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Overheard on the Bus: NYC Bicyclists Losing the PR War

10:47 AM EDT on April 16, 2007

bus_driver_and_rider.jpg

Stuck in traffic congestion all day long, one might think that New York City's bus drivers might be at the center of the movement to reduce automobile dependence and encourage more efficent forms of urban transportation. But if the conversation I heard last week is representative, it's the cyclists that are wrecking all that havoc out there on New York City's streets.

Time: A few minutes past 5 p.m. during the height of the Friday rush hour.

Location: On the downtown M6 bus, stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Broadway in SoHo.

People involved: A white man about 60-years-old, sitting in the first seat, and a white male bus driver, a little bit younger, who said that he lived or had lived in Suffolk County, L.I.

The Scene: The bus inches forward, stuck in traffic. A young white guy on a white track bike riding against traffic pulls up to the curb in front of the bus. The cyclist awkwardly hops the curb and goes up on the sidewalk. The bus stops short and the passenger and the driver share a guffaw.

Passenger: "You know, some of these guys will fly past you at 90 miles an hour going the wrong way on a one-way street."

Driver: "I heard a lot of them are criminals who can't get driver's licenses, so they become bike messengers. A cop told me that."

Passenger: "Oh, yeah?"

Driver: Launches into a theory about how criminal cyclists will use their heavy Kryptonite chains to smash car windshields out of pure anger. He points to his head as he notes that cyclists are angry and off balance. Of his friend in law enforcement, he says, "He says he locks up two of them a month for that" (smashing the windshields).

Passenger: "A lot of them want to be locked up. Heh heh. They call it three hot meals and a bed."

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