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Bicycle Safety

Inebriated Columnist Issues Fatwa Against Kamikaze Jerks

3:48 PM EDT on July 27, 2006

stevedunleavy.jpgLast week, columnist Steve Dunleavy used his 400-word rant-space in the New York Post to urge the city's cab riders and motorists to throw open their car doors in front of "pedal punks" riding their "maiming machines," and, "take back the streets" from bike-commuting "kamikaze jerks." 

City cyclists, already feeling vulnerable after a month of heavy casualties and a widening and increasingly bizarre NYPD bike crackdown, are pretty upset about the column and the e-mails have been flying.

Before getting too worked up, it is worth noting that this is the very same ruddy-nosed, blackout drunk Steve Dunleavy who was once arrested for public intoxication in Des Moines, Iowa, who was once found unconscious by a co-worker and presumed dead, and who was once mugged while passed out on a midtown park bench and then returned to work and nearly vomited on the metropolitan editor's desk

While we should probably be more focused on getting Dunleavy into a 12-step program than reading his hungover rantings, my friend and colleague Charles Komanoff was so astounded by the "Kamikaze Jerks" column, he actually fact-checked it.

In the column Dunleavy quotes a taxi-industry pal named Vincent Sapone:

"I have a good friend of mine who was hit by one of these crazy [bike-riding] nuts and he was off work for nine months. He still walks with a cane and really has never been the same since," Sapone was saying.

So, Komanoff rang Mr. Sapone. Here's what Sapone said about his "good friend:"

His name was Patrick. I'm not sure of his last name. It was so long ago, 17 or 18 years. We worked in the same building. I believe he was crossing Sixth Avenue. I didn't see it. I heard that the bike hit him. His neck was injured and he had to get a rod in his leg. He needed a cane. I saw him four years later, with the cane. He died a few years ago. Heart attack. I guess that was 15 years after he was hit.

So, this is news to Dunleavy and grounds for a drunken fatwa on all city cyclists -- a single, unfortunate, decades-old crash. Frankly, it's kind of amazing that he remembers it at all. Komanoff, who runs an activist group called Right of Way, writes:

Since "Patrick" was injured, however that may have happened, New York City drivers have killed over 4,000 pedestrians and 400 bicyclists. In that same time no more than a dozen pedestrians have died here from collisions with bicycles. Like Patrick's injury from being run into by a bike is such a rare event that it's "big news" when it happens, unlike the routine hecatombs mowed down by cars and trucks. But Dunleavy and his friends at 1 Police Plaza want the bikes off the street. So in Dunleavy's world, one friend-of-a-friend long-ago "Patrick" trumps a few hundred well-documented here-and-now Andre Andersons.

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