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Marty Markowitz

Fox 5 Anchors Scotto and Kelly Set New Low for NYC Transpo Reporting

4:48 PM EDT on May 9, 2012

Fox 5's Good Day New York unleashed a torrent of bile for bike, bus, and pedestrian improvements, seasoned with a healthy dose of unprofessionalism, in a pair of segments focused on bike-share this morning.

First, co-anchors Greg Kelly (son of Ray) and Rosanna Scotto had DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan on, taking a ten minute break from the generally upbeat tone of morning news to express unrelenting hostility to bikes, bus improvements, pedestrian islands and the commissioner herself. Then the pair asked Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz to explain why he doesn't like bike-share.

The Know-Nothing stance of Kelly and Scotto was so intense that Markowitz's attacks on the Department of Transportation and cycling, cartoonish though they were, came across as well-informed and even-handed in comparison.

Scotto led off her bike-share questioning (check the 7:50 mark) not by asking Markowitz’s opinion on the program — he hadn’t publicly spoken on the topic before — but by presenting a leading question all but demanding nay-saying and conflict. "We're all concerned you're going to get a lot of amateurs on the bike," she started. "This is a tough city to ride a bike. What are your concerns?"

For people new to bike-share, concerns about riders' safety are common. But several systems have been up and running for years now, and the data actually show that bike-share has a much better safety record than riding your own bike, across the globe. In Paris, London, D.C., Minneapolis, and even Mexico City, bike-share has a sterling safety record. As of last year, not a single London bike-share user had been seriously injured in 4.5 million trips. Washington bike-share riders had a crash rate half that of regular cyclists, again with no serious injuries or fatalities.

Ostensibly a journalist, Scotto should have at least been briefed on bike-share's safety record before the show this morning, but she was less intent on informing viewers than on teeing up the borough president. Markowitz ably hit his marks. He conjured tired cultural stereotypes, saying only "young people" ride bikes. He misleadingly implied racial and class tensions, asking why DOT doesn't install bike lanes in Brownsville and East New York (the department is currently in the process of working with the community to identify the best route for bikes lanes in Brownsville). And he projected his own opinions onto his constituents. "I think the public mostly feels the way you and I do," he told Scotto. He's wrong: A Quinnipiac poll found 72 percent of New Yorkers, including a majority in every borough, in favor of bike-share.

The borough president belittled bike-share as a kind of glorified way to ride the West Side Greenway or take in Central Park. "My concerns are that, once again, I think it's a cute thing for tourists, if it could be contained in certain areas," he said. "To encourage thousands and thousands of people in the middle of Manhattan, I don't know."

Tourists are expected to be big bike-share users, but according to remarks by Alta Bicycle Share President Alison Cohen in January, annual members should make up around half the use of the system. In D.C., the split is as high as 80/20 in favor of residents.

Moreover, bike-share won't work for anyone, tourist or local, if it isn't deployed evenly across the service area. The pricing scheme, free for members for 30 or 45 minutes but costly for long rides, is structured to help people make short, utilitarian trips. To work well, there needs to be a bike-share station within a few blocks of every origin and destination. Limiting the system to a few tourist-heavy areas would duplicate the service that bike rental companies already provide.

The good news is that, as Markowitz said, he hasn't used his position as borough president to impede the roll-out of bike-share in any way. "I didn't voice objection to this bike-share program and I'm curious to see how it moves," he said. "I hope they don't take away needed parking spaces."

Turning to Markowitz for comment on bike policy is like asking Ted Nugent to comment on gun control -- you know what you're going to get. So the extended airtime for Marty to spout misinformation wasn't surprising, given that Kelly and Scotto betrayed their own bias in an earlier segment with Sadik-Khan (the embed code is currently malfunctioning but you can watch it here). After a minute, Kelly dropped the television pleasantries and was lambasting Sadik-Khan for the purportedly high prices on bike-share, repeating the current misguided media talking point, and calling bicycling "a fixation of yours."

The anchors clearly didn't do their homework or bring any facts to the table. Scotto's pet peeves were the changes to First Avenue, where she drives, and where based on her anecdotal experience, she's not willing to give up space to any other mode. "We have now a bike lane. We now have a bus lane. Now we have these medians, cement medians on First Avenue making it almost impossible to turn." she said. "It's almost like it's an assault if you want to drive a car."

Those concrete medians on First Avenue are saving lives and preventing serious injuries. What Scotto describes as "assault" is a design that merely encourages motorists to drive carefully when turning into crosswalks where many people walk. Apparently the Good Day anchors don't care to consider what it's like to walk, bike, or take the bus in New York City.

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