We don't have a democratically elected government anymore in New York City — we have a government by irrational old ladies.
And these irrational old ladies have the mayor's ear.
That much is clear every time the mayor opens his mouth about "safety" on the streets of New York, which he did most recently on Wednesday to criticize a package of bills that would legalize e-bikes and e-scooters and to reiterate his commitment to seizing e-bikes used by delivery workers to fulfill all those Seamless orders being placed by people like Mayor de Blasio.
Here's what he said:
We have a safety issue that is quite clear to me and I’ve heard it from so many people in the city around the bikes that go very fast [and] the delivery workers are often driving recklessly and there are a lot of problems related to that. ... On scooters, I am certainly interested in ways to get people around better, but there are safety issues there, too.
Later, Marsha Kramer, CBS2's resident irrational old lady whisperer, pressed the mayor about what people in the old lady community consider the inherent danger of two-wheeled devices and Hizzoner doubled-down:
I am seeing too many problems with e-bikes already. ... There is a safety problem. The only way I’d be comfortable is if we can address that safety problem. … If we can’t become convinced that it’s safe, we can’t support it.
The safety problem. He says it so often that you would think that scores of people are being killed by fast-food delivery workers. He is so convinced of it that certainly — one year into his crackdown — there must be data that supports his contention. I have asked the NYPD and the mayor's office for this data, and none has ever been provided.
But here is one statistic that was provided by the Department of Transportation.
Zero is the number of pedestrians killed this year by cyclists.
Sounds like our "safety" problem is cars, not bikes or scooters.
But let's give the mayor some credit. He says that constituents are constantly telling him about their fears of being run over by bicyclists. (And, full disclosure, I intend to be an old lady at some point, so I'm sure I'll make irrational complaints when I buttonhole Mayor Ritchie Torres when I see him on the street in 2028.)
And maybe Hizzoner does hear such complaints as he is driven from his mansion to his gym three times a week, but, again, city data does not show any evidence that constituents are all that upset about allegedly speeding cyclists.
Zero is the number of complaints to 311 over the last two years about speeding cyclists.
Meanwhile, there have been 54,038 complaints related to cars. Many were complaints about car noise, which a menace to everyone, not only old ladies.
And there were 32,144 complaints about illegally parked cars.
And 8,522 were complaints about cars parked in bike lanes.
And there were hundreds of complaints about chronic speeding. (Full disclosure: Should there be speed limits on e-bikes? Of course. Should reckless speeders be ticketed? Of course.)
Clearly, Mayor de Blasio is listening to the wrong old ladies. His own 311 system makes it clear that those "constituents" he's always mentioning are far more bothered and endangered by cars than they are by bikes.
In reality, the problem is not that e-scooters and e-bikes will kill old ladies.
The problem, based on what is really happening on New York City's mean streets, is that e-scooter and e-bike riders will be killed because of bike lanes are often blocked by illegally parked cars that send the e-mobility users into car lanes, where they are killed and maimed every day.
Does the mayor know this? Of course he does. He even said so.
"Let’s be clear: Cars create a danger [and] we are using a set of strategies to reduce that danger," he said, most likely referring to the laudable street safety design his team at DOT have installed around town.
But that's as far as the Mayor would go.
"We aren’t telling people you can’t use cars anymore," he added.
Why not, Mr. Mayor? Why not? The city's own statistics and complaint data show the public is frightened and endangered by cars. Do something.
Gersh Kuntzman is Editor-in-Chief of Streetsblog. When he gets angry, he writes the Cycle of Rage column. They’re archived here.
Educated at the Sorbonne and the Yale School of Drama, Gersh Kuntzman is obviously not the person being described here. We're talking about tabloid legend Gersh Kuntzman, who has been with New York newspapers since 1989, including stints at the New York Daily News, the Post, the Brooklyn Paper and even a cup of coffee with the Times. He's also the writer and producer of "Murder at the Food Coop," which was a hit at the NYC Fringe Festival in 2016, and “SUV: The Musical” in 2007. Email Gersh at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kareem found out the hard way that his Craigslist gig delivering temp tags was illegal. Now he's exposing the operation that employed him, revealing clues about his anonymous bosses that all trace back to the same place.