The Hypocrisy of Denis Hamill’s Blind Road Rage

How’s this for some cognitive dissonance?

Daily News columnist Denis Hamill, whose stock-in-trade is bitter nostalgia, went off yesterday on the city’s efforts to make streets safer for biking. The rant is straight out of the John Cassidy mold — basically, Hamill wants you to know that cyclists today have it easy because, unlike himself, they never built their own bikes from salvaged scrap and hauled 100-pound boxes of meat next to roaring traffic. (Roaring traffic is a thing of the past now, right folks?)

Hamill, though, apparently has a much deeper reservoir of rage to draw from:

Anyway, I was driving my car recently along Prospect Park West, once a majestic three-lane, mile-long esplanade from one war memorial to the other. Now it’s like squeezing yourself through a crinkled tube of toothpaste.

The yuppie-ki-yay bike lane, where kids dressed like hockey goalies pedal in a danger-free fantasy lane, has literally painted car traffic into two lanes.

If you hit the lottery and see 10 feet of free space in the parking lane, you can no longer use the curb to guide your parallel parking. No, the curb is reserved as a barrier reef for the Hipster Highway for Richie Rich on his $1,500 Lance Armstrong Doperacer.

Same thing in Manhattan. Sheltered, helmeted kids getting zeroes in street-smarts pedal past with a clear path through life.

News flash: Life ain’t a smooth sail, kiddos! There’s a big crash just waiting at the end of every bike lane.

So the guy who “discovered a lifelong work ethic” on his bike can’t handle parallel parking without a curb or driving on a street with two lanes instead of three? He has to take out his rage on a project that lets kids bike to Prospect Park on their own? Pathetic.

Denis Hamill wants the kids and families using the PPW bike lane to know: "There’s a big crash just waiting at the end of every bike lane." Photo: Doug Gordon

Here’s the weird thing about this bitter, bitter man. He actually gets the fact that traffic is a barrier to physical activity and a drag on public health.

Hamill was promoting this great idea last summer:

Bloomberg had no trouble banning traffic from Times Square and Herald Square, and so instead of banning big sodas, he might consider banning traffic on school streets in every neighborhood where local kids can play stickball and run their fat butts off chasing Spaldeens from dawn to dusk. There are plenty of old time stickball veterans around who would love to teach kids how to play this beautiful city game.

That’s hundreds of street closures every school day — a pretty bold street reclamation program. If your street safety/public health initiative isn’t wrapped in nostalgia, though, this guy isn’t interested.

And, by the way, it’s probably no coincidence that the Daily News is again singling out the Prospect Park West bike lane for derision. The people suing to have the lane removed have key allies on the paper’s editorial board.

Denis Hamill's "danger-free fantasy lane," a.k.a. a safe, functional bike lane for all ages. Photo copyright Dmitry Gudkov, used with permission.

 

  • Bolwerk

    I wouldn’t be surprised if his nostalgia is about something that predates his birth. Perhaps part of the problem with this type of “nostalgia” is the imagery burns into people’s minds thusly:

    1950s:  kids safely biking around safe, quiet suburban streets speckled with driveways occupied by cookie cutter whites.  I mean, by cookie cutter houses occupied by hard-working whites!
     
    1970s: urban smog, attendant (though not necessarily related) blight and crime.

    That the smog probably started afflicting urban regions heavily in the 1950s or earlier is forgotten. That the blight is rooted in 1950s planning is also forgotten.

  • A “danger-free fantasy lane”  sounds like the NYC of safe streets I want to raise kids in one day. Glad this lunatic made such an accurate description of the way NYC should most certainly be. 

  • Democratic Primary Voter

    Shorter Dennis Hamill: I’m okay with kids dying in traffic like they did in the good old days.

  • Note Hamill’s selfish sense of privilege. Drivers are entitled to “10 feet of free space in the parking lane,” but kids riding to soccer practice need to fend for themselves.

  • If Hamil thinks the current bike lanes are danger-free, I suggest he tries riding the First Avenue bike lane one morning assuming there’s no danger. He would quickly be flying through the air as a taxi cut across him, I’d suggest.
    But, overall, the rant is an excellent example of the attitude towards road space that I described a while ago here: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2012/02/bikes-can-be-hard-to-overtake.html My examples are from London (where I was living when I wrote it). But the anger of the removal of space to which drivers think they have a right is the same in NYC (where I live now).

  • “Shorter Dennis Hamill: I’m okay with kids dying in traffic like they did in the good old days.”

    But it’s an OUTRAGE that I can’t find a parking space!

    What a macho, macho man.

  • Zach

    I’m going to assume the entire article is in a sarcastic voice. I think we ought to aim a bunch of thank you letters to Hamill for showing his readership how foolishly hypocritical the kids-should-play-safely-in-the-street-BUT-don’t-dare-slow-cars perspective is.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “I’m going to assume the entire article is in a sarcastic voice.”

    I wouldn’t share that assumption.  Hamil grew up in my neighborhood (or should I say for his benefit the neighborhood where I now live), and I remember exactly one other Daily News article by the guy. 

    I would personalize and paraphrase it this way: 

    “Go back to southwest Yonkers where you belong you college-educated SOB, and tell your wife to go back to Flatbush!  You’ve only lived here since 1985, and your kind is ruining the neighborhood!”

    And I wasn’t even riding a bike back then.  Although I didn’t have a car and used mass transit.

  • Morris Zapp

    Even shorter Denis Hamill: I got stuck in traffic today.

  • Anonymous

    Prospect Park West was a barren, noisy nightmare studded with double-parkers on two sides and a speedway in the middle. Traffic calming–and the bike lane that was a means to that end, not an end in itself–has improved it immensely.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    And the idiots at the Daily News show how out of touch their writers are with the city with  their current “poll” asking how YOU feel about bike lanes. One choice which reads “I’m From Queens, What bike lanes?” 

    Last time I looked, there are plenty of bike lanes in Queens.  

  • Anonymous

    BEAUTIFUL:
    “instead of banning big sodas, he might consider banning traffic on school streets in every neighborhood where local kids can play stickball and run their fat butts off chasing Spaldeens from dawn to dusk. There are plenty of old time stickball veterans around who would love to teach kids how to play this beautiful city game.”

    Today, I may very well start a petition, posting as Hamill and using his exact words above, asking Bloomberg to do exactly that.

    If anyone else gets around to doing that today before I do, go for it.

  • Anonymous

    @ddartley:disqus  Can you really play stickball if there are parked cars everywhere? I think you should embrace the spirit of Hamill’s comments and demand that parking be banned on those same blocks.

  • moocow

    Shorter, shorter Dennis Hamill:

    Me.

  • Anonymous

    Meanwhile, crazed anti-bike-lane sentiment also figures prominently in this characteristically unfunny “funny” NYT piece:
    http://theater.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/theater/bloomberg-the-musical-hes-not-calling-the-tunes.html

  • Anonymous

    Does this guy have a blow-up doll of Robert Moses, with realistic “pleasure holes’?

  • I don’t understand the *anger* seething off of this guy. Why is this so upsetting to him? It’s not really the parking, parking was bad before the lanes and it’s bad after so what’s the big deal? It’s some kind of cultural rift, I think?

    I would like it of he’d come up to the bronx and call me an elitist for using the bike lane everyday to get to work to my face. Then I could look him in the eye and try to understand what’s gone wrong… why is he so angry?Part of this is a perception problem, though. I think too often the image of bikers in the city are young white hipsters, well-off, commuters. The New York Times is always writing articles about hipsters on bikes.But, if you look at who really spends the most time on the road, it’s delivery people, not the hipsters. But, these bikers are kind of invisible in media stories.Even among commuters, it’s not as homogeneous as media might lead us to believe.I’ve seen 100s of people in the Grand Concourse bike path, and most of them just look like regular Bronx folks, though now and then I’ll see a long distance Westchester commuter on a recumbent or something on his way downtown. Compare that to the people who *drive* through my neighborhood, speeding, honking at me, and leaving pollution behind… most of them are in fancy cars that almost no one in the Bronx tends to own. They have CT or PA plates. They are not from the Bronx. How is it fair to ask locals in the Bronx to give up the tiny bit of safe road space we have so that the cars can go faster?

  • 9PPWPH

    Shorter Hammill: I drank some top shelf scotch with Norman Steisel the other night and we worked it out.

  • Brad Aaron

    @dporpentine:disqus https://twitter.com/BradAaron/status/296735512478244865

  • Joe R.

    @futurebird:disqus I think a lot of the anger from people like Denis Hamill has to do with the fact that they spend tons of money buying a car, even more to insure it and fuel it, and yet they’re often stuck in traffic, passed by people on bikes which cost less than they spend on their car in a week. Indeed, a lot of the calls by motorists for cyclists to have insurance, registration, and licensing are not because they think it would solve any problems, but because they figure I pay all this money to use the roads, so should they. I think this is the crux of the issue-cars cost a lot, yet all that expense doesn’t necessarily buy you reduced travel times. Of course, what many motorists fail to realize is any measure to get people out of cars, whether it’s congestion pricing, bike lanes, or mass transit spending, will only make their trips faster. Granted, most of the people in the bike lanes wouldn’t be driving if those lanes didn’t exist, but nevertheless the basic premise still holds.

    Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, keep it coming Denis Hamill and also Steve Cuozzo. The more they write, the more everyone except hard core motorheads will see those on the other side for what they are-a bunch of ranting, frothing at the mouth ideologues stuck firmly in the 1950s. These people may appeal to a dwindling minority in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, but their audience is slowly dying off. We’ve thankfully come to the realization that cars and big cities are largely incompatible. Hopefully we’ll continue to devote more space to people, not to cars.

  • nanter

    Many of those vehicles with out of state plates are in fact residents of the Bronx. In the Norwood section of the Bronx, where I live, many of the regularly parked vehicles in the residential areas have out of state plates; it’s a way to avoid paying NYS and NYC taxes and fees. Like so many other flagrant violations of the law I see every day here, it’s amazing these folks can get away with this.

  • Larry Littlefield

     “it’s a way to avoid paying NYS and NYC taxes and fees. ”
    Insurance, not taxes and fees.  Perhaps Hamill and such could focus on that for a while.  

    Insurance is much more expensive in places such as Brooklyn, and they even make a distinction between “urban” and “suburban” Brooklyn and charge more for the former.

    And of course, to the extent that non-road ragers register out of state, they avoid their share of the cost of potential no fault liability when an enraged person such as Hamill runs over a child on a bicycle.  Shift more of that cost back to safe drivers like me.

  • Jonathan Rabinowitz

    Larry & nanter, be aware also that other states have lower insurance requirements than New York. NYS minimum liability insurance is $25k per victim, $50k per accident. Florida last time I looked required merely $10k per accident. Enjoy the savings, drivers, and for those of us maimed or disabled, good luck paying your NYC hospital bill with that $10k payout.

  • Ian Turner

    @google-eef301554c27cc8ed15647362dd9f850:disqus : Insurance contracts are generally set up so that, when driving out of state, the insurance is the greater of the minimum in the home state and the minimum in the state where the incident occurred.

  • Jonathan Rabinowitz

    Ian, that’s a relief! Thanks!

  • Institute Neighborhood Parking Permits. This will require registering you car at your REAL local address, and not upstate or out-of-state.  Watch the owners squeal and squirm when they realize their dilemma – pay the local car insurance rates or have to park as a tourist / visitor in their own neighborhood. 

    It’s the car insurance that’s the killer cost, not the car registration fees – the NYC-NYS license fee is a fraction of the NYC insurance rate.  For most Brooklyn registered drivers, they will pay more in insurance than in gas to drive the car 6,000 miles a year.

    NYC car owners with Neighborhood Parking Permits would get priority parking hunting licenses for their own neighborhood, and ought to get a discount on paid parking out of neighborhood in the city, versus out-of-city registrants.  This idea needs some technical details to avoid cheating, but it splits the difference between the extra costs involved in locally registering your car and the present free ride given to out-of-state registrations.

  • Cal Hip

    Hammil is a TERRIBLE writer. He is a pretentious sod who tries to be literary while writing articles. His writing is cold and emotionless and too damn personal. Dennis, no one cares about your personal feelings. Please, for once In your life, just write the news and move on. No one cares about your niece Molly or the fact you had a crap childhood and hate bike lanes!! His writing is one giant FART.

  • chekpeds

    Why give him some airtime? This is just what he wanted…

  • Honore Scura O’Grady

    This is for Cat Hip….Denis Hamill’s writing is not personal…a lot of us feel the same. You might also want to spell his name right. He is not a TERRIBLE writer as you put it! By the way what do you do for a living???

  • Tyson White

    He’s an average writer at best. But the things he says are so off the wall… “bike Nazis”?? Yes, I’m sure a lot of people feel the same as him lol.

  • Tyson White

    Sounds like he doesn’t know how to park a car without hitting the curb. How did he pass the road test?

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