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By the Numbers

December 6, 2010

The Daily News publishes back-to-back editorials on bike lanes, the first by Paul Steely White of Transportation Alternatives and the second by the paper’s editorial board.

Here’s the Daily News:

This is Bloomberg’s data-driven administration, the government that measures and calculates to figure out whether something works. At this late date, Sadik-Khan should have at her fingertips facts and figures that tell the tale of what she hath wrought.
The editorial then goes on to ask, “Have dedicated bike lanes slowed vehicular traffic? If so, by how much?  How many bicyclists actually use the lanes?  How many bicyclists are a) ignoring the lanes or b) riding recklessly while doing so?  Have the bike lanes affected both vehicular and pedestrian safety?”
All good questions.  Too bad the Daily News editorial staff doesn’t read its own paper.  It could have gotten some answers had it read Paul Steely White’s editorial, published the day before:
  • In the last four years, the city has added 250 miles of new bike lanes. This unprecedented boom has sparked a surge in riders: The number of bike commuters grew 79% during this time.
  • Streets with bike lanes see 40% fewer crashes ending in death or serious injury by slowing down cars and encouraging drivers to look twice. Last year was the safest for traffic since the city began keeping records 100 years ago.
  • On Ninth Ave., with a protected bike lane from 16th to 31st Sts., injuries have been cut by 56% for all road users – including a 29% reduction in injuries to pedestrians, according to the Transportation Department.
And those are just the quotes that contain actual numbers and facts.  And yet today, here’s the charge the Daily News levies at Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan:
The commissioner’s office has little of this information, opening her to understandable suspicion that she – an avid cyclist – just wants to impose her own preferences (and dreams of easing global warming) on an entire city.
Wrong.  The commissioner’s office has plenty of this information, if only the News was interested in looking.  When a major daily newspaper’s editorial staff wants to hide their own laziness under accusations that the other side doesn’t have data to support its side, perhaps we really should fear for the future of journalism, at least in print.  But maybe it’s not laziness, but a simple desire to protect an oppressed minority: drivers.
That may be music to her ears, but it’s blaring noise to New Yorkers who have to drive into Manhattan from Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx.
Yep, with over 57% of New Yorkers, including outerboro residents, choosing transit, and with many of those residents facing canceled or diminished bus and subway service, the Daily News steps to the defense of car drivers.  It’s an editorial filled with the same old canards and straw man arguments.  Where are the facts and figures?  If you can’t bother to look them up, at least read your own paper.
Perhaps print is dying because newspapers’ editorial staffs can’t be bothered to pay for subscriptions anymore.
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