An Open Invite for Diane Savino to See NYC Streets From a Bike Saddle

After State Senator Diane Savino’s remarks about yelling at bicyclists to “find a fucking bike lane” ricocheted around online NYC media yesterday, we’re hearing that some constituents and other New Yorkers have contacted her to see if she’s up for getting a bicycle rider’s perspective on city streets.

State Senator Diane Savino represents northern Staten Island and parts of southwest Brooklyn.
State Senator Diane Savino represents northern Staten Island and parts of southwest Brooklyn.

It’s pretty tough to find a bike lane when the bike network is as threadbare as Staten Island’s, and the few lanes that do exist are constantly obstructed by parked cars. And it’s probably been a very long time since Savino saw city streets from behind handlebars instead of a windshield. In this interview with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer that aired a few years ago, Savino suggested biking to Shea Stadium using basically the same route you would take in a car — a lot of highway service roads with no bike lanes.

Here’s an invitation to Savino from Brooklyn Spoke author Doug Gordon (lightly edited for the blog — here’s the original):

Dear Senator Savino,

As a father of two young children, I was very disturbed by your recent comments on Facebook in which you admitted to swearing at cyclists from your car and telling them to get in a bike lane.

I ride my children to school almost every day and then head to work. We bike to swim lessons, gymnastics, birthday parties, parks, and to the grocery store. With or without my children, I have been harassed many times by drivers who think New York City’s streets belong solely to them. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing – riding in a bike lane or legally exiting a bike lane to make a turn or avoid an obstruction such as a parked car – there is truly nothing I can do to stop an angry driver who simply doesn’t like bicycles from getting upset with me.

I ask you to kindly join me and my children, along with any other families who would like to come, on a short bike ride. It might be helpful for you to experience what it feels like to bike on New York City streets. Please respond with a date and time that’s convenient for you and I’ll gladly help work out the details.

Let’s see if something good can come out of all this. A few years ago, Savino’s boyfriend, State Senator Jeff Klein, had his own angry encounter with a cyclist go public, but more recently he’s been instrumental in moving important street safety legislation through Albany. Thanks in no small part to Klein, NYC now has a lower citywide speed limit and an automated speed enforcement program.

  • Joe R.

    I can’t agree with her on much but highway service roads make pretty decent bike routes, even without bike lanes. You typically have only two or three cross streets with traffic signals every mile. All the rest are just side streets which right turn only into the service road. This makes for pretty stress free riding other than at intersections. Most times of the day, traffic on service roads tends to be fairly light as most vehicles opt to get on the highway instead.

    Of course, there are some instances where the service road ends, or merges with the highway. Those obviously require an alternate route.

  • JK

    Thanks Doug. I hope Sen Savino takes you up on this and suggest that TA and Streets PAC suggest the same — especially a ride around her district with some of her constituents.

  • I’ll come out and film it, for sure.

  • Guest

  • Eric McClure

  • LisaS

    You guys are so nice. Inviting her on a bike ride is a far cry from what I wanted to say to her.

  • mistermarkdavis

    I’m one of her constituents. I’d love to go for a ride with her so she can see how poor our bicycle infrastructure is in Staten Island. If she wants cyclists in bike lanes maybe she can help them get built.

  • Diane Savino is ja typical Staten Island politician. Her largely driving constituency has her terrified of appearing supportive of things like bike lanes. So when an opportunity arose to pander to poorly informed and short sighted voters, she took it.

    Many many Staten islanders, based on what I read in the comments section of the local paper and one on one conversations, don’t really see any problems on our roads but potholes, traffic jams, and tolls. Diane Savino is simply showing the kind of hoops those people have their politicians jumping through. They literally think Mayor’s Bloomberg and de Blasio are going to take their streets away and give them to cyclists. Hardly anybody cycles on Staten Island, nobody has ever been killed by a cyclist on Staten Island, but Staten Islanders read the Staten Island Advance and the NYPost and swallow every bit of propaganda those rags pump out..

    Remember in 2010 when 11 tickets were issued to Staten Islanders for driving their cars in bike lanes? The solution was to remove the bike lane. That’s Staten Islanders, their local paper, and their elected officials at work.

    “Cyclists Blindsided By City’s Erasure of Father Capodanno Bike Lane” Streetsblog

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2010/11/18/cyclists-blindsided-by-citys-erasure-of-father-capodanno-bike-lane/

  • Telegram Sam

    I’m in her district and otherwise a supporter of hers. This is a blind spot among many Staten Islanders, where they feel that anything that slows their driving for a nanosecond or forces them to stop texting/applying makeup/road raging and pay attention is a grave violation of their civil rights. If Savino was in fact joking and doesn’t feel it’s acceptable to harass cyclists, then her response should have included something about the positive contribution cyclists are making to lessening traffic, helping the environment, and lowering medical costs (exercise vs. stuffing yourself into your Escalade every morning). Or at least an apology for making an inappropriate joke on the back of a legitimate tragedy.

  • Andy

    like a boss

  • Chris

    I’ll go too! Maybe we should take her on Hylan and Victory Boulevards.

  • Small detail being overlooked by all the emboldened smart-asses around town: Someone was killed in Central Park because pedestrians were in the bike lane. This is why the cyclist swerved. This is why they let him go.
    The next ticketing spree: Fine all jaywalkers. (Good luck with that.)
    http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20140128/upper-west-side/pedestrians-at-fault-for-recent-uws-traffic-accidents-police-say

  • Joe R.

    The issue isn’t jaywalking but jaywalking without looking. I fully support ticket blitzes on people who cross streets with their heads buried in their phones, but not people who cross midblock, or against the light, who look carefully before crossing. Assuming the cyclist had the green there would have been no collision had all those people crossing on red looked first. It’s not hard to look before crossing. Indeed, you should do so even if you have the walk signal because red lights aren’t a force field for motor traffic. For some reason through that’s gone out of style.

  • Andy

    I feel that I encounter even more jaywalkers while cyclist than I do while driving, because I don’t have the noise of an engine to warn them. It’s shocking when I see people cross the street without ever looking down the road, when they must have assumed that no noise means no traffic. I kindly ding my bell at them to alert them to the fact that the road isn’t empty, and they freak out and scramble, as if this was all a surprise.

  • I think there’s a basic problem with being on a bike whether people cross legally, look before they leap off the curb, or hear you. I myself have been guilty of this while walking: A pedestrian can look straight at you and not see you. I think it has something to do with sensing the mass of a car and not sensing a bike. We know that it’s possible to look at something without registering it consciously.This happens every day on my bike, and as I say, I’ve done it myself.

  • I agree but that’s just not how people get around in New York. I do think it’s dangerous to try starting a real bike culture in any city without a broad public education campaign to get people thinking about bike traffic. All the curbed bike lanes and laws in the world won’t help if people aren’t more aware. That’s the fault of leaders and why so many of them want to pin the blame on cyclists every time something like this happens. I have to say I’m more concerned about innocent people on bikes getting hurt than idiot pedestrians on their phones. We’re the ones who go flying.

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