Some Great Story Ideas for New York Post Reporter John Doyle

Cross-posted from Naparstek.com

Hi John,

I was glad to see you writing about the NYPD’s bike crackdown in Monday’s New York Post. I hope you’ll consider following up with some more reporting on this issue in the coming days. There are lots of interesting questions to explore when it comes to bicycling and the NYPD’s enforcement of New York City traffic law. Here are two ideas I have for additional reporting if you or your colleague Sally Goldenberg are going to be regularly covering the prestigious bike beat…

1. How big a problem are these “brazen cyclists” on NYC streets anyway?

Sure, we hear a lot of bitching and moaning about bikes in the New York Post and on CBS2. But has the NYPD, DOT or anyone else ever tried to quantify the problem? How much pedestrian-endangering red light-running is there anyway? Where are the city’s biggest trouble spots when it comes to bike-ped conflict?

We know New Yorkers are being injured and killed just about every day. (Like the 21-year-old man who was run over by a dump truck illegally backing up on the Upper East Side last month while walking in the crosswalk. Did you hear about that one? The dump truck driver stayed at the scene and wasn’t drunk, so it was basically a freebie for him — a clean, legal kill as far as the NYPD is concerned. Can you imagine if he were your son or brother or colleague? Anyway… back to those damned bikes, right?) How many New Yorkers are being hurt by these “out-of-control” cyclists that you write about anyway? How big is the problem?

2. How does the NYPD measure success in these bike crackdowns?
Thanks to your big “exclusive” we know that the NYPD has written a bunch of tickets to cyclists over the last few weeks. But every time one of these crackdowns happens, we hear scores of stories about cops writing completely bogus tickets to cyclists and, in some cases, even apologizing as they do so. We know, at the end of the crackdown, the NYPD simply wants to be able to say: “See, we wrote lots of tickets. The crackdown was a success!”

But does writing a bunch of summonses — many of them bogus and tossed when challenged — actually do anything to solve this problem of “brazen cyclists” on NYC streets? The NYPD has made great strides in the last 15 years in using CompStat data analysis to enhance its policing. Do they have any similar data or analysis of traffic enforcement to help get a better handle on these out-of-control cyclists? This would be a great story! I know a lot of cyclists who would also like to see real traffic enforcement happening on NYC streets, not just bogus ticket blitzes.

As co-founder of the Park Slope Neighbors community organization and editor emeritus of Streetsblog.org I am more than happy to go on record and give you great quotes for your bike and transportation stories. I’ve got lots more story ideas like the ones above. Feel free to give me a call.

Thanks,

Aaron Naparstek

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    Another good story: during this snow coverage, why not do an examination of how many local tv reporters cover this story by driving around with a camera in the front seat with them. Just another distracted driver on the roads as far as I am concerned.

  • paulb

    I would like to see the Mayor just say in public that mobility is what keeps New York’s economy going and that nobody is entitled to preferential treatment. Someone on a skateboard is as likely to duck into a store and buy something, or be on their way to work (or school), as someone in a car, or on a bike, or a scooter, or in the subway. And bike riders may be, hmmm, hmmm, as guilty of provincialism with respect to their choice of transportation as SUV owners. I say, as a matter of policy, we want people moving around the city–when people move, goods and services move with them. I wish guys like Markowitz, my own BP, would get this.

    A little off subject, maybe.

  • Sanchize

    Word from a bike racer in my building is that the NYPD has been giving out red light tickets in Central Park. Wow, January, 25 degrees, not a whole lot of people around. Anyone else heard about this?

  • NattyB

    Well yesterday’s Post article was by David Seifman, and he wrote this garbage:

    “Mayor Bloomberg conceded last night that his administration hasn’t done enough to consult with communities about bike lanes

    How can he write that without acknowleding that all bike lanes come from the local community board’s first? I mean, that’s basic journalism.

  • @NattyB – acknowledging that would destroy the whole premise of Seifman’s not-so-basic, hate-provoking “journalism.”

  • Sounds like the Mayor doesn’t think the community boards represent the community.

    Or maybe the politically inactive motoring classes realized that they failed to be as engaged in community as the bicycling classes.

    And so the backlash.

  • J:Lai

    This “community involvement” canard really begs the question.

    Should the placement of bike lanes be determined primarily by local community perferences?
    No, it should not.

    Bike lanes are intended to create a city-wide network of bicycle routes. They are largely a waste of time and resources unless they connect neighborhoods together.
    They should be no more subject to the preferences of the neighborhood level community than arterial roads for motor vehicles, or subway and rail lines.

    If we, as a city, seriously want bike lanes then we should create them according to a city-scale plan. Community input can be valuable in some instances to suggest alternates or enhancements/modifications based on local level knowledge, but the burden of proof should be on the community board to demonstrate that any proposed changes are equally effective in the context of the larger plan, while improving some other aspect.

  • Ben from Harlem

    I couldn’t agree more with you, J. Lai.

    Take for example Harlem…just north of Central Park, lots and lots of folks who don’t own cars, many nice parks here and there including Morningside, St. Nicholas, Jackie Robinson, and others. Biking up here is pretty rough, with just a couple of lanes that are painted and frequently blocked by double parked cars, including police cars.

    Why do we have so few bike lanes? It’s not because city planners don’t want us to bike – actually, the Bike Master Plan includes some crosstown lanes on the wide streets, plus lanes on some of the big uptown boulevards. It’s because the car-owning members of our local community boards have chased DOT presenters out with the proverbial pitchfork when they’ve tried to present new street designs.

    This saddens me, not just because I want better bike infrastructure near where I live, but also because Harlem has:
    1 – High rates of auto traffic and congestion
    2 – High rates of pollution from this traffic, plus many bus depots and light industrial sites
    3 – High rates of asthma among our children
    4 – High rates of obestity among our residents of all ages.

    So, for a healthier Harlem, a safer and cleaner Harlem, hey, even a quieter Harlem, bike lanes would be great. But a mere handful of “old guard” Harlem residents on our Community Board, many of whom who own cars or believe driving cars is the “authentic” way to live Uptown, continue to jettison any proposed new additions to our bike network.

    When DOT installed safety improvements recently at some dangerous street crossings, I don’t know if they had to get Community Board approval to do so. So why, then, the hoop jumping? In the name of consensus building, our safety and health continues to suffer.

  • J:Lai

    Ben, I used to live up there and I think large parts of Harlem are a perfect example of where a well-planned bike network would do wonders both for Harlem itself, and for people passing through Harlem as part of a longer trip.

  • tom

    Note to all: Put down the KoolAid, and think. Gehl & Burden & Sadik-Khan may fill your heads with what only they know is right and what is good for us in NYC. Gehl is even up-front about not publicizing the masterplan; otherwise, there would be a backlash. He knows; why don’t you? Sadik-Khan found it out when she stepped on Superman’s cape last week.
    We, the people, still elect our public officials to do the people’s business; therefore, focus on them and what they say or do. Nobody’s rolling out any network plan without their say-so. Does this make sense to anyone?

  • Sorry, no, it doesn’t make any sense to me at all. Jan Gehl is really Superman, and Amanda Burden is the Kool-Aid Man?

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