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New Yorkers are more reasonable than the New York media

September 4, 2012

Erica Pitzi of PIX11 jumps on the Daily News bandwagon to report about the problem of speeding cyclists in Central Park.  There are just two small issues: she can’t get anyone to admit it’s much of a problem, and, in the grand tradition of Marcia Kramer and other local journalists, the images that float across the teevee screen do not match the story she is trying to tell.  To wit:

Yes, the lights are red, but here’s the commentary from the reporter that runs over the above image of two parents towing their kids on trail-a-bikes:

“Not only do some cyclists not stop for the red lights, some say they are speeding well past the speed limit.”

One thing to note about this intersection just inside the park from East 72nd Street is that there is no crosswalk here.  That’s because the merge and the signals that go with it are designed for cars, not people.  So even if the city is trying to create a culture of courtesy where cyclists stop or yield for pedestrians in Central Park, I’m not sure you can expect that culture to be created if the park does not provide safe, pedestrian- and cyclist-centric infrastructure.  If you want cyclists and pedestrians to understand what to do at intersections like this, get the cars out, remove the traffic signals, stripe a crosswalk, put up some in-roadway yield signs, and then start ticketing cyclists who don’t stop for people trying to cross.  (Especially those dads with trail-a-bikes — they’re speed demons!)

In her quest to stir up controversy about the menace of cyclists, Pitzi is unable to find anyone who can admit that it’s much of a problem.  First, there’s Harriet Feldman, who Pitzi presents as the stereotypical senior who’s “getting sick of cyclists on Central Park.”  Instead, Feldman — whom I coincidentally happen to know through my wife’s synagogue — comes across as the most reasonable person in New York:

“Well, they have a right to ride. I have a right to walk across the street safely.”

Who can argue with that?

Then there’s Billy Palmier, who’s identified only as being from “New York.”  Perhaps he’s meant to represent one of those “real” New Yorkers who inform so much of the Daily News editorial board’s point of view.  Once again, Pitzi’s set-up doesn’t match her interviewee’s follow-through.  Pitzi asks, “Do you feel like you’re dodging cyclists when you come to the park?”  Palmier responds:

“No, I think you have to keep your eyes open and look both ways, but I don’t feel like I’m dodging them but I do think that some of them go pretty quickly.”

Maybe that’s how you can tell Palmier is a “real” New Yorker: he’s too smart to take Pitzi’s bait and also comes across as entirely reasonable.

Pitzi continues her piece by mentioning that “the NYPD is reportedly stopping cyclists at certain traffic signals and handing out bicycle safety brochures that emphasize the speed limit is 25 miles per hour all in hopes this informational campaign will slow them down.”  She returns to Feldman who merely says “I think it’s a good idea,” although we don’t know if that’s in response to a question about the NYPD’s brochures or to a proposal to go for ice cream with the camera crew.

Then she interviews a tourist, Joe Rohde, who offers some real straight talk:

It’s a little ridiculous to have these guys, cyclists literally stop at red lights and I’ve noticed that today they’re literally stopped there because they’re afraid of getting a ticket.

Even Havinder Bedi of the New York Cycle Club, whom I suppose was chosen to represent the spandex-clad Lance wannabe set, can’t be goaded into giving Pitzi an incendiary quote:

“When there’s a pedestrian, we stop…”

So there you have it.  Average New Yorkers can not be convinced to meet tabloid journalists on the imaginary frontlines of the bikelash.  It’s as if the next thing we can expect to see on the local news is a befuddled Clint Eastwood yelling at a riderless bike.

  1. September 4, 2012 9:24 am

    Thing is, it’s not just cyclists that must learn to live with pedestrians or drivers, they also have to learn to live with other cyclists. An increasing proportion of aggro I see is between those on two wheels.

    We wrote a piece recently about a cycle courier, and it was clear that he didn’t think much of his fellow cyclsts. Its not just the journos that have a particular view of cyclists!

  2. Clarence Eckerson permalink
    September 4, 2012 10:31 am

    This is a typical WPIX (and other outlet news stories) where they go out with the story already in their head of what they will write and the slant. Then they are forced to jam in the soundbites they get no matter whether they support the slant or not. It’s interesting, if NY1 had done this piece, guaranteed it would have sounded differently.

  3. September 4, 2012 3:29 pm

    My favorite part was how they ticketed cyclists for breaking the 25 mph speed limit–by as much as 5 MPH! If they ticketed cars going 26-30 in a 25 mph zone the courts would be full of drivers contesting their tickets.

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