CYCLE OF RAGE: Mayor de Blasio is Blind to the Real Terror — Cars!

The real threat.
The real threat.

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.

Zero is the number of pedestrians killed this year by cyclists.

Meanwhile, 86 pedestrians and cyclists were killed by car drivers between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30 this year.

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.

There have been 4.9 million complaints to 311 since Jan. 1, 2017 — and one statistic stands out:

Zero.

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.

  • Joe R.

    I’m not even sure if age is what matters here. These people are just crotchety. To repeat what my late grandfather used to tell me: “If you see a crotchety old person chances are they were a crotchety young person.” There seems to be a direct correlation between the number of complaints against petty things and the average income of the neighborhood. Or put another way, “rich people problems” are things which ordinary people just accept as a daily, low-level annoyances which occur when you live in close proximity to others. I’ll bet good money these people complained when they were young if the sky was the wrong shade of blue. Now they’re complaining about bikes because, well, it’s just in their nature to always be bitching about something.

    My solution is to let these people live in the ghettos of a third-world country for a few months. When they come back, they’ll never complain about anything ever again. They don’t know what real problems are. Back when I lived in a housing project, it was a good day when we had clothes without holes in them. Or when I was working age, a good day was when I knew I was getting a little OT, and could afford something besides ramen soup for lunch. Maybe I could even treat myself to a bus ride back home from the subway, instead of walking 2.7 miles.

  • I would be careful with singling out “irrational old ladies.” The person who most inspired de Blasio’s crackdown on immigrant delivery cyclists was a man, Matthew Shefler.

    https://www.wnyc.org/story/peoples-guide-power-regulating-e-bikes

    And remember that most of the people the mayor answers to are police precinct captains, who are overwhelmingly male.

  • Joe R.

    OK, then maybe he should have written “irrational old ladies and grumpy old men”. 🙂 That covers Shefler and most police captains.

    As I wrote below, I think a more accurate description would be “grouchy, irrational rich people with way too much time on their hands”.

  • I’d leave gender and age out of it. Not that there isn’t an imbalance of older people who tend to be against these things, but the real problem here is with the people who hold the power and make the policy: the mayor and the police.

  • Jacob

    Agreed. This gains nothing and alienates people. We need to win hearts and minds, Gersh!

  • Rider

    Gersh, can the “old lady” nonsense. It’s a boring cliche that is not funny and it makes you look ignorant. And plenty of irrational people are neither old nor ladies.

  • Gersh Kuntzman

    Guys, it was just a metaphor! I’ve been to enough community board meetings to know there’s no gender barrier to being an old crank.

  • Jacob

    There’s no age barrier either. It detracts from your otherwise very valid points.

  • Rex Rocket

    I just don’t get it. Trucks and cars kill more elderly pedestrians who have the right of way each month than have been killed by bicyclists since the beginning of history. But they all love cars and trucks, can’t get enough of them.

  • To even think to complain about a safety issue regarding e-bikes, one would have to be completely enculturated (a polite way of saying “brainwashed”) into accepting the idea of a car-dominated city as normal and natural and even desireable. De Blasio clearly falls into this benighted class; he is therefore a terrible spokesman for Vision Zero.

    We need leaders who will look automobile drivers squarely in the eye and tell them: “You are the problem.” And we need these leaders to enact policy measures aimed at keeping Midtown and the Financial District completely free of private automobiles, and at severely minimising the presence of private cars in the rest of Manhattan as well in the transit-rich areas of the other boroughs, such as Long Island City and Downtown Brooklyn.

    An important side note: this sad tale is a reminder that complaints to legislators have an impact. And, crucially, we must remember that the impact exists even when the complaints in question have absolutely no objective merit. Anyone who rides a regular bicycle needs to keep this unfortunate and infuriating fact in mind.

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