Bloomberg on Bicycling

Unlike the Mayors of Chicago, London, Paris and a growing number of other world cities, it is exceedingly rare to hear New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg say anything at all in public about bicycling. So, we thought that this was an interesting big of reporting in The Villager last week:

bloomberg_bike.jpgAfter the opening ceremony for Hudson River Park’s Chelsea North section on Dec. 11, we asked Mayor Bloomberg what’s being done to improve the safety of the park’s bike path, on which two cyclists have been killed this year alone: Dr. Carl Nacht, 56, who was hit in June by a police tow truck crossing the path at 36th St., and, more recently, Eric Ng, 21, who was struck on Dec. 1 at W. Houston St. by a driver who had been drinking at Chelsea Piers and was speeding down the path in his BMW.

Bloomberg expressed his sympathy, but said bikers also have to watch out for themselves in interactions with cars. "Even if they’re in the right, they are the lightweights," Bloomberg said of cyclists. "Every year, too many people are hit by cars – and bikes have to pay attention." Bikers shouldn’t assume car doors won’t open into their path, for example, he said.

Bloomberg said he’s personally concerned about safety on the street too, noting, "I’m a pedestrian." Both the mayor and Connie Fishman, the Hudson River Park Trust’s president, said that a multi-agency investigation is being done to see how path safety can be increased.

On another bike-related topic, asked about the ongoing "war" against Critical Mass, the mayor’s tone changed. "Critical Mass is not where people just accidentally show up and 10,000 people happen to ride down a street. That idea is ridiculous," he said. "Critical Mass has unfortunately tried to co-opt the city and the law applies to everyone. And if they don’t like the law, they can try to change it. We are going to enforce the law – and any group that thinks they are above the law is sadly mistaken."

  • P

    This could be a fun thread.

  • I do believe strongly in personal responsibility, but calling on cyclist to “Watch Out” is unreasonable in the two cases on the Greenway. Classic blame the victim.

    He should have added that women should try to dress as unattractive as possible to avoid being a target by potential rapists.

  • Yeah, a fairly disappointing set of quotes from our mayor. Bikers need to watch out for themselves in interactions w/ cars …. on the Greenway?!? And thanks for telling me that as a cyclist I just need to stop assuming car doors won’t open and hit me! I was totally unaware of that risk until he mentioned it. I think it is fairly obvious that cycling is far from the mayor’s thoughts at any given time.

    As for CM, while I am not a big fan of CM rides, the police reaction to them is above and beyond the point of being reasonable. The police reaction to CM is only making the situation more and more dangerous w/ the cops driving like maniacs down sidewalks on their scooters so they can ticket a “dangerous” cyclist for not having a bell on their bike.

  • “We are going to enforce the law – and any group that thinks they are above the law is sadly mistaken.”

    What about parking in bike lanes?

    or city employees parking illegally?

  • I agree with Mayor Bloomberg.

    I also believe we should get rid of sidewalks, crosswalks, and walk/don’t walk signals. Pedestrians should take some personal responsibility when they go out on the streets. They’re the little guys and they need to watch out for themselves.

    Me, I’m safe in my car!

  • Part of what’s shocking is the insistence that the law must be obeyed by protesting cyclists (representing no danger to anyone) right after he’s dismissed the idea of enforcing the law to protect cyclists from vehicular homicide.

  • Steve

    Check out the faulty legal analysis. Several courts have ruled that the current state of the law does not permit the police to arrest critical mass participants under the “illegal parade” theory. It is the *CITY* that must “try to change” the law if *THEY* don’t like it; not the bicyclists. The NYPD is in the process of attempting to change the law now.

  • galvoguy

    “Critical Mass is not where people just accidentally show up and 10,000 people happen to ride down a street.”
    10,000 people? wow ,does chief smolka give him this info?..

  • Maria

    Increasingly, you just get the sense that one of the best mayors in the country, one of the best mayors that NYC has ever had, is simply CLUELESS on this particular set of issues. Or just disinterested. What a total freakin’ shame.

  • anonymous

    Maria…You think Bloomberg is clueless “on this particular set of issues.” That’s because these are the issues you care about. There are plenty of others that he’s clueless about. Also, “disinterested” means impartial. He is “uninterested”.

  • Here’s a question for the Mayor:

    Do the Yankees (to pick a team) or Yankees fans get a parade permit for the organized takeover of streets surrounding the Stadium?

    This isn’t where people “accidentally” show up and put thousands of cars on the streets.

  • Bloomberg’s comments are ill-informed and hurtful. The fact that he is completely ignorant of the circumstances of Eric’s and Dr. Nacht’s deaths just shows how low a priority bike and pedestrian safety is for the city government.

    Yesterday’s memorial ride was a wonderful, affirming event. It is up to us — the activists, writers, and engaged citizens — to make the change we want to see in this city. Bloomberg’s obviously not going to do it for us.

  • ddartley

    Yes, yesterday’s ride was an affirming event–this one pedestrian affirmed the fact that there needs to occur a massive cultural change, some way or other: as we rode past him on St. Mark’s in the E. Vill., he said, nice and loud, “I hope you all get arrested.”

  • While standing at the stop at Derek’s ghost bike a woman walking buy w/ her boyfriend came up to me, excessively bubbly and asked … “Oh cool … is this a Critical Mass?!”. I think at this point when people see a group of cyclists, they assume it is CM, and I am not convinced CM is all that popular among the rest of NY (the bubble woman aside).

  • Anthony

    Screw Critical Mass. They give all the legit bikers a bad name. The Critical Mass here in Chicago is a joke. Daley is so pro bike its crazy. We have tons of bike paths and street lanes, yet they still go on with their hipster ass politics. A wake up call to Chicago critical mass: No one gives a fuck about you. You don’t stand for shit, and you block traffic on purpose. Sometimes I wish someone would plow through them when they stop at an intersection and yell at people. Well I hope no one would get hurt just that all their bikes would get smashed. lol

  • someguy

    Anthony – whatever merit your criticisms of Critical Mass might have, re-reading your note it should be clear to yourself (as it is to everyone else who reads it) that you have way more problems than the people you are criticizing. Try again.

  • P

    Well, I don’t advocate running over bikers but I agree that effect of critical mass is debatable. I rode in the memorial ride and definitely noticed a mixed reaction from the public. People who asked about the crowds gathered around the ghost bikes seemed moved by the huge outpouring from individuals against car violence. However, when we were riding through intersections there was often palpable hostility.

  • Like it or not, Critical Mass is a part of the broad coalition of groups and events contributing to a change in culture and attitudes towards transportation, consumerism, and how we treat the environment. It’s what first got me excited about bicycling in the city.

  • ddartley

    Oh, and as the ride went down the greenway, it was cool, a bunch of police cruisers suddenly appeared rolling down the Henry Hudson doing one of their “Cop Critical Masses”–you know, that thing when about thirty of them line up in a column, flash their lights, woop their woop-woops, and run through any and all red lights?

    I’m not some anti-copper, but those crazy displays have always caused me a little, uh, cognitive dissonance let’s call it.

  • P

    Yeah, I wasn’t sure if they were planning to arrest the hundreds of us for the crime of, uh, riding down greenway.

    It was unclear if the parade of police vans was meant as a sign of respect, a sign of intimidation, or a completely unnecessary safety measure. Even as a Critical Mass skeptic, it’s a shame that the relationship between cyclists and the NYPD is so frayed that I had no idea of their intentions.

  • ddartley

    Actually, I don’t think the column of cop cars (not vans, of which I only saw two or three all day) had anything at all to do with the bike ride. I have always guessed that it’s the technique they use when they have to move a bunch of cruisers from some spot to another.

    As far as the vans that accompanied the ride, I tend to think they were there for two reasons–first, as an escort to help prevent any abuse from, or fights with, motorists/peds. Second, to do what they used to do for Critical Mass before 8/2004, and what they were still doing for Brooklyn Mass the one time I rode in it: help “cork” traffic *in order to get the cycling event over with and out of the way as quickly as possible*–which, to my mind, has always been the thing that makes Critical Mass kind of pointless. And yet lots of CM riders act like that’s exactly what the cops SHOULD do. I don’t know… (Well, I DO; I’m just tired of arguing about CM (which I used to incessantly before I started reading Streetsblog).

  • someguy

    They are emergency “swarming” drills.

  • ben

    NYC would rather sit on its cash cow than provide safe transportation.

    If you choose to walk or bicycle watch out we don’t care because you’re a lightwieght.

  • I responded to Bloomberg’s “bikes have to pay attention” with this letter published in The Villager’s January 17-23 edition:

    Mayor’s spinning our wheels

    To The Editor:

    Mayor Bloomberg’s admonishing city cyclists to “pay attention to cars” (“Wheel deal,” Scoopy’s Notebook, Dec. 27) is like Joe Torre telling Yankee batters to pay attention to the guy on the pitcher’s mound with the ball. Duh, we’re already doing it.

    Unfortunately, the subject of the mayor’s off-key advice wasn’ta game, but the real-life (or death) matter of getting around New York City by bicycle.

    Car and truck drivers killed 14 bike riders in New York City in 2006, including two on the Hudson River greenway –­ the supposedly car-free venue where Bloomberg dispensed his advice. Though the mayor didn’t say so, most fatal bike crashes involve errors by car or truck drivers, such as drivers’ failing to yield or aggressive passing.

    I bicycled some 3,000 miles last year, including 250 miles carrying my 8-year-old on his little seat bolted in front of mine. We cyclists don’t need to be reminded to concentrate on the traffic jungle. What cyclists and all New Yorkers need is for the mayor to concentrate on his job and enforce laws against driver speeding, tailgating and bullying.

    Charles Komanoff


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