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The Golden Rule

July 12, 2012

Via the New York Post:

Some of Central Park’s long-suffering non-cyclists said they can understand the motivation for the attack.

“Cyclists are very self-entitled. They come cruising by and almost hit you, and if you say something they say something back.”

This is why the racing-cyclists-versus-runners narrative in the tabloids is so distracting and damaging.  New York magazine framed their take on the sabotage-by-tack story that way (an “uneasy peace between cyclists and runners…was shattered”), and I’m sure CBS2 will do the same when Tony Aiello runs some sort of “Bike Bedlam” report tonight.  If we had a more responsible and honest media, reporters might challenge the NYPD’s tacit tolerance for vigilantism or explain that disproportionate violence is not how we deal with problems in a civilized society.  But why bother when you can go with the bike wars angle and generate page views?

There’s another reason why this narrative is so vital to the tabloids: they can’t preserve the motoring status quo and marginalize cyclists as some sort of fringe minority without pitting spandex-clad road warriors, hipsters, and yuppie transplants against non-cyclists.  (Which I guess is everyone else.)  They can not force people to recognize and deal with the carnage happening every day on the streets outside the park if they keep all eyes fixated on shiny tacks inside the park.

There’s no question that a lot of cyclists in the park are inconsiderate louts.  As a rabbi I know says, “A mensch is a mensch and a jerk is a jerk.”  But kids ride bikes in Central Park.  Parents.  Old people.  Tourists.  These are hardly the kind of people who “almost hit” non-cyclists and scream at joggers to get out of the bike lane.  Any one of these riders could get seriously injured as a result of this kind of deliberate sabotage, which is distressing enough.  But it’s even more distressing to know that there’s an officer working for the Central Park Precinct who Does Not Care.  What are the odds that the officer quoted in the Post as valuing a cyclist’s health as less than a squirrel’s feeds himself with a steady diet of stories about 1st Avenue bike lane terrorists and reports about aggressive “Lance Armstrong wannabes” running over helpless pedestrians on a daily basis?  And the head eats the tail.

Change will only come when NYPD officers, tabloid writers–seven of them on the Post story alone–and “Bike Bedlam” reporters like Tony Aiello start asking themselves, “If it was my kid, wife, or friend who got injured, how would I want people to respond?”

  1. July 12, 2012 3:34 pm

    The racing-cyclists-versus-runners angle is laughable, but I guess it sells. If there is a controversy in CP – I am unaware of one in PP, so this is a foreign concept to me – it must be because neither group has enough room to operate.

    In that vein, what are the chances of a PP-like reconfiguration happening in CP? Do they even have a task force set up? It’s been a huge positive here, and I get the sense that those who do break the rules – salmoning, walking in the far-right lane (particularly near CB! events) – do so out of ignorance, which can be corrected if other users politely point out the error. (Of course, the offenders are generally neither competitive cyclists nor runners.)

  2. Alex permalink
    July 12, 2012 3:52 pm

    I do want to know what is wrong with at least letting joggers in the bike lane know they’re in the wrong? And it’s completely fair when it goes the other way and cyclists are in the jogging lane.

    I’ll agree with Keith though as a Prospect Park user that there doesn’t seem to be this kind of adversity out our way. There are a few joggers in the bike lane, but not many. And there are almost no bikes in the jogging lane. And honestly, when it’s not too crowded I don’t mind the occasional salmoner or jogger in the far right lane so long as they’re being cautious.

  3. July 12, 2012 4:17 pm

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, but like anything in life there’s a polite way to do and an impolite way to do it. Cyclists might have it a little harder because anything said while zipping by someone else at a high speed can come off as mean and loud.

    • July 12, 2012 4:43 pm

      Alex, Doug – I agree, which is why I think much of the burden falls on peds and runners to serve as ambassadors. I am always willing (and more easily able than a cyclist) to stop and talk to someone if he has questions.
      Regarding salmoning: I get nervous when I see someone doing it near a blind corner on a downhill (think Park Circle, West Drive at Center Drive, both sides of GAP).
      For the record, I am one of those who occasionally runs in the bike lane. This is so I can run on the crown to lessen stress on certain parts of my legs. I do this against the flow of traffic so I can see oncoming bikes and move back into the ped lane with plenty of time to spare.

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