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Class Action

July 24, 2012

Cyclists who have been cited for traffic violations are being sent to a “class to learn about bicycles and traffic.”  Via the New York Times:

It comes amid broad agreement among bike advocates and the Transportation Department that compelling riders to obey traffic signals, go with traffic and stay off the sidewalk is critical to improving the image of cycling and ensuring the long-term health of New York City’s expanding bicycle network. That mission will become even more important once the city’s bike-share program rolls out in the next month or so.

Can we please do our best to dispense with the notion that the maintenance and extension of New York’s bike lane network is dependent on the behavior of all cyclists?  Or even any cyclists?  Or that bike-share is some gift we children will have put into time out if we don’t do our chores and homework first?  Because if that’s the standard, it’s time to mothball all the taxis.

I would never argue that “rogue” riding is not an annoying problem, and lord knows I’ve scolded my fair share of cyclists for zipping through pedestrian-filled crosswalks.  But such behavior is not the source of the most significant antipathy toward bicycles in New York right now.  In fact, if there are any people who believe that Marty Markowitz would have been okay with converting a lane of car traffic into a lane for bicycles if only every last cyclist was an Eagle Scout, I have a bike lane in Brooklyn I’d like to sell them.

So please, bike advocates and Transportation Department officials, let’s keep the issues of “scofflaw” cyclists and “the long-term health of New York City’s bicycle network” completely separate, as car advocates seem so able to do for car drivers and their roadway network.  Because if there’s any way to ensure the long-term stagnation of New York City’s bicycle network, it’s to buy into the notion that its health depends on a certain class of people exhibiting a certain type of behavior.

Better bike lanes breed better bike riders.  Remove every bike lane from Copenhagen or Amsterdam today and do you know what you’ll have tomorrow?  New York.

  1. Jesse permalink
    July 24, 2012 12:04 pm

    Thanks for writing this. It frightens me that the advocacy organizations have bought into this. There is no amount of imposition — i.e., losing road space, slowing down, giving adequate room to pass — that motorists will accept from bikes. It’s a losing battle to even try to negotiate with them. Bike advocacy organizations are being too polite considering this is literally a matter of life and death. But then they have to play politics and I don’t.

  2. July 24, 2012 10:16 pm

    > But then they have to play politics and I don’t.

    And the game that Bike New York is playing is one to get another free year of babysitting by the NYPD for their lucrative five boro bike tour. This is an organization that could die in freeway pileup en route to their next “bike tour” and no transportation cyclist would know the difference. Except that there would be fewer supportive quotes from “bike advocates” of police cracking down on normal cycling, in the New York Times.

  3. Mikey permalink
    July 25, 2012 2:33 pm

    I can’t say much for the rest of the article but i certainly agree with sending cyclists with traffic violation to classes to learn bike safety. If fact, because of that and just for general awareness i have been looking into them for myself, family and friends and found one place that not only is a bike friendly business but will also be holding bike safety classes. Park Circle Storage is the place holding these classes it is right off of prospect park south and also has bike parking/ storage. Here is the website if anyone is interested

  4. summer permalink
    July 25, 2012 9:52 pm

    echoing Jesse’s comment: thanks for writing this and for articulately so well what most bike advocates know but are too cowardly or politically cautious to admit.

  5. summer permalink
    July 25, 2012 9:52 pm


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