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Reader beware

July 1, 2013

The editors of New York Times have invited readers to participate in a “dialogue” with reader Gary Taustine, who believes that Amsterdam’s so-called bicycle parking problems “portends my worst fears for New York City if Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s crusade to promote cycling at any cost is not scaled back by his successor.”

So can anyone who writes a response expect an open and honest dialogue with a man who uses Amsterdam as a cautionary tale?  Don’t count on it.

Here’s a letter by Mr. Taustine from News’ “Voice of the People” section, which reads a bit like the first draft of the letter he sent the Times.

Manhattan:Mayor Bloomberg’s bicycle crusade has snarled traffic, made signage more confusing, crosswalks more perilous, parking more scarce and sidewalks more congested — all for a tiny demographic using a vehicle whose practicality wanes in the winter months and on rainy days.

Adding insult to injury, most cyclists treat the lanes and traffic lights as mere suggestions — blowing through reds, snaking in between traffic and even taking to the curb when they wish.

In an effort to retroactively justify his desolate lanes, Bloomberg has introduced the Citi Bike bike share program. That means thousands of inexperienced riders on unfamiliar, poorly maneuverable bikes flooding our streets in the coming months.

It’s a recipe for disaster. In the end, bicycles have the same right to the streets as cars — but have no more right to segregated lanes than scooters or motorcycles. If bikers to want ride in traffic, they should be licensed, insured and made to wear helmets. Gary Taustine

Here’s another letter in which Taustine holds Denis Hamill up as the voice of reason:

Manhattan: Thank you, Denis Hamill, for enumerating a few of the many reasons that Mayor Bloomberg’s bike lanes must go. Pro-bike Voicers have been writing in with ridiculous claims that the lanes keep pedestrians safe and cut down on pollution. Get over yourselves. Bicycling does not make you part of the solution to climate change. Bike lanes slow down traffic, which spews more toxic crud into the air, and they have turned every crossing into a life-and-death game of Frogger for pedestrians. Nobody is trying to deny cyclists a right to share the streets, as they always have, but segregation is not sharing. In an already congested city, narrowing the streets for a few bicycles cannot be justified. My vote for mayor will go to the candidate who vows to wipe every trace of Bloomberg’s legacy out of my city, starting with those infernal bike lanes. Gary Taustine

The beauty of Mr. Taustine’s poorly reasoned screeds is not so much their bike-related hysteria, but that they expose one of the biggest reasons behind New York’s bikelash: an irrational hatred of Mayor Bloomberg.

Manhattan: Mayor Bloomberg is banning large soda containers because sugary drinks are unhealthy and Styrofoam containers because they’re not biodegradable. If we’re going to ban things that make us sick and are impossible to get rid of, can’t we start with Bloomberg himself? Gary Taustine

So did the Times know what it was getting when it enlisted Taustine to hold a “dialogue with readers?”  You bet it did.  Here’s Taustine exhibiting Rabinowitzian levels of paranoia in a letter to the Times about our collective totalitarian future:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s effort to promote healthier lifestyles is commendable, but the government has no right whatsoever to go beyond promotion to enforcement. You can’t reduce obesity with smaller cups any more than you can reduce gun violence with smaller bullets.

This proposal sets a very bad, very dangerous precedent. Freedom is rarely taken away in supersize amounts; more typically it is slowly siphoned off drop by drop so people don’t even notice until they’ve lost it entirely.

Mayor Bloomberg has spent his 11 years in office stripping away our freedoms one drop at a time. Minorities are stopped and frisked, Muslims are watched, protesters are silenced, and smokers are taxed and harassed beyond reason.

In their apathy, New Yorkers have given the mayor an inch and he has already taken a mile. If we permit him to regulate portion control without a fight, then we don’t deserve the few freedoms we have left.

GARY TAUSTINE
New York, June 1, 2012

When you’re living in a smoke-free, bicycle-powered totalitarian nightmare and get arrested for possession of a medicine dropper’s worth of Mountain Dew, don’t say Gary Taustine didn’t warn you.  So come on, Times editors. Get this man his own web series!

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