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.
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.