Safer Streets Are Out of Control! A CBS2 Special Investigation

Before you get to the outrageous part of this post, first an announcement from reader Steve Vaccaro:

If you get your fill of Summer Streets tomorrow by noon or earlier, please come by the Target Community Garden on East 117th Street between First and Pleasant Avenues, for a brunch hosted by Transportation Alternatives East Side Committee to help organize for the completion of the East Side Bikeway all the way to 125th Street, by the end of next year. We’ll be there from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm with coffee and food.

Now, if you need some extra motivation to help out, watch this promo for a five-day special report airing on CBS2 next week:

I hesitate to reward CBS with my viewership for what promises to be a total hatchet job. But I can’t wait to see the results of their "investigation" into a city policy that’s making New York City streets safer for everyone, causing steep drops in injuries to pedestrians, cyclists and motorists wherever it’s applied.

  • sickofit

    I guess no one at streets blog is going to listen to any person who disagrees with their agenda.

  • Eric

    I guess no one wants to listen to an overly sensationalized report giving us nothing but sound bites without any real investigation.

  • I guess this troll is going to keep getting fed until we wise up.

    Speaking of media hacks, has anyone seen Greg Mocker on WPIX-11 and his almost nightly hatchet jobs on the MTA?

  • Why does the city keep giving bikers MORE freedom?

    Oh. That’s right. America’s supposed to be about freedom for *everyone*. Not just those in 2,000+-lb. steel cages.

  • this “Bike Bedlam” series might ironically be a great ad to promote the cycling lifestyle—I predict the series will backfire spectacularly, giving bikes even more street-cred appeal. What self-respecting New Yorker would want to side with such a rigidly square and indignantly bourgeois institution such as CBS-TV? Especially Marcia Kramer! Oy.

  • Isn’t that Veronica Moss in the background of one of those interviews, no?

  • Larry Littlefield

    The city isn’t giving bikers more freedom.

    It’s trying to herd them up into places where it is harder for drivers to kill them.

  • ddartley

    If someone crashed a car into CBS 2 headquarters, they would still only see danger from bikes.

    Many of the new bike lanes are the first EVER safe bike infrastructure on internal NYC streets. About those lanes, it looks like CBS is jumping to the jackass conclusion I’ve seen several times: new bike lanes are going to generate more danger, in the form of more cycling. That is like saying that building sidewalks creates jaywalking. It’s called jackass speculation and no science. That’s called making shit up.

  • vnm

    TV reporters spend all day rushing from place to place in news vans with press parking perks and a feeling of entitlement. They’re entitled to rush and to park wherever they want because they’re more important than everyone else. They’re on television.

    In the course of this line of work, they naturally see a lot of bikers. And since bikers are different from them, they’re obviously a danger.

  • Interestingly, in their teaser I count nine cyclists riding legally, seven riding illegally (on the sidewalk or salmoning), and one where it can’t be determined if he’s riding in the right direction or not. Unfortunately, we all observe too many cyclists salmoning, sidewalk riding, or failing to yield, which makes it too easy for a “news” organization like CBS2 to get their b-roll. C’mon, cyclists, let’s make Marcia Kramer work for her hatchet jobs!

    Since CBS2 is so concerned with “out-of-control” behavior in the streets, it’s a wonder they didn’t pick up on the fact that 85% of drivers on Prospect Park West were breaking the law by speeding prior to DOT’s reconfiguration of the roadway.

  • Peter Engel

    Below is my letter to the NY Daily News’ Richard Huff. I’m sending something similar to David Goodman at the Times. Since we expect a hatchet job, let’s do our best to make these creeps accountable.

    Mr. Richard Huff
    Television Columnist
    New York Daily News

    Dear Mr. Huff:

    I’m a big fan of your column and its coverage of local TV, both good and bad.

    Next week I expect some sensationalistic, one-sided and especially bad work over at Channel 2. Perhaps you’ve seen these promos:

    “Bike Lane Backlash”
    “Bicycle bullies”
    “This is anarchy in the streets!”
    “You’re riding the wrong way”
    “Are cyclists out of control or just getting a bad rap”
    “Why the city keeps giving bikers more freedom”

    The commercials say these reports will “get to the bottom of it all” during Channel 2’s 11pm broadcasts next week. For whatever reason, it’s not on Channel 2’s website. Here’s the Facebook link:

    It appears that they’re doing an extremely negative story on why there are more bike lanes, citing reckless cyclists as the reason for more traffic, injuries, etc.

    I’m a bike commuter who tries his best to do the right thing every day. Stories like this just fire up motorists and make it that much more dangerous out there for everyone. The reality is that the number of cyclists riding on sidewalks or causing pedestrian injury is tiny, especially when compared to cars.

    Please keep an eye on this next week. Marcia Kramer’s already done some extremely angry and provocative stories on Brooklyn’s Prospect Park West bike lane that were anything but true.

    If this series is as bad as I suspect it will be, I’m asking that you please call into account what I anticipate will be Channel 2’s irresponsibility and lack of journalistic principles.


    Peter Engel

  • Follow the corrupt money. Look for the car ads. Even big oil. Geiko (despite the gecko). Maybe CBS should have a moment of silence for believers in the violence caused by cyclists to apologize to BP.

    Bikes are bi-modal, they are both walked and ridden; cyclists are not nearly as much like cars as pedestrians and car-like regulations are ludicrous like the “State Law” yield signs on the West Side Bike path: Why don’t they have them for all the cross walks in this town where people actually get killed?

    (It’s real easy to go after dangerous cyclists when they really tick you off; having a bike does help; and bike chases do not have the extreme dangers of car chases. And, most likely New York State would not restrict cameras used to catch them.)

    And, hopefully they’ll show the places where riders co-exist quite well like City Hall Park, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg Bridges (despite aggressive cyclists), West Side Bike Bikeway, Riverside Park, Norway (the New York CBS video unit would like this), etc.

    And, the kill rates of cars and bicycles; locally, nationally, globally, etc., etc., etc.


    “Big Oil’s long history of compromising national security for profit”

  • MinNY

    I wasn’t aware that anyone still watched local network news.

  • ChrisCo

    >>I guess no one at streets blog is going to listen to any person who disagrees with their agenda.<<

    There are lots of careless and reckless car drivers out there too. I guess by your logic we should do away with car lanes as well as bike lanes.

  • What an excellent example to remind me why I havent watched local news in years. I much prefer my news to be…news! Not sensationalist stories with the only goal of getting people angry. In fact, the linked video almost seems like a parody.

    Also, whats with all the recent attacks on FREEDOM? Aren’t we the country of freedom fries and freedom towers? But now letting a group exercise their freedom of religion downtown is bad, and letting cyclists have the freedom to ride is a problem.

  • This is what will be driving change and the future.

    Ignoring this is equivalent to being out of one’s mind.

    Climate experts agree: Global warming caused unprecedented heat wave

    Carver: “Without contributions from anthropogenic climate change, I don’t think this event would have reach such extremes or even happened at all.”

    August 14, 2010

    The World Meteorological Organization says this “unprecedented sequence of extreme weather events . . . matches IPCC projections of more frequent and more intense extreme weather events due to global warming.” NASA says July 2010 is “What Global Warming Looks Like.”

    Top climate scientists — Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring and attribution at UK’s Met Office and Keving Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research — have been making the link between the record-smashing extreme weather and human caused global warming.

    In this cross-post, Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson has more what scientists are saying, including Meteorologist Rob Carver, the Research and Development Scientist for Weather Underground.

  • Safe streets are the way to go. Make transit free and remove all cars from the city. The bike and pedestrian will never be safe trying to coexist with the auto. Because with autos you are not even safe on the sidewalk.

  • Brandon

    @free transit, no. The last thing we need is for people to pay even less true cost in our society. People should pay for transit, just like they should pay for driving. The problem is that the latter is far more subsidized at present.

  • It’s a shame that motorists don’t break any rules; I was looking forward to the “Car Bedlam” story in this investigative series.

  • I’m betting they’ll use Critical Mass footage without explanation or context to decry cycling in general.

  • J:Lai

    It seems that just about any bicycle-related news in NYC generates strong feelings and responses, especially from anti-bicycle people. While the people who really care may represent a small minority of the total population, in news, just like politics, a small but vocal minority can often have a large influence. I doubt the producers at CBS care much about biking as an issue, but they have figured out they can get ratings by reporting on it. And they can probably get better ratings by pandering to the anti-bike sentiment than by presenting a balanced (boring!) look at the relative merits of different transportation modes.

    Why does biking, which represents a very small share of the actual transportation of the city, generate such visceral responses? I think it is because biking actively competes with driving for the same street space and resources. It ultimately comes down to self interest. Someone whose main mode of transportation is a car has a motivation to fight for every free parking spot on the street, to oppose and cession of car lanes for use as bike lines (and by the same logic any increase in tolls or fees on roads and bridges.)

    Biking needs a serious image makeover if it’s ever going to gain significant share from cars. Right now, bikers are seen as dilettantes, and as reckless and dangerous vehicles. I think this last point is a result of the fact that bike crashes involving serious damage or injury are rare, so they are newsworthy and memorable. Car crashes are so common that they have become accepted as “background noise” – an unremarkable part of daily life.

  • #22 J:Lai, “Car crashes are so common that they have become accepted as “background noise” – an unremarkable part of daily life.”

    This may be true — and addresses the structurally violent nature of transportation systems based on cars — but difficult to verify since a large portion of media revenue streams come from big oil, auto, insurance, and finance industries that largely benefit from business-as-usual.

  • Doug G.

    Cars are also still the dominant transportation option for 99% of people in this country, a large number of outer borough residents, and, I’d bet, an overwhelming number of local news viewers.

    Local news stations don’t report news, they report what their audience wants to see. Honestly, how many Streetsblog readers also count themselves as loyal consumers of TV news?

    Also, bikes are visible. We can all see the rider on a bike as he zooms down the street, whether he’s observing traffic laws or not. Cars render their drivers invisible and as such turn them into part of the atmosphere, or background noise as the above commenter noticed. Bikes become an easy scapegoat for the true problem on our streets.

  • More light on what has been determining the state of transportation and the deeply entrenched monopoly of transportation systems based on cars:

    Oil-funded Pat Michaels admits solving global warming is a problem of “political acceptability”

    August 16, 2010 (CNN)

    Fareed Zakaria: Can I ask you what percentage of your work is funded by the petroleum industry?

    Pat Michaels: I don’t know. 40 percent? I don’t know.

    In a telling exchange with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, long-time polluter apologist Pat Michaels conceded that the real challenge of solving manmade global warming is simply the “political acceptability” of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels as climate castrophes grow.

  • It’s worth nothing that CBS 2 is also a major sponsor of Summer Streets. They’re no good at journalism, but they seem to be good at talking out of both sides of their mouths.

  • Ian Turner

    Disappointing that CBS decided to focus on the transportation mode that kills New Yorkers 1-2 per decade, and not the one that kills 3000-4000 New Yorkers per decade.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I don’t think the assumption that drivers are raging at bicycle riders and not at other drivers is true. There is plenty of road rage directed at other drivers.

    What is interesting is how seldom I see driver road rage directed at pedestrians here in NYC. Jerky bicycle riders are more likely to yell at pedestrians.

    Bicycle riders need to be thought of the way pedestrians are — a slow moving fact of life that has to be adjusted to.

  • Peter Engel

    Ian, your comment is the one that everyone should be using in response to this.

  • #29 Peter Engel regarding #27 Ian Turner (ditto):

    “Disappointing that CBS decided to focus on the transportation mode that kills New Yorkers 1-2 per decade, and not the one that kills 3000-4000 New Yorkers per decade.”

    In addition, there are a number of other very strong points as well which would make for a very powerful discussion such as transportation as heavy equipment is just too dangerous, wasteful, unnecessary, and such a large cause of environmental devastation that business-as-usual will have to stop if we are to survive the climate change crisis.

  • Doug G.


    I think there’s plenty of driver-on-driver rage, both passive and active. To clarify, I think the difference is that driver-on-bicycle rage is easier, in a way, for drivers to justify since they can easily look down on bikes and even young drivers can remember a time when there were fewer bikes on “their” roads.

    Typically, drivers have equal status with other drivers; the only thing that separates them is how they view and compare their driving skills. (We’ve all been behind the wheel and probably said, “Look what this idiot is doing,” when viewing another driver do something even marginally stupid.) But when it comes to bikes, drivers automatically see themselves as having higher status. It’s why drivers resent bikers cutting through lights; it can’t merely be that they think that behavior is dangerous and are concerned for people’s safety. This status leads to all kinds of anger towards cyclists and the kinds of news stations that run one sensationalist piece on the menace of bikes but none on the menace of cars. Cars have a right to be on the road, bikes don’t, to oversimplify the thought process and paint all drivers with one brush.

    Also from the windshield perspective spandexers, messengers, delivery people, commuters, casual exercisers all get lumped into one category: bikers. But most drivers would never lump themselves in with trucks, taxis, limos, food trucks, ice cream trucks, etc. Typical modal bias. If I’m imagining the thought process of a typical driver, then when I’m on the road I’m not at all like other types of motorized vehicles, so don’t blame the bad behavior of, say, taxis or double parked delivery vans on me. But as that same driver, if I see one messenger going the wrong way on a one-way street, maybe it’s easy for me to put that messenger into one neat box: biker. Just look at the CBS video: different types of bikers all stereotyped into one category.

  • Here’s a good riddle to help further articulate this notion of “modal bias”:

    Q: What do you call it when an automobile sits in the left-hand lane waiting to make a left turn?

    A: Waiting to make a left turn.

    Q: What do you call it when a bicycle sits in the left-hand lane waiting to make a left turn?

    A: Blocking traffic.

  • MinNY
  • I don’t see cyclists having anywhere near the ‘freedom’ that motorists have, and I don’t see them breaking any laws that motorists don’t.

    I haven’t noticed them killing pedestrians and each other at the same rate motorists do, though. And the money spent on bike lanes is a drop in the bucket compared to the money spent on maintaining motorist infrastructure.

    A television news program indulging in sensationalism. My advice….don’t get your ‘news’ from television.

  • #34 Aunt Bike, Best comment yet!

  • Joe R.

    Well, I watched Monday’s report on CBS’s website, and it honestly wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be ( and I’m a cyclist ). For starters, they noted that the worst violators by far were bicycle delivery people, who incidentally comprise nearly half of Manhattan bicycle traffic. I’ve been saying exactly this for years. Because these delivery people are mostly what people in Manhattan experience, they get a poor impression of cyclists in general. Maybe it’s long past time to require that these delivery people be paid by the hour, rather than by the delivery. That would take away the financial incentives for the most outrageous behavoirs. Of course, the restaurant owners won’t care for the idea but too bad. And maybe some of the residents in these neighborhoods might start picking up their own food as well. Ironic how many complain about a problem largely created by their own laziness.

    I also liked the interview with the commuter cyclist who admitted his worst offense was running lights, but at the same time noted that if cyclists were forced to stop at every single light, nobody would be riding bikes. As a cyclist, I concur. I ride in Queens, not Manhattan, so obviously I don’t encounter as much traffic. Nevertheless, there are way too many traffic lights here given the volume of traffic. I’d say 95% of them aren’t needed, but were put there because of vociferous community boards. Moreover, they’re horribly timed. If a cyclist were to obey the letter of the law, and wait the full cycle for every light, they’ll often get caught at the next one, and so on. Going a mile could end up taking 10 minutes or more instead of the 3 to 4 it might if you run one or two lights. That essentially brings cycling down to the speed of a fast walk. Generally I find that if I carefully go through one light, yielding to cars or pedestrians as needed, I’ll get mostly greens for a while. If I wait that light out, I get stuck at almost every single light. Simply retiming the lights for cycling speeds would eliminate quite a bit of cyclist’s red light running. The majority of cyclists will gladly stop and wait out a light if they might only encounter one or two in a 10 mile ride. But every block or two, it’s not only a major annoyance, but reaccelerating back to speed that often is beyond nearly every cyclist’s ability. I really hope this is covered somewhere in the series. Ideally, better timed lights and/or a change in the law allowing cyclists to proceed through red lights if clear are sorely needed. This is a clear case where a system designed to prevent automobiles from colliding with each other was foisted upon both bicycles and pedestrians. Pedestrians don’t need walk/don’t walk signals, either. Both pedestrians and cyclists have sufficient visibility to simply see if it’s OK to cross an intersection, and then do so if it is.

    Anyway, so far my worst fears about the series haven’t been realized. And I really hope they go to the outer boroughs for some perspective. Most of the city’s attitudes and laws towards cycling are too Manhattan-centric. In the outer boroughs, for example, sidewalks are often nearly empty. Unlike Manhattan, they have plenty of room for both pedestrians and any cyclists who feel too uncomfortable riding in the street, and shouldn’t be forbidden to cyclists. As an experienced cyclist, I actually would rather the novice cyclists stay on the sidewalk until they learn to ride better and faster. Inexperienced cyclists are often a worse hazard than motorists.

  • Lenny Waller

    With Mayor Bloomberg. Trying to change NY into a European City.
    He has done everything possible to stick it to the motorists after loosing his Pricing Plan for Cars & trucks into the City,
    Some estimates show more then 236,000 Bikes in use in the city. Daily
    Cars loose 2 traffic lanes to bike lanes. Causing slower traffic, harder parking, & more pollution.
    Cars, Busses, trucks, pay road use tax to the state & City, They pay licensing & registration fees. Can only be operated legally by a licensed person. And must carry insurance in case of property damage & personal injury.They must pass a Safety inspection.
    Bikes are supposed to obey traffic laws. But when they don;t they rarely are given a summons. They are not registered. They are not licensed. They don’t carry insurance. They Park where they want. They don’t get towed away.
    They hit you & ride off into the sunset.
    The Sitting malls disrupt traffic, cost money, & give undesirables a place to congregate after dark.
    WE don’t need new crossing signs that count the remaining seconds so Seniors & Children will try to race it. WE Need the Traffic Cop Back on those corners.
    The New Proposed Bike Share Program. Would add an immediate 10,500 bikes to the enormous # of bikes we have now. Eventually adding 49,000 More to Out City.
    You can read the hole story at
    The New York City bike share proposal would begin with 10,500 bikes, and quickly expand to 49,000 two-wheelers.
    There are no provisions for insurance when a bike is in an accident. There are no provisions that the rider is competent in traffic. There is no registration.
    This is New York, Not Paris or London.
    By the time Bloomberg is finished ruining the city. It will be beyond repair.

    Does the mayor believe it’s only his vision that counts? That the rest of New Yorkers are to Stupid to know what they want? And what is good for them?
    With the addition of up to 49,000 More Bikes The Mayors Proposal will create total Bedlam & Chaos.
    The Old Grumpy New Yorker,
    Lenny Waller

  • By the time Bloomberg is finished ruining the city. It will be beyond repair.

    God, I sure hope so!

  • #38 Cap’n Transit, “God I sure hope so!”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself!


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