Daily News Exclusive: Woman on Bike Sees De Blasio in Street, Stops

The Daily News sets the scene: "A woman riding a Citi Bike south on Broadway nearly plowed into mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio on Thursday morning when he stepped into the bike lane."

Someone should tell Jennifer Fermino that the bikelash is over.

Fermino, who penned the Post’s infamous “bike lanes are messing with bus service” story on the eve of Hurricane Sandy, is now City Hall bureau chief at the Daily News. Her breathless take on yesterday’s encounter between Bill de Blasio and a cyclist boils down to this: Headed to his vehicle after an event near City Hall, de Blasio stepped into the street, where a woman on a Citi Bike stopped to avoid a collision. Period.

Spun through the Daily News Psycholist-O-Matic, the story becomes: “Bill de Blasio almost got mowed down by a zooming Citi Bike Thursday morning.”

Did de Blasio have the right of way, or was the cyclist proceeding lawfully when a pedestrian who happened to be Bill de Blasio walked in front of her? Fermino doesn’t bother with such details. Instead, she would have Daily News readers believe that the man who might be the next mayor of New York City was nearly taken out by a middle-aged lady riding a three-speed home from the grocery store.

Also, contrary to the story, a Streetsblog reader pointed out that there is no bike lane on this section of Broadway.

Another Fermino shocker: Even after yesterday’s brush with Ms. Whole Foods Hell-on-Wheels, the “unfazed” de Blasio “wants to grow the Citi Bike network to include more stations, and wants to add more bike lanes.”

  • Leonard Diamond

    Hey I almost got hit by that meteorite that fell in Russia last year. And you never know but she might have had lycra clothing in the Whole Foods bag. The Daily News journalism standards are very consistent. Low but consistent.

  • Anonymous

    In all honesty, this is one of the big misconceptions about the bike / pedestrian interaction that those of us with pro-sustainable transport mindsets need to address.

    A LOT of people have experienced “almost” being hit by a bike. Their natural human inductive reasoning suggests to them that this must mean a lot of people actually ARE hit by bikes. Or that “almost” being hit was in and of itself a harm to someone.

    Those of us who’ve ridden bikes in the city, even just a little, quickly learn that cyclists must routinely pass pedestrians, sometimes closely, and sometimes must stop just short of them to avoid collisions. Usually this is because the pedestrian norm in NYC is to step off the curb before looking for approaching (cars, traditionally) vehicles. But VERY rarely do these ‘close calls’ really represent a major danger – even if the pedestrian doesn’t see a cyclist before it’s too late, the cyclist has usually seen the pedestrian and taken action to pass or stop short of them.

    I’d guess that in a typical safe ride of, say, 50 blocks, a cyclists passes at least one and maybe 3 or 4 people who didn’t see the bike coming and were surprised when it whooshed by them. They’ll experience that as being “nearly plowed into” – but the cyclist will experience it as just one more minor swerve.

  • gneiss

    There is this misconception (stoked along by the media) that getting hit by a bicycle is equivalent to getting hit by a car despite the rarity of the event. After all, both of them have to be in the street together, so, wow, they must be equal in the amount of damage they cause. In reality, it’s more like a jogger running into someone walking. Both parties are likely to get hurt, which is why someone on a bicycle is going to try a lot harder to avoid a collision with a pedestrian than a car driver.

  • Joe R.

    Just to put in a counterpoint here, most of my rides are 20 to 25 miles and I rarely pass closer than ten feet to any pedestrian. With some anticipation on the part of a cyclist, it’s quite easy to avoid these near misses. I don’t do it for the benefit of pedestrians or public relations, either. I do it because I don’t want to get hurt or damage my bike in a collision with a pedestrian. Generally, whenever I see a pedestrian going towards the curb, I assume they’re going to step out, and then just swing as far left as possible. Or if they’re already in the street, I move so I end up passing behind them. This is also the reason why I’m glad we don’t have those protected bike lanes on any streets where I ride. They’re gutters in my opinion which don’t give cyclists much room to maneuver. I’m not against the concept of protected lanes per se, but in order to be really safe they should be at least 15 feet wide.

    On another note, part of the problem here does in fact lie with the perceptions of pedestrians. I have seen a few people think a cyclist passing 7 or 8 feet away was a near miss. In my mind, a near miss is 6 inches or less, basically a situation where you had to jerk to handlebars to avoid a sudden obstacle, and by sheer luck barely avoided it. Any situation where I’m passing a foot or more away from something I’m in complete control, doing exactly what I planned to do.

  • Anonymous

    I wish I could always pass 10 feet from pedestrians, but in Midtown I often encounter “walls” of jaywalkers and have to squeeze by.

  • Joe R.

    That’s one of the reasons I have zero desire to ride in Manhattan. It’s just too congested for my tastes, especially during business hours. Walking and the subway suit me just fine for getting to or around Manhattan.

  • Anonymous

    This comment is spot-on!

  • Joe R.

    I tend to think part of the problem is pedestrians aren’t as cautious around bicycles as they are around motor vehicles. They know motor vehicles go fast and can seriously hurt you but they don’t make the same assumptions about bicycles. It’s very difficult to judge the speed of a bicycle from the perspective of a pedestrian crossing the street until it’s nearly on top of you. What happens is you’ll have pedestrians assuming a bike is going at jogging speed, start crossing, and then having an “oh sh*t” moment when the bike passes by them a lot sooner than they anticipated. For better or for worse, it’s largely up to the cyclist to make sure bike-pedestrian encounters are benign. Give a wide berth, or slow down a bit if you can’t. Until cycling becomes more normalized, pedestrians are still in an adjustment phase. I’m sure eventually it’ll be like Amsterdam, where bikes regularly pass a foot away from pedestrians without phasing them.

  • Eric McClure

    The closest I’ve come to hitting someone walking while riding my bike was just couple weeks ago – when Time’s Up stalwart Ben Shepard stepped off the curb, against the light, while engrossed in his phone! I stopped in time. So yes, even Ben Shepard was “almost mowed down by a zooming bike.”

  • Bolwerk

    Anecdotally, it seems to me novice biking behavior has been decreasing over the years as (1) people who started trying to bike 5+ years ago are actually getting skilled at it and (2) those now experienced older bikers set better norms for new bikers to follow. Another factor could be that pedestrians are getting a little more aware too.

    I tended to find stupid biker behavior pretty obnoxious myself when there was a sudden deluge of it, but it hasn’t proven to be a constant – you know, the way automobile violence has.

  • Bolwerk

    Actually, the misconception appears to be that it’s worse to be hit by a bike. The cyclist is automagically at fault – it’s a collision caused by riding a bike, not an “accident” in the course of driving. There is a moral aspect to the bike collision, in the anti-bike foamer’s mind, which is what leads to the delusional frothing of bike opponents.

  • Anonymous

    Part of the reason is that many people see bikes as toys, and dangerous toys at that; when there’s a crash, they say “see, if that Crazy Person hadn’t stubbornly insisted on gratuitously riding a bike on the street, this crash wouldn’t have happened!”. But when there is a car crash, they say “poor driver was only trying to get to [important destination]”.

    Basically, the reaction to a bike crash is the same as if someone had decided to juggle with torches on the street for fun and burned someone in the process.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The bikelash isn’t over until it is over. My impression is that it is seasonal. They’d look pretty stupid claiming no one is riding bicycles now. But if the bike lanes are intentionally blocked by snow after a blizzard, there will be lots of articles like that.

    In fact, I expect that Citibike will have lots of problems the first winter, just as it had lots of problems when it first started. So expect another obsessive round of articles about that.

  • That Whole Foods bag should be on the bike’s parcel carrier, secured with the built in bungee cord provided. The swinging action of an unsecured grocery bag affects bike handling.

  • Anonymous

    Add to that the fact that most bike facilities are right against the curb, so anyone stepping off the curb will be immediately right in the middle of the bike space. People who don’t ride bikes tend to think of bike lanes more as “car parking, loading, waiting, u-turning, passing, backing-out-of-driveway buffer zones” or “sidewalk overflow areas”, and therefore don’t respect them as actual traffic lanes, or bikes as real traffic.

    I’m not against the alignment of bike lanes against the sidewalk, as pedestrians will fare much better being hit by a bike than they would by a car, but it is also important to understand that this also puts pedestrians and people on bikes more in conflict with one another. People on bikes seem to get this for the most part, as they also have a lot of experiences of their own as pedestrians, but everyone else will most likely not come around until they try biking in the city for themselves.

  • Who else wants free buses and subways? The “Tax Wall Street” Party candidate for NYC mayor, Randy Credico, says yes to that! Credico is showcasing a 0.5% Wall Street Sales Tax. Revenues such a fair and long overdue tax would generate could pay for a lot of things, like free health care and free CIty College tuition. Credico says yes to that, too!

    And wouldn’t you know it? He’s being blacked out! Go figure.

    Well, no more: http://www.credico2013.org/

  • Danny G

    My guess is that the bungee cord would crush the fragile potato chips or bruise the fruit that she just bought. In an ideal world, that wouldn’t be the case. But for now, the handlebars work pretty well.

    P.S. For the record, whenever I have grocery bags on my handlebars, I ride at a slower pace, and try to make sure that the left and right bags are of similar weight.

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