulate that.  When cyclists can ride 15 or 20 miles, and only encounter one or two red lights, you can be sure red light compliance will be much, much higher than it currently is.

    And by the way, if the NYPD were to treat cycling infractions as “seriously” as they do motor vehicle infractions, they would need to start doing LESS enforcement, not more.  There isn’t, and never has been, a whole lot of enforcement of motor vehicle traffic laws here, other than highly publicized, occasional “crackdowns” which do nothing to alter behavoir in the long run.  Only better infrastructure can change that.  For example, road “diets” work great at making motorists behave more civilly.

  • Joe R.

    @BootsMade4Walking-Sorry, but enforcement isn’t the answer.  For any group, including cyclists.  Poor behavoir is a result of poor infrastructure and/or laws.  Nothing except draconian enforcement will do much, and draconian enforcement would literally mean a cop on every single corner giving tickets to violators, something NYC can’t afford even in the best of times.  No, better infrastructure is what works best.  When the city installed protected bicycle lanes, for example, sidewalk cycling on the streets they were installed on dropped enormously.  As for wrong way cycling, that exists mainly among delivery cyclists who are paid more if they deliver more.  You need to take away the economic incentive by paying them per hour, and their behavoir will change.  Red light running?  Stopping and starting uses as much energy as traveling several blocks.  NYC grossly overuses traffic lights, and optimizes them for car speeds.  End result is cyclists will often catch a light every 2 or 3 blocks were they to obey every traffic signal, and have average speeds no better than walking.  Why even bother cycling?  Small wonder then many cyclists pass red lights, although I’ll be the first to say they should at least look, and yield to anything crossing their path.  To do otherwise is dangerous to themselves, and also to people on foot, as well as plain inconsiderate.  Again, this is an infrastructure issue.  Put bike routes where they don’t encounter traffic lights, elevating them above the street if need be, or remove the traffic lights along bike routes, or have detectors which give bicycles priority at intersections.  The Netherlands is building out a series of bicycle highways where one can go miles without stopping.  NYC would do well to emulate that.  When cyclists can ride 15 or 20 miles, and only encounter one or two red lights, you can be sure red light compliance will be much, much higher than it currently is.

    And by the way, if the NYPD were to treat cycling infractions as “seriously” as they do motor vehicle infractions, they would need to start doing LESS enforcement, not more.  There isn’t, and never has been, a whole lot of enforcement of motor vehicle traffic laws here, other than highly publicized, occasional “crackdowns” which do nothing to alter behavoir in the long run.  Only better infrastructure can change that.  For example, road “diets” work great at making motorists behave more civilly.

  • eveostay

    Seems like different pedestrians on the south side. It seems likely that most choose the side that is more convenient to their origins and/or destinations.

  • @420fb91c48fb2d92e67f326ab3e2e13b:disqus When you call for enforcement, are you suggesting that everyone who doesn’t follow the signs on the bridge should be given a ticket, or just cyclists?

  • Larry Littlefield

    Here is the way I’ve responded to the detour.
    Inbound in the AM, I either shift to the Brooklyn Bridge; or walk my bike or ride next to the crosswalk across the Bowery and Canal, and then ride up Elizabeth Street to Prince.

    Outbound in the PM I ride down Mott Street from Bleecker, as usual, despite often having to get off and walk sometimes when the traffic backs up.  But instead of going left on Grand, I ride down to Bayard and turn there.

    It isn’t fast but it’s nice and safe compared with the Bowery.

  • One advantage of detour is that West Side Greenway-Harrison-Hudson-Franklin-Lafayette-Worth-Bowery is a shorter on-street route than the one I would take to get to the north side of the Manhattan Bridge. For returning to Greenway, I like crossing the Bowery, then Pell-Mott-Mosco-Mulberry-(cut thru Columbus Park)-Leonard-Hudson-N Moore. 

    I also think that using the Allen St bike lane down to E Broadway, and turning R on Bowery, is a faster, easier way than using Bowery to cross Canal.

  • Anquetil’s Ghost

    I bet I walk ** and ** ride over the Manhattan bridge more than most people here so have no modal dog in this fight except…

    With A LOT more obstacles on both sides, the cyclists + Chinese motorbike jerks are still going over the north side every hour, every day. If you don’t see it then you’re not looking or are simply lying.

    And since there is PLENTY of room on the south side, “bicycle activist” whiners are… just that, again. 

    Spend a fraction of that energy keeping jerkoffs from the riding wrong way on one way bike lanes and people might take you seriously with these petty complaints.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I counted 16 pedestrians on the south side on my ride home today.

    I had to slow down once or twice, but no complaints.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I counted 16 pedestrians on the south side on my ride home today.

    I had to slow down once or twice, but no complaints.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I counted 16 pedestrians on the south side on my ride home today.

    I had to slow down once or twice, but no complaints.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I counted 16 pedestrians on the south side on my ride home today.

    I had to slow down once or twice, but no complaints.

  • Last Saturday I rode back from Summer Streets on the Manhattan Bridge and Team in Training has a run going on the south side. A lot of runners all the way across the bridge was mildly annoying but so what. It was fine. 

    Yes NYDN & NYP stereotype us but there are bad/dangerous cyclists (roadies, city, bmxers, fixies, commuters), just like there are bad/dangerous pedestrians and bad/dangerous car/truck drivers. Ride defensively and save racing for Central Park & Prospect Park. And don’t cut off pedestrians pushing strollers in crosswalks – I’m talking to you douchebag who did it a couple of Sats ago on 5th Ave & Bergen. Your parents must be proud. 😉

  • Last Saturday I rode back from Summer Streets on the Manhattan Bridge and Team in Training has a run going on the south side. A lot of runners all the way across the bridge was mildly annoying but so what. It was fine. 

    Yes NYDN & NYP stereotype us but there are bad/dangerous cyclists (roadies, city, bmxers, fixies, commuters), just like there are bad/dangerous pedestrians and bad/dangerous car/truck drivers. Ride defensively and save racing for Central Park & Prospect Park. And don’t cut off pedestrians pushing strollers in crosswalks – I’m talking to you douchebag who did it a couple of Sats ago on 5th Ave & Bergen. Your parents must be proud. 😉

  • Last Saturday I rode back from Summer Streets on the Manhattan Bridge and Team in Training has a run going on the south side. A lot of runners all the way across the bridge was mildly annoying but so what. It was fine. 

    Yes NYDN & NYP stereotype us but there are bad/dangerous cyclists (roadies, city, bmxers, fixies, commuters), just like there are bad/dangerous pedestrians and bad/dangerous car/truck drivers. Ride defensively and save racing for Central Park & Prospect Park. And don’t cut off pedestrians pushing strollers in crosswalks – I’m talking to you douchebag who did it a couple of Sats ago on 5th Ave & Bergen. Your parents must be proud. 😉

  • I was part of this discussion…I was offended to how Alex labeled bike
    riders. Only those of the creative mind and “hipsters” ride a
    bike….seriously? If I were to put a label on myself(and I dont b.c Im
    NOT a soup can) it would be a punk-goth…sounds ridiculous right? Thats
    my point: all kinds of people ride bikes…since when did we have to
    abide by some unwritten laws on cycling? Im a wife and mom, safety isn’t
    a choice its a necessity. Anyone else just tired of the ignorance?

  • Kristina, I guess one of the many things that Alex doesn’t realize is that by making it harder for the city to improve street safety, he’s harming you, your family, and many other New Yorkers who don’t have access to good cycling facilities.

  • Kristina, I guess one of the many things that Alex doesn’t realize is that by making it harder for the city to improve street safety, he’s harming you, your family, and many other New Yorkers who don’t have access to good cycling facilities.

  • I totally agree with this. Many people are starting to get offended by their constant labeling. It won’t be good rep for them. They have to stop.

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