NO LAUGHING MATTER: This Whoopi Goldberg Thing is a Watershed Moment

Last week, Goldberg made some ill-informed comments about bike lanes.
Last week, Goldberg made some ill-informed comments about bike lanes.

Well, if nothing else, Whoopi Goldberg just showed how badly we need a bike mayor.

In reality, a commissioner-level cycling czar is just a symbol of the need to fight the continuing bikelash; Goldberg’s comments on “The View” on Wednesday — a must-watch if you haven’t seen it — were just the latest example of a troubling perception of bikes that is not going away, no matter how many times Speaker Corey Johnson says he wants to “break the car culture” or how many times Mayor de Blasio rightly points out that protected bike lanes do not increase traffic and they do safe lives.

Mayor de Blasio pushed back against an onslaught of anti-bike vitriol hurled at him Wednesday on ABC's "The View."
Mayor de Blasio pushed back against an onslaught of anti-bike vitriol hurled at him Wednesday on ABC’s “The View.”

To his credit, the mayor made that very point to Goldberg, but his logic didn’t change any minds in a nation where facts don’t matter. Goldberg herself often criticizes President Trump, but on Wednesday, she was the one engaging in Trump-style misinformation, spewing the classic demagogy: “I feel it, so it must be true.”

Cycling advocates have statistics and facts on their side — bike lanes do make roadways safer, do not cause congestion, do not block emergency vehicles, do not cause pollution, do offer a less-expensive commute for struggling workers — but stars like Goldberg have more powerful megaphones.

And yesterday, Goldberg abused that power, using a nationally televised platform to lie (she said there’s a bike lane on 10th Avenue when there isn’t), stir dark conspiracy theories (she argued that bike lanes are a “set up” to increase congestion so Gov. Cuomo can push congestion pricing), claim the city doesn’t actually study road safety (“What feasibility study did you all do when you decided to put these in?” she asked), and flat out make stuff up (“You can’t make a turn anywhere, you can’t go straight anywhere,” she said).

She offered only a windshield-eye view of the city she commutes into most days from her New Jersey mansion. But, frankly, that’s all we hear from the champions of car culture. People who drive — or in Goldberg’s case, are driven in a really big SUV — simply cannot conceptualize the damage they do because, indeed, how can they when the roads were built for them?

In Albany this week. I asked State Senator Andrew Lanza of Staten Island about congestion pricing and he launched into a tirade about how every resident of The Rock should be allowed to drive whenever and wherever he wants.

“They ought to be able to drive in. Why not?” he said, incredulous. I’ve heard the same pro-car rants from my pal Curtis Sliwa every time I go on his radio program to talk about the city and end up being screamed at about how “my” bike lanes are screwing everything up (no one seems to care about Uber, which causes virtually all of the post-2014 congestion). And we’ve all heard it from some friend who can’t conceive of the idea that single-occupancy cars are literally the worst form of transportation in an urban area.

Lanza’s “Why not?” or Goldberg’s tired complaints about traffic are the stuff of indifferent sociopaths who are clueless about the harm they do. They simply can’t understand why anyone would want to restrict their “right” to drive, never mind that car drivers killed all of the 201 people who died on New York City streets last year and caused virtually all of the 53,200 reported injuries on roadways — all while polluting the air, getting in the way of buses, blocking delivery vehicles, forcing us to put our trash on the sidewalks instead of in the roadway, frightening children, and making our streets less livable.

That’s what Goldberg enabled yesterday.  To me, there’s very little difference between a former talk show host who moved to a mansion and now lies about crime rates among immigrants and a current talk show host who moved to a mansion and lies about how bike lanes are causing congestion. As a result of Goldberg’s rant, a bunch of drivers in Middle America and Morris Park Avenue now nodding their heads and saying, “Yeah, I hate those bike lanes. Now I can’t drive 45 in a 25-mile-per-hour zone anymore!”

After the “View” segment, I reached out to Johnson and de Blasio, but neither wanted to fight the good fight.

“The Speaker didn’t see the segment, but he is a big supporter of bike lanes because he knows they save lives,” Jennifer Fermino, the Council’s spokeswoman, told me. Eric Phillips, the mayor’s mouthpiece, said something similar: “We respect Whoopi, we just disagree with her. Our focus is on educating her and others on the live-saving benefits of bike lanes.

So if re-education is the ticket, let’s hire that bike mayor already. It doesn’t have to be me, of course, but Mr. Mayor, if it was me, I’d be at the head of a small armada of cyclists greeting Whoopi Goldberg’s SUV at the ABC studio on W. 66th Street this morning.

And I’d be telling her that she’s the one “screwing up” the city. Because she is.

 

  • Joe R.

    The ultra-wealthy like her can afford to insulate themselves from the consequences of car use, which is why they just don’t get it. She doesn’t have to play dodge ’em trying to cross a street, she probably rides a bike on a private path in the middle of nowhere, if she rides at all, the subway problems don’t affect her. All she knows is to get around, you get in a big- ass SUV which your chauffeur drives. This is all the more galling though because she wasn’t born rich. She grew up in a housing project. How quickly all that is forgotten once you rub elbows which the rich and famous.

    Fuck all these people. This is why I want a wealth tax. Nobody needs more than a few million dollars. Maybe when we’re all in the same boat people like her will get behind stuff which benefits average middle class people.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I am the world
    To hell with the children
    If you claim you are different you’re faking
    So lets keep taking
    That’s the choice we’re making
    We only care about their own lives
    And we say to hell with you hooray for me.

    That’s how it went, isn’t it?

  • AGoodWhatFor

    To me, there’s very little difference between a former talk show host who moved to a mansion and now lies about crime rates among immigrants and a current talk show host who moved to a mansion and lies about how bike lanes are causing congestion.

  • running_bond

    That was an insane rant by Whoopi. It takes a lot to make de Blasio look good these days, but she sure did it. Wow.

  • kevd

    good thing suburban new jerseyites don’t get to vote for mayor – OR governor.
    why is the plan to exempt them from a congestion charge, again?

  • Gersh Kuntzman

    The higher the horse, the better! But seriously, the similarity I was citing is simply the desire to demagogue a serious issue. The right AND left do it all the time. And the media, too. You’re welcome!

  • Daphna

    I wish there would be MASSIVE negative backlash against Whoopi Goldberg for the misinformation she provided. Here’s to hoping that she looses her gig with The View over this. Lives are at stake. Fact adverse people like her are endangering lives when they spout their personal prejudices against allocating street space for vulnerable road users.

  • Joe R.

    Honestly, her position is worse. It’s no skin off my back or those of any other NYer if we let in fewer immigrants because of Trump’s views. On the other hand, when people like Goldberg spread FUD about bike lanes it makes my life more dangerous. It may also egg on bike haters to harass me when I’m riding.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Set up” to increase congestion so Gov. Cuomo can push congestion pricing).”

    On the other hand, let’s be fair about the “money grab” idea. People without direct knowledge of the facts have been told over and over again that the MTA has plenty of money and it’s all going down the drain. And one revenue source after another has been added for the MTA over the years — and the transit system still faces fiscal catastrophe..

    This is what people who accepted bonding against those revenues, and deferring the cost of retroactive pension increases get. Everyone has lied in their own political interest. The MTA has:

    1. Two sets of books, and doesn’t need a fare increase “right now.” There was a rally to that effect YESTERDAY. So the Straphangers didn’t show up this time. Too late now.

    2. The 1/4 cent payroll tax — gone.

    3. The 1/8 cent sales tax increase on top of the other MTA sales tax — gone.

    4. The MTA real estate transfer tax revenues — bonded against AND falling.

    5. All the money it needs from advertising.

    6. All the money it needs from marijuana.

    7. All the money it needs from paying newly hired TWU members and construction workers drastically less than those hired sooner, instead of just less.

    Whoppi’s generation has demanded not only that the future be cashed in, but also that rationalizations be provided and certain facts not disclosed. Throwing it in their face isn’t going to make them happy (and doesn’t make money for the MSM), but not doing so just feeds the entitlement.

    Imagine what Whoppi would say after Governor Cuomo “fixes” the MTA with congestion pricing, and in five years the next 25 years of that revenue is gone and the MTA is still $billions short every year? And yet that is what everybody wants who doesn’t just want to not be bothered by the whole thing.

  • Joe R.

    Also, many in her generation and those older aren’t invested in a future they likely won’t be around to see. About ten years ago I had a conversation with my aunt about global warming and other related stuff. She was around 80 at the time. Her attitude was basically why should I care since I’ll be dead by then. The odd part is she has 5 children, 10 grandchildren, and I forgot how many great-grandchildren. They’ll all certainly be around when the worst of it hits. I have no children and I’m still invested in this stuff for two reasons. One, the world doesn’t just revolve around me and my needs, but also those who aren’t born yet. Two, with advances in medical science, my family’s genetics, and taking halfway decent care of myself I may well be around to see the worst of it.

  • Larry Littlefield

    It was a different attitude the generation before that.

    In the mid-1990s, my wife’s grandmother was living in a senior apartment in Bay Ridge. There are lots of services for seniors that are NOT means tested, including meals on wheels. And she was a volunteer, delivering those meals to her neighbors.

    She found that some of those neighbors were better able to cook for themselves than she was, but did not want to be bothered. Meanwhile the supplier, looking to make a buck, was of course pushing the service — it’s free, you are entitled!

    (Note soaring home health care employment in NYC today. Do that many seniors actually need services? Are the services actually provided? Do the workers actually exist? Do the seniors actually exist? Shhhh!)

    The city was in a fiscal crisis at the time worse than any since. We were visiting her, and watching the news, when it was reported that the city was taking the sand out of the playground sandboxes for toddlers, because it didn’t have the money for staff to keep the sand clean. She was so upset that her peers were cashing in while her great grandchildren didn’t have sandboxes.

    One difference? Religion. Aside from the ever popular Red State prosperity gospel, religion calls attention to something other than “I want for me now.”

  • Unlikely since I’m rarely on the UWS but I hope that next the person I (accidentally obviously) knock over with my bike is Whoopi Goldberg.

  • Joe R.

    Religion was one thing, but for what it’s worth even though I was bought up as a Catholic I consider myself a non-believer. Despite that, I don’t consider my needs paramount. Another thing was the fact your wife’s grandmother lived through two world wars and a depression. That makes you want to leave something better for your descendants. Your Generation Greed was arguably the best provided for generation and had the most opportunities compared to generations which came before or after. Their parents didn’t want them to go through the hardships they did, which was fine, but at the same time they failed to instill a sense of community in them.

    As for senior services, unfortunately you have all these commercials pushing people to get “free” mobility scooters, free meals, free this, free that. What ever happened to children taking care of their parents? A lot of people in nursing homes don’t even really need to be there. They’re just there because their kids can’t be bothered to let them stay in a spare room, and cook meals for them. I basically went into involuntary retirement to take care of my mother. My brother often cooks meals for us. No meals on wheels, even though we’re “entitled” to it. I opted not to apply for Access-A-Ride, even though my mom in her present state would easily qualify. My brother and I can handle transporting her. I’m not milking a program which is partially responsible for sucking money which is sorely needed from the subways. I hope more in my generation, and those younger, start thinking like this. If we all keep thinking like Whoopi’s generation, we’re doomed.

  • Zharol

    To me this illustrates how deeply embedded the emotional attachment to car use is. Whoopi doesn’t understand why she’s frustrated. She just knows she is. And she has the venue and skills to express that emotion in a way that resonates with an audience that also doesn’t understand the frustration they feel — but welcomes the outlet and the relief that comes with (mistakenly) feeling their frustration is rational.

    We can throw data and logic at the problem all we want, but until we find a way to unmoor the emotional underpinnings of a century’s worth of relentless motoring interest propaganda — we’re not going to truly reach people.

  • Rider

    I agree. Never underestimate people’s anger at being dispossessed, in this case, of road space.

  • r3

    So true..

  • r3

    I guess when you fly private jets and ride in chauffeur-driven Escalades (like Whoopie does) it’s hard to understand why NYC, or any city would be thoughtfully planning for the future. #SpoiledBratsOfTheView

  • Larry Littlefield

    So now the pensions and retiree health care are eating public services. What next? Anybody here want the job, a decade or two from now, of changing Donald Trump’s diapers?

    Come to think of it, any creative people read this blog? How about a movie about that? The Donald in assisted living. Whoppi sitting at his lunch table, as they argue about stuff that has become irrelevant while ignoring the disasters they left behind playing out on a TV in the background.

    And the macabre scene as the staff tries to do as little for him as possible (especially the immigrants), as his various offspring and other claimants pretend to care and backstab each other hoping for a bigger share of the inheritance. And then he finally dies, and it turns out that he’s spent all of whatever fortune was real on himself, and the Trump heirs are broke.

    Great metaphor. In the right hands, it could be a modern King Lear. Or A Christmas Carol, with the ghost of Christmas future pointing the finger but no redemption in the end.

  • Insaneinthemembrane

    She’s insane.

  • Joe R.

    The irony here for people like Trump and Whoopi is there may come a time when people are so disgusted with them and their ilk that their money is worthless. That might make for a good movie. You have a future where all the celebrities, former CEOs, super athletes, and so forth are panhandling because people refuse to sell them food or housing or clothes.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Somehow I think Whoppi will fare a little better, but we’ll see.

  • Joe R.

    If I get his kidney, and don’t pay, they can’t take it out again, right?

    This reminded me of the movie Repo Men:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repo_Men

  • AstoriaBlowin

    Yes, streetsblog does a great job and shouldn’t resort to click bait like this. There’s absolutely nothing new or revealing about a selfish, self absorbed rich person showing themselves to be selfish and self-absorbed. She’s a suburban driver, there’s literally tens of millions of people with the same viewpoint as her about the primacy of cars and driving. The comparison with Trump is silly, as if he is the the first politician to make political hay by responding to the prejudices of certain segments of the electorate. Give it a rest with the over the top opinion pieces.

  • Larry Littlefield

    She knows what the audience the advertisers are paying for want to hear.
    I wonder which car companies advertise on the show.
    All to sane.

  • Maggie

    The local news angle I’d like to see is the number of working-class delivery cyclists that bike with food to the ABC studios every single day, working long hours in difficult conditions. I bet she has no idea. Whoopi and the rest of the View cohosts came across as overprivileged, clueless, and classless, just sad to see. I hope it’s a wake-up call where they begin to learn more about how this city works and what our planet desperately needs.

    That said, the mayor is at an unfortunate disadvantage here as well. First, his dumb war against delivery cyclists on behalf of UWS hedge-funders has always given ground to backseat limo gripers. Second, if he truly believes that bike lanes are vital to vision zero, then why at the local level do we continue to waste time on the kabuki theater of community board kvetchfests for every individual block and half-mile? Either he thinks Madison Jane Lyden’s life is valuable enough to merit a protected bike lane on CPW or he doesn’t. He’s trying to have it both ways and it doesn’t make sense. And THIRD, because he’s squandered 5 years of being mayor without focusing on climate change with regards to transportation, and continues to grandstand about how his 12 mile SUV trips to the gym are more important to him than getting out on a bike for transportation and curbing carbon emissions, he was not prepared to explain to Ms Goldberg that creating safe bike networks is absolutely essential to the city’s climate imperatives. It’s great that he answered her well, he just needs to walk the walk. A better mayor, better grounded on the issues, would have shifted the narrative to help Whoopi understand. This is what AOC does impeccably.

  • But don’t underestimate *my* anger either. And I am riding atop 20 terrorizing pounds of thin steel tubing. Watch out Whoopy, Woodi, Arthur Schwartz, Dorothy Rabinowitz and the rest of you. Knock you all down with my Univega.

  • Nawc77

    With her “is not rape,rape” comment and now this, it just shows that she is a TV progressive. She just acts progressive in public because that is the popular thing, but every once and awhile she slips and shows her true leanings

    I would not be surprised if she is a closeted Republican and voted for Trump.

  • Joe R.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the Hollywood “progressives” voted for Trump. After all, they’re in the tax bracket which will benefit the most from his tax cuts.

  • Gruner Veltliner

    I have been struck by cyclists twice since this law was passed. Good on Whoopi.

  • Gruner Veltliner

    The mayor is a corrupt, big real estate crony and race baiting little C word of a man who must be removed from office with immediacy. I have to move from my home of 22 years now that my landlord is hiking the rent by 200% to take advantage of Amazon moving into my neck of the woods, a move that I and millions of New Yorkers were not allowed to know about. This man must f*cking GO

  • Rex Rocket

    Entitled celebrity from NJ does not enjoy heavy traffic on her daily commute, blaming it on too many bike lanes, and not too many cars.

  • Mods should remove this obvious troll.

  • Alicia

    Oh, really. Got a link to the police report you filed?

  • jcwconsult

    When lanes are taken away from vehicles on collector and arterial streets, it is utter nonsense to claim that doesn’t increase congestion on those streets. IF the number of cyclists now using the street went up because most of THOSE new cyclists were people that stopped driving that route and now cycle instead – you could say congestion did not increase. But that is almost never true.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • cjstephens

    Your first mistake here: taking anything that Whoopi Goldberg or her fellow comedians/actors say seriously. Stop taking cues from entertainment industry celebrities. Just stop. I’ll admit I got a little schadenfreude watching all the Streetsblog liberals lose their minds when Whoopi starts spreading mis-information about their particular special interest. Maybe you overlooked all of the other garbage she and her View co-hosts have been spewing over the years? “I nodded in agreement with everything she said for years, but then she started maligning bike lanes! What a monster!”

  • Bernard Finucane

    It’s just culture shock. She’s never seriously thought about traffic planning, and any change is confusing.

  • Homo Eroticus

    Thanks for this Kuntzman! This BnT attitude is what’s gonna cause our city to be under water in a decade. We must fight car culture!

  • Azr43l

    I’m truly shocked that a member of the “national motorists association” doesn’t know anything about traffic engineering.

  • Azr43l

    I disagree that it’s religion. I’d argue it generational. The silent and greatest gens worked incredibly hard for everything and valued providing for the future. Then you have the boomers, which Whoopie is one of, that are a “give me what I’m due and screw everyone else” generation. Boomers will be the first generation since our founding that has left its future gens worse off than they were.

    Thanks a lot.

    Signed,

    Gen X’er.

  • jcwconsult

    I’ve seen enough “road diets” to understand the congestion they can create at peak commuting times. Can a 5 or 4 lane diet to a 3 or 2 work OK for maybe 18 hours a day? Sure, when the demand is lower.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • Sincerely

    You said this before, and you were provided with quantitative evidence that laid out how reducing lanes can improve traffic flow. You either have a very short memory or you’re intentionally ignoring the bevy of facts that contradict your biases.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG