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The Long Game

February 4, 2011

Here’s a comment over at Streetsblog on the subject of last night’s State of the Borough speech that caught my eye.

…you’ve gotta hand it to this big, dopey buffoon. Riding in to the State of the Borough Speech on a bike was genius. See, Marty loves bikes! He just doesn’t like this one particular bike lane. From a public relations-perspective Marty is simply cleaning y’all’s clock.

To use a term I may be too old to type, Marty is totally pwning livable streets advocates, the Mayor, the DOT, Brad Lander, CB6, and thousands of Brooklyn residents on this issue.  With all the subtlety of a carnival barker, he’s playing right into the hands of a simplistic, lazy media that probably gets more page views on bike lane articles than it does on stories about Egypt or health care.  So allow me to give credit where credit is due: His entire speech could have been him saying “applesauce” over and over again, but riding in on a tricycle filled with cheesecake got his picture splashed all over the place.  Nicely done.

A lot of people think Marty is a buffoon, myself included, but that doesn’t mean he’s stupid, even if his logic stretches the bounds of the possible.  He’s playing the long game on this one, knowing that if so much as an old lady’s poodle is hit by a bike on Prospect Park West anytime in the next two years, then the irrational bike lane debate will hit a new level of crazy.  And if it’s a person who’s injured?  An elderly person?  Try getting the Post to write about the nuances of statistical blips or to do an honest comparison of year-to-year crash data so as to better understand the context of such an unfortunate event.  It won’t matter if there’s a six-car pile-up down the street.  Marty will be on the bike lane the next day with a hardhat and a jackhammer, CBS2 television cameras capturing every moment.

It’s a cynical, dastardly strategy and may come at the cost of someone’s life–in many ways it already has, considering his silence on other traffic injuries and deaths–but after seeing this play out in a few media sources this morning, it’s time to stop underestimating Markowitz and simply hope that he drives off to Boca when his term is up.  The guy may be crazy, but he ain’t dumb.

  1. February 4, 2011 4:50 pm

    I agree with you. He is a buffoon but he knows it and it using it to great affect. He seems harmless and stupid so people don’t pay heed to how very much this kind of pantomime actually means something to people and validates uninformed opinion, playing perfectly into people’s fears, some real, some baseless. Look at how a tiny group of well-connected cranks has been rendered authority figures by the local media in this PPW debate, despite an open process, proven traffic calming, low cost, general sanity, logic and neighborhood opinion. Even the NYT is taking them seriously on their editorial page. When spring comes and exponentially more people are on their bikes, especially the tons of new riders, well, it might be pretty crazy as we sort things out as a city. I think Markowitz et al are way ahead of the game on this and it depresses me because my general experience riding a bike in NYC has been good and pretty uneventful. Hardly the Culture War they peddle.

    I wish all the kind elderly people (men, mostly) who say nice things to me when I ride by them on my old-fashioned looking bike could be “heard” in the way Marty et al have been.

  2. February 4, 2011 7:50 pm

    Exactly. There’s no culture war, only the one they are manufacturing and hoping to exploit as soon as there’s something worthy of real press attention.

    Thanks for commenting.


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