Daily News Tries Race-Baiting to Gin Up Controversy Over Safer Streets

Is either of these Inwood cyclists invincible in traffic? Ask the Daily News. Photo: Brad Aaron

It’s truly amazing how much work the tabloids put into opposing measures that save lives. Take today’s Daily News, which resorted to race-baiting to gin up controversy over hard-won bike lanes in Upper Manhattan.

Residents of Inwood and Washington Heights have been working for safer neighborhood streets for a long while. My first story on such an effort was published on Streetsblog back in September 2007. A few months later the folks who would eventually form the area’s first known livable streets group proposed separated bike lanes for Dyckman Street.

So for at least six years, my neighbors have waited for Community Board 12 and DOT to come up with a plan for new bike infrastructure, even as DOT whittled away what little exists. Last week, DNAinfo reported that a handful of new bike lanes could finally be coming to Washington Heights (and Fort George — an area south of Dyckman/200th Street which, depending on whom you ask, is part of Inwood).

On cue, the Daily News sent three reporters to get quotes from two people with negative reactions, which the paper presents as evidence that locals are divided. Here’s what reporters Michael Feeney, Stephanie Lacy, and Amber Goodfellow came up with.

What’s unclear is how more lanes would be received in northern Manhattan. Residents and merchants queried by the Daily News on Tuesday said they saw no reason to paint additional lines on the pavement.

“It’s not a good idea at all, unless they have good medical insurance and helmets,” said Rafael Rodriguez, an uptown resident. “This is Washington Heights, it’s not a place for white boys on bikes,” he added. “It’s not a good idea.”

Merchants also pooh-poohed the policy, saying the bike lanes could only hamper their business.

“Bike lanes will take away space for parking on the streets and bother people,” said Berkis Guillen, who works at Apocalipsis Variety Shop on Broadway at W. 175th St. “Most of the bikers are mainly delivery guys, and they are used to riding the streets. It will affect out business with less parking.”

This crack reporting team doesn’t point out that some 75 percent of households in Washington Heights and Inwood don’t own cars, or that volunteers have gathered thousands of signatures indicating broad community support for safer streets. And rather than report how it took years for residents to get DOT to commit to adding bike lanes in the area, as DNAinfo did, the News makes it seem as if the city — and the historically car-crazed Community Board 12 — is poised to impose them by diktat.

With these cherry-picked quotes, the Daily News wants readers to think that, while Upper Manhattan is a dangerous place to bike, only “white boys” need bike lanes. As for delivery workers who ride the streets at all hours and in all conditions, well, they’re naturals who have no need for infrastructure that reduces traffic injuries and fatalities. The tab succeeds in invoking race and class tensions, but in a way that says more about the biases of the Daily News than the attitudes of Upper Manhattanites.

We’ll have more on DOT plans for Upper Manhattan bike lanes in a future post.

  • Bluewndrpwrmlk96

    More needless bashing by the Daily News, thanks for nothing. White boys on bikes…gimme a break.

    Last time I went there, which I think was the same day as the 5 boro bike tour, there was a lot of people at Tread on Dyckman St and entering the Hudson River bikeway, and they were Spanish too. Dominican to be exact. I biked through 10th Avenue, no complaints. What these people need to do is address the traffic problem someway, somehow. This area is not even naturally designed to handle this overkill of traffic. Too many cars and too few a space to handle them. And because I went on a Sunday, it was even worse. Dyckman between the Hudson and Riverside Dr was a parking lot.

    The DOT should consider bike infrastructure on 10th Avenue and if they do it on Dyckman, between Nagle and Broadway, perhaps bike lanes in the center? (DC style) Because if they put standard Class II bike lanes, it is as good as nothing because they will double-park for sure. But first and foremost, the DOT should do a traffic flow study and make necessary improvements (change signal times, reverse direction of some one-way streets) and implement safety improvements where needed, in Washington Heights and nearby University Heights.

  • JamesR

    Washington Heights is situated on one of the great gateways of NYC cycling – the entry to the GW bridge path. It’s the site of a veritable silk road of bikes every morning as riders stream on to the bridge and over to Jersey and vice versa. The Daily News is being intellectually dishonest here.

  • I’m a cyclist who lives on 176th street. I find the Post’s premise funny because so many people uptown ride bikes as transportation. It’s more of a department store bike neighborhood than the fixed gear/road bike thing the Post tries to demonize. Just working class stiffs who figured out that bikes save subway fare. There is also a greater driving culture up there with a lot of larger families who own cars, but even the drivers, who could stand to learn a bit about double parking and checking their rear view mirrors before opening the doors, seem more comfortable around bikes than in other parts of town. Broadway and 175th has a Greenmarket every Thursday, so I cannot see why this guy being quoted is all whiny about street parking, he loses a whole block once a week. But I do agree with him this much: Broadway up there isn’t as wide as what you see further downtown. It makes more sense to extend the St. Nicholas Ave bike lane further north. Broadway doesn’t seem to be begging for a bike line at least until the mid-180s when it looks more like “Broadway” again.

  • Sundays are the worst at that very northern tip where the concentration of churches is like the concentration of bars in Williamsburg.

  • Daphna

    I would like NYC to start using bi-directional bike lanes in the center of the street on two-way streets. This design is feasible and is better than lanes in between moving cars and parked cars which just become double-parking areas. If Washington DC is using bike lanes in the center, than NYC can too. It just take political will. Allen Street and Sands Streets have bike lanes along the median. But center bike lanes do not have to be contigent on having a median. There could be a center bike lane inexpensively painted on the street with some flexible delineators or bollards to mark it.

  • Ben Kintisch

    I posted on the Daily News website with the following basic idea:
    White, Latino or Black, male or female, all bike riders deserve to get where they are going safely.

  • Bronxite

    Uptown cyclist here of Puerto Rican ancestry.

    R-Rod is a racist idiot. Typical Uptown “townie”. I bet if you told him he was likely of multiracial decent (and that a lot of Latinos in NYC are mostly or completely White) he wouldn’t take you seriously).

    But who cares about race? This is about transportation and safety.

    Bike lanes and liveable streets are important improvements uptown. We have a lot of vehicular fatalities and injuries up here, not to mention most people here do not drive. It’s very pedestrian oriented, dense and walkable in build.

  • It’s odd the reporter didn’t stop in to Victor’s Bike Shop, which is RIGHT NEXT DOOR to Apocalipsis Variety Shop. Presumably Victor would have set them straight about how we need bike lanes.

  • I really do like the way DC has their lanes set up.

  • Bronxite

    There is a thriving bike culture in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx.

    But it won’t be as obvious until we get better bicycle infrastructure.

  • Bronxite

    The traffic uptown is very bad.

  • Anonymous

    At least it looks like Washington Heights may soon get a Slow Zone. (CB12 approved an application for 2014 that DOT will now consider). Those seem to be easier to get installed than the plodding progress on bike lanes these days.

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